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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tonight! HBO debuts The Rivalry tonight, and despite a reported lack of emphasis on the Michigan side of things recently it'll be worth taking in. HBO's promotional website has an interview with Bo, his last. For more history of the series, visit the MZone, which has posts up on the 1977 and 1971 games.

Illinois takeaway. Around the Oval sifts through the Illinois game for meaning and comes to a few conclusions. A quasi-fisk with opinion added.

We should panic because. . .

Illinois ran all over what had been the best run defense in the country. The Illini ran for 276 yards and 5.1 yards per carry. They had success running just about everywhere, and they repeatedly picked up third downs on the ground, running right at the defense. Mike Hart's better than any of Illinois' backs, and could therefore do even more damage.

You might have to shoot me for saying thins, but Rashard Mendenhall might be better than Hart. He has the numbers to back it up and a remarkable combination of power and size. The NFL will leap at the opportunity to take him in the first round. And if Hart doesn't go, or isn't healthy...
But. . .
The Michigan ground game isn't the Illinois ground game. Illinois had success because they ran the spread option, and ran it very well. The Buckeyes had to defend the entire field and account for the possibility that Juice Williams could, on any play, hand the ball off up the middle, run up the middle, run outside, pitch the ball outside, or throw the ball. This meant that the linebackers couldn't be as aggressive, and the defensive tackles had to shoulder more of the burden. As they are the weakness of this defense, that was a problem. That also won't be the case against Michigan.
Michigan is averaging 4.22 yards per carry, which isn't that impressive. While they're 35th in yards, they're 11th in attempts, and 50th in yards per carry. Illinois' ground attack was guerilla warfare, where the team never knew where the next attack was going to be, and was therefore spread thin. Michigan's attack is a battering ram at the front gates. That doesn't mean it's ineffective, or that they won't put up big numbers against the Buckeyes, but the Buckeyes will at least be facing a more straightforward rush offense this week. Wisconsin displays a similar determination to run the ball, regardless of success, and they were held to 96 yards and 2.59 yards per carry against the Buckeyes.
Also agree; submit, though, that Mike Hart is vastly better than any of the Wisconsin running backs and that if healthy OSU shouldn't -- I won't say "won't" -- come anywhere close to that level of dominance.
We should panic because. . .
Todd Boeckman. . . well, he kinda sucked. 13-23, 156 yards, 3 INTs, 2 sacks. Aside from doing a decent job running the ball and a nice pass on the first play of the game, Boeckman was pretty bad.
But. . .
No buts. This is a concern. All season long, Boeckman has thrown every type of pass: perfectly thrown deep balls, followed by hideously underthrown deep balls. Smart, safe throws underneath that keep the chains moving on one series, then a bad throw into triple coverage on the next play. Boeckman can't do that against Michigan. Hopefully it was just one bad game, and now it's out of his system.
Hey-o, that sounds good to me.
We should panic because. . .
The coaches appear to have started to outsmart themselves. First, it took two and a half quarters of struggling against Wisconsin for them to decide that maybe they should give the ball to Beanie Wells. This week, the Ozone's Jeff Amey was unimpressed with their gameplan for the Illinois game, and he makes a pretty convincing case.
But. . .
It's the Michigan game. Jim Tressel has regularly saved his finest coaching performances for this game. Lloyd Carr has beaten him before, and Tressel's reputation as a big game coach took a bit of a hit last season, but if there's one edge that I feel confident about this week, it's the coaching. I expect Tressel will have the team ready to play and will have a gameplan in place to give this team their best possible chance of winning the game.
Unfortunately, after last year I have to agree. I shrugged off the Johnny Sears-fest in the Ball State game on the premise that he wouldn't see the field against a real opponent; Tressel went balls-out spread and let Troy Smith carve up the weakest parts of the Michigan defense. To be fair, Michigan also unchained its offense and racked up impressive numbers -- Michigan also saves its very best game plans for Ohio State -- but there is a Tressel difference.

Part of that was the spread last year, but more worrying to me from a Oh God, This Is Never Going To Stop perspective was a particular second and one. Ohio State rushed to the line and got off a quick snap. As they ran what looked like a dive alarm bells started going off in my head.

Why would you rush to the line and get off a quick snap on second down? Oh God, RYAN MUNDY NOOOOOOOOO...

You know the story. Touchdown, as Mundy bites like a mofo on the dive and Leon Hall expects safety help that never comes. It's not the play call that's necessarily brilliant here. It's a standard gambit to bomb it deep on a waste down like second and one. What is brilliant is the lighting break-huddle-get-to-line-snap-now. Thing. Michigan was unprepared for the snap, saw a play going off, and panicked. That's the kind of thing that terrifies me about Tressel.

Get used to it. The Game highlights some hilarious passages from the Harvard Crimson's liveblog of Tommy Amaker's debut:
“9:14, first half: Amaker keeps yelling, “Three quick ones!” from the bench. Does he mean points or awkward passes?”

“1:05, first half: Demuyakor misses two free throws, Miller gets painfully rejected, and Pusar throws away an outlet pass. Pretty much everything that can go wrong has, and, hey, the Crimson is only down by 35. 63-28.”

They were playing Stanford, so allowances should be made, but... yeah. Been there.

Why don't they wear blazers like that anymore? WolverineHistorian's put up an ancient dandy from 1978, complete with Dueling Banjos:

There are also highlights of the game itself and the '88 Hall of Fame bowl versus Alabama.

Etc.: Michigan Monday; The Realests preview the basketball team. MVictors finds a Buckeye who picks Michigan. Quick, bronze him!