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Varsity Blue

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Across the Border

Each week, Varsity Blue will have a guest poster, Massey from Buckeye Commentary, give us his thoughts on the Michigan game. In return, I'll guest post on BC. Check out my view of Ohio state's game over there.

Utah v. Michigan – August 30, 2008

What I Saw

On offense, I saw a surprisingly inept running game. No one was expecting Nebraska circa 1995, but I viewed the running backs as the strength of the Wolverine offense. Sam McGuffie, Brandon Minor, Michael Shaw, and Carlos Brown (shoulder) were totally ineffective, however. None of those four had any rhythm because of limited carries. I knew the offensive line was all new, but I was surprised that the misdirection plays were not more effective. Hell, a few of them fooled me on the couch, not to mention the camera operators. They were slightly better catching passes out of the backfield

The offensive staff clearly wanted to throw down field early in the game, which should have signaled to me that they needed to spread out Utah’s front seven because the ground game was poor. Even though the deep passes were not overly effective, 106 of Michigan’s 167 passing yards came on four completions. The short passes seemed far easier for Michigan to execute and the play they ran to get their first touchdown was borderline indefensible. After that, I was expecting to see a ton of those short throws.

Honestly, I though Nick Sheridan was better than Steve Threet. I know Threet made a nice toss to Hemingway, but he had the advantage of coming in late and having relatively little pressure. It could not get much worse when he stepped into the huddle. You could view that battle as a lesser of two evils, and I know I am in the minority, but I think Sheridan ends up being the starter, unless Justin Feagin bursts onto the scene.

What I Didn’t See

I sure as hell did not see the defense I expected in the first half. The first half defensive performance was crippling. Were they even calling defenses in the huddle? The Utah receivers could not have been more open. On 3rd and 19, Johnson hit a wide-open slant for a 50 yard gain. Huh?

I thought Terrance Taylor (foot injury), Will Johnson, Tim Jamison, and Brandon Graham would cause significant disruptions in Utah’s backfield, keep everything in front of them, and force Utah to march slowly down the field. But that did not happen until the second half, when their defensive adjustments yielded six sacks on Brian Johnson. Half of those were drive killers.

If the defense can continue at their second half level, and not get tired of carrying the offense, they could become a formidable unit before this season is done.

Who I Watched

I could not ignore sophomore Obi Ezeh, who was everywhere. He was great as a freshman and will be very good by the end of this season. If he showed up in Scarlet and Gray tomorrow, he would start. Aside from the defensive line and Ezeh, I have not heard of any of those players.

I was interested in the quarterbacks, of course, and I watched McGuffie with YouTube-tinted glasses. I would be lying to you if I said I did not imagine Pryor running that offense a few times. He is the real thing and far beyond any QB talent on Michigan’s roster at the moment. Otherwise, Michigan shuffled in so many players, I had trouble keeping track of who was doing what.

What I Expect For Next Week

I have no idea. Honestly. At the very least, I expect the defense to play well for the entire game. Miami (Ohio) is a MAC challenger, but they are not at Utah’s level.

Despite my earlier proclamation, I bet Threet starts at quarterback. I also expect the rushing attack to receive more attention, if not improve. But, the Wolverines were opportunistic against the Utes, and will need to be again if they want to put up some points.

What This Can Tell Us About The Game

Nothing, for the moment. I think we can all agree on the outcome if The Game were this weekend. But, it’s not. The Wolverines have an entire season to get better offensively and get meaner on defense. Every fan knows the role emotion plays on that last Saturday and you cannot discount the confidence and camaraderie the Michigan players may build as they collectively learn this fall.

For Michigan, every game is step towards November 22 and all we learned this past weekend is how many steps Michigan has to climb.

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“Across the Border”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Who cares what an o$u guy thinks about our team? Thanks for that Pryor dig as well, nice touch. You can be rid of this addition to a great blog in my opinion.

  2. Blogger Tim Says:

    Obviously I disagree with your opinion, or I wouldn't have added the feature. It's definitely good to get an outsider perspective, and particularly so from a fan of our biggest rival.

  3. Blogger Mike Says:

    I disagree with you, anonymous, and think it's interesting to get a perspective from outside of our UM community. We get caught up in the hype so often because we often only see what we want to see.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Count me in with the other anonymous. Who cares?

    But its your blog, so knock yourself out. And I'm free to click elsewhere.

  5. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I very much enjoyed the exchange. Hearing the opponent's viewpoint is kinda like being a Republican at a Democratic convention. You don't like everything you hear, but you gotta respect what they're saying.

    Ron (Buckeye fan)

  6. Anonymous Wolverine 98284 Says:

    Good post Tim. Always good to get the OSU perspective. I used to read Michigan Monday on the OZone for an honest (seemingly) assessment of M! games. Thanks for this!

  7. Anonymous BleednBlue Says:

    This is good honest stuff and if I didn't know any better I wouldn't even know that this guy is a Buckeye fan. Just spit the God's honest truth....we can take it!!

  8. Anonymous Wolverine 98284 Says:

    Thought of a couple more things - hey, it happens! So, at the risk of confirming foolishness....

    For the negative inputs above: As any military member knows, it pays to know your enemy. OSU (and their fans) have been studying/watching UM throughout the season for years. See the above mention of Michigan Monday.

    Secondly, any chance of seeing your input to the OSU blog?

    Thirdly, Michigan might be unique with at least 3 rivalry games. Any chance of seeing something similar for MSU and ND? I realize this might be a bit much for 1 guy, perhaps there is someone, more knowledgeable than me, who could assist?