Thursday, December 27, 2012

Preparing for the Outback Bowl

Since people are finally starting to ask whether or not I'm maintaining this blog anymore--and why not, my last post was three weeks ago and was about Saved By the Bell--it's probably time for me to actually write something. The explanation for the absence comes down to three main factors: school, holidays, and general malaise. The first two are pretty easy to explain, but the third cuts a little deeper and has specifically to do with this team.

Last year around this time, I spent every week leading up to the bowl game rewatching Virginia Tech games and performing my duties of identifying where Michigan should attack/how Michigan should defend Virginia Tech because Al Borges and Greg Mattison are known readers of this blog and often call me personally to thank me for the valuable insight. After Michigan's godsend 23-20 overtime win, Michigan fans complained about everything except Frank Clark and the final score, and rightfully so. It seemed as if the coaches did zero scouting before the bowl game. They hadn't run anything new and Virginia Tech had no trouble stopping it; or running all over the defense, whatever the case may be.

It finally dawned on me after the Ohio State game: Michigan's coaches--specifically Al Borges--do not go into the film room to find weaknesses in the opponent. Instead, they go into the film room to confirm their playcalling bias. Greg Mattison looks for ways to defend opposing offenses because he has to; else Greg Robinson. Unfortunately, 2012 Air Force and 2011 Ohio State happens and we're left wondering where these schemes actually came from, but for the most part, Mattison has shown both in-game adaptability and some level of foresight. Borges, well, I imagine this is how bowl game preparations go:
Borges: "You guys, you guys, I want you to see something that I found on tape."
Mattison: "Come on Brady, Al has something to show us. Again."
Borges: "I'm super cereal, you guys. I  saw something. Look:"
*Borges plays tape of Vanderbilt completing a deep pass against South Carolina*
Borges: "See guys, we can totally do that on every play. I'm gonna call a lot of deep passes."
*Mattison and Hoke walk out of the film room. Mattison intimates that Hoke should probably wear a headset on the sideline*
Many of the games under Borges' playcalling have been offensive trudges because he can't identify weaknesses in the opposition and believes that his playcalling is the best playcalling, regardless of scheme or personnel. To an extent, you want a coordinator who thinks similarly, but Borges has been unable to make concessions for an offense that doesn't have the skill to play his style of football.

So against South Carolina, I expect another offensive performance like the one against Virginia Tech last year or Notre Dame this year. Borges knows what he's going to call. He knew it before he even heard what team Michigan would face in the bowl game. Except he's spent a few weeks in the film room trying to identify the few defensive formations that South Carolina will show that keys the offense to take shot deep down the field. Expect to be disappointed by the number of contested downfield throws Michigan attempts in the bowl game.

This is a pessimistic outlook, though it's one that the prevailing evidence has afforded me. But I realize that it's also overly negative because I just don't like this incarnation of Michigan football; I don't like watching them play. Sacrilege as it may be to type, I'm sick of Denard Robinson. I'm tired of him being Michigan's best player, someone who incessantly turns the ball over. I'm tired of pointing out the inadequacies of Michigan's offensive line. I'm tired of not having a wide receiver deserving of #1. I'm tired of watching games and thinking, "Wait, who's number 11?" I'm tired of people bitching about jersey numbers changing every week. I'm already sick of Ohio State being better than Michigan.

School has been the easy excuse for me to write less than normal this season, when the reality is I just haven't enjoyed this season very much. The team feels dysfunctional in a lot of ways and the talent still isn't able to compensate for those problems. Al Borges still can't figure out this offensive personnel, and the defense isn't good enough to save this team from itself. Things are getting better, albeit slowly. So I'll preview the Outback Bowl and write up some sort of denouement for the game/season, and then spend most of the offseason recharging and hoping that something changes in 2013 because being an underwhelming, lucking-to-be 8-4 outfit is not the kind of thing that inspires much in the way of production.


Post a Comment