Thanks to kind Internet souls like mgodisney I was able to efficiently watch five Michigan games yesterday (Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Notre Dame). The Wolverines improved each week during the season. That's coach speak, but it's true. In their final two games against Nebraska and Ohio State, Michigan was a complete team with a lot of confidence capable of moving the ball and playing good enough defense.
I know we're playing Michigan, but let's talk about Iowa real quick, more specifically Iowa-Michigan. Watch this, or as much as you can tolerate, or for as long as it takes you to realize there's a high probability '08 Stinepring is calling the plays for the Hawkeyes.
run into the line for two yards run into the line for two yards play action pass, three vertical routes, sack punt run into the line for three yards run into the line for four yards run into the line for three yards, first down end around for five yards run into the line for two yards play action pass, three vertical routes, sack
Iowa won the game, but barely. Iowa benefited from two Michigan turnovers. At the end of the game Michigan had four chances with 16 seconds left to gain three yards for the tie. If we come out conservative, tuck our head in our shell and try to control the ball and win a low scoring game against Michigan we're going to lose.
Our special teams aren't dependable enough. We don't gain yards between the tackles efficiently. And our defense will struggle to bottle up Michigan. Michigan has too many speedy play makers on offense, we have too many injuries on defense, and Denard is going to break plays.
High tempo, that's what the 2011 Hokies do the best. We need to find that fast pace of play early, and let the momentum carry the offense throughout the game.
Here are my notes.
As a whole, we're facing a very good offensive line that's anchored by All-American and Rimington Trophy winner David Molk (#50). The guards Michael Schofield (#75) Patrick Omameh (#65), left and right respectively, pull on a fair share of plays. More often than not, they will take you to the ball. Left tackle Taylor Lewan (#77) is athletic enough to pull from the backside and lead-block on a play around to the front. Running the ball they're not as physical as Stanford was last season, but they're as good technically. They move on and off combo blocks very well and take good angles down the line. They've only allowed 15 sacks in 12 games (27th nationally).
Denard is one of most athletic college quarterbacks of all-time. Remember the great feeling you had when Tyrod was on the field, that no matter the score, or down and distance, he could make the big play with his feet? That is why you need to fear Denard, Michigan fans feel the same way, and with good cause. He has that natural ability to run, and make something out of nothing. He's not a true dual-threat like a Vick, Newton, or RG3. He doesn't have an arm that can make all the throws from the pocket. But you know what, Michigan isn't going to ask him to make NFL throws. As the season progressed, and offensive coordinator Al Borges became more familiar with his skills, he called called smarter passes for him. Because of the run threat, he's a dangerous passer outside of the pocket. He'll push the ball deep. He'll distribute.
Denard in space is the goal when he's a ball carrier. #ALLOFTHEZONEREADS. Michigan has shown a package where backup quarterback Devin Gardner will come into the game and hand the ball to Denard coming around from the wing on the Jet Sweep.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, who only recently emerged as the starting running back, yet has gained over 1,000 yards, is a strong runner between the tackles. To go along with that power, he sees the field very well and can cut on a dime, but he doesn't have that track speed (like say a David Wilson does). He's the thunder-back, which compliments Denard's speedzors well. They're basically the opposite of our battery, in Blacksburg Logan lowers the shoulder, while DW4 is the lightening.
Special teams need to be on alert, they'll run a fake field goal.
The defense pursues very well to the ball. Although the secondary is good to give up one big play a game from a busted coverage. Linebacker Jake Ryan (#90) caught my eye. He's 6-3, 230 and can play on and off the line of scrimmage. Ryan Van Bergen (#53) and Mike Martin (#68) are the guys to watch on the defensive line. French noticed Martin always lines up over the left guard and it'd be a matchup problem for Nosal.
The Wolverine's played their worst game of the season against rival Michigan State. That had to be a tough loss to swallow for a couple of reasons. (1) Michigan's offensive gameplan was atrocious. Throughout the game they frequently flip-flopped Denard Robinson with backup Devin Gardner. It killed any chance the Wolverines had at getting into a rhythm. Worst of all, it didn't make sense. Gardner doesn't offer up anything too different on the field, and Denard is infinitely more experienced. (2) They got punched in the mouth. Sparty bullied Michigan around along the line of scrimmage, and their linebackers and secondary moved to the football and made tackles in the open field when they got there.
Michigan will mix in misdirection runs with their spread attack. It helps to keep defenders who over-pursue honest. They'll also work some of their passes off of their run looks.
Schofield is pulling from the left to right. The fullback is leading and the running back is following. At a first glance this looks G (backside guard pulls and kicks out the frontside end). The linebackers think so too, and are moving up into the box.
But Denard keeps it, now the backer has to backpedal into coverage.
He can't recover in time.
And it's too late.
Now they're going to pass off of a zone read fake.
Toussaint is going to leak out into the flat.
The end is going to come up and attack Denard.
Nebraska actually has the play covered in the flats well.
However, the receiver beats the coverage on the outside with an in route and scores the touchdown.
Sometimes Denard up the gut is a good enough play for Borges. Robinson will give a quick zone read fake. He'll motion like he's going to put the ball into the running backs belly.
Then will quickly pull the ball back in and follow the running back through the whole. They don't run a whole heck of a lot each game, but when they do it is was effective.
Michigan will play a little power football too.
This is a simple trap on the defensive tackle. The highlighted area is where the ball carrier is going to run.
The right guard blocks out (to his right) which lets the DT into the gap.
All the while the left guard is pulling around to trap (blindside) block him.
Honestly, the guard doesn't even need to make the trap block because the defensive tackle has ran himself so far up the field that he's out of the play.
At the end of the day I think this will be a close game. A month long layoff is conducive for a slow start, and we've struggled in the past to pick ourselves up after stumbling out of the gate. Michigan is going to make their plays and get their points. However, as long as Jayron plays the entire game and doesn't suffer another concussion I believe our 4-3 look with Fuller at Whip matches up well against their speed. The o-line has their work cut out for them. It'll be challenging enough for them to contain Michigan's front-four, dealing with whatever defensive guru Greg Mattison throws at them will make their job even harder. I believe the coaches will put the ball in Logan's hands and will be the difference maker for us, so I'll pick the Hokies 26–24*.
*I reserve the right to change this pick if more players are out too late at the titty bar and miss their curfew.