THE GAME: Ohio State @ Michigan Predictions

The Big House. The Horseshoe. The Maize and Blue. The Scarlet and Grey. Bo Schembechler. Woody Hayes. The Ten Year War. The Big Two and the Little Eight. Jim Harbaugh. Urban Meyer.

This will be the 100th consecutive meeting between the arch-rivals, 113 meetings in total. Records and rankings are thrown out the window because after kickoff, the only thing that matters is beating that team on the other sideline, it’s an absolute war. To keep it short, these schools don’t like each other and that’s just how it is.

(9-2) no. 9 ranked, Ohio State, will come to Ann Arbor and play (8-3) unranked, Michigan. This rivalry is widely considered to be one of the best in all of sports, despite the 21st century being a tad-lopsided in favor of the Buckeyes.

The Block M Insider has just four contributors for both our blog and to run our Twitter pages, and this article is featuring opinions and predictions on how “The Game” will potentially unfold come this Saturday:

Shane: 

Not many will be predicting a Michigan victory in Ann Arbor come Saturday when the Buckeyes will come to the Big House as a likely double digit favorite. Wolverine season-ticket holders everywhere have been looking to sell their tickets, feeling similar to the 2013 game that held little to no confidence throughout the fan-base.

I’d love to sit here and say that the intensity of this rivalry is going to lift this younger, inexperienced, lesser coached, less talented Michigan team to a victory come Saturday but that simply hasn’t been the case in my lifetime. I don’t think this team is good enough to hang with the Buckeyes, but I’m also a firm believer that in college football on any given day, anything is possible.

This Michigan defense is a stout unit with a front to be reckoned with, however they have a inexperienced secondary with plenty of vulnerabilities that have been exposed to man coverage specifically this season. Overall, this group is arguably atop in the nation in terms of quality, they’d be able to perform at a higher level had their offense give them time to rest in between possessions. Going up against this Buckeye offense who has more dimensions than one, they’ll be able to spread it out to attack these said vulnerabilities within the Michigan defense. This will be the best total offense that Michigan has gone up against this season, Penn State being the 2nd best as they put up 42 points. Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown must prepare their best game-plan along with unanimous execution to limit the Heisman hopeful, J.T. Barrett, freshman RB, J.K. Dobbins, and the rest of the Buckeye play-makers.

Offensively in Ann Arbor, this season has not been a favorable one and it’s difficult to say things will change this week. We’ve seen three different quarterbacks under center for Michigan this season and Brandon Peters, the fan favorite, is not a guarantee for play on Saturday, remains in concussion protocol. Wilton Speight’s status remains in non-contact for practice, not likely he dresses. If both are out for the game, that would likely leave it up to John O’Korn, or Alex Malzone if they wanted to risk playing someone with no experience. It’s no secret that the offense has clicked the most efficiently while having Peters in the huddle and it would be in Michigan’s favor to have him ready to go, but the real bread and butter to this unit are two men named Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The passing game struggle has allowed the run game to open up several times this season; Higdon is 124 yards away from being Michigan’s first 1,000 yard rusher in a season since Fitz Toussiant in 2011. Evans has carried his weight as well with a 594 yard season thus far. Unfortunately for the offense, Ohio State’s run-defense is their strength and Iowa, who routed the Buckeyes, were able to expose their secondary. I can’t express how crucial it is for Michigan to have Brandon Peters’ arm, gives them the best chance to move the ball in my opinion because we’ve seen the John O’Korn offense and I really don’t think there’s a chance with him under center.

As a fan, I’m hoping for a close game that comes within a possession or two at the very least, but I’m taking Ohio State in this one and expect them to cover the spread. This isn’t Michigan’s season, but a win over your rival would essentially forgive the losses this season strictly due to transitional circumstances after losing over 40 seniors and returning less than 5 total starters. Michigan is the least experienced team in the FBS to my understanding, currently fighting for a 9 or 10 win season while the Buckeyes are trying to make their case to the committee for yet another college football playoff appearance.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan 14.

Mark:

Weird things happen in sports.  It’s the unpredictability that makes fans go crazy.  For Michigan fans, it’s “The Game.”  There have been so many upsets in this rivalry.  They are actually easy to remember.

1969 – Michigan 24, Ohio State 12

1987 – Ohio State 23, Michigan 20

1996 – Michigan 13, Ohio State 9

2016 – Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT)

Why do I list all of the more memorable ones?   That’s the point.  This game is SPECIAL.  This game is TRADITION.  And for both fan bases who reside on the internet like they know it all, those four games above prove that when you least expect it, we know nothing.

So now let’s move on to 2017…

QUICK FACTS

  • Michigan has allowed 14 points or less in the last 10 home games.  Last team to score more than 14…Ohio State in 1015.
  • Not a player on Michigan’s roster has beaten Ohio State.
  • Ohio State has only scored less than 30 points twice (Oklahoma & Iowa).
  • Michigan has only given up more than 24 points in a game once (Penn State).

Do you know what the problem with facts can lead to?  Short-sighted conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

So let’s get to it.  To the casual observer and to the most loyal fan, this seems to be a game that Ohio State should win. This is the game that Michigan has been preparing for since last year’s loss in the Horseshoe.

The Buckeye offense is potent and features playmakers all over the field…including a dual-threat quarterback.  J.T. Barrett is good enough to make Michigan fans sick to their stomachs.  Why?  Barrett is the only real quarterback that is going to force Michigan into a “Spy” situation.  Don Brown will have to assign somebody to mirror Barrett because the “Cover 10” defense that Michigan uses is the most vulnerable to a scrambling quarterback.  While OSU has made recent gains in the run game with Dobbins and Weber, there is nothing to suggest that they will be able to run against Michigan.   In the passing game, it’s about containable pressure on Barrett while winning the individual matchups outside.

Will he play?  Earlier in the week, my sources around Schembechler Hall thought it was more likely that Peters would play.  As the week has gone on, that outlook has dimmed just a bit. As I pen this prediction, my gut tells me that O’Korn is the starter.  Most Michigan fans just clicked to another website because they think that tells the whole story but let me add a twist to their perceived ending.  Here’s what UM has to do to be in position to win:

  • Be efficient in the intermediate passing game (5-15 yards down field)
  • Stay out of ’22’ personnel and run the ball while spreading out the Buckeye defense
  • Use designed runs/rollouts to enable O’Korn to be on the move
  • Take shots downfield as the Buckeye defense starts to roll to the line of scrimmage as the game is much tighter than they expect.

In both OSU losses, you see the OSU defense lose steam in the second half.  Why?  This Buckeye team is really not built to dominate for four quarters.  They are much more like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.  They are going to try to knock you out early.  Harbaugh and Co. has to put the Rocky Balboa shorts on and just keep punching.

That’s how upsets happen.  Being told you can’t win can motivate but does this Michigan team have enough toughness to stand in and punch with the B1G Ten’s Drago (no matter how flawed they are).

The answer…yes and it’ll shock the hell out of most of us.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12. 

Now let me get back to my Rocky training montage.

 

 

Brandon: 

First played in 1897, the 2017 edition will be played in Ann Arbor at the Big House. The Ohio State-Michigan game is one of, if not the, biggest rivalries in sports.

This year’s Buckeyes team comes into this game ranked no. 9 by the College Football Playoff Committee while the Wolverines will be unranked. Ohio State is sporting a 9-2 record with a tough loss to a good Oklahoma Sooner squad along with a blowout loss to Iowa on the road. Michigan will come into this one with an 8-3 record with close losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin and a drubbing at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

So while these teams are only separated by a game in the standings, they’ll be playing for completely different reasons. OSU has already clinched the East for a spot in the conference title game, a win against Michigan on the road and a victory against the Wisconsin Badgers in Indy gives the Buckeyes and the Big Ten a resume worthy of potential consideration for the CFP final four. Michigan on the other hand is looking to beat their rival for the first time since 2011 and have a chance at their third consecutive 10-win season under Jim Harbaugh.

I believe this game will come down to the battle of the quarterbacks. J.T. Barrett leads this Buckeye team and they are currently the fourth ranked offense in the nation when it comes to yards per game as they are averaging over 546 total YPG. They are also averaging over 44 points per contest as well.

Michigan, on the other hand, comes into this game having played three different QBs this season (Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, Brandon Peters) with Speight being sidelined due to injury, O’Korn being benched due to poor play, and Peters playing decent but he is now hurt as well and is uncertain for Saturday’s matchup.

If OSU is going to be victorious, they will need two key elements. First, their defense will need to contain the run game that Michigan employs; Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Issac provide the offense with a lethal backfield when clicking on all cylinders. When Michigan’s ground game is going, it helps their defense by allowing them to control the time of possession battle. Second, they will also have to not get picked apart by the weak air attack that U of M employs, regardless of who is under center. Iowa put up 55 on the Buckeyes a couple of weeks back and they accomplished it primarily through the air.

If the Wolverines are going to come out of this game with a win, they will have to do two things as well. First, whoever is playing at quarterback will need to attack the weak part of Ohio State’s defense, which is their secondary. Secondly, they will have to put pressure on J.T. Barrett. He one fine player, but when you contain him and make him throw from the pocket, he isn’t himself. This will be a tall task for this Michigan defense, but it is a must if they want to leave the Big House on a high note.

As for my final score prediction, I believe this one could get ugly. Ohio State is a double-digit (I’ve seen anywhere from -11 to -14) favorite in Vegas and I think they will cover the spread. Not saying Michigan can’t shock the world and pull of the upset, but I just see that as a long shot. J.T. won’t be short this year, folks.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 13.

Michael:

November 25th, 2017 3:50 pm. The ESPN ticker scrolls along, you catch a glimpse of something deceives your eye, you check again and it was true. Michigan defeats Ohio State.

Harbaugh finally gets his signature win, on the heels of a defensive masterpiece constructed by Don Brown. Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton dig up their best game plan, and the offense clicks just enough to pull of the upset.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Ohio State 7.

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Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week’ – Wisconsin

by Mark Edwards

Michigan’s defense is ridiculously young, elite and athletic.  However, the thing I marvel at week after week is that the defense KNOWS that they have to play at a level that most defenses cannot ever reach just to keep the opponent down.  Why?  With Michigan’s struggles on offense, Michigan cannot spot a team 14 points and realistically expect to win.

On a cold, windy day in Madison, the defense lasted as long as they could.  This week’s pressure is a great example of a relentless effort to get to the quarterback.  Regardless of the situation, we’ve seen effort like the one below all season.  That is something that should be enjoyed and celebrated as we look at this season.  I know Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown would say this is the expectation but as fans, we still need to appreciate it.  It’s rare in this world of college football.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  2nd & 15, Wisconsin ball on their own 7 yard line

TIME:  10:20 left in the third quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  While the offensive red zone struggles were continuing, the defense had Wisconsin backed up and quarterback Alex Hornibrook was shaky.  This series was where most Michigan fans thought, “If we can hold them here and get the ball in good field position, we can take the momentum.”

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Pro Right I (The tight end is to the right along with the flanker.  The split end it to the left.)

MARYLAND PERSONNEL: 21 (2 running backs, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:   In a second and long situation, Michigan is in a 3-3 personnel package and alignment.  The defensive front is DE Rashan Gary (#3)  in a 4I-technique (inside shoulder of tackle) while DT Maurice Hurst (#73) is at nose and DE Chase Winovich (#15) is in a 5-techjnique to the top of the screen.  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is in an “over” alignment, which is outside shoulder of the tight end.  Cornerbacks David Long (#22) and Brandon Watson (#28) are in press alignment.  LB Mike McCray (#9) is stacked behind Winovich while middle linebacker Devin Bush Jr. (#10) is aligned over the right guard.  The key is LB Noah Furbush (#59) who is stacked behind Gary.  He will be moving pre

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This is from the Detroit News and Daniel Mears.

snap to join the five-man pressure.  Safety Josh Metellus (#14) is eight yards deep and responsible for the tight end in pass coverage.

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FRAME #2

What is Wisconsin doing here?  It is still before the snap but they are going to run a screen pass into the boundary (top side of the screen).

What has changed:  Furbush (#59) is coming down in between Hudson and Gary.

Michigan’s pressure:  This is a five-man pressure from the strength of the formation.  In a pro formation, the strength is determined by which side the TE lines up on.  Metellus (#14) has also moved a yard closer to the line of scrimmage.

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FRAME #3

What is Wisconsin doing here?  Both wide receivers and the tight end are vertically releasing, as is customary with a screen pass.  The fullback is fitting into the middle of the line so that he can release to the top of the screen after the defensive line passes him.  The offensive line is take a vertical pass set.  The left guard & left tackle will end  up climbing to level two to the top of the screen.

What has changed:  You now see Metellus and safety Tyree Kinnel (#23) in the screen.  Linebackers Mike McCray and Devin Bush Jr. are dropping into cover zone coverage.  Michigan is playing man-to-man outside with the WRs while they have a they have the linebackers covering each running back.  Metellus has the tight end in man coverage.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hudson is on the attack.  Functionally, he is a “ghost 9” and is rushing to the depth of the QB.  Furbush is blitzing through the right tackle.  Gary has ripped to the A gap on the tight end side while Hurst has ripped into the other A gap.  Winovich is an outside rusher to the top of the screen.

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FRAME #4

What is Wisconsin doing here?  Badger RB Jonathan Taylor has taken a poor path to block Hudson.  You can see the left guard and left tackle leaking out to the left.  The fullback is in the middle of the offensive line.

What has changed:  Hornibrook  knows (and feels) that he’s going to have to evade the rusher to throw the ball.  Michigan has changed their pass coverage responsibilities as Metellus is covering Taylor while Bush Jr. is running with the tight end.

Michigan’s pressure: Michigan is very disciplined in this pressure.  Besides Hudson’s pressure, Winovich has done a nice job setting the edge of the pocket.

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FRAME #5

What is Wisconsin doing here?  The fullback screen is set up but Hornibrook is throwing it too early due to pressure.

What has changed:  The play is actually set up.  If not for the pressure, you are looking at a nice play for Wisconsin.

Michigan’s pressure: Hudson, Hudson, Hudson.

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FRAME #6

Incomplete pass.  The ball was thrown into the ground.

 

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FINAL THOUGHT: I thought Michigan’s defense played a really good game and showed that a power-run approach by an opponent is not a great idea.  Wisconsin scored 7 on special teams and hit two passes.  With the exception of Penn State, it’s not been the run game that hurts this team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Michigan Win Their Next Two?

Jim Harbaugh’s 8-2 Michigan Wolverines are currently on a three-game win streak (Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland), all in which they beat by two or more possessions. Redshirt freshman QB, Brandon Peters, has seen the start in two of the last three games, but was given significant playing time against Rutgers after struggles from John O’Korn.

Peters through three games: (28 for 46, 329 yards, 4 touchdowns, 60.9 completion percentage, 7.15 yards per attempt, long: 35).

The run game has also been lifted since Peters stepped under center; the two biggest contributors to the latest emergence of the rushing attack are both sophomores, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans.

Higdon this season: (129 attempts, 854 yards, 6.6 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns, long: 77); Evans this season: (104 attempts, 569 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns, long: 67)

The quality of defenses in the past three games haven’t exactly been A-list, but it’s nice to finally see Michigan establish the identity they’ve been looking for. This is just what this team needs before playing in this two-game skid against top teams, undefeated Wisconsin and an Ohio State team coming off an absolute rout over Michigan State.

There were concerns in the 2nd half of the Maryland matchup on Saturday; despite winning in convincing fashion, 35-10, the Terps were able to outgain Michigan in total yards (340-305). It was evident that Michigan took their foot off the gas coming out of the locker room into the 3rd quarter. Maryland was also able to outscore the Wolverines in the 2nd half, 10-7, went on a 10-0 run deep into the fourth quarter.

Should Michigan fans worry about their incapability to put a stake in Maryland yesterday, or are they simply over thinking it?

Either way, the schedule faces its most difficult consecutive weeks to date. Michigan still has a sliver of a chance to win the East, but I’d imagine the realistic goal for this team is what’s in front of them, finishing the regular season 10-2.

Since 2006, Michigan is 0-15 against top 25 ranked teams in road match-ups. The last two top ten ranked teams that Michigan has beaten? Both were against Wisconsin at home (2008, 2016).

This Saturday, Michigan will play the only undefeated team left in the conference, top 5 ranked Wisconsin. As of today, the Wolverines are just an 8.5 point spread underdog, which is awfully generous in my opinion. The Big Ten West front-runners have convincingly handled every team put in front of them this season, top wins over Northwestern and Iowa, who both cracked the CFP top 25 in week 11.

The following Saturday, November 25th, Michigan will host Ohio State in the Big House. The last time Michigan beat their rival was November 26th, 2011 in Ann Arbor when current Cincinnati head coach, Luke Fickell, was the interim head coach for the Buckeyes. The 21st century has not been a kind one for Michigan in regards to this rivalry, and if we’re being honest, it hasn’t been kind to Michigan for multiple reasons. Despite already having two losses with two more games left to play in the regular season, Ohio State has looked good for the most part this season and Michigan simply hasn’t.

The S&P probability is giving Michigan just an 8.7 percent chance to win the next two, a 41.6 percent chance to win just one of the next two, and a 49.7 percent chance to lose both and finish 8-4 on the regular season.

Michigan’s offense has been primarily executing, most especially in the run game, which is an important key for success in their next two games. Very crucial for this unit to build off the recent success and to stick with a similar game-plan which is a run-first, pass conservatively scheme, nothing too fancy.

There’s nothing that could lift a young quarterback’s confidence like coming off the bench and assisting in running the table for a Michigan team that was facing offensive struggles prior to him seeing the field. Brandon Peters is the more favorable candidate for the starting job in 2018, will likely have a competition against a likely healthy Wilton Speight. Win or lose the next two, Peters will gain experience and get a better feel for what type of intensity college football has to offer.

Don Brown’s defense has done their job in just about every week except for the Penn State game that displayed multiple schematic issues. Khaleke Hudson has been a significant play-maker for this unit in replacing Jabrill Peppers at the viper position. A young secondary that initially had some communication issues seems to now be hitting their stride, defensive backs like sophomores David Long and Lavert Hill are making names for themselves as of late.

There isn’t a whole lot of reason for odds-makers in Vegas to put any confidence into Michigan in the next two weeks. They’re underdogs this Saturday, and will surely be underdogs next week for the Ohio State game, the odds will be stacked against them.

As for a fan-base who has had quite the emotional roller-coaster with their beloved head coach, they crave these potential signature wins over Wisconsin on the road, and beating Ohio State at home. These wins would not only make Michigan fans believe in Harbaugh again, but it should also silence his doubters. One of the biggest issues that fans and anaylysts have had over Jim Harbaugh is his poor record against rivals thus far at Michigan, which is 1-4.

Winning out would lift Jim Harbaugh to his third consecutive ten win season at his alma mater and would be entering 2018 with a talented team and a confident, sophomore quarterback who has 6 games of experience under his belt. Even though Michigan’s chance at the Big Ten is highly an unlikely one, there’s still a lot at stake for the remainder of the season.

 

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

by Mark Edwards

This week’s edition of Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” will show the evolution of offensive football and why getting pressure on a quarterback can prove to be so difficult.  Any defensive coordinator will tell you that if you get a backup quarterback into the game (or in this case a 4th string quarterback), you dial up so much pressure that the quarterback’s inexperience becomes the 12th defender.

If that quarterback is leading a spread offensive team, offensive coordinators can do things to make that pressure really difficult to achieve.  Maryland’s game plan from the get go was to attack the edge of the defense and to utilize quick throws (i.e. tunnel screens, bubble screens, etc.) to protect the quarterback.

‘Ay, there’s the rub’ that presented itself to Don Brown yesterday.  So, how did he choose to attack this philosophy?  Early pressure from a 3-3 alignment.   This week’s pressure highlights new contributors, eye discipline and athleticism.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  3rd & 7, Maryland ball on their own 30 yard line

TIME:  11:34 left in the second quarter

WHY THIS SERIES: Michigan, already up 14-0, was presented with yet another chance to get the ball back in decent field position and deliver a potential knockout blow.  Maryland had yet to really do anything except throw a double pass back to the quarterback who dropped it.  This was the moment that the Michigan defense could take a strangle hold on the Maryland attack.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trips Right Packer (The #3 receiver on the trips side is on the line and is outflanked by two receivers who are off of the line)

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

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Defensive end Rashan Gary (#3) is in a ghost 9 technique to the trips side while Maurice Hurst Jr. (#73) is in a 3-technique to the tight end side.  Chase Winovich (#15) is aligned in a 9-technique outside of the tight end.  The defensive ends are assigned to keep any run play “in the box,” which funnels the ball to the linebackers.  Michigan has three linebackers standing on the line, which is normally a sign that at least one of them is a part of the pressure.  Mike McCray (#9) is standing over the right guard while Josh Uche (#35) is over the center and viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is standing over the top of the tight end.

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Notice that Devin Bush Jr. (#10) is six yards from the line of scrimmage and heavily shaded to the running back side.  The reason for that is if Maryland runs a speed option to the tight end side, Bush Jr. has to take the pitch back.  On the edge, Michigan cornerback David Long (#22) is in press coverage over the Packer alignment while safety Josh Metellus (#14) is four yards off of the #2 receiver.  Why are they not all in press alignment?  Michigan is anticipating crossing of the receivers.  If the defensive back are at the same depth, they will get picked off.  Go back and watch the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl final play.

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FRAME #2

What is Maryland doing here?  Maryland is going to run a tunnel screen to the #2 receiver, which is D.J. Moore.  They are also going to “flare” the RB to the top of the screen.  This should get Bush Jr. to vacate the middle of the field.

What has changed:  You can see that Michigan is not going to “bring the house” here.

Michigan’s pressure: This is actually just a four-man pressure that includes the defensive line and Josh Uche (#35).  Gary and WInovich are working around the edge of the offensive line while Uche and Hurst (#73) are going to run a cross stunt.  Uche is going to the A-gap to the boundary side of the center while Hurst is going to cross around Uche to the A-gap to the field (trips side).  The irony is that this pressure is designed to get Hurst to the quarterback.  Maryland’s lack of execution actually presents Michigan with the opportunity to get home quicker, which helps defeat the tunnel screen.

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FRAME #3

What is Maryland doing here?  The quarterback is looking to the RB flare to move the defense, which he does effectively  The right guard is already moving downfield to level 2, although there is nobody there to block.  The center is the problem.  He passes off Uche to the left guard.  That’s an issue when the left guard is still caught up with Hurst.  The #3 Packer alignment receiver has done a nice job of blocking David Long.

What has changed:  Uche is three yards from the quarterback and is unabated to his goal.

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Michigan’s pressure: This is a basic pressure.  Uche and Hurst are it.  Metellus (#14) is late to see the tunnel screen while McCray is spying the QB.  Hudson (#7) is in man-to-man with the tight end.

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FRAME #4

What is Maryland doing here?  They actually have a tunnel screen set up to be successful.  The right guard just has to block Metellus and the ball needs to be caught by Moore and Michigan has a problem on their hands.

What has changed:  Winovich has defeated the left tackle although this pressure is all about Josh Uche.

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Michigan’s pressure: Notice that Hurst has read the screen and is starting to retrace the line of scrimmage.  McCray (#9) is reading the QB’s eyes and moving into the potential passing lane.

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FRAME #5

What is Maryland doing here?  The quarterback has thrown the tunnel screen while being hit by Uche and Winovich.   Maryland’s center and left guard have also moved to level 2 to block downfield.

What has changed:  Besides for Uche and Winovich, Mike McCray is in position to intercept the pass.  Due to the pressure, the ball is thrown into the ground and not into McCray’s hands.

Michigan’s pressure: Michigan showed a six-man pressure and only brought a four-man pressure.  The spread offense makes six-man pressures really difficult to execute.  If you had seen the free safety (Tyree Kinnel #23) in the screen before the snap, that would’ve been a clue that Michigan was bring more that four people.

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FRAME #6

Incomplete pass.  Quarterback on the ground.  Punt it!

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FINAL THOUGHT:  It’s been refreshing to see a rotation of young players early in games.  This tells me that the young guys are earning it in practice and that’s so positive heading forward.  The usage of the 3-3 alignment also lets Don Brown get more speed on the field/  I expect to see a heavy dose of the 4-2 package this week at Wisconsin.

 

 

 

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

by Mark Edwards

Defensive football is an ever-changing strategy in terms of complexity.  When the spread offense was “invented” two decades ago, it inevitably forced defenses to account for so many components of one play.  From the days of the Bo Schembechler “5-2” to Lloyd Carr’s “4-3 Over” to Don Brown’s “3-3”, it’s all about taking away what the offenses of those eras want to do.  In the “Ten Year War” between Woody and Bo, you had to take away the fullback belly and then the option game.  Lloyd’s defenses needed to be able to handle the shotgun passing game.  Now, as we find ourselves with “Dr. Blitz” in Ann Arbor, never has a defense had to be so multiple in what they have to do on  a given play.

This column is all about “pressure.”  To the casual fan, the term “blitz” is what they think of when they see “pressure.”  In our ninth installment of this column, the reader has to know that there are “run pressures” and “pass pressures.”  Run pressures and stunts/movements/blitzes design to foil a running play.  These are fairly new in terms of designation because of the spread offense.   The pass pressures are the “go get to the QB” types of movements that almost always include a non-defensive lineman being included in the rush.  This week’s pressure is a “run pressure” that not only highlights the defense’s design but also the discipline that the Michigan Defense is playing with.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  1st & 10, Minnesota ball on Michigan’s 49 yard line

TIME:  12:47 left in the third quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  With Michigan up 20-7 and having had to punt after receiving the second half kickoff, Minnesota made their way into Michigan territory.  This was the pivotal possession that could have seen the Gophers get within a score.  Never have the design and the discipline been so clearly on view for the 2017 Michigan Defense.

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FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Trio Flex Left (You have twin receivers to the field while the H back has motioned from right to left.)

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

DEFENSIVE BASE:  4-2

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  In this look before the ball has been snapped, we see that Michigan is in their four-man defensive line to combat the run heavy attack that Minnesota used.  Rashan Gary (#3) is in a 5-technique to the top of the screen while Maurice Hurst (#73) is in a 3-technique on that side as well.  You might ask “why are they shaded so heavily to the short side of the field?  The answer is that they are not setting the front based on where the ball is.  They are setting the front to be strong on the opposite side of the back.  Aubrey Solomon (#5) is in a 2-technique which is head up on the guard.  Chase Winovich (#15) is in a ghost 9 meaning that he is aligned on the outside shoulder of the “imaginary” tight end to the bottom of the screen (look at the endzone view and the H back *86).  Devin Bush Jr. (#10) has been faking a blitz and is in retreat back to normal linebacker depth.  Mike McCray (#9) and Khaleke Hudson (#7) are aligned at four yards from the ball and both have leverage on the play.  You can see the alignments in the picture below:

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Cornerbacks Lavert Hill (#24) and David Long (#22)  are in their press alignments.  Notice that safety Tyree Kinnel (#23) is the safety to the twins side and is rolled down a bit while Josh Metellus (#14) is deeper.  More on their depth later.

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FRAME #2

What has changed:  The ball still hasn’t snapped but as Bush Jr has dropped back to a middle linebacker alignment, you can see Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) start to come down toward the line of scrimmage.

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FRAME #3

What is Minnesota doing here?  Minnesota is running a “counter option” play.  Their offensive line is blocking an inside zone play to their right.  The H back is “arcing” to the outside linebacker.  The QB and RB have both stepped right and are now moving left.

What has changed:  Hudson is the key to the run pressure.  He is “free” off of the edge.  Winovich (#15) is unblocked and in great position to force the pitch, which he does.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hudson has entered the Minnesota backfield while the defensive line has played their technique and responded to the offensive line’s movement.  Notice Kinnel has backed up to normal safety depth while Metellus (top of screen) is running down hill to replace Hudson, who has vacated his pre-snap position to bring pressure.  Metellus is attempting to provide inside help to Lavert Hill on the top of the screen.

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FRAME #4

What is Minnesota doing here?  While the ball has been pitched, the offensive line is in decent shape.  The problem comes from the fact that the H-back has arced to the mike linebacker (Bush Jr #10).  This forces the slot receiver to try to “crack block” the force player, which is Mike McCray (#9).  As you can tell, he’s going to miss that block badly.

What has changed:  While Hudson is still coming off the short side, McCray is now running directly at the RB who is looking back for the pitch.

Michigan’s pressure:  It’s a Viper crush pressure on the short side with all kinds of technique and gap responsibility being shown out of Winovich, McCray and Bush to the wide side of the field.

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FRAME #5

What is Minnesota doing here?  Minnesota is demonstrating that in the option game, if you miss blocks on edge defenders, that’s where the play inevitably breaks down.

What has changed:  McCray has officially beaten the slot receiver while not allowing the RB to run around him.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hudson is still coming but notice that Winovich (#15) has redirected to become the inside-out player to “sandwich” the RB (with McCray being the other piece of bread).

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FRAME #6

What is Minnesota doing here?  They are losing three yards.

What has changed:  Khaleke Hudson’s great effort has forced three Michigan defenders to converge on the ball carrier.

Michigan’s pressure:  The discipline/effort of the Michigan Defense is on full display as Kinnel (#23) is running the alley to get to the ball while Josh Metellus (#14) and Aubrey Soloman (#5) are in pursuit from the back side.  The only disappointing thing is the Devin Bush Jr. (#10) has been driven five yards by the H back.

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FRAME #7

Gang Tackle!  Regardless of the defensive eras listed in the intro, gang tackling is still a desired activity by the best defenses.  The Spread Offense tries to get the one-on-one matchup so this obviously isn’t what they are trying to do.

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FINAL THOUGHT:  Hudson gave great effort all night long and it would’ve been easy to pick a play where he made the “one-on-one” play.  In Don Brown’s system, gap accountability and discipline are key.  The work of McCray, Winovich and the pursuit players is the thing that enables Michigan to have an elite defense.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS:  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at markedwardsum@yahoo.com.

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.

Screen shot 2017-10-29 at 4.23.37 PM

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).

Screen shot 2017-10-29 at 4.23.49 PM

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” – Penn State

by Mark Edwards

This column has been highlighting blitz pressures from the Michigan Defense all season.  However, I think most of the fan base would’ve hoped that with the front four, pressure could be applied at times without having to involve the back seven.  Well, after the initial “blitz” by Penn State, Don Brown had to adjust and mix in far more of the 4-3 base and four-man pressure than we’ve seen this season,

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

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

TIME:  12:53 left in the second quarter

WHY THIS SERIES: This series is the first shot the defense had after Michigan scored their first touchdown to bring the score to 14-6 (Yes, Quinn Nordin is human).  You got the sense watching the game that this was a crucial series for the defense.

Screen shot 2017-10-22 at 2.42.46 PM.png

FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Empty Left (it is a 3×2 formation with three receivers to the field and the RB split wide into the boundary)

PENN STATE PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  4-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Freshman DE Kwity Paye (#19) is in a speed rush alignment to the bottom of the screen.  DT Bryan Mone (#90) is in a 1 technique with Maurice Hurst (#73) is in his customary 3 technique to the strength of the formation while Rashan Gary (#3) is in a 5 technique (outside shoulder of tackle).  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is lined up over the #2 receiver while LBs Mike McCray (#9) and Devin Bush Jr. (#10) are inside the box.  McCray is shaded to the #2 boundary receiver.  Cornerbacks David Long (#22) and Lavert Hill (#24) are in their normal press alignment.

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FRAME #2

What is Penn State doing here?  Penn State is setting up for a five man route with the H-back releasing vertically as well.  They are in a man protection, which is going to help Michigan (keep reading).

What has changed:  Hudson (#7) has moved into the split the difference between the #2 and #3 receivers.  Bush (#10) has dropped into coverage as well as McCray (#9) has down to the bottom of the screen.

Michigan’s pressure:  The pressure is a simple “TAT” stunt between Mone (#90) and Hurst (#73).  Hurst’s job is to drive into the A-gap (remember he is lined up in the B-gap) while Mone loops around and becomes the B-Gap rusher to the field.  Paye (#19) and Gary (#3) are rushing through the outside shoulder of the offensive tackles.

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FRAME #3

What is Penn State doing here?  They are running both outside receivers on vertical routes while both the #2 and #3 receivers are running outs and the #2 receiver to the bottom of the screen is running a shallow cross.  The big problem for Penn State here is the pass protection.  They have recognized the TAT stunt but have poorly traded off their protection responsibilities (#66 is the center and he should take Hurst while the left guard #74 should take Mone).

What has changed:  Hurst is unabated to the QB right here while Paye and Gary have kept McSorely in the pocket.

Michigan’s pressure:  This is as well of an executed TAT pressure as you can see.

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FRAME #4

What is Penn State doing here?  They are getting sacked.

What has changed:  The QB has pressed the pocket forward which is right into the rush of Hurst.  Why would he do that?  Look at Paye (#19) and Gary (#3).  There’s no escape outside.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hurst has gotten home while Mone is not squeezing his side of the pocket inside.

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FRAME #5

SACK!

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FINAL THOUGHT:  It is a good sign anytime a defense can get home with four rushers.  Do I think it will continue to be the “pressure of the week?”  No.  Penn State had something to do with the fact that we needed the back seven to do something that is outside of our norm.  With Hurst and Mone leaving, the development of the next set of interior linemen is paramount as the season continues.