DAN: TGIF everyone, and happy Rutgers week. It's Dan and Von back with another Friday "Mailing it In". While getting punched in the mouth never feels good. Long-term I think the Wolverines trip to Happy Valley will be good for my sanity. My outlandish optimism is gone and I'm ready to really view this team objectively. Von, you've been much more leveled in your outlook on this team all year. Where are you at this week?
VON: Well, I'm glad your views are a bit more even now, Dan. Heading into last week's game, I figured Michigan would lose but definitely not in the way it did. The Wolverines played terribly in all three facets of the game, even on defense. Saquon Barkley took a 69-yard rush to the house on the second play from scrimmage and that set the tone for the entire game. The defense never adjusted and Saquon, Trace McSorely and the rest of those guys punished the Wolverines for 42 points. I surely didn't think Michigan would give up that many points and more than 500 yards of offense, but you got to give credit where credit is due and Penn State deserves a lot.
DAN: Absolutely. James Franklin had a mostly fantastic game plan, though his love for the passing game allowed Michigan to crawl back into things before the half. The option look with Barkley at QB and McSorely at RB should be a nightmare for pretty much everyone to handle going forward. Think about it, you're lining up your defense to attack the run going a certain way.... and then they flip the whole package by sliding a foot the other way. Crazy. I do want to talk about the lack of adjustments you mentioned. Besides Drevno’s play calling the first two drives, this really bothered me. DaeSean Hamilton constantly found himself matched up with Metellus or Kinnel and away from Long and Hill. Somehow, despite having Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush, Mike McCray was matched up with Barkley all game. I'm not one to question Don Brown, but this feels inexcusable to me. While clearly outclassed, I don't think the defensive staff did the best job it could matching up our stars on theirs. Is that fair?
VON: That's completely fair. There were mismatches all across the board and Dr. Blitz didn't do a thing about it all game. I'm not sure what the coaches were thinking, but I was really underwhelmed coming out of halftime to see that ZERO adjustments were made. The safeties were getting burned by the receivers all night. All McSorley had to do was lob it up (which is his specialty play, much like Joe Flacco) and hope the receiver came down with it. More often than not, the receiver made the play and made Don Brown pay for it. There were a few things that I thought were bad offensively in this one....but doing a play action on 4th and 11 is the most absurd thing I have seen all season out of this team. What the hell were Tim Drevno, Pep Hamilton and Jim Harbaugh thinking?? With how bad the O-Line was getting manhandled all game, and the fact that it was fourth effing down and a play action isn’t fooling anybody on fourth down, I was completely dumbfounded by that play call.
DAN: Exactly! Why not blitz McCray and leave Bush in coverage? Risk/Reward seems to favor that. And Long or Hill should've shadowed Hamilton all game. Really really frustrating that it didn't happen. I'm hoping that was just a one-off game and we'll see something different against Wisconsin and Ohio State. Last year Brown did a good job of matching Peppers up with Curtis Samuels so maybe there's just a learning curve some of these younger guys are still on as far as being able to do that. Who knows. But yeah, let's move onto the offense. I'm with you, that play call was atrocious and made no sense. It kind of reminded me of those old Lloyd Carr or Jon Gruden offenses that didn't have the shotgun. It's always weird watching those games back (Bucs, Raiders, Wolverines or any of their other stints) and seeing 3rd and 11 under center. Now, obviously Michigan utilizes the shotgun, but on a holistic level, is this offense outdated?
VON: Perhaps a bit. It seems pretty obvious what Michigan's offensive game plan is at this point in the season. The first two drives, as mentioned earlier, were run, run, pass attempt, punt. Now I'm not a football coach, but that's not going to get you very many yards unless you have an O-Line like Bama's and a running back like Saquon or Bryce Love. Penn State was blitzing O'Korn all night simply because the O-Line has been poor and they were able to get to him often. I think if the Wolverines bring up some plays that have O'Korn roll out and have designed passes to whichever side he rolls out to, they would at least be able to pick up 4-5 yards and not get sacked. This would also create opportunities for O'Korn to use his feet when necessary, and odds are he wouldn't take as many hits/sacks as opposed to staying in the pocket and not being able to make a decision.
DAN: I'm glad you brought up Alabama because I wanted to discuss them in regards to this. They don't run a pro-style anymore and if you look at the quarterbacks they've had the last 3 years — throw in the kid from Hawaii who is the backup now — and it doesn't look like they're ever going back. Nick Saban, who admittedly hates all these spread concepts, has entirely embraced them. Willie Taggart, a protegé off the Harbaugh tree spent an entire off-season at USF visiting Baylor and Oregon and Clemson and all these places to learn how to utilize guys like Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack. USF just set a record (though he's gone) for most consecutive 30 point games. Now, I'm not advocating a return to the Rich Rod era - Harbaugh will never do it, but it's frustrating watching an "NFL" offense that seems more interested in running 30 different i-formations than getting players in positive matchups and in space. ESPECIALLY with John O'Korn at the helm, who cannot read a defense the way Wilton Speight does, why are we running the same things? The defense knows what's coming on first and second down and because of that, they know what we're going to be forced to do on third down. I'm rambling a bit here, but man is this super frustrating.
VON: It is frustrating. I was sitting at home watching this game last Saturday and there were times I flipped over to the ALCS, which isn’t a bad thing because I love baseball, but it just goes to show how predictable the offense was. But this weekend against Rutgers is another chance to do something offensively against a team that has been one of the worst in the conference since they joined in 2014. Do you think we will see some changes on the offensive side of the ball this weekend, Dan?
DAN: Honestly? No. Apparently the Harbaugh that switched to Colin Kaepernick in 2012 and embraced creative spread concepts is never coming back. Maybe Jed York stole his soul and a more fired-up Bo took over his body from the grave. IDK... But in all seriousness, I really don't know why we should expect anything to change. Rutgers is playing better over the last few weeks but are still Rutgers-y enough for the generic ground and pound to probably put them away. Their offense is truly awful so the defense should have a bounce back game. I'd be really surprised to see anything other than what we've seen the last few weeks offensively. How about you?
VON: I'm with you. I don't think anything will change this season in terms of the offense. Why would it at this point? We are already more than halfway through the season and we have not seen many changes on offense, whether it be personnel or the playbook/play calling. Hiring an NFL QB coach like Pep Hamilton really solidified Michigan using a pro-style offense for the rest of eternity. I expect more running from Higdon/Isaac and another 4 catch, 30-yard day from DPJ and Grant Perry. We better get used to it now because I really don't believe anything is going to change.
DAN: No disagreement man. I know some readers are going to take this negatively, but I truly don't think we're being doom and gloom here, just realistic. Besides a stint as Andrew Luck's OC, Hamilton's career is a lot of "meh". Browns? Jets? Bears? Not exactly teams with shining quarterback histories. People were excited about the hire, but at this point I'm pretty much over it and would rather go in a less traditional direction. I wrote on the Peters dilemma earlier today and I think we're both probably sick of talking about it, especially since we share the same opinion on whether he'll play (spoiler: NO). Before we wrap this up with a prediction or two on this week, I want to get you on the record regarding a theory that’s been floated and you’ve alluded to. "Dylan McCaffrey might be more ready to play than Brandon Peters and if he was the one already redshirted, the odds of a change would be higher"
VON: I've been saying that for a while now, Dan. I think McCaffrey is going to be the guy next season and NOT Peters. It appears as if McCaffrey is already a more vocal leader than Peters. Match that up with him being a GD McCaffrey and you may very well have your next Michigan QB. I think Peters will get playing time this weekend if it turns into a blowout, but other than that it seems like Harbaugh is dead set on O'Korn.
DAN: Yeah, you and some others have kind of turned me into a truther (infowars.com/prisonplanet.tv) on this whole thing too. Peters’ post-spring fall and Harbaugh's reluctance to turn to him really does lend some credence to rumors regarding his leadership style and Dylan's rise.
We both make predictions in the big round table, so how about this? What are three things that you want to see Saturday. Maybe 1 offense, 1 defense, and the third a wildcard
VON: Offense: I want to see big production from Kekoa Crawford. He needs to step it up pronto. He had a real nice catch last weekend, and I hope that boosts his confidence. With Tarik Black out for the foreseeable future, Crawford is the guy that has to step up. Period. Defense: A bounce back game from the secondary. We already talked about it earlier, so I won't go into this one as much. Don't give up big plays and make big plays yourself. Lastly, I want to see consistency from the special teams. Ambry Thomas had a few nice kick returns last weekend. Can he follow that up with even bigger returns? Quinn Nordin had been perfect on extra points...until last week. Can he get past that game and move on without anymore missed extra points/easy field goals? How about you, man? What are you wanting to see?
DAN: I want to see O’Korn throw for a touchdown. I really do. I almost felt bad about the article I wrote earlier this week because he did play as hard as he possible could in a bad spot against Penn State and in the second quarter looked like the Purdue John O’Korn. I hope the offensive staff lets him off his leash this week since he seems best when he can be creative and play some backyard ball. Defensively, Devin Bush has had a couple down weeks in a row. Go make a play. He's due. As a "wild card", let's get DPJ back in the end zone.
That'll do it for this week. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment if it pleases you, and hopefully we're back talking next week about a fantastic bounce-back performance.