The BluePrint Blog

Where Michigan fans get it in!

General Info:

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, MI

TV: BTN

Line: Michigan -35.5

Can I take an aside for a second before we get started on the week 3 preview?  How nice does it feel to watch the team you cheer for, be able to get such a comfortable lead that backups, youngsters, and everything in between, get a chance to get on the field and showcase what they can do?  To me, it’s great!  Don’t get me wrong, I love the spirit of competition.  I love the close games, the barn burners, and the pure excitement of intense contests, but Michigan needed one of these not-so-competitive types of games and that’s exactly what they got in week 2 against WMU.

I won’t go into great detail on the game, but I will mention a couple of things.  First, it was nice to see the Wolverines basically never struggle in the game one bit; it was a complete manhandling of the Broncos, as it should have been.  Second, Shea Patterson is pretty damn good.  Some of the throws he made were incredible even while only attempting 17 passes.  The one where he rolled to his left and threw across his body to hit Oliver Martin on the sidelines stands out, as does the deep ball to Nico, as does the TD pass to Peoples-Jones in the back corner of the end-zone.  A couple of other standout plays were observed as well. The one where he scrambled to his right, directed the RB into the flat which drew coverage and then hit the WR about 10 yards ahead of where he just directed traffic was one of them.  Another was as he was basically inches from the ground, while being sacked, he shovel passed to his outlet guy who caught and gained a few yards which is much better than losing 7 on a sack.  This also made me believe Shea is a wizard.

The running backs played well – Higdon was nearly to 150 yards before the first quarter ended, Evans added almost 100 more and a couple of TDs, and Tru Wilson made his “debut” and averaged nearly 10 yards per carry.

Defensively, Michigan was pretty stout, although they had trouble containing the edges at times. Overall though, when it mattered, they buckled down and got the stop.  This would have been a shutout if not for a garbage time field goal.

Looking onto this Saturday’s match-up with SMU, it could (and should) end up being a very similar game in terms of outcome (and comfort). We’ll get into that more below. First let’s get a few facts out of the way, courtesy of our own Wolverine Devotee (@UMichWD).  According to our favorite human encyclopedia, Michigan and SMU have only played once before.  The year was 1963 and Michigan won 27-16. The two teams were supposed to play again in 1987 but SMU had to back out because death penalty.  The saga continued when their replacement, UNLV decided they would potentially drop their football program altogether and tried to back out of the game as well.  Don Canham, the Michigan AD back then, only allowed UNLV to back out without penalty if they were able to find a suitable replacement for Michigan to play.  UNLV found Long Beach State and Michigan found itself in its first snoozer/body bag non-conference game, winning 49-0.  Long Beach State eventually got out of their body bag but decided football was not its thing, four years later, and jumped back in.

So we are now full-circle, Saturday’s potential “body bag” non-conference game may not have been possible if not for SMU serving death penalties and UNLV dropping the game while serving Michigan a deliciously frosted cupcake.  Now onto this week, who’s up for more cupcakes?

Michigan Defense vs SMU Offense

First we will look at some key statistical rankings.

SMU 2017 Offense According to Football Outsiders (S&P)Click here to view Football Outsiders’ webpage and to get info on what all this alphabet soup means.

Off. S&P+ Rk Success Rt+ Rk IsoPPP+ Rk Rushing

S&P+

Rk Passing

S&P+

Rk SD

S&P+

Rk PD

S&P+

Rk
36.7 11 107.3 40 109.9 36 113.1 26 103.4 52 105.5 46 114.0 32

Michigan 2017 Defense According to Football outsiders (S&P)

Def. S&P+ Rk Success Rt+ Rk IsoPPP+ Rk Rushing

S&P+

Rk Passing

S&P+

Rk SD

S&P+

Rk PD

S&P+

Rk
18.7 10 139.1 2 115.9 24 130.5 8 137.4 3 128.6 5 140.5 5

Last year, the SMU Mustangs were not bad on offense.  They were the 13th ranked Team Offense, while putting up around 38 points per game and gaining about 479 yards per game. The Mustangs were fairly balanced, rushing for 189 or so yards per game and passing for nearly 300.  They also didn’t turn the ball over a ton; the Mustangs averaged about one and a half turnovers per game. Their toughest opponents last year, however, were TCU, UCF, and Memphis. Of these, only TCU had a good defense and their game last year was a bit of a shootout (TCU 56 – SMU 36), as TCU could not figure out how to really stop the SMU passing attack.  SMU also ran for over 100 yards but it was by committee while passing clearly was the more efficient weapon against TCU.

SMU returned much of their offensive prowess in 2018 and TCU was also one of SMUs opponents this year, as the Mustangs faced the Horned Frogs last weekend (9/7/18).  TCU – SMU is a rivalry game dating over 100 years back.  In SMU’s first possession, RB Braeden West broke out for a nice 51 yard TD run on an inside hand off. Later in the first quarter they were able to score 2 points on a safety with TCU muffing a punt which then bounced out of bounds in the endzone.  Tides started to turn early in the second quarter as TCU returned a punt 78 yards and then fell on fortuitous bouncing fumble in the end zone after their RB coughed it up at about the 10 yard line. After this quick turn of events, SMU could only muster a field goal, while TCU put up 28 more points, beating the Mustangs 42-12.

The Mustangs do have a new Offensive Coordinator this year in Rhett Lashlee.  Lashlee is fairly decorated after being UConn’s OC last year and taking them from 122 to 49th in the nation in total offense. He also helped Auburn win the SEC and earn a BCS Championship bid as the Tigers’ OC in 2013.  SMU runs their offense with a pretty quick tempo (typical spread offense) and looks to attack for short to medium gains on most plays. I expect SMU’s offense to continue to improve as the season progresses, they have nearly all of their weapons returning on offense and had already put up decent numbers last year – but not this week.

The tenacious and terrifying Michigan Defense is beginning to show its teeth again, and is hungry to prove itself once again this week. Last season, the Wolverines gave up about 271 yards per game and through two games this year, the defense is only allowing 255 yards per game (avg yards per play 3.6).  One area that could use some improvement for the Michigan defense is the pass rush.  Last year they averaged 3.23 sacks per game while this year, so far, they are only able to get to the QB twice per game on average.  They should get plenty of opportunity to do so this week as SMU’s coach, Sonny Dykes is known for loving a good passing attack. SMU is also without their O-Line coach due to health issues for an indefinite amount of time. TCU was able to get to the SMU QB 4 times in their match-up last weekend.

Look for Rashan Gary to break through (triple teams) for 2 or 3 sacks this week, while Devin Bush, Chase Winovich, Khaleke Hudson, and the rest of the gang add a few more.  I see this defense being able to get 5 or more QB sacks against SMU and behind them, the secondary should be able to continue its ball-hawking ways.  CB Brandon Watson has looked to be much improved this year, already with an interception and WR turned Safety, Brad Hawkins has been a pleasant surprise as well when he’s had to fill in for the sometimes-undisciplined, Josh Metellus. The Wolverines are going to have to be pretty disciplined this week, while facing an uptempo team who is going to have no choice but to air it out if they want to compete in this game.  Michigan must contain the edge and shut down RB Braeden West both rushing and receiving; SMU tends to use him like a mini-Saquan Barkley.

Players to watch on Michigan Defense: Rashan Gary (Time to eat, big fella), Chase Winovich (what’s better than one DE to watch? Two!), Brad Hawkins (Can you say pick-six?).

Players to watch on SMU Offense: QB Ben Hicks (Decent passer and sometimes runner), RB Braeden West (they have 3 capable RBs but Braeden seems to be the most explosive) WR James Proche (leads the team with 8 REC and is the only one over 100 yards receiving besides the RB mentioned above)

Edge: Michigan

Michigan Offense vs the SMU Defense

Michigan Offense According to Football Outsiders (S&P)

Off. S&P+ Rk Success Rt+ Rk IsoPPP+ Rk Rushing

S&P+

Rk Passing

S&P+

Rk SD

S&P+

Rk PD

S&P+

Rk
26.5 85 107.0 44 104.9 49 120.2 14 94.5 86 103.3 56 115.2 30

SMU Defense According to Football Outsiders (S&P)

Def. S&P+ Rk Success Rt+ Rk IsoPPP+ Rk Rushing

S&P+

Rk Passing

S&P+

Rk SD

S&P+

Rk PD

S&P+

Rk
35.3 119 94.2 96 83.9 118 91.9 92 90.4 100 93.0 99 90.7 102

So in last week’s preview it was mentioned that the snap cadence needed to be fixed. Well that happened and it made a difference.  The offense looked to be more in sync, albeit against a much less staunch defense posed by WMU as opposed to ND.

I had hoped to see Shea let it rip, and he did, but only 17 times because that’s all that was needed and he hit 12 of them (71%).  Even in limited pass attempts, we saw that the capabilities are there to be very successful passing the ball. Michigan had 4 aerial TDs, including the ones mentioned above in the intro.  Patterson had 3 of them while Dylan McCaffrey added another hitting Jake McCurry for his first TD reception.

Also as mentioned in the intro, the RBs went off, having a big day, rushing for 329 yards and 3 TDs on only 35 carries.

While offense is SMUs strong suit, defense is not.  As you can see in the table above, they were almost dead last in overall S&P ranking in 2017. They were just as bad (118) in team defense, according to sports-reference.com.  They gave up nearly 500 yards per game each week and allowed opposing offenses to average nearly 40 points per game (36.7).

Through two games this year, they have been worse. They are currently 124 in team defense, giving up 44 points per game and allowing 303+ and 157+ yards passing and rushing per game respectively.

LB Kyran Mitchell is one of the more productive Mustang defenders but hasn’t really emerged in 2018 after a decent 2017 campaign.  Instead, S Patrick Nelson and DB Rodney Clemons are the only two totaling double digit solo tackles. This tells me that teams are getting to the second and third level quite frequently when facing SMU which usually isn’t a good thing. In comparison, no player on Michigan’s roster has more than 10 solo tackles, currently.  Instead they are spread out with Josh Ross (LB) and Tyree Kinnel (S) both having 8 solo tackles and DE Rashan Gary being up there with 5 himself. In fact, Gary is second on the team with 10 total tackles.

Further, 9 of the top 10 tacklers on SMU’s defense are either LBs or DBs. The lone D-lineman with 5 or more tackles (solo and assisted combined) is Delontae Scott with 6 (3 solo 3 asst). The Mustang front is a bit undersized and doesn’t get a ton of pressure.  SMU only has 2 sacks on the year.  They have forced a couple of turnovers, one interception and one forced fumble, but defense again appears to be the Achilles heel of a team who could be somewhat decent if they could just find a way to limit opposing offenses.  That’s not going to happen this year, it seems. Flat out, they lack team speed on the defensive side of the ball and that usually doesn’t work out too well. This is made especially true when your new Defensive Coordinator, Kevin Kane, likes to blitz a lot with an aggressive style similar to someone else we know.  Kane’s defenses are not Don Brown’s defenses – let’s be clear.

Michigan should be able to move the ball at will, both on the ground or through the air, if they so choose.

Players to watch for Michigan Offense – QB Shea Patterson (most accurate passer I’ve seen at Michigan since Henne), RB Duo Karan Higdon/Chris Evans (It’ll be another big day for these two), RB Tru Wilson (Tru earned more touches last week and this game will allow him to certainly get more) – Bonus LT Jalen Mayfield I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him or RT James Hudson get some reps with the ones this week.  It may be time to cut those teeth and get them ready for a steadier dose of game action.  Both did well against second string in the game last week.

Players to watch for SMU Defense – DE Delontae Scott (brightest spot on the DL), LB Kyran Mitchell (best LB on the roster just hasn’t shown it yet this year), DB Patrick Nelson (Leading tackler also 1 PD and 1 FF).

Edge: Michigan 

Thoughts From The BluePrint Family

@WarnerT53: 

Michigan looked like a more comfortable team last week, playing at home for the first time this season and going up against in-state opponent, Western Michigan. I was happy because the game resembled a track meet where free players just were able to get out and run. A solid 49-3 victory was a good bounce back from an ugly night game loss, week 1. Week 2 was a step in the right direction, hopefully week 3 is more improvement.

On paper this should be a clean win for Michigan; SMU through two weeks has allowed an average of 44 points per game while their offense ranks 125th nationally. Even a sloppy game from the Wolverines should yield a win due to the disparity between their offense and our defense. With that being said number 6 James Proche should be on watch, he’s quick and doesn’t hesitate. I have a decent feeling the combined speed of the Wolverines defense can keep him in check, along with whoever else is keying him.

As for the offense, it’s simple, handle business. Get the youth in the game, play clean, work on the pass game and get out with a 2-1 record and get ready for Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers.

This should be another blowout win for the Wolverines as they look to continue to dominate and gain confidence for that offense as they find their identity. SMU is a non-threat to the Wolverines as they are coming off a loss to TCU, last week. Michigan just came off an impressive blowout win over Western Michigan in the home opener and I was really happy to see the WR’s finally break out. That “no wide reciever for Michigan had a touchdown” streak almost hit a year old. These young receivers will continue to gain confidence with a great QB it Shea Patterson. Nico Collins and Oliver Martin are looking to be some great players for the Wolverines. Ronnie Bell will be my sleeper for the offense at the wide receiver position. I look for him to get a couple catches this weekend. The defense is finally clicking on all cylinders and it’s fun to watch the defense play hard like this. My sleepers for the defense will be Josh Ross, Brad Hawkins, Carlo Kemp, and Brandon Watson. I will be attending the game this Saturday to see this team up close and it shall be a lot of fun. ANOTHER BLOWOUT WIN FOR THE MAIZE & BLUE!!!!!!

@MMBaker5 ‏:

Impressive game, but have to remember that it was against WMU.

I see a similar result in the game against SMU
52-3 Michigan
We can expect another great outing from Shea, with more chances to throw the ball down field. Our two-headed monster of running backs, will each eclipse 100 yards, and I do believe the Big House will be yelling Truuuuuuuuu as Tru Wilson comes in for a TD!
Also, really like what I see from Dylan when he is on the field. Seems to fight for yards when running and throws a nice ball.
Good luck triple teaming Gary as Winovich and Ross come in to mash some QB’s
GO BLUE!

Going into the game against Western I said I wanted to see five things:

  1. An explosive run game
  2. Receivers get down field
  3. Defensive pressure, and turnovers
  4. Ambry Thomas on offense
  5. The young guys, especially at tackle

So I came out of the blowout against the Broncos pretty satisfied. For this game, I want to see more of the same. I was really impressed by the “reserves” and want to see them get more chances, and early. It’s clear to my eyes, Jalen Mayfield and James Hudson are the better tackles. Footwork, use of hands, reaction to stunts, they are the tackles of the future. Warriner has made it clear he just doesn’t want to start that future too soon. I think both get lots of time against SMU, and at least one makes the start against Nebraska. Higdon and Evans both looked great, but I was really impressed by Tru Wilson too. I really liked the way he ran the ball and I hope he gets 6-8 carries in this game. Ambry Thomas will be the face of this program in 2019-20, he is a star in the making. I’d like to see him take over on punt returns, and get more opportunities on offense; hopefully more than just the “McDoom Role”.

Michigan should continue to improve and look like the team we expected to see this season. High execution from the starters should result in a big early lead, giving us a chance to see more of the young guys. Some of those young guys just might be starters the next time they take the field.

(Don’t forget to hit the “Like” button below if you enjoyed this article!)

The following two tabs change content below.
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.

LEAVE A RESPONSE

You Might Also Like

%d bloggers like this: