Penn State Game Prediction

While nobody in Fort Schembechler will ever apologize for a 5-0 start, few outside it will concede that their record has been indicative of their play.

Look no further than Vegas opening the line in Saturday’s game with Michigan as a one point favorite in Happy Valley against a Penn State team with even more youth than Michigan, and depth issues due to their NCAA restrictions.

Michigan did themselves no favors with poor efforts in games against Akron and UConn, and while last week’s game against Minnesota was an improvement, there are still several issues to work on.

In the 2+ year stint of Brady Hoke, Michigan is a .500 team, going 6-6 in the 12 games away from Michigan stadium.

Penn State licks it’s wounds after its routing at the hands of a potent Indiana Offense which put up 44 on them last week.

All these things factor into many thinking this game will be much closer than it probably should be.

There are other factors that lead me to believe it won’t be that close, however. First, the changing up along the offensive line proved to be effective, in spite of still having great room for improvement. Chris Bryant looked good at times, lost at others, but undoubtedly is talented, and big, and has a nasty streak.

Secondly, moving Funchess to WR was a great move. With Jake Butt needing reps and AJ Williams having the injury bug, they had no choice but to keep him at TE.  But with Funchess out wide, putting bracket coverage on Gallon, and putting 8 in the box like teams have shown won’t work, without giving a 6’5, 235 pound super athlete in single coverage. It should prove to not only open things up for Gallon and the run game, but also should give Devin Gardner more time in the backfield.

On defense, Jake Ryan has been cleared to play, and expect him to take some snaps this week and next, utilize the bye week before MSU to get into total game shape, and be ready for the Spartans.

One comes back, and one leaves, with Soph NT Ondre Pipkins being out for the year with an ACL injury sustained in the Minnesota game. A loss of course, but I expect Quintin Washington to take more of the starter snaps, and Willie Henry to continue to get snaps.

Having experienced Happy Valley first hand for the 2006 UM game, it can be electric. But they also are very similar to Michigan Stadium. When things aren’t going as planned, a pin drop can be heard in spite of 100,000+ people being there.  Take care of the ball, keep the playbook simple, and pound the rock. On defense, we won’t like watching the bend but don’t break, but making a freshman quarterback beat you is just what makes Greg Mattison happy. Expecting him to nickel and dime you without making any mistakes is unlikely and I like Michigan’s chances to keep PSU in check for the most part.

Michigan, 34, PSU 23

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Grading The Performance: Notre Dame

The Good

Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon- Michigan fans have seen dynamic QB-WR duos in the past. Grbac to Howard, Brady to Terrell, and Henne to Edwards/Manningham come immediately to mind. While duos of the past have often produced stunning numbers, few have displayed the kind of relationship that the nation was treated to on Saturday night. Gardner and Gallon acted in unison for most of the night and seemed to be connected almost telepathically. The back shoulder fades that Notre Dame found so difficult to defend takes an enormous amount of practice and trust between QB and WR and Michigan’s 2013 duo made it look easy. Devin and Jeremy put on a beautiful display of teamwork and execution on Saturday that is likely the envy of many in both college and the NFL.

The Bad

Nonexistent pass rush- Getting pressure on the QB with a 4 man rush has been the major point of emphasis for the Michigan defense since the end of last season. Despite multiple opportunities for Michigan defenders to go one on one, the Wolverines failed to consistently beat blocks and pressure the QB. Notre Dame used a variety of maximum protections to keep Tommy Rees upright. Michigan struggled to beat blocks and get pressure with a 4 man rush even on the occasions when Notre Dame did not leave backs and TEs in to block however.

The Ugly

4th Quarter Interception- There were a number of instances that could have gone in this space. Notre Dame’s horrific secondary, Eminem’s bizarre halftime interview, Louis Nix’s nonexistent vertical jump. In the end, Devin Gardner’s interception in the endzone was too ugly to ignore. In reality the entire drive could have been include but Devin’s decision to throw the ball while being tackled in the endzone takes the cake. While ultimately not costing Michigan the game, the play marred was was otherwise a flawless performance for Mr. Gardner.

Grades

QB: A-

A single offensive series keeps the grade from reaching A+ level. Devin was the maestro for a Michigan offense that seemed unstoppable.

RB: B

Two of the biggest plays, a run and a reception, occurred on a single drive in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. With limited running room, Fitz Toussaint was able to eek out a number of big plays purely on effort.

WR/TE: A+

The difference in the game was the Michigan passing game, highlight by the playmakers outside. Gallon, Jake Butt, Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, and Devin Funchess all contributed big plays to a stellar day through the air.

O-line: C+

Notre Dame’s defensive line and constant blitzing did a number on the Michigan offensive line. The holes were few and far between and Devin was running for his life on too many occasions. Jack Miller put forth a Heraclea effort inside against Louis Nix, though the interior had issues overall identifying and picking up blitzers.

D-line: C

The lack of pass rush was alarming for the 2nd game in a row, registering zero sacks and only 2 TFL. Michigan is badly in need of high impact, game changing defensive linemen.

LBers: B-

Michigan’s LBers did an adequate job of filling run lanes and making tackles but there were issues with drops into coverage and proper pursuit. James Ross put in a Dr. Jerkel-Mr. Hyde performance, looking like an All-American one series then following it up by looking like a true freshman the next. Both Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon did a great job making plays from the SAM position.

Secondary: B

Thanks to the defensive gameplan, the primary job of the secondary on Saturday was coming up and making tackles. The Wolverines did a masterful job of limiting the yards after catch for the Irish and also managed to produce two huge turnovers. Blake Countess is well on his way to becoming a bonafied playmaker.

Special teams: D

A dropped punt, a shanked kick, and poor kick coverage all played into a special teams unit that struggled to contribute in a positive way for the team.

A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.

B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.

C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with several errors.

D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.

F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.

Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.

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Freshmen Most Likely to Impact Michigan’s 2013 Season

#1. Dymonte Thomas DB

Unlike the others on this list, Thomas is the only player that already has a starting position locked down. An early enrollee, Thomas was able to secure the nickel back role during the spring and was one of the most impressive players during the spring period. Thomas has played safety for much of his career but is simply too talented for the coaches to keep Dymonte Thomas - Rivalsoff the field.

#2. Derrick Green RB

Green is the most highly touted of the group, widely regarded as the #1 high school RB in the country. Green is a sure to see the field this fall thanks to his unique blend of size, speed, and toughness. Green is also the prototype for the type of back the Michigan coaches want in the backfield and the most physically gifted runner on the roster. How much and how often Green plays will largely depend on how quickly he is able to pick up the intricacies of the offense and his willingness and ability to block. The Michigan coaches won’t risk the health of Devin Gardner by sending out a RB they don’t trust to protect the QB when needed.

#3. Jake Butt TE

Another early enrollee, Jake was able to get a jump on his fellow freshman by participating in winter workouts and spring practice. Like Devin Funchess, Jake is a natural pass catcher who is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Michigan’s desire to use multiple TEs on the field at the same time will result in Jake seeing a fair amount of playing time this fall. As with Funchess a year ago however, Jake’s physical limitations as a blocker will keep him from seeing extending time in every situation.

#4. Shane Morris QB

Jake Butt - ISportsWebThe physical nature of the game of football combined with the dual-threat ability of Devin Gardner will eventually lead to Shane Morris seeing the field in some capacity. Whether it is for a series during a game or a series of games is yet to be seen but for better or worse, Shane Morris will have an impact on the 2013 Michigan football team in some way. From a purely physical standpoint, Morris is the most gifted thrower of the football that has seen Michigan roster is over a decade. Whenever it is he sees the field there are certain to be moments of brilliance combined with the typical freshman mistakes that Michigan fans experienced with freshman QBs like Chad Henne and Tate Forcier. Morris has been preparing to be the Michigan QB since childhood. At this point it is a question of when not if Morris has an impact on Michigan.

#5. Ross Douglas DB

A common theme with this list is the presence of early enrollees. Recruits who are able to enroll at Michigan early stand at a distinct advantage when it comes to seeing the field early and Ross is no exception. While a bit undersized, Ross flashed exceptional instincts in the spring and the lack of depth in the secondary gives him quite the opportunity to see the field. Ross will likely see most of his early playing time on special teams but an injury or poor performance from a player ahead of him on the depth chart could see him thrust into action sooner rather than later.

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Michigan Football New Year Recruiting Update

With signing day just around the corner, here is a look of where things are at. Michigan currently has 24 commits in its 2013 class and could potentially goShane Morris as high as 29. As we’ve seen with Hoke and Company over the past two recruiting cycles, more recruits can pop up at any time. So this list is quite fluid.

Quarterback (Shane Morris)

More on the way? Highly unlikely. Personally, I’d love for the staff to go after another QB for this class just because depth could be a huge concern next season if Devin were to get injured. Russell Bellomy showed that he is not quite ready for the prime time quite yet against Nebraska. He’d have to improve a lot over spring and fall ball to prove otherwise. The only option after him is Mr.. Morris, but without a solid running game throwing him out there seems like a bad idea. With Shane already in the fold you’re not going to get another high profile kid, but adding a mid-tier 3 star kid would be a smart idea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like adding another QB in this class is going to happen.

Running Back (DeVeon Smith, Wyatt Shallman)

More on the way? Likely. An already really nice running back class could be much better with the addition of 5* Derrick Green. With messes at both Tennessee and Auburn, Michigan seems to be the obvious choice (he even named Michigan his leader a few weeks back), but Green has yet to pull the trigger. Barring a decision at the Army All-American Game, this recruitment will likely draw out until signing day or somewhere near there. I think there is a very good chance that Green ends up in this class, but wouldn’t be shocked if he chose somewhere else. Shallman may very well end up on the defensive side of the ball, but I left him on the running back’s list for now.

Wide Receiver (Jaron Dukes, Da’Mario Jones, Csont’e York)

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2013 Offensive Depth Chart Preview

With the 2012 season wrapping up this weekend, it’s time to take a way too early look at the 2013 projected depth chart for the Wolverines with some analysis. Note: The only iDevin Gardner - UMGoBlue.comncoming freshmen that I will include in the depth chart are Shane Morris and Jake Butt.

QB: 1. Devin Gardner – Senior

2. Shane Morris – Freshman

3. Russell Bellomy – RS Sophomore

Analysis: Gardner returns for his fourth season as a Wolverine after starting the second half of 2012 at the QB spot following Denard Robinson’s injury. Gardner’s skill set opens up a more vertical passing game that the Wolverines became accustomed to with Robinson at the helm. Gardner has also shown the ability to make teams pay with his feet and should be the future of the position if he is granted a fifth season, something Coach Brady Hoke seems optimistic about. Shane Morris will be the second best quarterback on the roster talent wise, but don’t expect to see him in mop-up duty– that role will fall on Bellomy’s shoulders. However, should Gardner get hurt, expect to see Morris step in as the starter, ready or not.

RB: 1. Fitzgerald Toussaint – RS Senior

2. Thomas Rawls – Junior

3. Justice Hayes – RS Sophomore

4. Dennis Norfleet – Sophomore

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