Yes, Coach Harbaugh was already in front of a Michigan Stadium crowd for the spring game. This is the regular season, however, and 100,000 of his closest and dearest friends will cheer him out of the tunnel at noon on Saturday. It's week two in college football and this is the Maize n Brew Staff Roundtable.
Harbaugh indicated he liked a lot of what he saw on Thursday night, but wants to clean up some small mistakes and balance the run/pass ratio. What're you looking for Michigan to improve on the most from last week?
Nick Bodanyi: Some more discipline and trust from the defense. Oregon State will have a pair of talented runners to throw at Michigan's defense, and QB Seth Collins and RB Storm Woods will only be successful if they can force Michigan's defense into mistakes. I like what we can do against them overall, but the defense has to stay disciplined.
Drew Hallett: Nick makes a great point. Collins is a dual-threat quarterback that can make plays with his feet, and we saw on Travis Wilson's 14-yard rushing touchdown that Michigan needs to be more disciplined against the read-option and the inverted veer. However, I'll be looking more on the other side of the ball at Michigan's rushing attack. It's no secret that the Wolverines struggled on the ground against Utah, whether it was running backs missing open holes or the line failing to execute its man-blocking schemes. Oregon State's run defense was 115th in S&P+ last season, and the Beavers lose six starters from the front seven. Therefore, Oregon State will be starting players who were reserves for one of the worst run defenses in the nation last year. If the Wolverines cannot kick-start the running game on Saturday, I'm not sure when they will.
Shash: Aside from turnovers? I went into the season thinking that LB would be the strength of the defense, and they showed flashes against the run game with the notable exception of allowing Utah's QB to scramble at will. I'd like to see some more discipline on interior gaps and shutting down the QB scramble game. Especially against their QB, Seth Collins, who can run pretty well. Not so worried about the RB yards. Booker is the real deal and he got handcuffed very well. Offensively, meh. The line is still working out some kinks. It's worrisome but not my biggest concern anymore.
Amanda Jerzykowski: Well, certainly the turnover differential is the obvious answer here. But aside from that, I will be looking for a more multi-dimensional offense where both the rushing and passing attacks compliment one another. It's not a secret that the ground game and offensive line struggled on Thursday, as well as Rudock's accuracy and decision-making at times. However, the final drive of the game for Michigan that ended in a Darboh TD really showcased what this offense is capable of. A strong and quick start for the Wolverines in which they click on all cylinders is vital for Saturday not only for scoreboard purposes, but team confidence as well.
Alex Kolodziej: The vital point here stems from decision-making first and foremost, and obviously public enemy No. 1 is the signal-caller in Jake Rudock. You look at a kid who's more than capable of taking the field as the engineer of the offense given his previous stint with Iowa, and I'm hoping that the rust and first-game jitters have been both wiped clean. He'll be playing amid his own confines and his first game as a starter for the Wolverines in the Big House, which should be a blessing to his confidence.
Peter: Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. As I said during the thread, in my Game Balls, and about 6,000 other places...we saw the OL actually allow Rudock to stay standing for the entire game. We're 50% where we want to be. Now, if they can continue to do that and block even a fraction better than they did on Thursday, then I think we'll see the run game start to materialize. It isn't going to be perfect by a damn sight, but this is the game when we'll get a glimpse what could be. And, yes, fewer interceptions would be mighty nice.
Tony Kaminski: Pass protection seemed excellent last week against what I'd imagine is a good-to-very-good defensive front, so how about a strong, turnover-free outing from Jake Rudock? The interceptions against Utah have been a subject of much debate since Thursday -- more specifically who was at fault for them. Now that Michigan has had another week to smooth things over in the passing game, and are playing a significantly worse defense, a better outing from Rudock would be an encouraging sign for the offense.
What's the biggest problem with the rushing game, and will someone else overtake Smith in the number one spot going forward?
Nick: The offensive line was disappointing. The guards, in particular, have to make better decisions. Graham Glasgow looked good, at least, from what I saw of him.
I've been surprised a few times by the running back group, but I think Smith showed some tenacity in his running that the staff will want to keep around. Obviously Drake Johnson deserves a long look, but we'll see how he feels and performs. I know a lot of people (including me) will be very happy to see him back on the field.
Drew: The biggest problem is the offensive line. Last season, the line improved each week, which, in turn, bred optimism for how the line would perform this season. However, Michigan used zone-blocking schemes last season, whereas, now, under Jim Harbaugh and Tim Drevno, Michigan has shifted to man-blocking schemes. It's more difficult to master man-blocking than zone-blocking, and we didn't properly account for the adjustment period. It's going to take time for the linemen to get down the rhythm and timing of their blocks, particularly when the guards pull on powers and counters. Once that happens, Michigan's running game will open right up for the bruising De'Veon Smith or Drake Johnson, who will be Michigan's best back once healthy.
Shash: Sure, I'll pile on. It's offensive line. No question. There were missed blocks galore, especially after the point of attack. They've changed schemes multiple times in the past several years, so I hope it's just taking time to gel. I don't see the Drake Johnson hype as much as Drew does. I think DeVeon Smith is really good and has the size - that Mike Hart fall forward for three yards ability - that no one else in the backfield has. Drake could be great as a change of pace slasher, but I don't see him running away with #1. If he does - it'll be a great sign for Michigan, because he's beating out a really good back in DeVeon Smith.
Amanda: I'm not sure if this has been mentioned (ha), but the offensive line is definitely the biggest problem. DeVeon Smith is a more than capable running back, but unfortunately was not given a chance to break into the open field and show us what he can really do. There was a silver lining, though: the offensive line did not allow a sack against a defense that was first in the nation in sack's last season. Additionally, C Graham Glasgow looked good, and Coach Harbaugh even mentioned that on Monday. However, getting beaten off the line of scrimmage along with the missed blocking both on the perimeter and in the interior limited Smith to just 47 yards on 17 carries.
Alex: I'm not entirely sure if anyone has weighed in on offensive line struggles, but here we are. As frustrating as it was watching the plethora of ‘backs be stalemated for 2-3 yards a pop, I think fans were initially leaning too much on the front five and not giving Utah enough credit; that front four for "Sack Lake City" (I don't condone this type of title, for what it's worth) played extremely well and really made it a chore for the Wolverines' offensive line. We didn't get the luxury of seeing much of a burst through the holes, but there's nothing that reviewing film and cleaning up mistakes heading into Week 2 can't fix: Harbaugh seemed to address accountability quite well early in the week. Right now for me, the nod is currently cemented with Smith.
Peter: See my comment on the OL up above. If I remember last season correctly, and I'd really rather not, to be honest, there were two camps when it came to RB: Green or Smith. I was firmly in the Smith camp, and I'll remain there until I see something different. That being said, I sure as hell won't be disappointed if Johnson is as good as we think AND Smith starts doing something. Imagine having a Wisconsin-type backfield!
Tony: Cop-out answer but I'll say equal parts the backs, the offensive line, and the team they played against. We cannot be sure whether or not Ty Wheatley can improve the vision of Smith and co., however it is a safer bet to say that the offensive line will improve as the season goes on. As Drew said, there's always going to be a transition cost when making a philosophical change as Michigan has (zone-based running game to power); that's what we're watching. Finally, Oregon State is no Utah -- doubly so on the defensive front. Michigan will have plenty of opportunities to get the run game going this Saturday.
Drake Johnson, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris, and Jarrod Wilson are all expected to be at 100% this Saturday. Which guy has a breakout game? Who else on the roster looked really good in your eyes during the Utah game?
Nick: I already highlighted Graham Glasgow, so I'll say Chris Wormley as a guy who really stood out. The staff had told him that they really believed in his abilities, and it was on him to go and be that star player they thought he could be. It seems like that player showed up early. As for one of those four, I'd have to go with Drake Johnson again. The line needs reps and Oregon State is a good team to practice against.
Drew: If Drake Johnson truly is at 100 percent, he will have the breakout game among those four. Freddy Canteen is a reserve whether he's at slot receiver or corner, Drake Harris saw little action in the opener against Utah despite massive hype surrounding him beforehand, and, as a free safety, Jarrod Wilson will not be called upon much against an Oregon State team that plans to run the ball and run the ball some more. On the other hand, Michigan wants its rushing attack to get in a groove, particularly against a porous Oregon State run defense, and there may be no better time for Johnson to shake off the rust and show off those wheels than this Saturday.
As for Wolverines that looked really good against Utah, my three stars on offense were Jake Butt (duh!), Amara Darboh, and Graham Glasgow, while my three stars on defense were Chris Wormley, Willie Henry, and Jourdan Lewis. Delano Hill had an under-the-radar good game, too.
Shash: Drew's right in that Wilson hopefully won't have to do much. I want him to be steady this year and I never want to hear his name. That's the mark of an all-Big-Ten safety across from an attacking player like Peppers. And Wilson's smart enough to handle his position. I'll go with Drake Harris because it won't be Canteen and I've established myself as the cold water on the Drake Johnson train. Oh, and if he's healthy, dude's a freak.
I thought Wormley, Willie Henry and Jourdan Lewis looked solid already. Darboh looked like the #2 Michigan's going to need behind Butt.
Amanda: My eyes will be on Drake Johnson during this game. After 2 ACL tears I may be at the point where I shut my eyes every time he's hit, but if he is as healthy as they're saying he is, he'll have a great game. It'll also be nice to take some pressure off Smith for a few snaps. As far as another player who looked really good on Thursday, I'd have to go with Jabrill Peppers. After he struggled the first half, he seemed to settle in nicely after halftime and recorded 8 tackles and 2 TFL. His quickness was also on display in his kickoff return, which went for 36 yards.
Alex: I'll go with Harris for my breakout candidate on Saturday as I feel Michigan has a viable opportunity to run the ball with success on Oregon State at home. I'm not exactly sure if I'm ready to purchase a ticket on the Johnson train and sit coach, as I'm still patiently waiting to see his response on the feel. I feel Amara Darboh really opened some eyes on the outside. You look at Rudock and the couplet of times he overthrew Chesson, Darboh had subsequently made a nice play on that same drive to keep the wheels churning. I'm not saying he's a guy that's going to breeze by five or six defenders en route to the end zone, but is still a pretty nice outlet for Rudock in the quick-passing game. That's a monster confidence boost for a quarterback seeking to find a rhythm.
Peter: I hate saying "So-and-so is going to be a breakout guy" because I'm almost always wrong. BUT, since Broome is holding a gun to my head on this like he's Vito Corleone, the answer is Drake Johnson. I'm with Amanda and will probably cringe most of the time that he's on the field, or if there's a stiff breeze headed his way, but he's the guy who could have the best game. As for last week's players--Wormley and Peppers. We've already seen what Jake Butt is capable of doing, so none of that was surprising. Fun? Yes. But seeing Peppers really come on in the second half was beautiful. If Wormley and Peppers can keep this kind of pace for the entire season, this is going to be an all-time type of defense.
KB: Everyone is hopeful for Drake Johnson to rise up and claim the top running back spot, but it seems like Drake Harris was the most capable at operating in this offense before he went down. Oregon State has a young defense so they're going to give up yards, and the receiver unit appears more developed as the season gets under way. Everyone focused on Rudock's three turnovers in Salt Lake City, but he looked very much in control of the offense. Made quick throws, most of them accurate, and led a flawless two-minute drill that we didn't see all last season.
Those of us who're going to be in attendance on Saturday: How early do the Harbaugh rituals begin? And for everyone: Does Michigan earn a victory?
Drew: I may have been able to make it to Salt Lake City for the season-opener, but I won't be able to attend the home-opener this weekend. In fact, as a resident of Los Angeles, I won't be attending any more Michigan games unless I can sneak away to Ann Arbor on Thanksgiving weekend for a game against some team from Ohio. Anywho, the Wolverines are a big favorite tomorrow for a reason. Oregon State will start a true freshman at quarterback in his first road game ever -- oh, in front of 110,000-plus hostile fans. Seth Collins may pose a threat with his feet, but Michigan's run defense is one of the best in the nation. On the other side of the ball, the Beavers are replacing a whopping nine starters from a meh defense. Plus, they just struggled to put away a horrendous FCS program. The Wolverines cruise. Michigan 34, Oregon State 13.
Shash: The Harbaugh rituals began in earnest November of 2014, and they haven't stopped. We're all completely nuts as a fanbase, and you know that. But for the first time in a while, the Big House will be rockin', even for a mediocre non conference game. That'll be a nice change. Might even see students before the second quarter. Michigan's defense will feed off the energy and hopefully Jake Rudock doesn't stop throwing the ball downfield after some jitters in Utah. He'll be just fine, too. Michigan 38, Oregon State 17.
Amanda: I'll be at the game, and hopefully every home game this season, and the Big House will have an insane amount of energy for Harbaugh's first home game. I've been present in the Big House for a multitude of amazing games, from the thrilling 2011 ND game to our win against That Team in Ohio later that season, and I think this game will be up there in terms of the energy level. Students will arrive early and might even stick around late into the game. I think the Wolverines will correct what issues they had in the first game and put on an offensive show. Michigan 31, Oregon State 14.
KB: I'm heading over to A2 mighty early as well, and depending on the temperature, the Harbaugh khakis will be worn to compliment the fitted New Era block M hat.
Peter: My daughter and I will leave my in-laws' house in Holland pretty damn early and it's quite possible I may have to take a nap once we get to A2, because as a night-shifter I'd normally be in R.E.M sleep at the time we need to leave West Michigan. Sofie will have her iPod and will be content to play Minecraft while I snore her face off, but we'll be good to go after about 30 minutes of powernapping.
I've been around for some pretty amazing things in Michigan Stadium, but I don't think I've looked forward to a game as much as I'm looking forward to this one. Although I don't think it's going to be as loud as the end of UTL I, I think it will be louder than a typical Big House game and for much longer. I'm crossing my fingers that the students make a statement by showing up right away (pipe dream, no?), but even a strong showing at kick-off will be preferable to what we've seen recently. In the end, Michigan walks away with the win 37-13; Rudock will look much more comfortable and the defense is going to thrive.
Tony: My friends and I will likely begin our own personal Harbaugh rituals around 7AM on the front lawn and they won't stop until the final whistle. Michigan rolls Oregon State 42-10 in front of a raucous Big House crowd.
Call out some other games on your watchlists for week two of college football.
Nick: A bit of a popcorn game, but I'll go for Western Kentucky against Louisiana Tech on a Friday. Both teams have been known for some great offenses, and it has to hurt Florida fans just a little bit to see Jeff Driskel throw for 274 yards and 4 touchdown passes on just 12 completions and 15 attempts like he did last week.
Drew: Michigan State-Oregon, obviously -- I like the Ducks there. I'll also be keeping my eye on Boise State-BYU. The Cougars pulled off the miracle win in Nebraska last week -- Hail Joseph! -- but they suffered a gigantic blow when stud quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a foot injury that will force him to miss the season. I want to see how BYU responds with older true freshman Tanner Mangum at quarterback against a Boise State squad aiming for an undefeated campaign in 2015, particularly because the Cougars arrive in Ann Arbor in just two weeks.
Shash: Spartans-Ducks is the obvious choice here and will be the game of the weekend. I have no idea how MSU wins this one, but if they do, watch out, Big Ten.
Amanda: Well, MSU/Oregon obviously. I unfortunately may not be able to catch most of the games since I'll be in Ann Arbor, but I hope to catch that one.
Alex: I'll opt for the irregular route here and say Tulsa-New Mexico. The Golden Hurricanes hired former Baylor OC Phillip Montgomery to coach the football program, and I watched three quarters of Tulsa-FAU Saturday. The offense literally snaps the ball at Oregon-speed and quarterback Dane Evans just chucks the ball 50 yards downfield whenever he can. It's almost like a 2011 Marshall team or Texas Tech circa mid-2000s. If you like points, there will be no shortage for Tulsa all season.
KB: Oklahoma visits Tennessee in the middle of the day. It wouldn't be college football season if not for the eternal threat of Oklahoma choking in a big game!
Peter: Anyone who has been around MnB long enough knows my answer, but if you're new: if Minnesota is on (they'll be playing Colorado State this weekend), I need to watch or know what's happening. Ski-U-Mah! So, just copy/paste this answer into any future questions of this nature.
Bonus! Harbaugh confirmed the helmet stickers are back. Pick a guy who you think deserves one.
Nick: Graham and Ryan Glasgow, for the work and time they put into this program. Michigan hasn't been winning a lot of games, but I'd hate to think where we'd be if not for some terrific walk-ons like Jordan Kovacs and the Glasgow brothers.
Drew: For starters, I'm not a fan of the helmet stickers. Michigan has the best helmet in college football. Why muddle that up with stickers? Let those wings fly, and leave the helmet stickers for Columbus. Nonetheless, the Glasgow brothers are great choices for the same reasons Nick gave.
Shash: It kind of depends how hard they go with these. Does a 20 yard run get you one, or a game-breaking play? I like the idea of only awarding them for plays made in a win, but I'm a masochist. It'll be just fine. I'm most worried about the extra weight they're voluntarily caring with the stickers and what it'll do to player agility. Those knees do enough on the field as it is.
Amanda: Based on Thursday's game, I'd say Chris Wormley for sure. He was an absolute workhorse on the field, and I only expect him to improve under Coach Durkin.
KB: Let's not forget about special teams! Blake O'Neill gets one for flawlessly executing his first rugby-style punt in a college football game. It was promptly fair caught by a teammate inside Utah's ten yard line.
Alex:Yay, helmet stickers. Chris Wormley gets my initial bid. He did a lot of the dirty work last Thursday and I won't let the effort and efficiency breeze by me.
Peter: Oh, how I love, love, love those helmet stickers! I've missed them so much over the years, and I'm excited to have them back. However, there does need to be some moderation in using them, like Shash points out. The wings shouldn't be obscured by the end of the season, but I do want those babies to plentiful.
Tony: Jabrill Peppers. He was an all-everything prospect coming out of high school, committed to a program that went into a complete tailspin shortly after he gave his word, but yet Peppers stuck to it. Through a medical redshirt and a coaching change, he's still here and looks poised to become a first-round draft pick.
And with that, we head into game day.