Monday, November 8, 2010

Illinois: Where Michigan's bowling

"It's been a good week. Mr. Brandon and I both talked about that on the way over here. It's been a good week." - Rich Rodriguez

It's hard to sum up Michigan's win against Illinois any more succinctly. Maybe if I could find a picture of the smile Rodriguez gave when he said "It's been a good week."

This game played out like basically all of Michigan's this year: crazy offense, lots of defensive lapses, Denard injury, down-to-the-wire shootout, turnovers, etc. Except Michigan actually won this game. Illinois' offense was just a little too sputtering to overcome Michigan's, which was able to dispense Illinois' defense--that had won them five games already this year--with ease. Now, Rich Rodriguez can look ahead to Purdue and, with any luck, 2011, a year that should see Michigan contend for a Big Ten title.

It's worth mentioning that there's a non-zero chance that Greg Robinson is retained at the end of the year. In my Where Are They Now posts during the bye week, I said this,
However, there's 0% chance [Greg Robinson]'s fired at the end of the year granted that Rodriguez is kept on board. Rich Rod realizes the talent issues Robinson is facing and will afford him at least one more year.
So maybe 0% was probably a little overzealous. But given what appeared to be improvements from the defense in this game (about more which in a minute) and the fact that Robinson has gained Rich Rod's trust the past two years--running the 3-3-5 at his behest, et al--there's a distinct possibility that he sticks around for another year. I wouldn't be all that against it, given Michigan continues to improve like they did on Saturday.

  • 65 points be damned; Michigan's defense looked better in this Illinois game. And all it took was doing away with the 3-3-5. Of Illinois' 16 possessions, six of them ended in punts, one in a turnover, one in a missed field goal, and the rest in touchdowns or field goals (forcing field goals, go figure). I'll take a 50% success rate with this Michigan defense. "Slightly below average" is way better than "worst in the country" if you ask me, especially when Mike Martin isn't playing for much of the game. Now if we could just do something about those...
  • Turnovers. Denard's first interception should be credited to Roy Roundtree who, on the previous play, dropped a first down pass that hit him square in the gut with no defenders around him. Denard's second was both his and Martell Webb's fault. I think Webb was probably a hot read who didn't get his head turned around in time. Forcier's fumble was... bad. The others were not great.
  • Michigan's kick coverage was awful in this game. Kickoffs--and there were a lot of them--were routinely returned to the 40-yard line or beyond. I don't know if this was something that Illinois was doing or something that Michigan was doing, but it was ugly.
  • Nathan Scheelhaase is definitively the worst starting quarterback in the Big Ten. Dude simply can't throw. His stats probably speak for themselves, but to reiterate what I said in my preview: daring him to throw downfield, even with Michigan's defense, is probably a good idea.
  • Argh halfback wheel routes. Halfback wheel routes are Michigan's new MOEAKI!!!
  • Courtney Avery was functional-to-good. Maybe it was because of Michigan's overall scheme change, but dude looked like an upgrade from Floyd. He made a huge first-down-saving tackle in the open field and generally played well. Ray Vinopal also had a few big plays in the game and looks like he might be a functional answer to Michigan's free safety problem.
  • Michigan's successful two-point conversion was the same play that Forcier threw to Matthews to beat Notre Dame last year. Michigan gets man coverage on the outside and runs a slant-out play that gets the receiver open in the corner. Forcier made a better pass to Hemingway than he did to Matthews, but both ended the same way.
  • Roy Roundtree getting pulled down from behind was... ominous.
If Denard has a concussion (and he likely does), Michigan should be able to start Forcier against Purdue and still come out with a victory. I'd rather see Denard get healthy for the Wisconsin/Ohio State gauntlet than risk more serious injury against a team that Michigan should be able to dispense of. But for now, I'll just enjoy this victory.


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