Michigan 17 Penn State 27 – Week 6 Recap

WEEK 6 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 17-27, Penn State by 10 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Penn State by 1.0 (-9.0)
CD Projection: Michigan by 1 (-11)

FIVE FACTORS

WEEK 6 RECAP vs. Penn State

Offensively, the Wolverines lost their first-half rhythm when Cade McNamara left the game with a shoulder injury.  The broadcast team mentioned that Joe MIlton was also less than 100%, and he was unable to mount a charge.  The salt in the wound for this week was Michigan netted 174 rushing yards.  In my data set, they averaged 6.5 yards per run play (garbage time & sacks removed).  However, they could not sustain drives and continue to move the chains.  While McNamara was hurt, Hassan Haskins was inexplicably standing on the sideline.  This week, Josh Gattis was unable to scheme his WRs open, and Michigan could only muster a 28% success rate on pass plays. 

Defensively, I saw just about what I expected.  While the defensive line was boosted by Kwity Paye’s return, the defensive interior could not stand up to Penn State’s mediocre offensive line.  The Nittany Lions netted 254 rushing yards, and averaged 5.2 yards per run play in my data set.  Michigan needed a big stop after tightening the score to 20-17 in the 4th quarter.  The Wolverines were merely an annoyance to Penn State as they marched 75 yards in 5:00 to stretch the lead to 10.  I think the defensive staff has adjusted to help mitigate the huge plays against man coverage outside, and that is commendable.  I thought holding PSU under 30 would be enough to win, but instead James Franklin has his first win of 2020.

Last week, special teams hurt Michigan with 3 missed FGs.  This week, it was 2 muffed punts, one of which resulted in a turnover and a field goal for Penn State.  Michigan certainly missed Giles Jackson, who was the latest to hit the injury report.  This year cannot end soon enough.

Every problem that plagues Michigan right now is also weighing down the Nittany Lions.  The game was in Ann Arbor on a beautiful November day.  All the potential excuses have withered and Michigan is left with just one option: acknowledging that they don’t know how to win football games right now. 

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Michigan 48 Rutgers 42 – Week 5 Recap

WEEK 5 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 48-42 3OT, Michigan by 6 over Rutgers
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 19.3 (-13.3)
CD Projection: Michigan by 6 (✔)

FIVE FACTORS

WEEK 5 RECAP @ Rutgers

Admittedly, it felt weird to be treating a week 5 trip to Rutgers as a must win.  But, it absolutely was a must win game for Michigan, and for Jim Harbaugh.  They won, and that matters a lot.  There were still a litany of errors to correct for this coaching staff, and for these players.  But in the end, Michigan finally managed to make some key plays in big spots.  This will prove to be a memorable lesson in how to win for these players, especially those with very little game experience.

I hope everyone is prepared for a very fast transfer from the Joe Milton hype train to the Cade McNamara hype train.  McNamara looked very sharp after taking over for Milton in the second quarter.  He was 27-36 (75%) for 260 yards and 4 TDs.  Perhaps more importantly, once the offense forced Rutgers to defend the whole field, the running game was able to find some creases.  There is still a lot of work to do to bolster the depth while three of the five starting lineman recover from injuries.  Hassan Haskins seems to have stepped forward to gather more carries than the other three running backs.  However, Chris Evans had perhaps the play of the game on a 4th & 5 conversion in the 4th quarter.  Josh Gattis finally seemed to get into a rhythm for the first time since October 24th in Minneapolis.

On first glance, this game was a lot like the rest of the 2020 performances for Don Brown’s defensive unit.  There were still huge chunk plays given up through the air to a Rutgers QB who was averaging 5.3 yards per pass attempt coming in.  Rutgers managed 6.8 yards per called pass play tonight against Michigan.  There were a few glimmers of hope, however.  Early on, we saw a flash of speed off the ball from Chris Hinton.  If he emerges as an interior threat, this defense immediately improves.  We also saw Dax Hill make a technique correction from early in the game to the end.  In the 1st quarter, Dax made a passive play on a deep ball and the WR high-pointed a 43 yard bomb to set up Rutgers’ first score.  On the final play of the game, in a similar coverage technique, Dax left no doubt by going up high to snatch his first interception of the season. 

Giles Jackson continues to show his propensity for being a playmaker.  Today, it was as a kick returner.  His 95-yard touchdown return to open the 2nd half was a huge part of why Michigan was able to execute a comeback victory.  When Rutgers kicked away from Jackson, Blake Corum was very capable of converting short kicks into good field position also.  Michigan was very fortunate that their explosive return game was able to pick up the place kicking.  Three missed field goals nearly cost Michigan this game in regulation, and in overtime.  One missed field goal was affected by a poor snap, but the other two were clearly pushed right by Quinn Nordin.  I expect Michigan’s special teams unit will sink even lower in next week’s SP+ rankings.

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Michigan 11 Wisconsin 49 – Week 4 Recap

WEEK 4 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 11-49, Wisconsin by 38 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Wisconsin by 9.8 (-28.2)
CD Projection: Wisconsin by 17 (-21)

FIVE FACTORS

WEEK 4 RECAP vs. Wisconsin

Michigan fans were dispirited heading into this game, and somehow feel worse limping out of it.  It’s time to figure out what the plan for 2021 is, I think.  I will keep the analysis brief, because I am not one to blow smoke.

Offensively, I will summarize like this: both of Michigan’s scoring drives happened while the scoreboard determined that it was technically garbage time.  28-0 in the 3rd quarter, Jim Harbaugh was forced to send Quinn Nordin in to kick a mercy field goal on 4th & 10.  By the time Cade McNamara hit three chunk plays through the air in the 4th quarter, it was 35-3 and those stats will also be removed from the data.

Defensively, at least the problems tonight were different than the last two weeks…?  The corners finally looked serviceable, but with both Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson out, the Wolverines failed to set an edge from start to finish.  RBs and WRs rushed the ball outside with ease.  When the Badgers did need to throw, Graham Mertz found easy connections in the flat where LBs could not cover.

It’s extremely frustrating to look less prepared than the team that had their last two games canceled during a 10-day shutdown due to a COVID breakout.  I don’t know what the right answer is, but it’s time to start asking the hard questions.

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Michigan 21 Indiana 38 – Week 3 Recap

WEEK3 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 21-38, Indiana by 17 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 2.1 (-19.1)
CD Projection: Michigan by 1 (-18)

FIVE FACTORS

WEEK 3 RECAP @ Indiana

For the second week in a row, Michigan was outplayed and lost.  In some sense you have to give the Hoosiers the respect they deserve.  That doesn’t help soothe the deep disappointment for this team.  Jim Harbaugh must go back to the drawing board and get all his guys onto the same page.  If he cannot keep the team together through this challenging season, it will be hard for me to believe he can restore the program.

The Michigan offensive line was behind the eight ball right away without both starting tackles.  The running game was only able to produce an 8% success rate, and 1.6 yards per play.  On the first watch, I didn’t see very much read-option, if at all.  I don’t know why there is such hesitation to use Joe Milton in the run game, but it’s clearly been taken out of the game plan.  I will give Gattis and Joe Milton a lot of credit for bouncing back in the second half.  The offense was dangerous enough in the 2nd half to threaten the whole field, but still couldn’t click in the most critical spots.

The Hoosiers copied the Michigan State offensive game plan of chuck and hope versus the Michigan corners.  It was almost as successful this week.  There was a clear commitment to back off into more zone coverages to take some heat off Vincent Gray and Gemon Green.  Indiana was able to find large holes and Michael Penix had a career day.  There was pressure on Penix, and Michigan caused some errant throws.  This was despite Aiden Hutchinson leaving with an apparent foot or ankle injury in the first quarter.   The defense managed to slow Indiana down in the 2nd half, but could not get off the field on key plays.  Indiana ran 87 snaps on offense, compared to just 52 for Michigan.

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2020 Game 2 — Michigan 24 Michigan State 27 – Week 2 Recap

Now what?

WEEK 2 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 24-27, Michigan State by 3 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 19.2 (-22.2)
CD Projection: Michigan by 45 (-48)

FIVE FACTORS

WEEK 2 RECAP vs. Michigan State

There wasn’t a huge turnover margin problem.  There was no hurricane or snow storm.  Michigan State outplayed Michigan and won the game in Ann Arbor.  That is the sad, brutal truth.  The most important question now has to be, “What is next?”

Joe Milton looked like a new starter.  He wasn’t bad, but there were problems with reading the defense in the pass game and the run game.  There were inaccurate throws, deep and intermediate.  The biggest difference this week was almost no explosion passing or running.  To really understand why these things are true, I need another review of the play on the field, and that’s going to have to wait a while.

Defensively there are two main issues: one was discussed ad nauseum by the FOX broadcast, and one was not.  We heard Gus Johnson & Joel Klatt keep calling out MSU’s advantage outside with their WRs versus Michigan’s CBs.  I am absolutely shocked the Spartans were able to make the plays they made, but I’ll tip my cap on two or three of those catches.  The other main issue was almost a total absence of pressure on Rocky Lombardi.  The MSU offensive line that gave up 12 (!) TFLs to Rutgers (!) in week one, kept their QB clean today versus the Wolverines.  That fact alone carries most of the water when I have to explain how I missed this prediction by 48 points.  I did not think we would see a clean jersey on Rocky Lombardi.   

Back to the drawing board for Jim Harbaugh and his staff.  The offensive game plan got major kudos last week, and this week seemed handcuffed.  The defensive personnel concerns that fans had from training camp at CB seemed unfounded versus Rashod Bateman last week.  This week they got torched by Ricky White.  I knew 2020 was going to be a crazy season, but still got totally rope-a-doped in this one.  Shame on me.

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