Friday, November 5, 2010

Illinois preview

I mean, whatever...
Passing19th nationally
183.88 YPG
111th nationally
143.13 YPG
Rushing26th nationally
117.50 YPG
24th nationally
194.38 YPG
Scoring12th nationally
16.75 PPG
63rd nationally
26.88 PPG
Passing117th nationally
290.50 YPG
43rd nationally
242.88 YPG
Rushing57th nationally
149.75 YPG
8th nationally
275.50 YPG
Scoring89th nationally
30.00 PPG
35.38 PPG
I honestly don't know what to say anymore. Michigan's defense is the worst in the country and just lost its starting cornerback, which may or may not make any difference. The Wolverines are hosting the upstart Illini led by redshirt, arm punting freshman Nathan Scheelhaase. If Michigan's defense was even remotely competent, they would stomp an Illinois team that has trouble moving the ball. But with  Michigan's ability to turn any walk-on who thinks he's Brett Favre into Brett Favre, this is another game where the opposition will greatly exceed their season averages and we'll all stand, holding our breath, hoping that Denard doesn't intercept the team to defeat. I'll try and be more constructive, though:

Scheelhaase has actually gotten a bad rep and has been a fairly effective quarterback aside from two games (MSU and Missouri) against defenses that Michigan cannot replicate. Those two games--one of which was his first as a starter--accounted for six of his seven interceptions on the year. Otherwise, Scheelhaase has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception. But part of that is because he's averaging a gimpy 6.62 YPA. And his reputation as a dual threat quaterback is a little overblown: he's averaging 4.8 YPC on 93 carries, averaging just 56 yards per game. More threatening than straight runs are the rare plays in which Michigan covers for long enough that Scheelhaase has time to scramble out of the pocket. If Matt McGloin can get 11 yards on QB scrambles, Scheelhaase certainly can.

Though a little counter intuitive, the way to beat Illinois is to dare Scheelhaase to throw down the field. When he has to make a long throw, he often throws ducks that flutter into the secondary. He does the same when pressured in the pocket. If Michigan feels good enough with their corners, blitzing more frequently and expecting Scheelhaase to throw the ball beyond the sticks may be a viable way to beat them. Though Michigan can't forget about running back Mikel Leshoure who is averaging 4.9 YPC.

On the other side of the ball, you know what to expect. Illinois has a good defense, but so did Iowa and Michigan State, and Michigan only slowed down when they beat themselves. Expect Michigan to run basically everything we've seen them run with maybe one or two new formations/plays. Mike Shaw didn't show up on Michigan's injury report, so expect to see a lot of him in the backfield with Denard.

Prediction: I really don't know. After the last three weeks, it's difficult to imagine Michigan winning against a pretty good Illinois team. But then again, it's still hard to pick against them because, well, Illinois isn't that good. Hasn't this defense hit rock bottom? Is this the week that Greg Robinson simplifies schemes and just runs a 3-4 or a 4-3? Is this the week that Rich Rodriguez takes over the defense and demands better production? If Michigan's defense is really as porous as it seems, wouldn't we rather see Leshoure than Evan Royster?

I expect Michigan to be able to move the ball just as well as they have all year. Denard has another 150/150 day and may even push 200/200. Mike Shaw also has a decent performance but nothing to write home about as Michigan will probably end up passing a lot in the second half to try and catch up. Denard will throw at least one pick in this game--probably early on--but he'll account for at least three touchdowns. Michigan will try kicking at least one field goal in this game.

Defense is a wild card. With Greg Robinson's obvious pink slip on the table, Michigan's defense will be changing things up to try and make something work. And with the reports that Craig Roh has complained about his move to linebacker and has been playing as a defensive end, this may be the first time that we see the 3-3-5 mostly scrapped in favor of more traditional 3-4 and 4-3 sets. JT Floyd is injured, so expect a lot of true freshman-ness and the mistakes that come with it. If Michigan moves away from it's hackneyed 3-3-5, this might be the corner turn we've waited for. If we see a lot of stacked sets, expect a similar performance to the Penn State game.

So this is another game that I'd like to skip a prediction on because I can see this game playing out a lot of different ways. One thing we know for sure is that Illinois is going to move the ball. Whether or not Michigan can find a way to force field goals, punts, or the occasional turnover is yet to be seen. Although banking on any of those happening is fools gold. This has the makings to be a Notre Dame-like shootout (quarterback incompetence interspersed with massive defensive breakdowns, versus, ya know, Denard). I'm still not sold on Scheelhaase's ability to throw the ball downfield, and if Illinois sticks with underneath routes, Michigan might be able to force a few stops. And despite his status as a scholarship player, I think Scheelhaase is a worse passer than McGloin, so third-and-long situations might (might) work out OK.

I have literally no confidence in this prediction. Michigan 28-27


Jon McLaren said...

I don't think Shaw has been on the injury report the past couple of weeks either. I don't expect to see much of him so we can all bang our heads against the wall as Smith tries to do superback stuff when he's really a third down guy.

I sincerely hope I'm very wrong as a Shaw/Hopkins combo with Smith as the passing down back would greatly help our offensive consistency.

If Martin is hobbled (and I've gotta believe he still will be) I find it very hard to believe we'll be able to stay in any sort of 3 man front but these guys have shocked me before.

I'm not personally opposed to having 3 down lineman but without a dominant nose and a very mediocre Banks it's just not reasonable to expect any sort of success with it.

Post a Comment