We have a special treat for you this week, dear BSD reader. In addition to the usual "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" post, we also gained enemy insight from Seth Fisher of the outstanding mgoblog. For those of you unfamiliar with Seth, he has been instrumental in the publication of the annual We Are! football preview magazine. Give Seth a follow on the Twitter machine at @Misopogon. Now let's see what hot takes Seth has for tomorrow's Whiteout clash:
After a fantastic season, Michigan's run defense really struggled against the Hoosiers? Was this caused by the absence of defensive tackle Ryan Glasglow, or the tremendous talent of Jordan Howard? Or did the Hoosiers finally figure out how to make the Wolverines run defense look human?
The short answer is Yes. Brian's "Upon Further Review" went much deeper but the upshot of that was Michigan was torn up by stretch zone plays where the DTs got reached or chopped (or, yes, held but with that if it's not called it didn't happen).
Ryan Glasgow and his backup, converted 3-tech Maurice Hurst, were a highly effective two-man tandem. Absent Glasgow, when Hurst came off the field Michigan was playing Matt Godin (a serviceable backup 5-tech) or Tom Strobel, a positional vagabond who was the backup right guard a week ago. That drop was magnified because as soon as those guys got on the field Indiana could lock them there with tempo. Then they reached their balls off.
We underrated Jordan Howard, but let's give due credit to the Indiana offensive line, which has been playing together a long time and features at least two NFL players. Kevin Wilson engineered the right matchups, but reach blocks are a very hard thing to do against anybody, and Feeney et al. executed them with consistency. At that point you just gotta tip your cap and hope Ohio State can't do the same.
Who will be replacing Glasglow, and how much of a dropoff do you expect?
That would be "Quick Burst" Mo Hurst, a redshirt sophomore borrowed from the 3-tech* rotation who very much lives up to this nickname I am still trying to get coined (competition is "Mo Hurts"). As you can gather from the fact that we already have a nickname argument, he's a star in the making. The Hoosiers game-planned to lock him on the sideline; when they did run at him, his ability to shoot into the backfield blew up a 4th down. On the other hand, when they ran stretches that vertical action took him out of the play.
One of the hidden reasons I think for Hurst's stellar season so far--and Glasgow's for that matter--was neither had to play more than 50% of snaps, so they could really cut loose every play. Hurst will either have to dial that back, or cede snaps to his backups, who are very dodgy.
*Michigan lost Glasgow's first backup, Bryan Mone, to a broken leg before the season. They also tried to medical (not Saban-style; there were plenty of scholarships available) former 5-star Ondre Pipkins, who transferred to Texas Tech.
Are you concerned fatigue will be a factor for Michigan considering they are coming off an emotional double-overtime victory while Penn State had the opportunity to rest?
Nah. I actually think bye weeks tend to hurt teams more than help them. Michigan practices are 4 hours of straight on-the-field football; all film is done in their "free time." Plus you guys are like the slowest team in the nation.
Penn State leads the nation in sacks and does a great job of being disruptive overall. If they can get to Rudock early, do you expect him to become rattled and make some mistakes, or is that not a concern for you?
The one problem Rudock hasn't had at Michigan is pocket presence. Now it sounds like I'm being a homer, but I said this about Rudock when Iowa beat us in that sub-zero 2013 game despite being under constant assault: He's a tough hombre. Hits from Nassib and Bell between the whistles can hardly hurt as much as the extracurricular garbage the Spartans were giving him, and Jake withstood that with a smile. Utah too.
I'm way more worried about the general wobble of a guy who's only been here a few months versus one of the more complicated defenses he's yet to face in his career. The all-out blitzes that worked against Northwestern etc. won't be such a good idea because he has outlets, but Penn State's excellent zone blitzes are going to be a lot of trouble for a guy who's still just beginning to get a feel for this offense.
What were your expectations for Jake Rudock prior to the season? How has he managed to show such a marked improvement from 2014?
You've got it backwards. Iowa Jake Rudock wasn't bad; he had a tendency to try to make the perfect throw, but I blame a lot of that on Iowa's receivers, who never made things easy on him. Watch that Wisconsin game of his some time. The bowl game was a stinker, but 12 passes is hardly a good sample.
Michigan Rudock however has lacked important bits of Good Iowa Rudock, especially the deep ball. We've wondered for long stretches this year if he's got an arm injury, since the 40-yard throws he used to make easily now take a full-body windup. Rudock also gets gun shy at weird times; we've seen him staring down an open primary read until it's too late. He has looked good in three games this season but Indiana (85th in passing S&P), Oregon State (111th) and Rutgers (127th) aren't very good measuring sticks for Penn State (4th!).
The ceiling for expectations was Harbaugh would be a +++ upgrade in coaching over Greg Davis, and the Wolverines would get a 4th round-ish kind of season; the floor was about what we're seeing. That floor is still a good elevator ride above expectations for the rest of our quarterbacks. Also the players call him "Dad" because his Instagram is as active as mine.
How do you expect this game to unfold and what's your prediction for the final score?
A lot of defense as Michigan tries to probe the holes in Bob's blitzes with power runs. Michigan will find a few, and Michigan's running backs will miss half of them. We'll throw a PA pass at Lucas's replacement to see how steep that dropoff is. On the other side, Michigan will have a lot of stunts planned, resulting in a few trips to the secondary for Barkley and as many long downs. So it's a stalemate, but that's not very fun so here's six opportunities for me to look stupid afterwards:
- Penn State has two very long drives against Michigan's backup DL and a lot of first-down-then-outs otherwise.
- Michigan tries something cute with Peppers that Penn State is all over.
- Michigan gets a lot of hidden yards on special teams.
- Rudock sustains a vicious hit to the head and no targeting is called.
- Michigan wins 21-20.
- ...for some b.s. reason you'll never let us forget.
Unless of course we get the John O'Neill officiating crew (I believe you're familiar), in which case all bets are off.