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Where Michigan fans get it in!

The trip to Happy Valley was not so happy after-all. Penn State jumped out to an early lead, and I mean early, as Michigan gave up a Saquon Barkley TD like 2 plays into the game. The Wolverines battled back and kept it close in the first half, but the elder and flat out better team prevailed in the end.  Yeah I said it, Penn State is better than Michigan at this juncture.  Michigan got outplayed and outcoached, flat out.  Stuff happens.

The now two-loss Michigan Wolverines will face Rutgers this week, looking to regain some face in front of the home crowd.  Michigan is favored heavily in this one, by 24 to be exact, the weird thing is this offense is only averaging 25 points per game.  Is Vegas predicting a shutout?  It’s either that or they see Harbaugh and Co. putting it all… ok maybe not all, but more things together, and somehow breaking out for 30-40 points while holding Rutgers to well below their average of 22 ppg.

These two teams are tied for 4th place in the Division, but don’t let Twitter Trolls fool you.  None of the top 3 teams have played each other, and Michigan has played and lost to 2 of them.  As those three teams battle it out, surely, the standings will look differently.  PSU looks to be the best team in the East right now but we will see after their match-up with OSU.

Focusing on this game against Rutgers, there are some things to think about.  Michigan has several NJ natives on their squad as NJ writers finally found out once Harbaugh released his roster (LOL), so they will be likely motivated to face their home state team.  As mentioned, neither team has been good offensively, so it will be interesting to see what the point total looks like at the end of this one.  I know one thing, Michigan’s defense is going to be looking to make a statement after Penn State seemed to expose them last week, something that no team has done this year.

Fun fact: Rutgers is the oldest college football team in the history of the game.  They played their first game in 1869, 10 years before Michigan’s first game in 1879. Part two of this fun fact is that being two of the oldest teams in the history of the game, somehow does not correlate to having played each other more than 3 times in the history of football – all three coming since Rutgers joined the Big Ten conference.  Harbaugh and Michigan are riding a 2 game winning streak against the Scarlet Knights, where Michigan’s only loss to Rutgers came in Brady Hoke’s last year with the club.

How will this year’s teams fare against each other?  Let’s dig in.

In this corner we have the Michigan Defense vs the Rutgers Offense

First we will look at some key statistical rankings.

Rutgers Offense According to Football Outsiders (FEI) – Click here to view Football Outsiders’ webpage and to get info on what all this alphabet soup means.

OFEI
Rk
Team FBS
Rec
OFEI OE OE
Rk
ODS ODS
Rk
OAY OAY
Rk
OFD OFD
Rk
OTD OTD
Rk
OTF OTF
Rk
OTO OTO
Rk
108 Rutgers 2-4 1.62 1.34 123 0.194 124 0.290 128 0.542 126 0.153 119 0.282 101 0.153 105

Michigan Defense According to Football outsiders (FEI)

DFEI
Rk
Team FBS
Rec
DFEI DE DE
Rk
DDS DDS
Rk
DAY DAY
Rk
DFD DFD
Rk
DTD DTD
Rk
DTF DTF
Rk
DTO DTO
Rk
16 Michigan 5-2 1.33 1.35 14 .170 8 .278 5 .489 1 .148 14 .302 35 .091 90

Michigan has now dropped to 5th in Total Defense after being shredded by PSU.

Rutgers is 122 (122) in Total Offense.

 

On paper, the Michigan defense should destroy Rutgers by themselves.  Michigan could basically punt automatically every offensive possession, on first down, and still have a legit shot at beating Rutgers.  That is said mostly tongue and cheek, however, the Scarlet Knights are only averaging 22 points per game so it’s not that far fetched, especially against this unit.

Rutgers has been using a new QB the last couple of games, and not to much avail.  Against Purdue, Giovanni Rescigno put up a blistering QBR of 10.6, while tossing the rock around 18 times, completing 9, and racking up 89 yards through the air. In the previous game against Illinois, he completed 50% of his passes for the same total yards but added 40 yards on the ground.  In fact, Rutgers is 121 in passing offense which means they will have to try to run the ball to have success against Don Brown’s Dudes.

Coach Chris Ash, doesn’t have a Saquon Barkley, but he does have a couple of capable backs in Gus Edwards and Raheem Blackshear.  Blackshear, just a freshman, has put up 200+ yards on the season which isn’t bad on 30 attempts.  Edwards, a senior, is more of the workhorse back, and has put up 487 yards on 107 carries.  I sure hope they busted their butts trying to emulate Penn State’s offense or else a shutout may just be in order here.  I mean there are no world-beater RBs on this team and their passing game practically doesn’t exist.

There isn’t much else to say about Rutgers on the offensive side of the ball so let’s talk about the Wolverine defense instead.

This is a perfect bounce back game for this unit.  There hasn’t been much to improve on, on a major scale, up until the game last weekend, where all of that changed.  Before playing PSU, there were minor adjustments to make, and tweaks here and there, but no team had exposed them yet and found vulnerabilities consistently. Then PSU happened.

PSU had a field day going deep on the Safeties in man coverage.  They found ways to get Barkley one on one against LBs, usually Mike McCray.  They found creases to scramble through as the defense keyed on the RB, where the QB kept the ball a bit more in the second half.  It was pure mastery on the Offensive side of the ball.  The OC and QB were in sync and read the Michgan defense very well, both pre and post snap, which lead to them pretty much having their way in the second half of last Saturday’s game.

Now there are plenty of things on film to correct.  Why were the safeties beat so easily when other teams had tried to do the same thing and failed?  What could have been done differently to take away some of the opportunities to get the RB one on one against a LB?  How can Michigan gain the ability to stop both QB and RB in an option attack rather than keying solely on one or the other?

One thing they could do is to utilize a bit more zone concepts going forward.  I don’t mean all out zone coverage all over the field.  But perhaps some Cover 2 or Cover 3 zone blitzing would work, while disguising the zone with playing the CBs on the line still.  CBs could jam and stay in the flat/short part of the field after letting their “assignment” go if he’s going deep.  This is very similar to what David Long did when he picked a pass from McSorley last week.  Maybe it’s just keeping one guy in zone where he can help an area that is getting attacked consistently, where everyone else remains in man coverage.  Maybe it’s just crafting up some new blitzes as the last couple of opponents have seemed to do a better job of being prepared in terms of where the blitzes might come from and how to pick them up.

Michigan certainly won’t change their entire approach based on one game, but this one game sure did give them things to work on as well as some much needed motivation where this unit just hadn’t really been challenged all that much to this point.  An angry and re-focused Wolverine defense is not what I’d like to face if I were Rutgers. I’d much rather face the version that was high in confidence and maybe a bit complacent after dominating most games.

One thing to note is that Michigan may be without Chase Winovich who tweaked his knee last week.  If he plays, he could be semi-limited.  The impact of this is likely to be light as Kwitty Paye came in and looked good last week, not to mention there is other depth at the DE position.

Players to watch on Michigan Defense: Rashan Gary (just a NJ dude facing his home-state-team), David Long and LaVert Hill (Rutgers probably won’t try to pass much but when they do…), Mo Hurst (Mo should have a day as Rutgers bangs its collective head against the Michigan brick wall of a front seven).

Players to watch on Rutgers Offense: RB Gus Edwards, RB Raheem Blackshear, WRs Janorion Grant and Jerome Washington (neither has much more than 150 yards receiving on the year, but they are the primary targets)

Edge: Michigan

And in this corner we have the Michigan Offense vs the Rutgers Defense

Wolverine offense vs Rutgers defense statistical ranking comparison:

Michigan Offense According to Football Outsiders (FEI)

OFEI
Rk
Team FBS
Rec
OFEI OE OE
Rk
ODS ODS
Rk
OAY OAY
Rk
OFD OFD
Rk
OTD OTD
Rk
OTF OTF
Rk
OTO OTO
Rk
89 Michigan 5-2 1.91 1.69 109 0.261 105 0.385 103 0.682 86 0.170 114 0.250 118 0.136 86

Rutgers Defense According to Football Outsiders (FEI)

DFEI
Rk
Team FBS
Rec
DFEI DE DE
Rk
DDS DDS
Rk
DAY DAY
Rk
DFD DFD
Rk
DTD DTD
Rk
DTF DTF
Rk
DTO DTO
Rk
34 Rutgers 2-4 1.77 2.04 51 .338 62 .445 58 .676 41 .211 41 .313 37 .099 84

Hey, would you look at that, Michigan improved on offense from 98 to 89 after playing Penn State.  As previously mentioned, Football Outsiders FEI rankings take into consideration the strength of offense or defense a team faces.  Also, Michigan moved the ball a bit against PSU, when they weren’t under constant duress, which wasn’t often, but to my eye, it seemed to be more cohesive in terms of play calling, and John O’Korn’s ability to sense danger and scramble when necessary.  I felt like Michigan called a decent game on the Offensive side of the ball, but there were some exceptions.  In the first half, the offense fought back and did a good job marching down the field to make it a close game again. They utilized some play action (sometimes the action was to the wrong side), they moved the QB around and out of the pocket to utilize his skill set, and O’Korn did a better job of finding open guys – that is until his world collapsed along with his pocket, and he was pretty much just running for his life.

The biggest problem last week was that the Wolverines couldn’t impose their will running the ball. Later in the game, they had to bail on the run game simply because they were chasing more and more points.  Running the ball has been the strength of this offense so taking that away put them in a tough position. The leading rusher, Karan Higdon, had 45 yards on the ground.

I don’t expect too much to change from an identity standpoint – Michigan will run the ball and make it a point to try to run the ball in every game they play.  Here’s the thing, they are going from facing the 17th rushing defense to the 60th rushing defense in comparing PSU to Rutgers at defending the run.

The Scarlet Knights are giving up about 4.5 yards per carry and over 150 yards on the ground this year.  Michigan is undefeated in 2017 when getting over 130 yards on the ground.  They barely got to 100 total rushing yards in each of their losses, and had less than 150 in only one of their wins (Purdue @ 139).  In each of their other wins the Wolverines have broken or have gotten close to breaking 200 yards rushing.

I expect this to continue in order to control the game and to ensure victory, however, it would be very nice to see them work out some more kinks in the passing game.  This is a necessity so that when they face another team (pretty much all teams going forward) who tries to force them to beat them through the air and is successful doing so (maybe Wisconsin and OSU), that the offense is more prepared to make that adjustment.

This is also a good game to get Brandon Peters some action at QB to get him some experience in case O’Korn struggles or faces injury.  Drevno was quoted this week as saying he’s just a snap away from playing time as it is.

Nico Collins saw some time on the field last week, hopefully this week he can catch some passes.  This would be a great time for a DPJ coming out party and for Kareem Walker to finally get some meaningful carries.

Rutgers has played one of the weaker schedules of Michigan opponents this year.  OSU, Washington and Nebraska have been their toughest competition and they also lost to Eastern Michigan.  Ohio State and Washington are the only teams they’ve faced with winning records.  This is said to ask the question, how good is the Rutgers defense actually, when even with this schedule they have the 60th best rush defense and the 70th best pass defense?

My guess is it’s not that good, and we will see Michigan both rush for 200+ yards and pass for 200+ yards in this game.

 

Players to watch for Michigan Offense – QB John O’Korn/Brandon Peters (Peters will get in this game at some point), Kareem Walker(Please let him get at least 10 carries), DPJ (100 yards receiving?)

Players to watch for Rutgers Defense – LB Trevor Morris (leads the team w/ 57 tackles 2 TFL), LB Deonte Roberts (51 tackles 2.5 TFL), S K.J. Gray (40 tackles and 2 INT)

Edge: Michigan Offense

On paper, Michigan should destroy Rutgers just comparing the Michigan defense to the Rutgers offense.  Michigan should be able to put up some points while giving up very little.  The question is just how many points can Michigan score.  I strongly believe Michigan will outdo their average of 25.1 points by nearly double.  Michigan has yet to have a shutout this year, but that trend ends Saturday.

Final Score: Michigan 49 Rutgers 0

 

 

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Derrick Ryan
What's up guys. I'm Derrick Ryan, the Webmaster for this site. I'm also an editor and blogger for The BluePrint Blog. Aside from these responsibilities, I also work full-time at a Fortune 500 company in IT, in my not-so-spare time. In addition to the above, I also love spending time with my family. I have a beautiful wife and was blessed with twin children, a boy and a girl. Our children keep us busy with sports, school and music, but I also enjoy video games (hit me on on XBox Live: DertyDoc), movies, music, camping, and cooking (I'm a goon with the spoon). Lastly, I'm extremely passionate about the University of Michigan and Michigan Athletics. GO BLUE! P.S. -Thank you RaSean aka Michigan Man Ray for giving people like me a platform to express my interests and opinions.
Derrick Ryan

Latest posts by Derrick Ryan (see all)

Derrick Ryan
What's up guys. I'm Derrick Ryan, the Webmaster for this site. I'm also an editor and blogger for The BluePrint Blog. Aside from these responsibilities, I also work full-time at a Fortune 500 company in IT, in my not-so-spare time. In addition to the above, I also love spending time with my family. I have a beautiful wife and was blessed with twin children, a boy and a girl. Our children keep us busy with sports, school and music, but I also enjoy video games (hit me on on XBox Live: DertyDoc), movies, music, camping, and cooking (I'm a goon with the spoon). Lastly, I'm extremely passionate about the University of Michigan and Michigan Athletics. GO BLUE! P.S. -Thank you RaSean aka Michigan Man Ray for giving people like me a platform to express my interests and opinions.

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