DAN: Welcome to another Friday afternoon of Mailing it in with Dan and Von. Alright man, let's get right into things. This crow tastes awful.
VON: You're eating crow? Man, I thought I had it bad with this slice of humble pie. Both taste dreadful, I'm sure.
DAN: I think in this week's roundtable I actually referred to State as Big Brother because this rivalry has been so one-sided no matter the expectations. Before we get into Indiana though, let's talk about a couple things. I really don't think the general flow of the game was too far off of what we expected. Michigan started slow (AGAIN), and came out of halftime rolling. They quickly got the game back within 4, and Higdon was rolling until the hold, the rain, and the O'Korn melt down. Six games in, I think it's fair to say we know what this team is. An offensively limited smash mouth team with an elite defense. No?
VON: That sounds about right to me. Michigan has been the definition of a second-half team this season. We've seen that in every game this season: the comeback in Arlington, the low-scoring games against Cincy and Air Force, the comeback at Purdue and the rainstorm against MSU. The defense hasn't allowed a single point in the fourth quarter, which is a huge reason why Michigan only has one loss this season. If the defense wasn't as dominate, we could be looking at a two-loss, if not three-loss Michigan team right now; the offense has been that bad. And you're right, Higdon was rolling. He was the best back in the game last weekend, yet the coaches still elected to throw more than 30 times in Hurricane Ann. It just doesn't make sense. Do you think Michigan relies just a little more on the run game this weekend in Bloomington?
DAN: Ya know, I honestly am not comfortable making that prediction. This offensive coaching staff has just been so wildly (and not really in a good way) unpredictable. I think early, absolutely you're going to see a lot of ground and pound, I-formation power running. What worries me is that everyone is going to be expecting that! Indiana is going to load the box, and I think we're going to run right into it which will inevitably lead to them attempting to air it out. I absolutely want to see the running game take this game over, but let's do it in a creative way. Let's run some read-option, some (read: A LOT) of jet sweeps or misdirection, O'Korn bootlegs, wildcat. The strength of this team is in the run, but I'm not sure the raw talent is there to just line up and go at a team. Especially without Speight. I want to see a creative running game that gets guys like McDoom or DPJ the ball early and in space.
VON: I'm all in for seeing DPJ get the rock more often than not. Whether it's a jet sweep, a screen or even hand offs out of the backfield, that guy needs to get the ball as much as possible. He is a play-maker! Ohio State was creative with Curtis Samuel last year, so why can't Harbaugh and the guys do the same for DPJ? The under-utilization of Jabrill Peppers in the offense last year did not sit well with me, so I would really love to see Michigan's highest-rated recruit from last year do some damage and step up, especially since Tarik Black is injured and the other freshmen receivers have yet to see the field.
DAN: Speaking of Black, is it safe to say we underestimated the impact losing him would have? His numbers were pretty good for a freshman in this type of system, and besides Sean McKeon, the offense has lacked any type of down field threat since he went down.
VON: You can't speak for everybody because I knew immediately Michigan losing him would put a damper on their offense. He was the one guy that came in and was a great route runner. DPJ still has a lot of work to do when it comes to that. But yes, for those who underestimated it, they should've knew that impact. He led the team in receiving yards and catches before his injury. He is a versatile receiver, so he will be welcomed back with open arms when that time comes. I think what hurts more is Kekoa Crawford not stepping up when Black broke his foot. Crawford had 2 catches for 13 yards against Purdue and a whopping zero catches against MSU. As one of the guys who was expected to take a big leap forward this season, that is just unacceptable.
DAN: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I definitely underestimated his loss. The last two years, you've really seen one receiver primarily dominate the touches: Chesson in ‘15 and Darboh in ‘16, so I thought Black's numbers advantage might have just been a system thing. Boy was I wrong. On the injury front, how much of a leash would O'Korn have going forward? At what point in this season would getting either Peters or, less likely, McCaffrey ready for next year start entering your mind? Am I getting too far ahead of myself thinking that? Technically this season still has all the potential it had at its start.
VON: No you aren't getting too far ahead of yourself. I would give O'Korn until after the Penn State game. If he hasn't figured it out by then, I would want to see Peters in there getting some reps against Rutgers and Minnesota. If it doesn't happen by then, we aren't seeing it at all. McCaffrey is more than likely going to redshirt, so I don't expect to see him out there unless all hell breaks loose and O'Korn and Peters both go down with injuries. So I would expect to see Peters at home against Rutgers if O'Korn continues to turn the ball over, get antsy in the pocket, etc. If you had to take a shot in the dark right now, do you think Peters starts any game this season?
DAN: I'm actually going to say "no" here. Harbaugh isn't a very reactionary coach, and even when he pulled Speight in the opener it was only to reset his head. I think there's a lot of factors at play here. The same way, there was a reason O'Korn got benched at Houston, there's a reason Peters fell off the map despite having a great camp and pretty spectacular spring game. I know there are rumors going around, but all I'll say is that THERE is a reason. If Wisconsin was earlier in the year, and the team had three losses with a couple cupcakes before Ohio State, I'd say it's more likely. However, after PSU, there are going to be three games the defense should be able to win as long as the offense avoids a complete and total meltdown like they had against MSU. It's hard for me to see a guy like Harbaugh making a change to a freshman who hasn't earned the job in this scenario. If they lose to Indiana or the defense finally has a down game against PSU and it gets ugly? Yeah, maybe a switch. The defense will keep them in every game likely, and a coach that feels they can win every game is less likely to make a change.
VON: Agreed, I don't think he gets any starting time either. Especially with Harbaugh saying there's not a guarantee Speight is out for the rest of the season. It's unlikely he comes back, but there is always that slight chance. But going back to this upcoming game against Indiana, what do you want to see improved more than anything?
DAN: Going back to what we discussed earlier, let's see some damn creativity! There were drives last year where the whole series, or 3-4 plays consecutively, where Peppers was in the wildcat. Obviously there is no Jabrill on this team that can do all the things he could, but if we came out and either ran 3 RPO's or put Peoples-Jones in the wildcat for a few plays, I'd be happy. Running on first, getting stuffed, then either running a dive again or going to the 4 or 5-wide packages is becoming so predictable. I wish we could save some tricks for Penn State, but I want to really put a ton on film for them to game plan for. I think that's the only way this offense gets going is to get creative. What about you?
VON: I'd really rather not see the wildcat. That formation has been dead for a while now and it didn't even usually work with Jabrill back there. But I do agree with more trickery. However, I want to see O'Korn step up in the pocket and take a damn hit. He looks frightened in the pocket and gets rid of the ball faster than a quarterback should, resulting in, usually, an incomplete pass. Step up in the pocket, deliver a strike to your receiver and if you end up getting socked in the mouth once or twice so be it. That's one of the great things about Wilton Speight is that he was never afraid to take a hit if it meant stepping up in the pocket. O'Korn has happy feet right now, and I want that to go away on Saturday.
DAN: That's all definitely fair; I think I meant more trickery and just threw the wildcat out as an example. It doesn't even have to be trickery. Screens, slants, reverses, shovel-passes. Something just has to change. You know I'm with you on O'Korn and we've probably all talked on this side Ad Nauseam about O'Korn staring at the rush and taking his eyes off his receivers. I know in the roundtable this week I go through what I think are the biggest differences between the two and I'll reiterate here that I do not believe people realize how difficult running a pro style system like this one is, and that Speight does a more than admirable job at it. Since we're running a bit long, and I know we both make game predictions in the roundtable, let's finish off in a slightly different direction. In Von's perfect world, what are we discussing at the start of next week? Realistically of course. Is it DPJ's break out? Is it Devin Bush bouncing back setting up a potential Bednarik vs Heisman battle against Barkley? If everything goes right Saturday, what is the lead on Monday?
VON: The lead on Monday would be "Michigan's offense finally gets it going heading into a Big 10 showdown at Penn State." Nothing specific. Whether that's through the air, on the ground or a combination of both. I want points in bulk this Saturday. I wouldn't be surprised to see another turnover, but I need at least 30+ points if that is to happen. You?
DAN: I'm going to agree, though I guess I'll go a little bit more specific. I want a couple big play touchdowns. While 30+ points would be nice, I don't really trust the offense to sustain drives against Penn State, Wisconsin, and OSU consistently. To win those games, we're going to need big plays, and since Black went down those have been desperately lacking. 30 points with a couple big strikes and I'll at least feel like there's a chance in Happy Valley. We haven't seen this team win a football game in three weeks. I'm ready to experience that again, haha!