Game Prediction: Michigan @ Notre Dame

Michigan and Notre Dame are two of the winningest programs in the history of college football. The first ever meeting between the two teams came all the way back in 1887 with Michigan prevailing. The latest game between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish came in 2014 with Notre Dame coming out victorious 31-0.

In that game, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner threw for 189 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, on the other hand, passed for 226 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But a lot has changed since then. That was Brady Hoke’s last season in Ann Arbor as Jim Harbaugh was hired in 2015. U of M also changed athletic directors in that time with Warde Manuel replacing Dave Brandon. Both coach and AD were instrumental in renewing this storied rivalry after a three-year hiatus.

As for the upcoming game Saturday, both teams have high expectations heading into the 2018 season. Notre Dame is ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll while Michigan is ranked 14th.

I think there are two keys that will decide the winner Saturday in South Bend. The first is the play of the quarterbacks. While most would say that QBs are almost always instrumental in the success of their team, both of these squads will ride or die with the play of their signal caller throughout the season.

I’ll first start off by looking at Shea Patterson, the Ole Miss transfer, who was named Michigan’s starting quarterback by Harbaugh recently. Patterson, a junior, had mild success last year in the Southeastern Conference. In seven games (he missed the rest of the season due to a knee injury), he threw for 2,259 yards with a 64% completion percentage. He also threw for 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Not the greatest stats, but respectable in his conference.

Next comes Brandon Wimbush, the senior for Notre Dame. In 12 games last year, Wimbush passed for 1,870 yards while completing 49.5% of his throws. But he is also a threat on the ground as well. Last season he rushed for 803 yards and ran for 14 touchdowns. But the thing many Notre Dame fans will remember about last season is Wimbush getting replaced by Ian Book, who led the Irish to a win over LSU, in last years Citrus Bowl.

Both of these quarterbacks come into this game with something to prove. Patterson wants to prove to himself to the university and fans that he can be “the guy” for Michigan as many believe the quarterback play has been what has been holding them back the last couple years. Wimbush wants to show that coach Brian Kelly made the right decision by naming him the starter and that the Citrus Bowl performance was a fluke. It’ll be interesting to see what QB out-duels the other come kickoff.

The next key to the game has got to be the defensive units for both teams. They are both projected to be some of the top defenses in the country this year, and with good reason.

Michigan returns nine starters on the defensive side of the ball that ranked 3rd overall in total defense. Players like defensive tackle Rashan Gary, linebacker Devin Bush, and cornerback Lavert Hill are expected to lead the charge for the maize and blue. All three are potential All-Americans and NFL players.

Notre Dame returns nine starters on defense after ranking 31st in the nation in scoring defense last season. Their leaders include junior cornerback Julian Love and senior lineman Jerry Tillery.

This game will answer a lot of questions for one fan base and leave the other asking even more. Is Shea Patterson the answer? Should Brandon Wimbush be the starter? Is this Michigan defense as good as advertised? Can Harbaugh win a rivalry game? A big game?

So now for the prediction. I think this game will be a close one, a lot closer than some think. I believe Shea Patterson struggles early on and is rattled by the fans in South Bend. But, ultimately he will find his groove late and lead a scoring drive or two in the second half. I think Gary, Bush and the rest of that tenacious defense for Michigan will come to play and force Wimbush into a turnover or two late in the game as U of M starts the season 1-0.

Michigan 24, Notre Dame 17.

 

 

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Don Brown “Pressure of the Week” – Rutgers

by Mark Edwards

The “pressure” felt by the Michigan Football team this week had everything to do with the other side of the ball.  But in this week’s installment of the “Pressure of the Week,” we are going to look at a great individual effort that was mirrored by the discipline of his teammates.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  3rd & 8, Rutgers ball on Rutger’s 27 yard line

TIME:  14:11 left in the third quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  There certainly wasn’t the influx of sacks and pressures that we saw in 2016 but this series, which was Rutgers first of the third quarter, saw a chance to cut the lead to 7 points if they could put it into the end zone.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Empty Left (it is a 3×2 formation with three receivers to the field and the Janarion Grant into the boundary.)

RUTGERS PERSONNEL: 00 (0 running backs, 0 tight ends, 5 wide receivers)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Michigan’s defensive line is occupying the left side of Rutgers’s offensive line.  Chase Winovich (#15) is lined up over the nose while Maurice Hurst (#73) is in a 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard).  Defensive end Rashan Gary (#3) is in a 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle).  Backup viper Noah Furbush (#59) is in a 5-technique to the bottom of the screen.  Cornerbacks David Long (#22) and Lavert Hill (#24) are in their normal press alignments.  Linebackers Devin Bush Jr. (#10) and Mike McCray (#9) are aligned in stacked positions on Gary and Winovich (they are already moving in the screen shot above).  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is splitting the difference  between the #2 and #3 receivers to the top of th screen.  Safeties Josh Metellus (#14) and Tyree Kinnel (#23) are getting to a cover 2 depth (meaning they are responsible for the deep halves of the field).

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FRAME #2

What is Rutgers doing here?  Rutgers is running a five-man route which means that the offensive line should be able to handle the four-man pressure.  The Rutgers line has slid their protection to the defensive front.

What has changed:  Two things of note here.  First, Furbush (#59) has dropped to race back to the #3 receiver to the field who is running a vertical stem.  Secondly but most importantly, Gary has already defeated the left tackle.

Michigan’s pressure: With the bail into coverage by Furbush, it has been accompanied by Devin Bush Jr.’s blitzing through the B gap.  Hurst (#73) has ripped into the A-gap.  Winovich (#15) has worked from the center and is responsible for the contain of the pocket to the bottom of the screen.

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FRAME #3

What is Rutgers doing here?  Forget the pass route.  It’s not going to work.  The Rutgers left tackle has been “run by.”  The rest of the Rutgers line is in good shape here.  Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno is in the grasp of Rashan Gary.

What has changed:  A sack seemingly is imminent.

Michigan’s pressure:  Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno is in the grasp of Rashan Gary.  Notice the eye discipline of Winovich and Bush Jr.  They know what they are responsible for doing in this pressure.

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FRAME #4

What is Rutgers doing here? Surviving…barely.

What has changed:  Rescigno has escaped the Gary “sack” attempt.   He is going to attempt to escape to his left.

Michigan’s pressure:  Gary has missed the sack attempt.  Notice that Devin Bush Jr. (top of the screen rusher) has the escape attempt contained.  Hurst and Winovich are starting to mirror the quarterback’s movement.  Gary, while stunned he didn’t get the sack, is already up and in pursuit.  That’s a sign of fanatical effort.

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FRAME #5

What is Rutgers doing here? The scramble attempt continues.

What has changed:  Rescigno now has a bigger problem that Gary.  He is being forced back into the middle of the pocket because Devin Bush Jr. has defeated the left guard is now on a dead run into the quarterback..  Hurst and Winovich are waiting for him.

Michigan’s pressure:   I can’t think of a worse place to be than between Gary and Bush Jr. with both of them sprinting at me.  Winovich is slightly out of position because he’s right on top of Hurst.

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FRAME #6

What is Rutgers doing here? This is a sack.  There is no escape.

What has changed:  Rescigno has entered Don Brown’s “Bermuda Triangle” where quarterbacks rarely survive.

Michigan’s pressure:  Winovich, who was out of position, has now accelerated into the middle of the pocket while Bush and Gary are within a step.

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FRAME #7

Sack!!!

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FINAL THOUGHT: While some teams look like they think they have nothing to play for, it’s the opposite of the effort shown here by the Michigan defense.  It’s the second week in a row that a four-man pressure has been featured.  Once again, it’s a great sign to get home with four rushers…even if it’s just against the Big Ten’s JV team-Rutgers.

Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Indiana

by Mark Edwards

When you heard that Indiana was going to start a redshirt QB against a Michigan defense that was coming off of a loss, this was all entirely too predictable.  Don Brown was going to throw the “kitchen sink” at that kid.  While Hoosier QB Peyton Ramsey played admirably, even IU coach Tom Allen acknowledged that his signal caller was going to face a “different beast.”  He probably should’ve made that plural and call them “beasts.”

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  1st & 10, State ball on Indiana’s 25 yard line

TIME:  14:54 left in the second quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  With Michigan holding a 6-0 lead, this series was another example of the Michigan defense’s belief that pressure is paramount.  They weren’t going to let Ramsey get comfortable in the pocket as the Michigan offense was settling for field goals.  You often hear commentators say that the defense “met each other at the quarterback.”  Well, here you go…

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trips Right (it is a 3×1 formation with three receivers to the field)

INDIANA PERSONNEL: 10 (1 running back, 4 wide receivers)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Michigan chose to defend Indiana’s “four wide” package with this base alignment.  YOU can see that Chase Winovich (#15) is in a five-technique to the bottom of the screen while Maurice Hurst Jr. (#73) in head up on the center and Rashan Gary (#3) is aligned in a 4I technique (inside shoulder of the offensive tackle) to the top of the screen.  Michigan only has two linebackers, which are Devin Bush #10 and Devin Gil (#36).  Michigan is showing a “two shell”, which means that there are two safeties, which will not remain in a two shell after the snap.  Michigan linebacker Josh Uche (#35) is splitting the difference between the #2 and #3 receivers.  Notice Michigan cornerback David Long is in the “standard” press coverage technique.

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FRAME #2

What is Indiana doing here?  Thy are dropping back to pass as you can see their offensive line vertically pass set, which is a sign of a man-on-man protection.  The running back is viewing the boundary side defenders as pressure is imminent.

What has changed:  Long (#22), safety Tyree Kinnel (#23) and Gil (#36) all appear to be in the pressure called.  Bush (#10) is appearing to “wall off” the #3 receiver, which means that he does not want him to cross the middle of the field.

Michigan’s pressure:  First, notice how quick Hurst (#73) is off of the ball.  Gary and Winovich almost look delayed in their rush due to Hurst’s burst.  Long is blitzing off of the corner and the Indiana RB sees it coming.  Gil is going to blitz outside of Winovich, who has occupied the B Gap.  Kinnel has rolled down to take away the hot route slant by the boundary receiver.

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FRAME #3

What is Indiana doing here?  The boundary receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. (#1) has run a sight-adjusted stop route.  The pocket protection has been aided by the RB stepping into the B gap as the left tackle has identified the blitzing David Long.

What has changed:  Indiana appears to be ready to handle this pressure.

Michigan’s pressure:  Maurice Hurst has defeated his blocker as he has ripped to the field B gap.  Gil and Long are presently accounted for.

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FRAME #4

What is Indiana doing here?  Quarterback Peyton Ramsey has realized that the pocket is collapsing from the middle, which is just the worst possible thing on a man protection passing scheme.

What has changed:  Gary and Long have both set the pocket so that the inevitable escape attempt will force Ramsey to bubble backwards.

Michigan’s pressure:  Long has beaten the left tackle, who just doesn’t know it yet.  Gil’s gap integrity isn’t great as he has been run into the A gap leaving a potential escape  route if Ramsey was more experienced.

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FRAME #5

What is Indiana doing here?  Ramsey’s escape attempt is about to end as Long and Gary are both one step from taking him down.

What has changed:  IMPENDING SACK ALERT.

Michigan’s pressure:  This five man pressure is now home.  David Long and Gary’s discipline has led them to a shared sack.

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FRAME #6

BOOM!

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FINAL THOUGHT:
As Don Brown has started to use the 3-3 base against spread teams, the evolution of the pressure package is really interesting.  Studying the Michigan defense on film makes one marvel at how disciplined they are.  Now everyone uses the term “discipline” but I’m talking about how they know their role in the pressure and the possible offensive reaction as seen here in Rashan Gary not trying to just “get his” but to play team defense.  This team is going to be tested next week in Happy Valley but to doubt them at this point is just goofy.

 

Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Purdue

 

by Mark Edwards

I wasn’t around much last week but can anybody tell me if Purdue HC Jeff Brohm was discussed much?  Oh, he was.  Did they mention that he uses RPOs, misdirection movements and tempo to move the football?  No way…they did?  Okay, this column is dedicated weekly to Dr. Blitz, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.  Purdue got off to a quick start using skullduggery to move the ball on their first drive.  So, it’s only natural that our “pressure of the week” would come from the first drive (NOTE:  Although, I’m sure the carnage of the fourth quarter would have been a good choice.).

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  3rd & 9, Purdue ball on Michigan’s 39 yard line

TIME:  13:29 left in the first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  Purdue had opened quickly and was on the verge of scoring range as they faced a 3rd and nine.  This was Michigan’s first third-down snap of the game and you knew that Dr. Blitz wasn’t going to play coverage.  Also, this was Purdue’s first chance to show their hand on a 3rd & long in the face of an almost certain pressure call by Michigan.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Packers Right (Green Bay does this a lot with a stand up, number #3 receiver flexed off of the right tackle).

PURDUE  PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES: In what is becoming Michigan’s base alignment vs. Spread formations, you have Rashan Gary #3, Maurice Hurst #73 and Chase Winovich #15 with their hands on the ground.  Gary is in a 5 technique (to the bottom of the screen) while Winovich is in a 4I technique which is inside shade of the left tackle (top of the screen).  The linebackers are shifted to the field with Noah Furbush (#59) showing a bump alignment over the #3 receiver (which is a TE).  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) has split the difference between #2 and #3 with his eyes in the backfield.  Inside linebackers Mike McCray (#9) and Devin Bush (#10) are aligned over the guards.  In the secondary, Michigan is showing a cover 2 shell (2 high safeties) and their corner bump alignment.

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FRAME #2

What is Purdue doing here?  A couple classic offensive movements are taking place here.  The three wide receivers are releasing vertically down the field.  The #3 receiver for Purdue is setting the edge while making it look like a shallow cross (his job is to block the first inside linebacker that shows)  Purdue QB David Blough is taking a deep drop to entice the already aggressive pass rush.  The running back is fitting into the pass protection in the A gap.

What has changed:  Michigan is in man coverage underneath and what Blough thought he was going to get in his pre-snap read is no longer what his eyes tell him is happening.

Michigan’s pressure: Now that he ball has snapped, the Michigan defensive line has ripped to the boundary (their right) while Furbush (#59) is blitzing off of the edge.  Also, Bush is on a B gap blitz to the field.  It is a classic five-man pressure, which we are seeing  frequently with the 3-3 base alignment.  McCray is in the middle of the field looking for #3 to come back to him, which he will.

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FRAME #3

What is Purdue doing here?  SCREEN!  They are releasing their guards and center in front of the running back to run a screen pass to the right.  Actually, it’s not a bad call by Purdue if you are expecting pressure.  Purdue has McCray blocked (or he soon will be) while the receivers are running off the corners.

What has changed:  The only change from Frame #2 is that Devin Bush has diagnosed that it’s a screen.  He has aborted his pressure to defend the screen.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hurst (#73), Gary (#3) and Furbush (#59) are all unblocked on their path to the QB.  Bush, as stated previously, he is the screen stopper.

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FRAME #4

What is Purdue doing here?  It’s time to throw the screen.

What has changed:  Bush has been engaged by a blocker and the running back, led by the three Purdue offensive linemen, is not moving to the field.

Michigan’s pressure:  Michigan actually is not in great shape here.  If Bush doesn’t make a play, the only defender left is Hudson (#7), who is on the 31 yard line AND severly outnumbered.  It’s time for an athlete to make a play.

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FRAME #5

What is Purdue doing here?  They have thrown the screen and all looks good.

What has changed:  Michigan’s pressure on Blough forces a “less than ideal” throw.  Bush saw the football and has jumped to attempt to pick off a woefully short throw.

Michigan’s pressure:  The defensive front got to Blough.  If they hadn’t, Purdue most certainly would’ve completed this pass and picked up a first down.

 

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FRAME #6

What is Purdue doing here?  They have shown that pressure can bother their quarterback.

What has changed:  Michigan’s pressure took a good offensive call and made it a rushed throw.

Michigan’s pressure:  The difference.

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FINAL THOUGHT:  Some will see this play and say that Michigan got lucky.  Others will say that Michigan made the play by executing the defensive call.  For me, this is always the line that Michigan is going to live on because of the heavy pressure approach.  If quarterbacks are less than 100% accurate under pressure like this, that bodes well for Michigan and is a part of Don Brown’s core philosophy.

Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Florida

by Mark Edwards

Truth be told, this weekly feature has been in the works for weeks.  However, if I hadn’t planned on writing it and I watched the Florida game anyway, I’d still have ended up writing it because Michigan’s pressure was a HUGE factor in the game.  Don Brown’s calling card is pressure and I have to assume that Florida knew that.  It was interesting that the majority of Michigan’s defensive alignment stemmed from a 3-3 base and not the traditional 4-3 base.  Why did Brown use the 3-man front?  It’s a pretty easy answer…Florida was not going to press their run game into the A Gap (see diagram), therefore, he traded the standard one technique (Bryan Mone) for a linebacker that could run.

gaps

By trading the defensive lineman for a linebacker, it allowed Michigan the opportunity to be more unpredictable in their pressure package.  Last season, Michigan almost never showed a 3-man line in part because of the NFL talent that they had up front.  I would surmise that Michigan’s talent is just about as good but the athleticism of the front 7 (defensive line and linebackers) is just better than it was a year ago.  That’s not a shot at Wormley, Glasgow, Taco and the gang.  It’s analysis that was visually present on Saturday.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  3rd & 8, Florida ball on their own 27

TIME:  4:48 left in first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  Michigan had just answered the Florida opening FG with a Quinn Nordin FG and the defense had Florida on the brink of their first punt.

 

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trio Right (Twins Wide with an H back and a Split End on the backside)

FLORIDA PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end and 3 wide receivers)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Michigan has Chase Winovich (#15) in a zero shade with both Maurice Hurst (#73) in a 5 shade and Rashan Gary (#3) in a 9 shade to the left of the defensive front.  Devin Bush (#10) is a stand-up linebacker with Noah Furbush (#59) originally in a 4-shade with his hand on the ground.  Mike McCray (#9) is a rush linebacker in a ghost 7 technique.

NOTE:  Khaleke Hudson (#7) has split the difference between the H-back and the #2 WR.  This allows Hudson the opportunity for an edge run if Gary stunts inside (WHICH HE DOESN’T) and he can get back into pass coverage if that is the call.

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FRAME #2

What is Florida doing here?  The ball has just snapped. NOTE MICHIGAN ALREADY INTO THEIR MOVEMENTS AND FLORIDA (with exception of the center and right tackle) HASN’T MOVED YET.

What has changed:  Hudson (#7) is bailing into pass coverage while Furbush (#59) is now standing up and Bush (#10) has vacated the line of scrimmage (LOS).

Michigan’s pressure:  They are bringing a three-gap pressure all off of the offense’s right side.  Notice that this is away from the running back.  If Florida was a speed option team or one that ran the quarterback, Michigan would be super vulnerable to the offense’s left.  But since Felipe Franks is in his first start AND not a design runner, Doug Nussmeier (Florida’s O-Coordinator) has very little that can go away from the designed pressure.

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FRAME #3

What is Florida doing here?  After a token ball fake to RB Mark Thompson, Franks is dropping back.  Both receivers on the Trio side have initiated vertical stems.  The H-back, after a big collision by Rashan Gary, is attempting to run a bubble (this is very uncommon and most likely an adjustment to getting knocked into the backfield).  Franks is looking left but the WR on the single-receiver side is being controlled by Michigan CB David Long (#22).

What has changed:  Furbush is now in the middle of the field getting depth for a crossing route (WHICH WILL NOT SHOW).  McCray is also gaining depth (AND WOULD’VE UNDERCUT any slant route by the backside WR.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hurst and Winovich have ripped to the gap to their right (Notice the four Florida linemen sliding to their left).  The guard and tackle are sliding to nobody, which is not a great idea.  Bush has now established himself as a B gap blitzer and is already running downhill.

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FRAME #4

What is Florida doing here?  Florida has two offensive lineman looking backwards.  The center has failed to block Hurst while the right guard only now sees that Bush is unblocked.  This is part communication and in part a failure of technique by the right guard.  If you look back to Frame #3, his eyes are down while engaged with Hurst.  By the time his eyes came back up, Bush was two yards behind him.  NOTICE THE RIDICULOUS SPACIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE QB AND THE H-BACK.  That’s why you never see a bubble out of the H-back.

What has changed:  Bush (with a free run) and Hurst (who has been pushed from behind which is legal in the trenches) have both infiltrated the Florida pocket and Franks now knows that he has to abort the pass and scramble.  Long (top of screen) is still locked on his man.

Michigan’s Pressure: Notice that Winovich (25 yard line) has eyes in the backfield as he is the contain responsible rusher in this pressure.  Gary is demonstrating the same technique on the bottom of the screen.

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FRAME #5

What is Florida doing here?  It’s now a QB scramble at best and a sack at worst.

What has changed:  Winovich has disengaged from the left side of the Gator line and is now running to his contain landmark (outside shoulder of Franks) while Devin Bush is two yards from Franks and accelerating to full speed.

Michigan’s Pressure:  This is going to be over soon.  Notice Mike McCray’s relationship as he is running to the ball in case Franks evades Winovich and Bush.

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FRAME #6

What is Florida doing here?  This is a QB sack.  Franks, not being fast enough or elusive enough to evade the pursuit, is in the middle of a Winovich-Bush sandwich.

What has changed:  Winovich has been re-engaged by the LT to no avail.

Michigan’s Pressure:  McCray is still in good position which is a good sign for the discipline of the defense.

PRESSURE OF THE WEEK DIAGRAM

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FINAL THOUGHT:  With Michigan’s activity in the Florida backfield, there were many options to choose from.  How much will we see of the 3-3 base from Don Brown?  That’s a question that we will get more answers to this Saturday when Cincinnati invades the Big House.  I still think Michigan is a base 4-3 team but you can see after one game that the Don Brown attack has been diversified.  This I do know…you will see pressure week in and week out from this defense.