Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Game 9: Is the season over yet?

The fact that the Michigan defense made Brian Hoyer look like Tom Brady, and the offensive line made State's D-line look like the old Steelers, I finally cannot look for positives in this year's team (at least for a week). Michigan can't block, can't run, can't pass, can't stop the run, can't stop the pass, can't avoid turnovers, and for the last five weeks can't win.

And while some of the coaches want to blame the players, whose execution should be better, the blame goes all around. We've watched weeks go by with continual 3 man rushes on third down, zone coverages, three safeties (the worst players on the D) in at the same time, predictability on an offense that needs to be able to outsmart opponents since they have a complete dearth of talent and experience, without any changes. Scott Shafer still repeatedly uses the three man rush on third down AND three man fronts on running downs though they have repeatedly ended up with the defense staring at the back of the guy toting the ball downfield. That is a coaching error. We have seen Harrison, Stewart, and Brown, 3 huge liabilites at safety on the field at the same time instead of mixing up the nickel passage by putting Cissoko in for some dare i say press coverage. That is a coaching error. On the offense, it's mainly on the players and a terrible offensive line that limits your options, but still we have seen predictability and a bad case of going to the same play 10 too many times to where defenses know exactly what's coming. That's on the coaches.

I know the players are the least talented and least experienced group that Michigan has had in a while, but for the coaches, especially McGee who came out and said "Threet was erratic like he always is," to blame just the execution is flat out WRONG. Shafer and the defense have a very good D-line to work with, but for some reason has chosen to only play 3 of them time and time again meaning you have to take out one of your better players and replace them with one of your worst in a safety or outside linebacker. The defense has had success when you play a four man front and pressure the opposition and has gotten burned constantly with a three man front! It doesn't take a genius to figure out to stop using the damn 3 man front so much, a baby could do it! It certainly shouldn't be hard for a guy who coached a defense that led the nation in sacks and interceptions a few years ago! And back to McGee, what do you expect from a first year starting quarterback who is force to throw when there is no threat of a running game. Two of his interceptions came after Michigan State took the lead and took all of the momentum in the fourth quarter. The kid did not play well, but he didn't do bad if you take everything into consideration including the coaches.

I still love the coaching staff, don't get me wrong, but at this point it is not just the players not executing this season. The staff also has not made adjustments even on the defensive side of the ball which is where their is enough experience and talent to have success. Yes it would help if you had a left tackle who doesn't whiff on blocks repeatedly, yes it would help if you had a quarterback wise beyond his years, yes it would help if you had safeties who were not constantly out of position. But you found that out a few weeks into the season as coaches and have made no apparent adjustments to mitigate those things. The reason Michigan is 2-6 is a combination of the players not executing and the coaches not making simple adjustments. In my mind though, nobody should throw these players under the bus simply because they have given a greater effort game in and game out than I have seen from some of the more talented teams Michigan has had in the past. The simple fact is, the players just are not that good at this point. Fans need to accept that for the rest of the season. Their suckiness is out of their control in a short time span like the weeks of a season, at least they're trying.

Sorry about that, just wanted to clear my rambling thoughts for a moment, but there is some good news for the week ahead. Don't worry, I'm not trying to say there is good news for anything related to Michigan's play, I've currently given that up. But, Purdue comes in at 2-6 too and might be one of the few teams that has looked as bad or worse in the last 4 weeks. Purdue is on a 5 game slide since losing to ND, and the team is in complete disarray.

Purdue Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Curtis Painter, the guy who threw for nearly 4,000 yards last season with 29 TDs to 12 INTs, has thrown 6 TDs to 10 INTs this season. Oh yeah, and he could be out for the game on Saturday. Purdue is without their backup QB too who is injured meaning third string RS Fr. Justin Siller might get the nod at QB. At first I thought this would be great news. Then I found out Siller was playing some running back a few weeks ago and is mainly a running QB. While this still should be good news since he hasn't thrown for a few weeks, I'm still scared since the defense has not been able to stop anyone and a mobile QB could be more problems. Still, even with their quarterbacks, the last four weeks Purdue's offense has been very sporadic and unproductive, with the one week they got over 300 yards of offense and double digit points they turned the ball over five times. For a team that almost beat Oregon earlier this year and had some high hopes, this is a terrible terrible collapse. But good for Michigan.
Purdue is 97th in the country in rushing offense, and for being a passing team they are a terrible 108th in the nation in passing efficiency and 93rd in scoring offense. Michigan's pass defense has been terrible though at 101st in the nation so if Painter is healthy, this would be a great opportunity for him to get back on track. Michigan is 86th in scoring defense and has shown that they can make even Brian Hoyer look like a O'Brien award contender. Unfortunately, despite how bad Purdue has been, I can't give Michigan's D an edge since Shafer has been so dumb and the D is coming off a horrendous performance.

Advantage: Purdue

Michigan Offense vs. Purdue Defense

The last time I thought Michigan was going against a pathetic defense to the point of giving Michigan the advantage, Toledo happened. I will not give Michigan an advantage on offense for the rest of the season no matter how bad Purdue's defense is because the offense is way to inconsistent. Michigan is 111th in total offense and 102nd in scoring offense. So what if Purdue can't stop the run, Michigan hasn't proven they can run it. So what if Purdue is terrible at the pass rush, Michigan can't block.

Advantage: Purdue

Special Teams

Zoltan and Michigan have a NET punting average of over 42 yards (#1 in the nation) while Purdue has a NET punting average of 31 yards (110th in the nation). With one offense that has not been good all season, and one that is disintegrating into shambles, this could decide the game and kill Purdue as Michigan, barring horrendous turnovers, should get some good field position.

Kicking is a push as Purdue's two kickers are 10-18 on the year and Lopata has been struggling.

Neither team is good at returning.

Hooray that means it comes down to Zoltan!

Advantage: Michigan

If Michigan does not beat Purdue, 2-10 is a clear possibility. Purdue is one of the few teams that, right now (injuries and collapse), is worse than Michigan. And this game is important too. Recruits are starting to get turned off by the lack of wins as Michigan had a big recruiting weekend last week expecting some commitments after the visits, and got zero. Four guys have decommitted a couple are shaky and while a 2 win season wouldn't drop this top ten class out of the top 20, it is probably the difference between getting a couple more big time prospects vs. settling for some lower tier guys. Plus, if Michigan loses, the fantasy of a bowl game will even be shot and the guys won't have much to play for the rest of the year.

I'm going back to not predicting simply because I have no idea what Michigan team will come out or what Purdue team will come out. Michigan better win though...seriously.

Worst game ever.

Be sure to tune in on the sportstream from at noon on Saturday. Rob and Jeremy will have the call live from West Lafayette.

Go Blue! Please win.

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