Hey! Michigan had a bye week! What do you hope they worked on?
Shash: Putting their d-line against whoever lines up at LT over and over and over again. can't be better than to practice against that, right?
Tanner: Stop yelling at me! No, but seriously, if Wilton Speight starts connecting on intermediate throws and deep balls, I will be elated. That's the one thing keeping this team from blowing the ceiling off. I need to see Michigan more efficient in the passing game.
Trevor: Kicking. Kicking. Kicking. All forms of it: punting (you can never be too sure), field goal kicking most importantly. Kenny Allen is not a bad kicker by any means, he is just in a funk, which happens with kickers from time to time. I'm looking for him to boot a few easy ones between the golden arches on Saturday, this will hopefully give him a confidence boost.
Zach: If Wilton Speight comes out of the break dialed in as a passer this team's ceiling is pretty much removed and the sky is the limit, so that I guess.
Kevin: Okay. Rutgers was bad, and Michigan probably did some things wrong in that game, but we wouldn't have known. Not that they won't overlook Illinois but I hope the coaching staff has been practicing some new playbook wrinkles in preparation for the home stretch of this schedule. They flashed some new looks with Peppers in the backfield, but they're going to need to stretch the field soon, so why not do it in front of a homecoming crowd.
Illinois coach Lovie Smith has already said this game will be a challenge for his team. Help him out and elaborate on what they're walking into.
Shash: They're walking into about two yards per carry and <4 YPA, I think. Those are not good.
Tanner: Uh, good luck. *sees Illinois was outgained by Rutgers* *laughs* *cries* *calls Ruth's Chris Steak House*
Trevor: They are walking into a freshly sharpened buzz saw. A rested and mostly healthy UM team that is on a roll, unless Lovie can ring up some of his former Bears players and put them in the game Saturday, I don't think the Illini have much of a chance. The game is in Ann Arbor and the two teams just do not match up. Illinois is better than Rutgers, along with the rest of the country, but they are not good enough to stun Michigan in the Big House. I do see Illinois racking up some rushing yards, their stable of running backs is similar to UCF's who had some success against Michigan.
Zach: Lovie gets a walk down memory lane in this one. He gets to see his team go up against an NFL defense again.
KB: A blitzing, punishing, overpowering terror of a team that isn't going to quit until the other side waves the white flag. There's All-Americans at nearly every skill position, and enough offensive and defensive packages to fill a FedEx building. Michigan will wear them out, and likely win by a lot.
Our mothership's Ian Boyd has called Michigan's secondary the best in college football. How much of that is Don Brown and how much of that is the talent on the roster? Something else?
Shash: I have a computer that in theory could let me edit really really good audio. And you don't see me cranking out hit singles. And Chainsmokers or whoever the kids listen to these days don't mix on an Apple II.
Tanner: A little of both. Elite level DB play by Lewis, Stribs, and Clark (miss you) really has been big, but Brown calling up every blitz you can think of gets the QB with happy feet. And when Chris Wormley kills a dude on the third play of the game, you aren't gonna be able to do much when you have a helmet imprint on your chest.
Trevor: UM will shut down the Illini passing attack, almost completely, the secondary for Michigan is that good. To answer the question, Don Brown is good, but this experienced Michigan secondary would be productive if Charlie Sheen was coaching them. They are that talented and experienced, Michigan will really benefit from the Don Brown hiring in the years to come. When the senior leaders such as Delano Hill graduate and the new guys come in, Don Brown will coach them up and make them productive. Hopefully he stays so the UM defense will not have to learn new schemes too often.
Zach: That's the thing: to be number one you have to have both. Michigan has the outstanding players to put back there and leave them on islands. Michigan has athletic safeties that can factor into both run and pass defense. Michigan also has a D-coordinator who is incredibly good at blending these elements, disguising coverages, and sending pressure from everywhere. When you run Boston College's defense you have to win scheme because you can't count on your players to always physically dominate. When you take decades of defensive adaptation and tinkering and pair it with as talented a defense as you will ever see in college football, special things can happen. Also, its a little easier to look like the best secondary around when you play behind this defensive line.
KB: Michigan has built a secondary that has four distinct parts -- a shutdown corner, a roaming safety, a press coverage corner, and a spy safety. I would lean toward talent over scheme as the prevailing cause of success. Don Brown has figured out where to best use the players available to him, but the talent has always been there under our noses. We saw glimpses of it with Greg Mattison but now the mustachioed magician has fit the puzzle together.
Midway point of the season, so offer up some Halfway MVPs not named Jabrill Peppers.
Shash: Kyle Kalis has been wonderful, as has Magnuson - maybe the right side of the line? Oh, and the RB group as a whole has been good. The rest of our team are a bunch of schlocks who are going to write about defensive players. I am a schlock but will choose offense, thanks.
Tanner: Ryan Glasgow has been a beast. Chris Wormley has been a beast. Taco Charlton has been a beast. Maurice Hurst Jr. has been a beast. Bryan Mone has -- okay, we get it. I'll go with the entire defensive line.
Trevor: Freshman MVP Chris Evans - I can speak for every UM fan when I say I am pleasantly surprised with how good Evans is, and how good he can be. Offensive MVP Khalid Hill - Leader, productive, bulldozer, plays with some swagger. This is the type of guy every team needs. Defensive MVP Mike McCray, Ben Gedeon - These guys stepped up big time when they were needed, this was the one spot of concern on the UM defense coming into the season. They are doing a great job thus far.
Zach: Channing Stribling has finally put it all together and given Michigan a second lockdown corner. Both linebackers have performed very well after being a huge question mark coming in. The running backs have been very good, even when the OL hasn't. Ryan Glasgow is destroying interior linemen with regularity. Ditto Wormley, Charlton, Godin, Hurst, and Gary.
KB: I've been impressed by Khalid Hill's ascent as a viable passing down fullback/blocker/freight train. On the line, Maurice Hurst has developed into a fine pass rusher, and we must not forget the mighty Mike McCray, the man I hoped would blossom into the leader of the linebackers.
Time for some Michigan homecoming trivia, in three parts. First, which school has Michigan played more than Illinois for this occasion?
KB: Shash is correct. The Wolverines and Gophers have met 33 times on homecoming, with Michigan holding a 25-8 all-time record in that series when it is this game.
The Michigan Marching Band does my favorite homecoming tradition prior to kickoff every year on homecoming with a certain song. Name that song.
Shash: Don't know the song but they play with the alumni band so probably like, Temptation? BTW, I said Minny on the one above - which is the worst loss I've ever seen a Michigan team take in 2014. They just got sit on.
Tanner: Maaaaaaaaaan, this trivia stuff is killing me. I have no idea.
Trevor: Sweet Caroline (I wanted to cheat and Google it but I didn't)
KB: Good guesses, Shash and Trevor. I nearly tried to stump you on the M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N RAH RAH RAH locomotive cheer the alumni cheerleaders do before the game, but seemed a little too obscure. Here’s where I was going:
The song has lately been played before the fourth quarter of a home game, but on homecoming weekend it is special. The MMB plays The Blues Brothers’ song “I Can’t Turn You Loose” while in formation at midfield with a block M flag popping out of the middle.
And as we know, these days, blues music only exists in the classical record section of our local public library.
Now, get back to listening to your preprogrammed electronic disco, kids.
Illinois fell victim to a 56-14 beatdown in 2003, the fifth most points Michigan has scored in this game. Who was the opponent of the worst beatdown?
Shash, Tanner, and Trevor: U. of Chicago, back when they still had a football team.
KB: All three of you fell for my trap. According to the Michigan record books, in 1902, Michigan scored 107 points against Iowa, shutting them out.
Bonus Q: What're ya drinking now that it is officially Fall?
Shash: It's back to beer for me! This week we're getting the last marrow out of the Octoberfests before we switch into colder-weather stuff. And maybe a Maple Nut or two.
Tanner: Fireball. My friends don't appreciate it, but cinnamon goes with fall, right?
Trevor: Captain Morgan and Apple Cider
KB: Have to see what all the Ann Arbor bars are serving up when I roll into town, but I'll be on the lookout for some red ales or something from Saugatuck Brewing or Red Barn.
I want to go back to Michigan,
To dear Ann Arbor town, Back to Joe's and the Orient,
And back to some of the money I spent,
I want to go back to Michigan, To dear Ann Arbor town,
I want to go back; I got to go back, To Michigan!