Michigan Football By the Numbers: SMU

Many Wolverine fans are clamoring for a return to the “good ol’ days” of Michigan football.  Some of those same fans forgot that those bygone days consist of complaining about the lack of domination in 25-point home victories…Onward into the B1G Ten season!

TABLE: FIVE FACTORS
FACTOREDGESTATS
ExplosivenessMichigan – smallYards/Play (MICH 7.36 / SMU 4.89);

IsoPPP (MICH 0.73 / SMU 0.73)

EfficiencyMichigan – LARGESuccess Rate (MICH 54.2% / SMU 32.3%)
Field PositionMichigan – LARGEAvg Start (MICH Own 32 / SMU Own 22)
Finishing DrivesMichigan – smallPts/Trip40 (MICH 5.17 / SMU 4.67)
TO’s & PenaltiesSMU – LARGETO Margin (EVEN)

Offense Net Pen. Yds. (SMU +72 / MICH +5)

OFFENSE

I am calling this another business-like performance from the Michigan offense.  Jim Harbaugh’s staff has shown they are going to game plan around efficiency, and will stretch the field vertically via play action passes.  The offense exceeded 54% success rate for the second consecutive week, and only had to punt twice.  However, the fact that the first three drives went punt, punt, interception put a bad taste into the mouths of the Michigan fans.  While I certainly felt frustrated by the 0-0 first quarter as well, I am very encouraged that the offensive staff is adjusting to the defensive looks they are given early in the game, and the players are executing successfully more times than not.

I am particularly happy with the evolution of the pass attack, led by Shea Patterson.  He had a shaky first quarter, including a Red Zone interception, and another pass that should have been intercepted around Michigan’s 30-yard line.  However, after that, he made very accurate throws, to all six areas of the field (Short/Deep & Left/Middle/Right).  Patterson ended his day 14-of-18 overall for 237 yards & 3 TD’s, and eleven of the completions resulted in successful plays across first, second, and third downs.  After three games, I am very comfortable that Michigan is capable of maximizing their opportunities.  Going forward, I feel that we will only be limited by the O-Line’s execution.

DEFENSE

On defense, we have seen three very similar performances so far in 2018.  The Success Rate for opposing offenses is remarkably consistent: ND – 34.3%, WMU – 32.4%, SMU – 32.3%.  Where we’ve seen the greatest variation, and where my #1 concern rests, is in Explosiveness.  When using the Isolated Points per Play (IsoPPP), we are only looking at successful plays.  IsoPPP answers the question, “How big are your good offensive plays?”.  Remember in Week 1, after an explosive start, Notre Dame was held pretty much in check through the second half.  SMU outperformed Notre Dame in the IsoPPP metric versus Michigan’s defense, SMU – 0.73, ND – 0.61.  The coverage bust in the second quarter is the most egregious example, but 17 of SMU’s 65 plays went for 10+ yards.  Giving up big plays is a logical expectation, given Don Brown’s mantra “Solve your problems with aggression”.  Swinging for the fences produces many swing-and-misses, but it also produces home runs like the Josh Metellus pick-six to end the first half.  The key for Michigan remains the same: the star play-makers need to connect on enough big defensive plays to win the big games.

S&P+ THROUGH WEEK 3

MICHIGAN S&P+
Overall: 21.2, 10th (down 1)
Offense: 34.8, 38th (up 14)
Defense: 13.7, 7th (down 4)

REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS vs. RESULTS

vs. SMU: UM 45 SMU 20
Pregame S&P+: UM by 20, 3-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 39, 2-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 2.6

vs. Western Michigan: UM 49 WMU 3
Pregame S&P+: UM by 10.8, 2-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 25, 1-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 1.6

@ Notre Dame: ND 24 UM 17
Preseason S&P+: ND by 0.1, 1-0
Preseason Clint: UM by 4, 0-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 0.6

NEXT UP

vs. Nebraska: Overall 6.9, 46th
M Offense 34.8 (38th) vs. O Defense 26.3 (58th), Midpoint: 32.4
M Defense 13.7 (7th) vs. O Offense 33.4 (45th), Midpoint: 23.55

PREGAME EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ gives the edge to Michigan on both sides of the ball. Under first-year coach Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers’ offense is on the steep end of their learning curve, similar to Michigan with Shea Patterson.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: Nebraska’s defense has performed better than the preseason outlook had suggested, as the Black Shirts have moved into the top half of the rankings. I still expect some surprises from Nebraska in this game, and I’d love to see Michigan start pulling out a few of their own.
Michigan 31 Nebraska 20 (PRESEASON: Michigan 27 Nebraska 20)

TL; DR SUMMARY

The Michigan offense continues to march toward Jim Harbaugh’s vision of an efficient, pro-style outfit capable of exploding a few times per game. On defense, the Wolverines continue to keep teams mostly bottled up, but still haven’t developed the killer instinct they need. As the Big Ten season kicks off, Michigan must utilize the next couple games against underwhelming opponents to take another step up to the level of the nation’s elite teams.

Michigan Football By the Numbers: Western Michigan

We all had to step back from the ledge after the loss to Notre Dame.  Similarly, don’t buy your tickets for the National Championship Game just yet…

TABLE: FIVE FACTORS
FACTOREDGESTATS
ExplosivenessMichigan – LARGEYards/Play (MICH 8.55 / WMU 2.72);

IsoPPP (MICH 0.90 / 0.29)

EfficiencyMichigan – LARGESuccess Rate (MICH 54.7% / WMU 32.4%)
Field PositionMichigan – LARGEAvg Start (MICH Own 39 / WMU Own 22);

MICH Blocked Punt Included

Finishing DrivesMichigan – LARGEPts/Trip40 (MICH 5.83 / WMU 3.00)
TO’s & PenaltiesMichigan – smallTO Margin (MICH +1);

Offense Net Pen. Yds. (WMU +35 / MICH +15)

OFFENSE

We can all breathe a sigh of relief.  Following an underwhelming performance in Week 1 versus Notre Dame, the Michigan offense found themselves in the triple digits on the S&P+ ranking.  After the Week 2 performance versus Western Michigan, the unit has moved back up above average, 52nd in the rankings.  The Wolverines dominated in all facets against the 125th ranked Broncos defense.  It’s important that we keep the level of competition in mind during our analysis, but Michigan’s success should not be dismissed.  Michigan ran on first down twenty out of twenty-five times, for an average of 9.65 yards per rush.  That explosiveness on the ground probably summarizes the day for Michigan as good as any other statistic.  Michigan had nine runs of 10+ yards, including rushes of 67, 44, & 27 (2x).  Give credit to the offensive line for continuing to improve their zone blocking, and to the running backs for good vision, and good acceleration through the gaping holes in the WMU defensive front.

Additionally, we saw Shea Patterson make some pin point throws throughout the day.  I was particularly impressed with Patterson’s delivery to Donovan Peoples-Jones on 3rd & Goal from the 5-yard line in the 3rd quarter.  The ball came out just after DPJ came out of his break, and the throw had to be extremely precise along the sideline.  The play calling showed increased diversity, as I hoped it would.  Michigan attacked short and deep through the air, although we haven’t seen them press the ball down the field to the offense’s right, to this point.

DEFENSE

Defensively, the S&P+ stats show dominance just like the score board did.  The Wolverines did a superb job of limiting explosive plays in Week 2.  Allowing just 2.72 yards per play is a significant improvement over their first game in South Bend.  Western Michigan relies on hitting some big pass plays to keep the defense back on their heels, and Michigan did not allow any completions on six deep pass attempts, including three in the first quarter.

While the defensive performance was extremely positive, it was surprising to see only one 3-and-out by the Broncos.  Western Michigan ran the ball 38 times for 123 yards, 3.2 yards/rush.  This also points to a small measure of success for the Broncos in the efficiency metric.  The S&P+ rankings also picked up on WMU’s success, as the Michigan defense moved down a spot in the rankings (ALL the way to #3).  However, Don Brown’s squad certainly played well enough to keep the Bronco’s from ever truly getting comfortable.  Western Michigan averaged 5.7 yards-to-go on third down for the game.

S&P+ THROUGH WEEK 2

MICHIGAN
Overall: 24.1, 9th (up 13)
Offense: 32.7, 52nd (up 51)
Defense: 8.6, 3rd (down 1)

REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS vs. RESULTS

@ Notre Dame: ND 24 UM 17
Preseason S&P+: ND by 0.1, 1-0
Preseason Clint: UM by 4, 0-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 0.6

vs. Western Michigan: UM 49 WMU 3
Pregame S&P+: UM by 10.8, 2-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 25, 1-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 1.6

NEXT UP

vs. SMU
UM Offense 32.7 (52nd) vs. SMU Defense 39.7 (109th), Midpoint: 36.2
UM Defense 8.6 (3rd) vs. SMU Offense 23.8 (97th), Midpoint: 16.2

PREGAME EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis is still somewhat volatile because of the small data set in 2018. Margin this week is almost twice as big as last week.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: Last week, the Broncos offense moved the ball, and WMU actually accumulated more time of possession. SMU’s Offense is not on that same level. I don’t think the Mustangs will be able to score the 10 points I originally predicted.
UPDATE Michigan 42 SMU 3 (PRESEASON: MICH 38 SMU 10)

TL; DR SUMMARY

**Whew**  Our offense isn’t the WORST!  Now let’s see if we can continue to improve through one more tune-up versus SMU before getting into the B1G conference games.  I know it sounds and feels strange to be concerned about the defense, but I am not 100% comfortable with continued penalty issues, and consistent first-half game plan success for opposing offenses.

Michigan Football By the Numbers: Notre Dame

 

First, before we get into the analysis, let’s agree that none of us are happy about a disappointing loss for Michigan Football.  Let’s do our best to quit arguing about who is “allowed” to complain about it, and let’s figure out how to express our frustration without demeaning the players.  Onward…

TABLE: FIVE FACTORS

DEFINITIONS

IsoPPP: Points per Successful Play – Average change in Expected Points (yard line values) only on successful plays

Success Rate: Successful Plays / Total Plays (“Success” = 1st Down 50% of yards needed; 2nd 70%; 3rd & 4th 100%)

Pts/Trip40: Average points scored on trips inside opponent’s 40-yard line

Offense Net Penalty Yds: Offensive Unit’s penalty yardage – Opponent Defensive Unit’s penalty yardage

FACTOREDGESTATS
ExplosivenessNotre Dame – smallYards/Play (ND 4.57 / MICH 4.63);          IsoPPP (ND 0.61 / MICH 0.50)
EfficiencyMichigan – smallSuccess Rate (MICH 42.6% / ND 34.3%)
Field PositionMichigan – LARGEAvg Start (MICH Own 27 / ND Own 26);     MICH 99 yd KO Ret TD
Finishing DrivesNotre Dame – LARGEPts/Trip40 (ND 5.67 / MICH 2.50)
TO’s & PenaltiesNotre Dame – LARGETO Margin (ND +1);                                  Offense Net Pen. Yds. (ND +35 / MICH +10)

MICHIGAN OFFENSE

For Michigan’s offense, the performance can be boiled down to staying on schedule, but an utter failure to convert to points.  After removing the bomb to Nico Collins to start the second half, Michigan averaged a very successful 5.3 yards on first down for the game.  Also on first down, Harbaugh was clearly looking for run/pass balance: 14 called runs, 16 called passes (11/14 complete), 2 QB scrambles.  I am certainly not going to complain about this complement-the-defense game plan for a road, non-conference, season opener versus Notre Dame.  Also, the data tells us they executed the initial phase of the plan.  These successes are major improvements over the 2017 offense, and we should be encouraged by these numbers.

All that being said, the frustration boiling over for many Michigan fans is still absolutely justified.  The difference in the game was Notre Dame’s ability to convert three red zone trips (inside 40-yard line) into two touchdowns and a field goal.  By contrast, Michigan converted four red zone trips into just one first-half field goal, and one fourth-quarter touchdown.  A brutal whiff for Michigan was in the first quarter, after Notre Dame had scored to go up 14-0.  On 2nd & 6, from the ND 25-yard line, an unblocked edge rusher hit Shea Patterson as he threw.  Notre Dame only rushed five on this play, and Michigan should have been able to pick up the rush from tackle to tackle.  On the ensuing 3rd & 6, the left guard gets beaten 1-on-1 by the 3-tech, and Patterson fails to throw the ball away.  The sack moves the Wolverines back out of field goal range.  These untimely failures of execution must be ironed out versus WMU & SMU before Michigan enters the Big Ten schedule on September 22nd against Nebraska.

MICHIGAN DEFENSE

Defensively, the stats show a different, equally toxic combination.  First, Don Brown’s defensive units still struggle to avoid sporadic-but-critical explosive plays, as shown by Notre Dame’s edge in IsoPPP.  On 3rd downs, Notre Dame was faced with an average of 8.6 yards-to-gain for the game.  Despite that, they managed to convert 46.7% (7 of 15)!  Again, these execution failures are what stick in the memory for most Wolverine fans, and were shocking coming from the defense.  In the first quarter, somehow Noah Furbush is covering a slot fade route on 3rd & 9.  Not only is the pass completed, but Metellus goes out for targeting.  In the 4th quarter, on 2nd & 13, Notre Dame tried to expose this issue again, and was nearly successful as pressure in Wimbush’s face allowed Josh Uche to gain ground in coverage.  This is a significant Achilles heel for Don Brown’s scheme, and I am BEGGING for some creativity to shore this up.

The other major issue for the defense to solve is defending run plays that target the aggression of the defensive line.  In one example from the 3rd quarter, we saw Notre Dame call a QB Draw on 3rd & 18 from their own 20-yard line. The conservative call showed that Brian Kelly expected to punt, but Wimbush gained 22 yards and moved the chains.  Another example came in the 4th quarter on 1st down, Notre Dame ran a “no trap” play where the entire OL blocked down, but there is no pulling lineman to trap the defender.  Chase Winovich was the trap guy, and his up-field momentum took him out of the play.  Meanwhile, the running back gained 10 yards into Michigan territory.    

TL; DR SUMMARY

Some Michigan fans must continue to wait for the offensive “savior”.  Other fans, myself included, have realized that expecting Shea Patterson, or really any one player, to be a “savior” is a mistake.  While the 24-17 loss to Notre Dame is a painful snap back to reality, it also provides us more reliable information about what we can expect the remainder of this season.  The S&P+ Five Factors give us a better sense of how the game stats line up with our perception from Saturday night.  Michigan laid a solid foundation to build on, but we can’t settle there.  The staff must quickly address critical flaws on both sides of the ball.

2018 MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Regular Season Preview– By the Numbers

 

 

 

 

 

Hello UMGoBlue fans and readers!  I am very excited to join the writing team for this site.  Throughout this season, I will be looking at Michigan’s previous and upcoming football games through a statistics-based lens.  I will use a play-by-play analysis, and I’ll review S&P+ stats to form my opinions.  Then I’ll try to explain what we’ve seen from the Wolverines, and try to predict what I expect to see in the coming week.

Below you’ll find my initial regular season outlook.  Info comes from Bill Connelly’s most recent NCAAF rankings, released last week (link).  Before we have actual 2018 stats, S&P+ scores are compiled from past performance, returning production, and recent recruiting success.  Positive scores mean better than average, negative scores mean below average.

GO BLUE!

~ClintD

MICHIGAN S&P+
Overall: 19.2, 10th
Offense: 31.2, 45th
Defense: 11.9, 2nd

Regular Season SCHEDULE

@ Notre Dame: Overall 19.5, 9th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 16.3 (7th), Midpoint: 23.75
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 35.8 (22nd), Midpoint: 23.85

PREGAME EDGE: Notre Dame
S&P+ analysis is almost dead even. I give the slight edge to Touchdown Jesus.

PREDICTION: This game will be decided by 2 or 3 plays that the national media will be dissecting for the entire week following the night game. Once S&P+ is working with 2018 game data, I am confident Michigan’s offense moves up from 45th nationally. However, I believe the key for an opening week victory will be Special Teams execution. Michigan’s punter has to ensure ND always faces that Michigan Defense on a long field. I like DPJ’s chances to make a big return, and let’s hope Quinn Nordin returns to being a strength, rather than question mark.
Michigan 21 Notre Dame 17, 1-0

vs. Western Michigan: Overall -4.1, 88th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 32.7 (101st), Midpoint: 31.95
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 28.7 (67th), Midpoint: 20.80

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis will begin to adjust for week 1 data. The edge for Michigan may even grow.

PREDICTION: There will still be some wrinkles to iron out in week 2, but this should be a comfortable home opener for the Wolverines. Personally, I am excited to see whether Michigan’s offense can build a large lead, and if so, how Jim Harbaugh manages the new Red Shirt rules.
Michigan 31 WMU 6, 2-0

vs. SMU: Overall -0.7, 73rd
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 34.9 (111th), Midpoint: 33.05
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 34.2 (29th), Midpoint: 23.05

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says SMU has a legit offense. This week against Don Brown’s group may be the low point of their season.

PREDICTION: Third time around will hopefully be especially charmed for Shea Patterson and the offense. Week 3 is a golden opportunity to get everyone involved, and put multiple sets on film to force future D Coordinators to increase the number of hours they spend breaking down Michigan.
Michigan 38 SMU 10, 3-0

vs. Nebraska: Overall 2.0, 61st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 28.8 (66th), Midpoint: 30.0
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 30.8 (48th), Midpoint: 21.35

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says Nebraska and Michigan are close offensively. I’ll say this, by the end of the year, I think I would be satisfied with matching Scott Frost’s offensive output, even with a Freshman QB.

PREDICTION: For the third consecutive week, Michigan’s offense will have the opportunity to face a bottom-half defense. I expect some surprises from Nebraska in this game, and a few nervous fans at the Big House.
Michigan 27 Nebraska 20, 4-0

@ Northwestern: Overall 6.6, 37th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 22.1 (25th), Midpoint: 26.65
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 28.7 (63rd), Midpoint: 20.3

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says this will be a low scoring game, and if I were a betting man I would ride that analysis and take the UNDER.

PREDICTION: Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald will be fired up for this game, and Harbaugh will have to keep his guys sharp mentally. I expect this to be the inverse of the “careful with Nebraska’s offense” game, with the Wildcats defense causing some stress for the Wolverines.
Michigan 17 Northwestern 14, 5-0

vs. Maryland: Overall -0.4, 71st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 27.6 (59th), Midpoint: 29.4
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 27.2 (84th), Midpoint: 19.55

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says Michigan has a large edge on both sides of the ball. I can’t imagine the summer turmoil will help alleviate that.

PREDICTION: Maryland will come to Ann Arbor and find the Wolverines catching their stride. Most college football fans will be rooting against Maryland this season, and I expect this game to deliver another pound of Terrapin flesh to the masses.
Michigan 45 Maryland 10, 6-0

vs. Wisconsin: Overall 17.1, 11th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 17.3 (9th), Midpoint: 24.25
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 34.4 (25th), Midpoint: 23.15

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says Michigan has a razor-thin advantage over the Badgers, and gets to play this game in Ann Arbor.

PREDICTION: This will be Notre Dame game 2.0, in terms of boiling down to perhaps a singular pivotal moment. I don’t have a great feeling about this game, but the fan in me hopes my gut is wrong.
Wisconsin 24 Michigan 21, 6-1

@ Michigan State: Overall 16.2, 13th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 13.5 (3rd), Midpoint: 22.35
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 29.7 (54th), Midpoint: 20.8

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says this could be very evenly matched. Two average+ offenses will battle to execute against top-end defenses.

PREDICTION: Again, with similar strengths and weaknesses on paper, my focus turns to special teams execution. The Paul Bunyan trophy almost always sees some whacky plays, and I am sure 2018 will be no different. However, I believe Mark D’Antonio will be welcoming a ticked-off Michigan squad with something to prove.
Michigan 27 MSU 17, 7-1

vs. Penn State: Overall 20.3, 7th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 19.4 (16th), Midpoint: 25.3
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 39.7 (8th), Midpoint: 25.8

PRESEASON EDGE: Penn State
S&P+ analysis says the Nittany Lions bring the best offensive unit the Wolverines will have faced up to this point in the season.

PREDICTION: Put me in the “PSU is over-rated” camp. James Franklin lost the most important offensive asset he had. No, not Saquon Barkley, I mean Joe Moorehead. Losing Barkley’s Superman ability also hurts, and I don’t expect PSU to be in the top 10 of offensive S&P rankings by the time they come to Ann Arbor after Michigan’s bye.
Michigan 24 PSU 13, 8-1

@ Rutgers: Overall -6.6, 94th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 26.1 (50th), Midpoint: 28.65
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 19.5 (118th), Midpoint: 15.7

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says the Scarlet Knights might not score. Tough to win in that scenario (see 2016).

PREDICTION: Consider the obligatory “trap game” warning evaluated and dismissed. I will again be focusing more on Jim Harbaugh’s Red Shirt management. If this game is stressful into the second half, something has gone very wrong.
Michigan 34 Rutgers 3, 9-1

vs. Indiana: Overall 3.9, 49th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 23.8 (38th), Midpoint: 27.5
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 27.8 (79th), Midpoint: 19.85

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says that Michigan should be thankful Indiana has more institutional integrity than some other B1G schools, since Kevin Wilson’s Offense gave way to Mike DeBord’s.

PREDICTION: There are those Trap Game SIRENS! Michigan cannot get caught looking ahead to Urban’s “fixers”. I believe Senior Day at the Big House is adequate to keep the Wolverines focused on the task at hand. By this point, a berth in the B1G Championship game will be on the line also.
Michigan 24 Indiana 14, 10-1

@ Ohio State: Overall 27.1, 1st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 16.7 (8th), Midpoint: 23.95
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 43.8 (2nd), Midpoint: 27.85

PRESEASON EDGE: Ohio State
S&P+ analysis says that the Buckeyes will bring the nation’s most talented team into The Game. I wonder if Urban will be able to conceal their intentions well enough to stay in front of Don Brown.

PREDICTION: Good vs. Evil takes on a much more somber tone to describe the 2018 Michigan / OSU game. The Buckeyes deserve to lose. Who knows how the season will have developed statistically to this point, but at least the Wolverines can add karma to their side of the equation this year. It’s Rashan Gary’s time. It’s Chase Winovich’s time. It’s OUR time. Time to go make the plays that we’ve just missed on for the better part of 15 years!
Michigan 28 OSU 27, 11-1, B1G Ten East Champs

Learn more about S&P+ Ratings

The Tape, The Tape, The Tape – Michigan loses at Iowa, 10 yards from 10-0

img_5890The mood amongst the large gathering of Michigan fans who made the trip to Iowa City was one of concern and annoyance.  I spent a large portion of the night looking at others in Maize and Blue shaking my head in disbelief.  Iowa’s only viable path for winning a game against a vastly superior Wolverine squad was unfolding in front of our eyes.  The evening turned on a punt, which had to be Kirk Ferentz’s dream scenario.  Late in the first half Ron Coluzzi pinned Michigan at their 1 yard line.  Two plays later a ridiculous safety turned an annoying 10-0 lead into a contest.  Iowa then scored again to make the score 10-8 at halftime.  Ferentz and his Hawkeyes had the exact game they needed: a slop fest.

The Iowa offense put up 9 points through 58 minutes of play.  Michigan’s lead was just two at that juncture thanks to the offense’s worst outing of the year.  Speight had uncharacteristically misfired on one open deep shot after another, any of which would’ve sealed the game.  Chris Evans averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 8 touches, but was noticeably absent in the final drives of the game.  In spite of the offensive struggles, Michigan’s defense made the play that should have closed out the game.  Taco Charlton hit CJ Beathard as he released a deep pass and Channing Stribling intercepted the under thrown ball on Michigan’s 16 yard line.  With 1:54 left in the game, Michigan’s offense trotted on to the field 10 yards away from pulling out a win on the road and headed to 10-0.  They were just 10 yards away.

This team had been in this position before.  Against Michigan State in 2015, the Michigan defense came up with a huge stop and the offense took over with 1:47 on the clock.  Again, 10 yards away from sealing a win.  Twice in the last two seasons the team has failed to pick up 10 yards when it truly mattered to seal a football game.  Understand that many many factors contributed to this loss and this is not to short change any of them.  BUT, despite the poor offensive play and the truly appalling officiating the Wolverines had the ball and the lead with under two minutes to go. Victory was in their grasp and it slipped away.

The Final Offensive Series

Let’s take a look at that final offensive series starting with 1st and 10 on the Michigan 16 yard line.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-4-52-33-pm

Eddie McDoom is circled and DeVeon Smith is the RB.  Desmond King (#14) and Bo Bower (#41) call out the formation and the defensive backfield adjusts for the sweep.  Based on how this play unfolded it wouldn’t have mattered which running back (Smith, Higdon, Evans, or Isaac) was receiving the carry.  Here’s why:

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-4-52-55-pm

McDoom motions across the formation like a jet sweep.  Iowa’s defense responds to this by doing the exact opposite of what we’ve seen in previous weeks.  The corner responsible for McDoom does not go flying across the formation in pursuit and the linebackers do not shift at all.  Instead, the safety comes up to take McDoom and everyone else stays home.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-4-52-02-pm

If McDoom gets the ball I think there is a decent chance he gets the corner.  Instead Smith is plowing into two unblocked linebackers and King.  Any yardage gained here is a miracle as four offensive players are blocking against seven defenders.

Continue reading “The Tape, The Tape, The Tape – Michigan loses at Iowa, 10 yards from 10-0”