Saturday, October 4, 2014

Preview: Michigan at Rutgers

Rush Offense vs. Rutgers Rush Defense
Michigan is #50 nationally with 185 yards/game on the ground, and they're #35 with 5.15 yards/carry. However, the rushing output against power conference teams (Notre Dame, Utah, and Minnesota) have been relatively paltry, where Michigan has had 99 attempts for 301 yards, barely above 3.0 yards/carry. The leading rusher is Derrick Green (397 yards, 5.7 yards/carry, 3 touchdowns), but De'Veon Smith sparked a scoring drive last week and broke several tackled on the drive, including the 10-yard touchdown run. The offensive line is still in flux, because right guard Graham Glasgow has been battling injury and played left guard last week due to Erik Magnuson's leg injury; Glasgow's replacement on the right side was Kyle Kalis. The interior is supposed to be the "strength" of the offensive line, while tackles Mason Cole and Ben Braden have struggled mightily. Rutgers is #49 against the run, giving up just 135 yards/game. They also give up 3.98 yards/carry, good enough for #64 nationally. Redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Steve Longa (6'1", 225 lbs.) leads the team with 37 tackles, and second is fifth year senior cornerback Gareef Glashen (5'10", 180 lbs.). Unfortunately for Michigan, Rutgers makes a lot of plays in the backfield (tied for #9 overall with 37 TFLs). Redshirt senior defensive end David Milewski (6'4", 235 lbs.), junior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton (6'4", 260 lbs.), and redshirt freshman end Kemoko Turay (6'6", 220 lbs.) have combined for 17 tackles for loss. They are not big, but they are quick, which might be worse for Michigan.
Advantage: Rutgers

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

Pass Offense vs. Rutgers Pass Defense
Michigan's passing offense has been struggling mightily. Sophomore quarterback Shane Morris started last week's game, but he got concussed (did you hear about that obscure event?) and will be replaced by the guy who should have been playing all along, Devin Gardner. Gardner is completing 63% of his passes for 733 yards, 7.5 yards/attempt, 5 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. Those numbers are not great, but they're better than Morris's (36%, 3.3, 0, 3). Yikes. Michigan's top receiver is junior Devin Funchess (24 catches, 321 yards, 3 touchdowns), but he has been slowed by an ankle injury since week two. No other player has been able to morph into a deep threat, so the offense has largely turned into a dink-and-dunk formula with a couple possession receivers in Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Michigan has given up 10 sacks (tied for #85 overall) and any kind of blitzing will leave Braden, Cole, and the various running backs utterly confused. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Rutgers is tied for #1 in sacks with 21. Turay leads the crew with 5, while Hamilton (3.5), Milewski (3), and fifth year senior strong safety Lorenzo Waters (2) follow closely behind. Glashen is their top corner with 29 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 1 pick. This will probably not well for Michigan, because Rutgers will be all over Gardner in the backfield.
Advantage: Rutgers

Rush Defense vs. Rutgers Rush Offense
Michigan has mostly done well against the run, except against run-heavy Minnesota, a game in which Gophers running back David Cobb ran 32 times for 183 yards. The Wolverines are #21 nationally in yards given up (105 yards/game) and #22 in rushing average against (3.01 yards/carry). Linebackers Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden are tied for the team lead with 38 tackles apiece, while Frank Clark (5.5) and Ryan (4.0) lead the team in tackles for loss. The Wolverines have a solid front, but they met their match against an even more solid Minnesota offensive line. Rutgers ranks #58 with 176 yards/game and #70 in yards/carry at 4.24. The Scarlet Knights' most dynamic running back, Paul James, will miss the game with an ACL injury. That leaves the job up to redshirt sophomore Desmon Peoples (5'8", 175 lbs.), who has 67 carries for 288 yards and a 4.3 yards/carry average, but zero touchdowns. The Wolverines will also get a significant dose of sophomore Justin Goodwin (6'0", 205 lbs.), who averages 4.9 yards/carry on 38 attempts. Only one of their offensive linemen is over 300 lbs. The top players on the front line are senior guard Kaleb Johnson (6'4", 300 lbs.) and fifth year senior center Betim Bujari (6'4", 295 lbs.), both of whom were named Second Team All-AAC last season. Rutgers likes to run the ball, but I don't think Michigan will be blocked as easily this week.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Rutgers Pass Offense
The Wolverines are #21 nationally with giving up 178 yards/game through the air, but they're #58 in passer rating against. Teams have not been overly productive, but they have been efficient. Furthermore, Michigan has failed to force takeaways. The lone takeaway in the secondary came from cornerback Jourdan Lewis, and the only other interception came from defensive tackle Willie Henry. Despite some pretty solid coverage, plays just aren't being made on the ball. It doesn't help that Michigan is just #56 nationally in sacks with 10 overall, with nobody having more than Brennen Beyer's 2. Frank Clark is Michigan's best pass rusher, but quarterbacks have been getting rid of the ball just before he gets home. Rutgers is #62 with just under 241 yards/game through the air, but they're #14 in passer efficiency rating. Senior quarterback Gary Nova (6'2", 220 lbs.) completes 64% of his passes, and while he has thrown 7 picks, he has 10 touchdowns and averages 10.8 yards/attempt. Junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo (6'1", 205 lbs.) is a dangerous catch-and-run guy and has 25 catches for 475 yards and 5 touchdowns, including a state line of 7, 140, and 3 in last week's win over Tulane. The only other player with double digit receptions is sophomore Janarion Grant (5'11", 175 lbs.), but there are three guys on the roster averaging 18+ yards/catch. The offensive line has allowed just 6 sacks this season, which is good enough to tie for #34 in the nation. Carroo is dangerous, but Michigan should be able to slow down a big-play passing attack.
Advantage: Rutgers

Roster Notes
  • Players who were offered by Michigan include S Johnathan Aiken, CB Nadir Barnwell, WR Leonte Carroo, OT J.J. Denman, RB Savon Huggins, and OG Chris Muller
  • Players from the state of Michigan include LB L.J. Liston and QB Giovanni Rescigno
  • Rescigno was Shane Morris's backup at Warren (MI) De La Salle

Last Time They Played . . . 
  • Never. 

  • Michigan's offensive line struggles mightily with a quick defensive line.
  • Devin Gardner gets knocked out of the game, paving the way for Russell Bellomy.
  • Michigan's defense plays fairly well until the fourth quarter.
  • Rutgers 24, Michigan 10


  1. Hate to agree, I do not see us winning this one. Night game at Rutgers...they will be jacked up and we will eventually end up in the fetal position. Shameful.

  2. Sigh. I agree with your whole preview, right down to the part about Gardner getting injured. More specifically, watch for Michigan to overreact and remove Gardner the first time he gets up slowly after a big hit or if he ever limps. I'd bet money on it.

  3. Unfortunately our defense has had to play almost perfectly to keep us in games, and I fear Magnus' predicted score could turn out to be true. My hope is in Gardner, who I read was angry and on fire earlier this week. I think much of the offense's problem is mental -- inexperience and lack of resilience. Things will go wrong at some point; they'll need to bounce back from it to win; anger can help.

    Mack Brown made a good point after Utah: They also need to go out and have fun; it's football. Fans get so angry that it becomes a burden, as if it's a crime to lose. It's a game played by college kids; they sure aren't doing for the money, so I hope they can go have fun.

    (I don't mean the point about resilience critically, it's a big challenge. If you've ever been there: You play as hard as you can and find it isn't enough; you're getting physically dominated play after play; you're exhausted; the QB got sacked again; and somehow you have to find even more strength in 30 seconds for next play -- and for these kids it's all on on national TV with your fan's helpfully booing you and your favorite coach. It's easy to talk about it but very hard to do -- many of our most critical fans show no resilience watching from a recliner while someone else plays.)

    Win or lose, I'm 100% behind them (and Hoke and Brandon) next week. Go Blue! Beat Rutgers!

    Long Time Alum

    1. LTA, I disagree with you most of the time, but I appreciate your tone and your continued to support for the program through the turmoil. Now, a rebuttal:

      --You're quoting Mack freakin Brown, a man who squandered more talent than anyone else over the last 5 years. This is only slightly better than quoting Phil Sims or Matt Millen.

  4. I'll add: Gardner needs to play like a game manager. Be conservative, be very patient, no turnovers, punt a lot, wait for a Rutgers mistake, and then capitalize. No matter how much he wants to he can't make us dynamic offense. Take what they give us and lean on the D.


    1. Last year, Michigan lost when he did this and won when he gambled.

      You can't "take what they give you" when the OL can't block. I think Gardner has to take advantage of his opportunities. Sometimes that may mean INTs, sometimes it may be TDs. Michigan doesn't have the capability of grinding out a win. They aren't consistent enough. They need to take their shots and that means they have to encourage Gardner to be the playmaker he can.

    2. >> "they have to encourage Gardner to be the playmaker he can"

      I agree, which means abandoning the fantasy of Gardner as an under center, dropback, pocket QB. Put him in the gun and get him moving. Let his athletic instincts take over. Do not ask him to stand in a collapsing pocket and work through progressions. It simply does not and will never work.

      I'm dead serious. The Gardner-as-Henne experiment has failed.

    3. Mostly agree with you but honestly think he can do fine 'under center' if given adequate support. Of course, that support hasn't been there, so the shotgun and spread concepts are ways to open up the field for him.

      I'd like to see a variant of the gameplan they gave Morris. Start with easy stuff - screens and short simple throws to the backs. Help him out with some reverses and gadget plays that throw the D off. Then, once the D adjusts open things up a bit more and let DG take some downfield shots. Throw in some called QB runs - sure! But the idea that we're suddenly going to flip to a team that can run zone-reads when we haven't been doing it is exactly what led to last year.

      Michigan needs to stick to their core identity right now and hope that the run game is up to the task of creating just enough to give DG some room to work in the pass game.

  5. Dang Thunder, this is pretty doomy. If you are right, this season is really going to get REALLY ugly. Amazingly, half our fanbase seems to want this (if you look at comments around the blogosphere.) There are those who think Hoke losing will get him (and Brandon) out sooner, but I disagree. If Gardner plays up to his past performances it will makes Hoke's stupid QB decision even more obviously stupid.

    While it's certainly possible they embarrass the program yet again, I think this team will rally around the turbulence and win. I actually think Gardner will play well enough here, despite the OL. This is a rare situation where Michigan is actually better off on the road, and they should have OK fan support with all the alumni in NYC having a rare opportunity to see the team.

    I certainly hope they win. Gardner's been treated like garbage by the fans and now the coaching staff. We could really use a bit of good news or at least a break from the stream of (well warranted) negativity.

    Go Blue.

  6. I have absolutely no sense for how this game will turn out. None.

  7. Lets hope last week was rock bottom. Move the pocket, let DG be DG. Quicken the pace of the offense occasionally. Maybe establish the pass first to set up the run rather than visa versa. Special teams need to be special and we need some turnovers. If we win the turnover battle, this will be a good day.

  8. Hey! What ever happened to the Michigan program? No, really...what happened? It's been crappy for several years now...what happened to it?

  9. Well, OL sucked, but Michigan actually played real hard. The worst call in a long time. 2-4.

  10. We really got screwed outta that one. That was a catch. I really don't know what else darboh could have done. Oh well. Another L.

  11. Well, that was interesting.

    I think we witnessed the ceiling for this team.

    And against Rutgers, it wasn't enough.