M FOOTBALL 2016-M DUMPS INDIANA IN SLOBBERKNOCKER 20 TO 10

2016-indiana-07The Hoosier’s rushed into Michigan Stadium with their expectations of victory soaring due to the formerly undefeated Wolverine’s one point miscue in Iowa City Saturday.

Before their tenth game stumble, the Wolverines had impressively forged nine consecutive wins, and held a Big Ten tally of six wins, no losses.  They retained their national three ranking after that loss.

Saturday’s win over Indiana was a hard fought battle which was styled a “slobberknocker” by Coach Harbaugh afterwards.

This season the amount of attention centered on the team and Coach Harbaugh has been extraordinary. Some of it was sour grapes, but most of it was laudatory, both for the Wolverine’s, their high profile Coach, and for rising QB Wilton Speight.

Before Iowa, Wilton Speight led the Big Ten passers, but was disabled by a shoulder injury in that game.

Back up John O’Korn was not a spectacular passer in his first start as M’s QB Saturday. He produced only 59-yards passing on seven of fifteen passing as the offense relied heavily on the running game.  How much of that was a result of the absolutely miserable weather conditions during this game, Harbaugh’s close to the vest play calling, or John’s abilities is impossible to divine.

The blustery winds even affected the goal posts as they sometimes trembled at their tops.  Sleet and snow, light but persistent at times, became heavier at the end of the game when the field was blanketed in a thin cover of snow.  The worst nature can offer, no.  Was it bad enough to affect the comfort of the fans, and play on the field, hell yes.

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The Tape, The Tape, The Tape – Peppers On Offense

Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers

Six games down, six games to go in the regular season.  As Michigan navigates into the meat of the conference schedule, I thought it would be interesting to track how the offensive staff has used Jabrill Peppers and what that may mean for match-ups down the road.   In the short year and a half of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure it has been fascinating to watch him build off of a litany of different looks and motions to put his players in positions to succeed on the field.  Additionally, with this staff it’s safe to say that certain formations, packages, and plays are put on film for a reason.  We’re a far cry from the Diamond Formation frustrations of yore, thank goodness.

So, Peppers.

Jabrill’s first offensive touches last year occurred on the road against Minnesota.  He finished the ’15 campaign with 18 carries for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns, 8 catches for 79 yards, and one incomplete pass attempt.  It wasn’t much of a leap this offense to predict that he would have an increased role in the offense.  Through the first half of 2016, his presence on offense indeed has increased, though a cursory glance at the box score does not tell the full story of his impact.  To date, Peppers is credited with just 5 carries for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns through six games.  This does not account for the eight snaps he has taken at QB or the times he has been on the field as a wideout both in motion and static as a decoy.   We’ve seen him in a lot of different areas on offense and with the ball in several different spots on the field.

The defenses remaining on the schedule grade out thusly based on S&P+ advanced stats at Football Outsiders:

  • Illinois: 70th overall, 122nd rushing,  88th passing
  • Michigan State: 59th overall, 84th rushing, 102nd passing
  • Maryland: 44th overall, 110th rushing, 24th passing
  • Iowa: 34th overall, 83rd rushing, 36th passing
  • Indiana: 30th overall, 27th rushing, 21st passing
  • Ohio State: 7th overall, 30th rushing, 7th passing

The trend is a slow but steady uptick over the course of the final six games in the level of defense that Michigan will be facing.  For the sake of reference, Wisconsin grades out at 5th overall, 7th in rushing, and 13th in passing defense.  This all adds up to a scenario where I fully expect an increase in Jabrill’s snaps going forward, particularly at QB and RB where Harbaugh can dictate the matchups he wants to help even blockers vs tacklers.  I would hazard a guess that this is also why you’ve seen Shane Morris in spot duty thus far out blocking, as well as why he played some at wideout in the spring game.  Let’s take a look at some plays after the jump…

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M FOOTBALL 2016: SUPERB DEFENSIVE EFFORT THROTTLES BADGERS: 14-7.

2016-wisc-042Finally the fans in Michigan Stadium got to evaluate this year’s edition of their Wolverine’s against a well-coached and ranked team with talent, grit, a physical capability and aggressive attitude. At game time, M was ranked 4th in the nation.

Wisconsin’s Badgers entered the Stadium as the eighth ranked team in the nation, undefeated in four games. The Badgers held notable victories over LSU at home, and Saturday before last Spartan Stadium rang with the Badger’s victory cheers. The tough Badger’s defense swarmed and smashed the Spartans 30-6, displaying unexpected excellence.

Badger LB, J.W. Watt was outstanding in that game, making 6 tackles, and nailing 2.5 sacks plus 2 QB hurries, again Saturday. Week before last he was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He was outstanding against the Wolverines Saturday, too.

Wisconsin unveiled a Freshman QB in his first start at MSU. He was up to the occasion, tossing for 195-yards and a TD. He was named Big Ten Offensive player of the Week for facing down the Spartans. He did not produce as well against the Wolverines. He threw for 88-yards on 9 completions. He also threw 3 interceptions, with no TDs.

THE REMARLKABLE JOURDAN LEWIS INTERCEPTION: The Wolverines got three interceptions, one of which was by Jourdan Lewis.  That interception was “Woodsonesque” in the difficulty and improbability of its execution. Much like Woodson’s storied side line grab against MSU in 1997, which helped pave his way to a Heisman Trophy. This Woodson catch still radiates and is recalled with awe.

The Lewis effort came as he was airborne and falling backwards and leaping upwards with the intended receiver close behind him, he stretched one arm up and filled his hand with football, caught it against his thigh, and hung on. Harbaugh indicated that he thought Lewis had jumped a tad early, but he hung at the top of the leap long enough to make the grab. Jourdan’s catch will have a similar half- life to Woodson’s.

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