Friday, September 26, 2008

Game 4: Michigan vs. #9 Wisconsin

Big Ten play starts against a top 10 team in Wisconsin. Both teams come off a bye week and it certainly should have helped Michigan find some returners who hang onto the ball and to take away the positives from the Notre Dame game. It helped Wisconsin too who was trying to get their stars on both sides of the ball up to full strength. All American tight end Travis Beckum and All-Big Ten linebacker Jonathan Casillas were nursing injuries, but now should be close to full strength. Alot of people are overreacting and predicting doom for the Wolverines the rest of the way. Due to the expected oncoming rash of negativity, I've decided to throw caution to the wind and start predicting these games (abstaining wasn't working). I’m more optimistic after seeing an offense that has a quarterback and running back and could move the ball. Also, I believe Scott Shafer will stop stinking and will actually start blitzing and being aggressive. If that happens, this defense can still meet the preseason expectations. All of these variables are still in the air even three weeks into the season as Michigan prepares for its toughest test against an overrated (IMO), but good, Wisconsin team.

Michigan Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense

Despite the dreadful 7 turnover performance, I pulled quite a few positives out of Michigan’s offensive performance against Notre Dame.
1. They found an explosive running back who could be great in Sam McGuffie. McGuffie’s speed and elusiveness is something we knew about, but I was really surprised by his toughness. He played like a man possessed and would not go down without a big fight. Oh yeah, and he hangs on to the football. I was skeptical of McGuffie’s hype, especially if we had the old regime, but he is thriving under Rodriguez and I expect things will only get better.
2. The offensive line was actually d unproven but could be pretty good
Kick Returns So. David Gilreath at 29.4 per return- 2nd BT
decent to good. This should have an asterisk because it was against Notre Dame, but it was questionable if the O-line could block anyone this year. They can, and returning Ortmann this week and maybe Huyge gives them a little more depth. Maybe they are coming together...we’ll see.
3. Steven Threet is the quarterback and he’s a damn good decision maker, so far. For Threet to play his best game in his first road game ever, in Notre Dame stadium at that was very impressive. I’m stunned by his great decision making so far as he only made one dangerous throw last week and he seems to know when to take off running. His accuracy was a concern too, but he was really on target two weeks ago. He needs to correct the dropping of snaps and the letting the ball slip out of his hands before he throws it thing. The team can’t afford that. But if he keeps up this decision making, he might be Michigan’s quarterback this year, and even next year too.

So the offense showed some promise, but that was against Notre Dame. Can that success transfer over against a Big Ten defense? Wisconsin’s defense has been pretty good this year highlighted by holding Fresno State to 10 points at Fresno. They are 21st in the country in run defense giving up only 87.7 yards per game on the ground through three games. However, they have struggled against the pass giving up 230 yards per game, and that’s a consistent 230 as they have surrendered around that number to even Marshall and Akron. This team is certainly built towards stopping the run. Up front, Wisconsin’s D-line boasts 3 seniors and a junior, highlighted by #93 Matt Shaughnessy at D-end. The rest of the D-line has played decently so far this season with Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk proving to be pretty good Defensive tackles despite being relatively small, as well as undersized junior end O’Brien Schofield (haha you have two last names) playing well. The outside linebackers are proving to be great with DeAndre Levy (#11) having a breakout performance against Fresno State and earning Big Ten defensive player of the week honors. #2 Jonathan Casillas (preseason All-American candidate) could be back to full strength tomorrow after playing his first game of the season against Fresno with a giant knee brace. The Badgers are dying at the middle linebacker spot right now with noone really stepping into the role and playing well. Regardless, this front seven and entire defense is built to stuff the run up the middle. They have been fairly successful this season, in my opinion, because they have faced teams that like to run it up the middle. Wisconsin has yet to play a spread team like Michigan who has the zone read running game. With McGuffie breaking some big runs two weeks ago, the offense has to have gained some confidence now. Also, running outside by virtue of pitches or screen passes, could give the Badgers’ defense major troubles. Still, they will stuff the box and pretty much stuff the run up the middle.

But the major concern for the Badgers has to be their mediocre, at best, pass defense. They have struggled against the pass for two major reasons.
1. Their inability to pressure the quarterback with the front four. Shaughnessy is supposed to be all-Big Ten but is yet to register a sack this season. The team has 5 sacks on the year so far and most have come with linebackers blitzing and getting to the quarterback or freeing up the D-line a bit. The defensive line has underperformed in the pass rush and it has cost them.
2. The lack of experience in the secondary. Safety Ikewugonu is now gone and the new safety Jay Valai, has done a decent job, but has been untested thus far. The other safety, Shane Carter had seven picks last year, but that was certainly a product of Ikewugonu forcing teams to throw it to the other side of the field, where Shane Carter is. The cornerbacks will easily be picked on with Allen Langford back for another year, much to the chagrin of many Badgers fans. The senior cornerback has consistently been close to what Morgan Trent was in 2006 (or against Notre Dame). The other corners are 5’10” Sophomore corner Niles Brinkley who had one great game against Marshall, but hasn’t been too special in the other games, and then nickel back freshman Mario Goins who has mostly just tackled after the catch and hasn’t been great in coverage.

Michigan can really take advantage of this. If Wisconsin doesn’t bring pressure, I do think the UM offensive line can handle the Badger defensive line alone. That can give Threet, who has made great decision thus far, enough time to find Matthews, Stonum, or Odoms down the field for some decent gains. If Wisconsin pressures by bringing a blitz, Michigan should be able to quickly get the ball out to McGuffie, Shaw or Odoms in the flats, and they should be able to make some big plays with the ball in their hands. I really think Wisconsin will struggle against the spread. It comes down to Threet hanging on to the ball and continuing to make good decisions, and the receivers and backs holding on to the ball. If they take care of the ball, big plays will be had.

The running game probably will not go as smoothly as it did against Notre Dame. Like I said, Wisconsin is built to stop the run and will load the box. The one thing Michigan has in its favor, is that Wisconsin has not played a zone-read team like Michigan. Their D-line is deceivingly athletic though and might be able to get outside and stop the run especially with the help of Levy and a healthy Casillas. If, in an attempt to counter the spread, though, the Badgers go with 5 or 6 DB’s more often than not, Michigan could successfully run the ball. I think Wisconsin’s best bet is maybe a 4-2-5 without the middle backer (because they’ve stunk) and bring up a safety or two into the box to consistently stop the run. Minor and Grady can’t fumble. If they stop McGuffie, they will have a great chance to shut down this offense, bring blitzes and really test Threet. I don’t think Threet is at the point of being able to win the game under a lot of pressure.

So Michigan could get things working in their favor early and really have an advantage with the spread against a traditional Wisconsin Defense. But it would be wrong for me to suggest Michigan’s offense is doing well after one decent performance. They need to validate it, and until then...

Advantage: Wisconsin

Wisconsin Offense vs. Michigan Defense:

First, I want to debunk the current myth that Wisconsin has an unstoppable running game. With the talent they have on the offensive line and running backs, yes, they should be unstoppable. But they have not been anywhere near that this year. It is stupid to assess their running game from their season statistics this year, because those are completely distorted from the 404 yards they put up against the absolutely putrid run defense of Akron. In that game, yes, P.J. Hill ran for over 200 yards, and Brown and Clay ran for over 70. But let’s look at the other two games. Against Marshall, P.J. Hill had 18 carries for 57 yards (3.2 YPC avg.) and the most productive runner, John Clay, ran for 56 on 11 carries and he is likely out for Saturday’s game. 3.2 yards per carry against Marshall should not happen. Even though Marshall has a decent run defense, it is still Marshall and they are still Wisconsin with a combined 119 starts returning on the offensive line that averages 6’6” 319 pounds. They ran for a decent 158 yards against Marshall and 154 against Fresno. Those numbers don’t suggest unstoppable.
Also, the offense and team probably deserved to lose against Fresno. The final score of that game was 13-10. 10 of Wisconsin’s 13 points, came when they got the ball inside the Fresno 26 yard line. No driving the ball down the field was necessary, they were already there. So Wisconsin only had 3 drives over 40 yards and they all came in the first half. Only one of them led to a score and on their longest drive, 66 yards, their vaunted running game was stopped at the one yard line and turned the ball over on downs. The second half, Wisconsin had 6 drives, 5 ending in punts and only one drive went over 20 yards and that ended in a punt anyways. They had a mediocre 154 rushing yards vs. Fresno. This is against a Fresno team that surrendered 50 points and 297 rushing yards on 46 carries against Toledo, yeah Toledo. Fresno also missed three field goals in that game vs. Wisconsin. Wisconsin lost the total yardage battle 343-304 and even the TOP battle with their running game at 28:15-31:45. They were very fortunate to come out with a victory. Hill had 126 yards on 26 carries in that game, but the Fresno D gave up over 135 each to two backs against Toledo.

Having ripped down Wisconsin’s offense, they still should be damn good. Their offensive line is unreal averaging 6’6” 319 pounds and returning a combined 119 starts of experience. All of them are returning starters. They haven’t given up a sack yet this season. And despite what I said above, I don’t think Wisconsin has a bad running game. I think they have a great running game, its just sometimes people get carried away and say noone can stop them which is not true. But P.J. Hill is a beast, and Zach Brown has some speed. Behind that powerful O-line, it will be very tough for Michigan to face especially considering the struggles they had against the run in the second half of Utah and Notre Dame. I put most of this blame on Scott Shafer who has been overwhelmingly disappointing with his lack of aggressiveness. He came in saying he preaches stopping the run and attacking the quarterback. He has done an ok job at the former and since the second half of the first game, a terrible job of the latter. He seems to like sitting back, and letting offenses attack. The problem with that, is when you let the linebacking corps sit back along with the safeties (the two weakest units of the D) their weaknesses get exploited early and often (see Stevie Brown, John Thompson, Marell Evans etc.). Hopefully, he finally practices what he supposedly preaches and attacks, attacks and attacks, bringing up and blitzing the linebackers and safeties a heck of alot more. Hopefully Wisconsin’s potent running game will finally force Shafer to bring those guys up and run zone blitz after zone blitz followed by a blitz on third down. The defensive line should be great and perhaps has underperformed a bit. But you cannot expect them to play great from the start without some help. That help should come from the linebackers and safeties which should free up the linemen a bit. Once they get into a groove, then you rush four and can do what you want with the other guys. But Shafer has put too much on the defensive line from the start which has hurt their ability to stop the run and pressure. For the love of God blitz early in the form of zone blitzes to get more guys up there to stuff the run. That is the only chance Michigan has at stopping Wisconsin and fans shouldn’t be having to beg and plead for it like I am now. But Shafer has to finally be aggressive. From what we have seen though, and Thompson and Ezeh’s pretty bad game against ND, I’m not too confident. But I still have hope that Shafer will wake up.

After Wisconsin runs successfully, if he sit back, they will also be able to throw it short and over the middle to quarterback Allan Evridge’s favorite targets, the tight ends. Travis Beckum should be healthy for the first time this year and is one of the, if not the best, receiving tight end in the nation. The other guy, Garrett Graham has become Wisconsin’s leading receiver (11 rec. 154 yds.) in Beckum’s absence. Michigan’s safeties or linebackers will have the responsibility of defending these guys...eeeekkk. That doesn’t look good, and if Michigan continues to not bring pressure, Wisconsin will have those two guys over the middle all game long. Wisconsin has a young receiving corps who I would normally call not dangerous, except for one guy, soph. David Gilreath. The reason I’m scared of him is that he is fast. He is their kick and punt returner averaging 29 yards per kick return and is lightning fast. The reason this scares me is because of what Golden Tate, ND’s speedster, did to the UM secondary two weeks ago. Gilreath has not done much in the receiving game yet, but if Morgan Trent plays like he did against ND, this could be an area of concern. The secondary needs to step up starting with Trent. He played more like his 2006 form against ND, and despite getting two picks he acknowledged his poor performance against ND. I think that game was an aberration and he should be back to form this week...let’s hope. Donovan Warren’s been great, Harrison’s been meh, and then there is Stevie Brown. I’ve tried to give Brown support through all this, but he has repeatedly taken poor angles at tacklers and breaks on balls at the wrong time consistently. He does not yet have game instincts. Rodriguez coyly avoided a question about Brown by saying “Charles Stewart is a guy we definitely want to get in there more.” Expect to see Stewart alot more and hopefully that helps. The thing is, Stewart has not been that great when he’s been in either. Maybe extended playing time will let him get in a groove.

If Michigan, and Shafer, finally blitzes and is aggressive, they should at least be able to stop the passing game from being a threat by pressuring Evridge for the first time this season, and will have a better chance at stopping Hill and Brown. If they sit back, not only will they have to deal with Brown and Hill, but Gilreath, Beckum, and Garrett become huge threats. Hopefully Wisconsin’s great O-line will force Shafer into blitzing a lot more to help out the D-line. That’s Michigan’s only shot...aggression. Shafer hasn’t shown any of it yet.

Advantage: Wisconsin

Special Teams:

What started out the year as a great strength for the Wolverines, has now become a nightmare. Special teams for Michigan cost them the game against ND by muffed kicks. It was not even wet in the first half, so slippery balls is not an excuse. But it was the first road game for Cissoko and Shaw. Still, those were terrible unforced errors and Rodriguez needs to put more sure-handed guys out there. I expect to see a lot of Harrison on kick returns and Rodriguez listed a plethora of other as possible kick returners. Look for Trent and some more of the veterans to get a look back there. Then Rodriguez might throw some other young guys like Odoms and Avery Horn there too. Hopefully someone else gets a look at punt returns too because Warren has been scary lately, not in a good way.
Zoltan has been ok, and he’s starting to put up some good numbers. He still doesn’t look like he did in 2006 IMO and he has to regain that form against Wisconsin who thrives off short fields and struggled against Fresno without one. I like the spread formation where Mesko has the option to kick it or run. Michigan might get Wisconsin on one of these near midfield and pick up a first.
K.C. Lopata has been decent, but hopefully the game doesn’t come down to him. He needs to start getting the ball up quicker or there are going to be some more blocks.

Wisconsin has an extremely good freshman punter in Brad Nortman averaging 43.9 yards per punt which is second in the Big Ten only to Mesko. The Badger’s freshman kicker Philip Welch has been untested, but pretty good so far too going 4-5 on field goal tries this year.
The Badgers have a potential playmaker on special teams though in return man David Gilreath. Gilreath is averaging 29.4 yards per kick return which is second in the Big Ten and is yet to score. It’s only a matter of time before he gets there so Bryan Wright has to have a good game and hopefully kick away from Gilreath. Gilreath returns punts too, but is yet to break a good one there. Hopefully Michigan doesn’t give him a chance.

You can’t muff kick after kick and get the advantage here.

Advantage: Wisconsin


Prediction:

So on paper, Wisconsin has the advantage in all three phases of the game. They should win then right? Well, the reason Michigan can’t have the advantage in anything is because of uncertainty early in this new regime. But Wisconsin’s 4-3, stuff the run up the middle defense has not faced a spread offense yet like Michigan’s. I think they will struggle against it mightily if Threet continues to make good decisions, the O-line executes, and they hold on to the ball. Michigan will have plenty of opportunities schematically for a Wisconsin D that doesn’t match up well against the spread. It comes down to execution and I think Michigan will execute with Threet at the helm. Defensively, Wisconsin’s great O-line will force Shafer to finally be aggressive. Maybe they were waiting for Big Ten play to blitz? Regardless I think the defense will bring a lot of zone blitzes and pressure and when this defense does that, a blitzing safety and linebacker become less of a liability and Michigan’s defense has success against Wisconsin’s run heavy team.
If Michigan takes care of the ball on special teams and offense they will exploit the overrated Wisconsin team.

Final score: Michigan 21 Wisconsin 17

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

[color=blue]Buy cheap Asacol without prescription. Asacol no rx needed cod accepted. Cheap Asacol cod saturday delivery.Asacol online fed ex.[/color]
 
[url=http://www.topmeds10.com/search.php?aid=89869&q=Asacol][img]http://aleksandrr.webng.com/viagra.gif[/img][/url]
 
[url=http://www.topmeds10.com/search.php?aid=89869&q=Asacol]Asacol[/url]-[b]CLICK HERE TO BUY ONLINE![/b]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

[b]buy cheap Asacol cod free fedex.us Asacol cod sales.Asacol for cheap.Asacol without prescription overnight shipping.buy Asacol without a prescription or membership.buying Asacol overnight.buy Asacol next day delivery.purchase Asacol pharmacy online.Asacol without prescription.generic Asacol no prescription overnight.Asacol mg.buy online Asacol without prescription.buy Asacol online with overnight delivery.buy cheap Asacol without prescription.buy Asacol online.Asacol 2 business days delivery.order Asacol 2 days delivery.next day delivery Asacol.cod pay Asacol.Asacol no dr.buying Asacol.Asacol medication online.[/b]

Anonymous said...

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/online%20dating/1_dating6.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/online%20dating/1_dating6.png[/IMG][/URL]

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/online%20dating/2_dating6.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/online%20dating/2_dating6.png[/IMG][/URL]

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/online%20dating/3_dating6.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/online%20dating/3_dating6.png[/IMG][/URL]

Anonymous said...

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/herbal%20weight%20loss/1_pharma10.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/herbal%20weight%20loss/1_pharma10.png[/IMG][/URL]

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/herbal%20weight%20loss/2_pharma10.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/herbal%20weight%20loss/2_pharma10.png[/IMG][/URL]

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/herbal%20weight%20loss/3_pharma10.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/herbal%20weight%20loss/3_pharma10.png[/IMG][/URL]

[url=http://bit.ly/ac01je]Online Gambling[/url]

[url=http://bit.ly/coNz4o]Online Casino Gambling[/url]

[url=http://bit.ly/ac01je]Online Gambling[/url]

[url=http://bit.ly/9q4tTo]Online Sports Gambling[/url]

Anonymous said...

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/mesothelioma/1_pharma4.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/mesothelioma/1_pharma4.png[/IMG][/URL]

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/mesothelioma/2_pharma4.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/mesothelioma/2_pharma4.png[/IMG][/URL]

[URL=http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/link/mesothelioma/3_pharma4.html][IMG]http://imgwebsearch.com/35348/img0/mesothelioma/3_pharma4.png[/IMG][/URL]

[url=http://bit.ly/ac01je]Online Gambling[/url]

[url=http://bit.ly/coNz4o]Online Casino Gambling[/url]

[url=http://bit.ly/ac01je]Online Gambling[/url]

[url=http://bit.ly/9q4tTo]Online Sports Gambling[/url]