Indiana Game Prediction

The anger and pain has finally begun to subside somewhat after last week’s mistake-fest game in Happy Valley, where we watched many of the fears and play of the previous 3 games finally come to end in a loss. Fans hoped and wondered if the ship could be righted and head in the right direction. I think now at the midway point of the season, we know what team 134 is. Will it continue to improve? Probably. Will it get to where fans hope it will, with a downhill rushing attack, play action passing, and the days of the pro style 5 and 7 step drops? More than likely the answer is no. Sadly the inexperienced middle of the offensive line, depth decimated from many reasons including a lack of focus on it in the previous regime, will ultimately be the biggest road block in the progression back to that style of football. When you score 6 points in 4 overtimes against a defense that is porous at best, the realization sinks in.

On the defensive side, lack of a consistent pass rush has been discouraging. They show flashes and it’s entirely possible that as Jake Ryan gets back to being an every down player that it may get the added boost it needs to handle the much more difficult last half of the season. With trips to MSU and Iowa, and home tests with Nebraska and Ohio left, and frankly Indiana and Illinois are no gimmes with the inconsistent play, getting to 8-9 wins is no certainty. That said, improvement along the offensive line and ball protection can turn things around to a certain degree.

I’m expect to see a flat first quarter, one where Indiana takes a lead with its explosive offense, and the hangover from Penn State is still there. Michigan will be ready to play and after adjustments, slows them down. The Hoosiers will score 30+ in my opinion, as Kevin Wilson has done a great job recruiting, but it’s much tougher to pull top notch defensive players to Indiana. Michigan will fight back and will run the ball better than in weeks past. Don’t get too excited if and when they do. It’s got much stiffer tests ahead, and all will not be "fixed". A long ways to go, more improvement will be needed, and the bye week before MSU will be important to heal up for 60 minutes of unnecessary roughness. 

Michigan 44, Indiana 34

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

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

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Battle for the Jug Prediction

As Michigan and Minnesota prepare to meet for the 100th time Saturday in Ann Arbor, questions still surround the Michigan program and the direction Team 134 is heading. After two less than stellar performances against a couple of the more putrid teams in college football, a bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

The same Devin Gardner who showed absolute brilliance Under the lights against Notre Dame, sans an ill advised pick 6 while being pressured, has turned the ball over 7 times total the past two weeks. Part can be attributed to inexperience, part due to sub par performance in the interior of the offensive line, but most importantly, Devin has played like a player that feels like he has to do it all. There were times scattered throughout the game at UCONN, where Devin just looked scared. He was aiming the ball, instead of throwing it. He looked quite simply like a quarterback who felt like he had to make the perfect pass.

Up front it appears that there will be a shakeup , with Graham Glasgow sliding over from guard to center, and RS Sophomore Chris Bryant entering the lineup at guard. Many reports coming in fall camp had Bryant starting before an injury slowed him. Michigan will likely give up some of the stretch runs, and try to pound between the tackles a bit more. There is no doubt that it may take some time to get acclimated but it gives Michigan a much better chance to keep Devin out of the 3rd and long situations which have resulted many of his turnovers. There is non doubt that this offense has potential to be explosive, if it can gain positive yards on first and second down and reduce their turnovers significantly.

On the defensive side of the ball, there have been some bright spots, even with the offense putting them in sudden change situations time and time again. It’s a fast and aggressive team, and while they seem to play more of a bend but don’t break style, they tighten up when the field is tilted to their side. It’s got playmakers, albeit inexperienced ones, and needs reps. It will also greatly benefit when Jake Ryan returns at some point this month. I think at some point Mattison will take them back to basics, and try more to keep it simple. Some of the inexperience in the secondary have limited his ability to dial up blitzes from all over, and when teams play max protect and have 6-7 guys staying in to block, generating pass rush has been difficult when they rush 4. Some of that will change when Ryan returns.

At the end of the day, Michigan should do a better job of running the football this week after the change in the OL, and much of the pressure should be off the shoulders of Devin Gardner.

A long ways to go, but Michigan gets it done this week. Michigan 34, Minnesota, 20.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Notre Dame Game Prediction

Electricity will fill the air Saturday in Ann Arbor, perhaps for the last time in the storied rivalry that is Michigan Vs ND. Some hundred plus years ago, Michigan taught the little leprechauns the brutal game of intercollegiate football, and hope to do so again Under the Lights in only the second night game in the 86 year history of the Big House. If the first time was any indication, we’re in for a treat at Stadium and Main. It’s the kind of setting that would just seem perfect for Keith Jackson.

With Michigan’s main three rivals all struggling to a certain extent with MAC schools in week one, The Wolverines handled CMU by half a hundred. While we shouldn’t read too much into that, it’s hard to ignore the success Michigan had, in spite of the numerous teaching moments. The secondary without its starting safeties ( one to injury, one to suspension) was human for much of the game in spite of the front seven generating a good amount of pressure. Some of that should be cleaned up this week, and both safeties return at least in part, assuming Courtney Avery hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his recovery from minor knee surgery.

The linebacking corp showed signs of excellence, even without potential all American Jake Ryan, and for the most part tackled very well.

By and large, the front 4 played well, generating pressure, albeit against a young, less talented offensive line, and a team which lost a starting QB and 1500 yard rusher in the first quarter to significant injuries.

On the offensive side of the ball, the line played very well. Holes were enormous on several occasions, and Devin Gardner had little pressure. Even the second team OL played very well, showing how the past couple of years in recruiting that group is paying great dividends.

Devin Gardner had success, in spite of a couple of ill advised throws, and continued to show how dangerous he is running the football when the play breaks down or simply isn’t there.

Brian Kelly brings his Fighting Irish in after a 28-6 victory over Temple. While the score is much closer than one might have thought, ND did put up over 500 yards of offense. They have explosive offensive weapons, as only one of their 4 scoring drives was over 3 plays. That being said, Michigan will be able to put more pressure on Tommy Rees, who has shown the propensity to turn the ball over under pressure (see 2011 UTL1).

On defense, you can definitely see that the Irish miss Manti Te’o in the middle, and from the film I watched of the second half of the Temple game Louis Nix was gassed. He looked physically exhausted. Carrying 357 pounds will do that to you. Expect Michigan to pound the leather on the ground. Even if they aren’t as successful as they would like early. If you wear out Nix in the second half, by constant double teams, he will be sucking on an oxygen mask. Temple showed that ND is susceptible on the edges and I expect to see the stretch running plays as well. Even if it’s not a normal thing for Al Borges to show, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some hurry up offense.  In the passing game, ND has a couple of good corners, but has inexperience up the middle, both in LB and Safety spots. I expect the TE’s to play a huge role in this game, especially Devin Funchess. He’s a mismatch that they can exploit.

If one thing Tommy Rees is good at, it’s pre-snap reads. He’s very good at getting the Irish into the right play. DC Greg Mattison will do his best to disguise what he’s doing, and he’s got the team speed to do it. If I were Brian Kelly, I’d try to run some hurry up offense as well. Michigan has so much depth on the defensive line, that he could neutralize that by running some no huddle.

At the end of the day, similar to last year, turnovers will reign supreme. If Devin Gardner can protect the football, Michigan should score a decent amount of points. I also don’t think Notre Dame will be able to sustain long drives on Michigan, and if the safeties keep the ball in front of them, ND more often than not will stall. 

Michigan 27, Notre Dame 17.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Grading The Performance: Central Michigan

The GoodJibreel Black 3

Defensive Front Seven– Losing Jake Ryan was a definite blow to the defense but front 7 looked no worse for wear without the presence of #47. The front seven was as fast as the unit has been since 2006. Good pursuit is always preached by defensive coaches but the group of Saturday went above and beyond, often getting to their spots well ahead of their offensive counterparts. The LBers flowed to the ball with exceptional speed and quickness and were solid in their open field tackling. The line didn’t get quick as consistent a push or rush early as Greg Mattison probably would have liked, but they rebounded nicely in the second half and were active throughout. Jibreel Black and Mario Ojemudia flashed the ability to beat one on one blocks that the coaches have been pushing for since in the end of last season.

The Bad

Turnovers – Cutting down the number of turnovers has been a major point of emphasis that has been preached by both Brady Hoke and Al Borges. The first game often has its share of hiccups but the Wolverines did an average job of taking care of the football. The two interceptions have been a major point of discussion since Saturday, but there was also a muffed punt by Dennis Norfleet early in the 1st half.

The Ugly

Continue reading “Grading The Performance: Central Michigan”

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post