Saturday, September 27, 2014

Preview: Michigan vs. Minnesota

Rush Offense vs. Minnesota Rush Defense
Michigan is #39 in the country with 211 rushing yards/game and tied for #26 with 5.6 yards/carry. Starting running back Derrick Green (391 yards, 6.1 yards/carry, 3 touchdowns) seems to have taken a pretty strong lead in the running back race, but he comes with faults - indecision, spotty vision, and the like. De'Veon Smith (194 yards, 6.9 yards/carry, 2 touchdowns) is the short yardage back who doesn't often get short yardage carries, and Justice Hayes (86 yards, 6.1 yards/carry) is the third down back who gets 3rd-and-long draws just about every time there's a 3rd-and-long. Michigan has run the ball passably this season, but they lack a home run threat or the physical identity they seek. Minnesota is #51 against the run by giving up 132 yards/game on the ground, and they're #57 in yardage allowed/carry. Senior linebacker Damien Wilson (6'2", 240 lbs.) is the stud with 44 tackles (tied for #8 nationally), 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and a pick. Fifth year senior Cameron Botticelli (6'5", 290 lbs.) takes over for Ra'Shede Hageman as the Gophers' most productive interior lineman and has 12 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. The linebackers are all a shade under 240 lbs., and the defensive tackles are roughly 290 lbs., but they are a little light at defensive end, where the starters are a shade over 250 lbs. Derrick Green may find the sledding to be tough against such stout linebackers.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Minnesota Pass Defense
Your guess is as good as mine here. Fifth year senior Devin Gardner got yanked last week after another rough performance, and his replacement, sophomore Shane Morris, was equally inept. Michigan keeps delaying naming a starting quarterback, and it will supposedly be a "game-time decision." One theory suggests that head coach Brady Hoke is dragging his feet only because they're going to make a change. Another theory is that Minnesota has to spend time preparing for both quarterbacks, so it could just as feasibly be Gardner who takes the first snap. Neither direction would surprise me. Michigan is tied for third-worst at throwing interceptions (8) so far this year, and they're #97 in passer rating. Gardner is the most experienced and has actually had stretches of success in college. Morris has a career 0-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Ugh. Michigan's best receiver, Devin Funchess, is 6'5", 230 lbs. of gimpy ankle, and nobody else has stepped up as a go-to guy in his partial absence. Meanwhile, Minnesota is #85 against the pass (252 yards/game) but #24 in passer rating against. It helps that three of their opponents have been Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee State, and San Jose State. The pass rush is led by Wilson, sophomore defensive end Hendrick Ekpe (6'5", 251 lbs.), and redshirt junior defensive tackle Robert Ndondo-Lay (6'5", 250 lbs.). The Gophers have picked off 7 passes altogether, including 2 from redshirt junior Briean Boddy-Calhoun (5'11", 190 lbs.). The secondary is filled with third- and fourth-year players, plus sophomore Jalen Myrick, who had a 31-yard pick-six against MTSU.
Advantage: Minnesota

Rush Defense vs. Minnesota Rush Offense
Michigan is #8 in rush defense (80 yards allowed/game) and #9 in average yards allowed (2.5 yards/carry). The defensive linemen and linebackers do not make a ton of plays in the backfield, but they are stout at the point of attack and they tackle well. Starting linebackers Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden lead the team with 33 and 28 tackles, respectively. Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Ryan Glasgow (6'4", 296 lbs.) has started to assert himself as a clogger in the middle, and classmate Willie Henry (6'2", 306 lbs.) has been forceful as a 3-tech defensive tackle and even as a defensive end in some looks. The Wolverines are #40 in tackles for loss, led by Frank Clark (4.5) and Jake Ryan (4.0). On the other side of the ball, Minnesota is #30 in rushing (236 yards/game) and #38 in rushing average (5.1 yards/carry). Senior David Cobb (5'11", 220 lbs.) carries the load (92 carries, 539 yards, 5.9 yards/carry, 4 touchdowns) and can run through some tackles, but he's not a burner. The primary backup is Berkley Edwards (5'9", 190 lbs.), who has just 12 carries in the last three games. The most dangerous runner other than Cobb is possible starting quarterback Chris Streveler (6'2", 219 lbs.), who would be filling in for injured redshirt sophomore Mitch Leidner (6'4", 237 lbs.). Streveler carried the ball 18 times for 161 yards and a touchdown last week. The Gophers' offensive line averages 312 lbs. and the team is designed to run the ball. The left side of the line was honorable mention all-conference last season, right tackle Ben Lauer was a Freshman All-American, and there are a few Academic All-Big Ten performers. This is a ball control outfit that could wear down Michigan's defense if the Wolverines' offense can't sustain some drives.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Minnesota Pass Offense
Michigan is #28 against the pass (181 yards allowed/game) and #61 in passer rating against, but the only bad performance was against Notre Dame in a 31-0 loss. Otherwise, Michigan has been putting pressure on the quarterback - without necessarily getting there for sacks - and covering fairly well. Michigan is #61 in sacks, and defensive end Brennen Beyer is the only player with multiple quarterback takedowns. On the back end, sophomore corner Jourdan Lewis is the only one with a pick; Michigan's only other interception came from defensive tackle Willie Henry, who returned it for a touchdown last week against Utah. Some sources are saying that Leidner will start, and he's the better passer of the two quarterbacks. He has completed just over 48% of his passes for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. If Streveler is behind center, he's 4/11 for 37 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. The receiving corps isn't anything special, particularly if redshirt sophomore tight end Maxx Williams (6'4", 250 lbs.) remains sidelined with an injury. Sophomore Donovahn Jones (6'3", 200 lbs.) has 6 catches for 92 yards and 1 touchdown, but he has been blanked the past two weeks. Junior K.J. Maye had 2 catches for 65 yards but did not record a catch in Minnesota's other three games. Overall, Minnesota is #124 in passing (119 yards/game) and #122 in passer rating.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes
  • C Brian Bobek is a transfer from Ohio State
  • RB Berkley Edwards is the son of Stan Edwards and brother of Braylon Edwards, both of whom played for Michigan
  • Twin linemen Kyle and Luke McAvoy are the younger brothers of former Michigan lineman Tim McAvoy
  • Players who were offered by Michigan include RB Jeff Jones and OT Jonah Pirsig
  • The two native Michiganders on Minnesota's roster are Edwards and Port Huron LB Dominic Schultz
  • H-backs/tight ends coach Rob Reeves attended Saline High School and went to college at Grand Valley State University
Last Time They Played . . . 
  • Minnesota TE Maxx Williams gave the Wolverines trouble with 5 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, and QB Mitch Leidner ran the ball 18 times for 66 yards
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint (2), Derrick Green (1), and Devin Gardner (1) each ran for at least one touchdown
  • Devin Funchess caught 7 passes for 151 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Blake Countess returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown
  • Michigan 42, Minnesota 13

  • Derrick Green goes over 100 yards rushing
  • Shane Morris starts at quarterback
  • Devin Gardner relieves Shane Morris at quarterback
  • Michigan's run defense stifles Minnesota's offense
  • Michigan 20, Minnesota 10





  2. I am approaching this Michigan - Minnesota game like I might view a fender-bender on the freeway -- nobody is seriously hurt (football is just a game), I don't know the people involved (my emotional investment in Michigan football is way down lately), but curiosity is still present (I want to watch the game).

    I have no idea what may take place. Michigan could win big, Michigan could win ugly, Michigan could win barely, Michigan could lose. Morris may play well, or Morris may play poorly. Gardner may be a savior, or he may not. Funchess shows up, or he doesn't. The offensive line performs, or they don't. Who knows. We'll see.

    * * *
    Last night I watched the UCLA / ASU game. And while watching I tried to compare what I was seeing with what I saw in the Michigan / Utah game.


    Well, you know how that worked out for me.

  3. One thing is for sure: this is going to be an ugly, ugly, boring game. You have a functional but not spectacular running offense paired with a tough, stout defense, and a totally non-functional offense paired against a mediocre defense.

    It's going to be close, but I'd give Michigan the slight edge. Then again Michigan's horrible punt coverage may end up being the deciding factor.

  4. I have close to no excitement for Michigan football this season.

    I used to follow recruiting religiously.

    I used to be able to recite the 3 deep at every position.

    I used to defend Hoke and crew.

    I've grown so numb though over the past 2.5 seasons. I don't care what happens. The state of our football program is embarrassing. I'm not confident we can beat Minnesota. If we can't score any offensive touchdowns on Utah (Notre Dame too), I don't have faith we can put up points on anyone on the rest of the schedule.

    I'll continue to support Michigan, but I just don't care anymore. Hoke should be embarrassed. David Brandon should be embarrassed.

    David Brandon ran domino's into the ground, and he's doing the same thing at Michigan. He wasn't a successful businessman. He isn't a great athletic director.

    In Hoke's coaching career, he's won more than 8 games 3 times. Once in his 3 years at Michigan so far, steadily decreasing each year.11 to 8 to 7 wins. I'm not confident we'll be much better than 6 - 6 this year. This is where my apathy stems from. There doesn't seem to be much to be hopeful over.

    In the off season I was hopeful Nuss would come in, and be an instant improvement. Same kind of improvement Mattison was.

    But now, I'm just numb.

    1. Yup. A sense of indifference is creeping into me as well. I still root for Michigan, but very tired of it in many ways. But the good thing is, either Hoke turns this around, or we'll get a new (and hopely more qualified) coach.

  5. We're 4 - 8 in our last 12 games - scoring no offensive touchdowns in 3 of those games.

  6. I don't see this team qualifying for a bowl game this year. Sadly, seems worse than the RR era.

    1. I don't really see how you reach that conclusion. When you have a good defense, there's always a chance. Michigan has a pretty good defense. The offense is decent in fits and starts. Near the end of the Rodriguez era, the defense was terrible and the offense was good only in fits and starts.

    2. The team is just as dysfunctional as RR's last Michigan team, if you exchange offense for defense. RR's 2010 defense had some decent players and working pieces (Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Woolfolk, Craig Roh, Kovacs), they just couldn't do anything. Michigan's 2011 defense took off because we had those working pieces in hand. That sounds a lot like our offense in 2014 -- talented but dysfunctional.

    3. This is a pretty weak argument Thunder. You can just flip Defense for Offense, has for had, is for was, and make the exact same argument. Probably soon you'll be able to replace Rodriguez for Hoke.

      Michigan had a better O in 2010 then than they have a D now. The D then was good in "fits and starts" too. Compare results against ND and Utah and you can easily make a case this team is worse than the Rodriguez era teams.

      We don't know if our current team is worse off than in 2008. 2010 was clearly building towards something (which you saw in 2011). the defense then was headed in the wrong direction, but also severely hurt by injuries. the offense now is heading in the wrong direction. will it be better next year? will the D be better?

      We don't know, but it's completely reasonable to ask these questions.

      I want to keep Hoke because I think we need to stabilize this program, but I think he is an inferior football coach to Rodriguez. I think that is pretty clear. He might be a better program manager, which is probably more important ultimately than being a good football coach, but even that is in question.

    4. I don't see how it's a weak argument. Michigan was a train wreck defensively under Rodriguez. If you compare that to Michigan's offense under Hoke, the Wolverines have been moving the ball. They've scored a ton against Appalachian State and Miami-OH, and they've outgained teams that scored 31 (Notre Dame) and 26 (Utah) points. Michigan's offense right now is not Michigan's defense under Rich Rodriguez. I would compare Michigan's 2014 offense to Michigan's 2013 defense, a group that could never seem to make plays/stops when they needed it.

    5. Plus, RR's offense in 2010 was not that good against good teams -- 17 against MSU in a losing effort; 28 against Wisconsin in a losing effort; 7 against OSU in a losing effort; 14 against Mississippi State in a losing effort.

      That's the enduring myth about RR's Michigan teams -- "Great offense, no defense." Truth is RR's Michigan offense was not that effective against teams with good defenses. The OSU and Mississippi State games in particular demonstrated how ineffective it could be.

    6. It is a weak argument because it's just as easy and convincing to invert it, like I said. Your response is just more of the same. I can say this team is better than 2008 or 2010 but good luck proving it based on results.

      In 2010 Michigan held UConn to 10 points and Purdue to 17. Is that any more or less impressive than putting up points on App State and Miami? I don't think so. The proof comes against quality opposition. Michigan couldn't stop anyone good, now they can't score on anyone good.

      RR's 2010 team struggled to score against good defenses. Hoke's 2014 team has struggled to stop the only good offense they've played. Michigan was a train wreck on defense under Rodriguez. Michigan is a train wreck on offense under Hoke. For both - Not every game, but more often than not.

      Michigan's 2013 defense was the team's strength. I would compare Michigan's 2014 offense to their 2013 offense -- bad. Michigan's 2014 offense is also in year 4 of it's transition and not decimated by injury like the 2010 defense was.

      We have a few good players on offense (funchess and... well, that may be it) just as we had some good players on the 2010 D. But the awfulness of that secondary equates to the awfulness of the OL.

      The 2008 team was 2-2, just like this team. They lost to Utah and ND and beat Miami, just like this team. The '08 team managed to beat Wisconsin somehow, so our 2014 team has not has as good of a start. I don't necessarily think it's true, but based purely on results we are worse off than we were 6 years ago.

    7. @Don - that's what makes good defenses good defenses

      RR was in year 3 of his transition and getting better every year. In year 4, most everyone was going to be back.

      Last year our D was in year 3 of transition. Most everyone is back, and things look they are better.

      Neither unit was elite. Both units struggled against good teams. But things were generally positive and tracking positively for the 'strength' or area of expertise for our head coach.

    8. Hoke/Mattison's vision is starting to take form. They are still a bit deficient at a few key spots (e.g., DE) but the personnel they recruited are starting to mature into stars.

      Keep in mind, Denard was a true soph in 2010. Lewan and Schofield and Fitz and Gallon were all not yet at their peak. None of the tempo wrinkles had been installed yet. The offense was still very very good, even if it wasn't absolutely unstoppable.

  7. If DG relieves Morris then I'll know definitely that UM will have a losing record in conference. UM isn't going anywhere with DG. Teams know exactly what to do with DG. Bring pressure and make him throw the ball.

    1. That's the exact same recipe for making Morris screw up. Teams know exactly how to handle Morris too, with the exception that they might underestimate his ability to run.

  8. Go Blue! Beat the Gophers. Let's see if Morris can match what DG did to those fools last year.

  9. Very interested in hearing your post game thoughts after this game. If a highlight tell were to be made for this year so far, it would be pretty short.

  10. Oh god, please stop the pain. I hate to overreact with over half the season left, but is Hoke done? Who honestly might replace him? I don't think either Harbaugh will come and I hope it's not Miles, but at this point I won't complain. Also I think Brandon is gone.....thoughts?

  11. Seems I was again correct and the blog manager wrong once again.. This team will not make a bowl game and the Hoke era is worst than the RR era. People should start listening to me!!