Monday, October 4, 2010

Defense?!? We don't need no stinkin' defense!

I was lucky on Saturday in that I didn't watch most of our game in Bloomington live. Due to my son's soccer game starting at 3:45, I got a few updates during the first half, saw a little bit of the start of the second half at home, and then watched the final drive at a Pizza Hut surrounded by a bunch of hungry eight year-olds. Of course I recorded the game and was able to watch it later on in the evening. I could fast forward through much of the game when we were on defense. The funny thing is that it took me longer to fast forward through the Hoosiers 98 offensive plays than it did to watch Michigan's offensive plays twice.

The most interesting thing about the game, was that I think both coaching staffs came into the game thinking they couldn't stop the other team on offense. Indiana decided that they were going to be aggressive on defense, hoping to get some big negative plays and or turnovers. They slanted their d-line a lot, had their linebackers key on Denard, and occasionally bringing a safety up to the line. That resulted in a lot of single coverage on wide receivers, and no deep run support, which led to a lot of long plays on Michigan's part. The Michigan coaches, on the other hand, decided to play soft coverage (for the most part), hoping that by forcing the Hoosiers to dink and dunk their way down the field, they would eventually make a mistake. For the most part, Indiana did not make mistakes and held the ball for an impossibly long time. In the end, neither defense did anything to suggest that they will be anything other than putrid this year.

In that sense, I think this game probably reinforced most people's ideas of what Michigan's team will be this year. Those that were convinced that this year is just like last year will point to the 500 yards passing allowed against a traditional doormat of the league and proclaim that the tougher teams in the league will run up the score. Those that see this as a new year point to a second straight road win and the continual video-game like stats of Denard Robinson as proof that even when our defense is the dregs, we can still outscore anyone. I think that both viewpoints are valid. This is probably the worst defense in the big ten, and despite its youth, I'm not sure it will make any quantum leaps this year. At the same time there's a real chance that this is the best offense in the league. Everyone talks about Denard's obvious abilities, but the offensive line is monster, the TEs are good blockers, and the receiving corps might be the best in the league, both in receiving and in blocking. What this all means is that we are likely to see more shootout, last team with the ball wins type games.

Other random thoughts:
-One thing that will help our defense is the inherent conservatism in a lot of coaches in the league--Tressel, Ferentz, Paterno, and to a lesser extent Lt. Dan and the Madison Meathead are all "run or die trying" coaches. Our run defense is not stellar by any stretch of the imagination, but our pass defense is so porus that any time spent trying to establish the run is a wasted opportunity to beat our corners deep, or catch one of our linebackers trying to cover a TE. One or two wasted opportunities might be all our offense needs to win a game.
-I don't think the all-out blitzing, throw the kitchen sink at them approach will work with this defense, but I would like to see us disguise our coverages or vary things up a little bit. Playing 20 yards off the receivers every play seems like its asking to get picked apart. Throw in an occasional four man line, or a safety blitz. I noticed they played Mike Martin at DE a little against Indiana. Maybe moving him around some more, or bringing in other big bodies (Patterson, Will Campbell) on run downs will help against the caveman offenses.
-Having Brandon Herron back this week will help the pass rush, because it will allow us to move Craig Roh to his more natural position, DE on passing downs. It will also be good to get Carvin Johnson back, because I think he may be a little more physical than Thomas Gordon, although Gordan hasn't played that badly
- I don't know why LSU fans are complaining about Les Miles. They all want to go back to the days when they had a handsome, well dressed coach who always seemed to be in full control. But who's to say that if they got rid of Miles they wouldn't end up with another coach like the guy who came before the guy they're all pinning for. Maybe the norm for LSU coaches is not Nick Saban, but rather Gerry Dinardo. At least Les keeps the games interesting, and his press conferences are certainly more entertaining that anything Dinardo does on the Big Ten network.
-Lane Kiffin is an idiot. Up two with Washington driving, already in FG range with two minutes left, he decides not to use any of his three timeouts to give his offense time to respond, instead choosing to use two of them to ice the Washington kicker Eric Folk (who beat SC last year with a late FG) before his 32 yard attempt. Rats are gonna start jumping off that ship soon, if they haven't already.
-Gambler's Lament-Another exhibit why gambling on college sports is bad for your health was the Northwestern/Minnesota game. In our weekly College Pick'em pool (no money, just bragging rights), I had the Wildcats -5.5 @ Minnesota. Late in the game, with Minnesota leading 28-20, i flipped over to another game, figuring I was gonna lose this one. I flipped back a few minutes later to find that not only had Northwestern scored a TD, they'd missed the two point conversion, gotten the ball back and kicked a field goal. Now they were leading 29-28 and Minnesota had the ball with under a minute left. This game was toast for me, NU wasn't going to cover. But with just over 30 seconds left, with no timeouts left, Minnesota's QB threw it right to a Northwestern LB in the flat who broke into the clear and headed toward a pick six. Just about the time I jumped out of my seat, excited that I might actually get this pick right, the Wildcat linebacker realized where he was, realized that they didn't need to score and slide to the ground at about the 30. Good thing I didn't have any money on the game, or I might have been really pissed.
-More Golden rankings stuff later this week, and maybe if I find the time a post about the upcoming game with little brother.