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Is this OL legitimately reliable? That’s the big question for the rest of the season. We have an elite defense, a very good QB, a solid vet RB, and good talent at receiver & TE. The OL question is the biggest variable that will decide if that translates to a conference championship or more grumbling about 9-3 seasons and losses to rivals.
Karan Higdon says he has the best OL in the country. Fans and pundits alike see the offseason concerns as resolved. While nobody (besides Higdon) thinks we have a vintage Bo OL just yet, there is growing confidence that the OL is legit good. Winning makes everyone happy and optimistic but let’s look with a skeptical eye for a minute at the meme that Ed Warriner has ‘fixed’ the OL.
Stats can offer a more objective view. While OL stats may not exactly be deadly accurate they can offer a high level indicator. The stats say…well, they say the reported progress isn’t nearly as clear as fans think.
The sack rate is 46th in the country. Not great, especially for a power conference team, but not the liability most expected. Last year’s was 117th.
So in this area we have a clear indication of massive improvement, albeit from a starting point of massive incompetence. Give Warriner credit here.
Run blocking is tougher to read but overall is probably in a similar middle ground. The opportunity rate (run blocking) stat is as woeful as it has been in years past (among the worst in the country) at 95th. Similar to last year’s 90th ranking. This doesn’t really feel right but you saw the ineffective first half from Higdon before the QB runs opened things up and you saw the struggles to establish the run vs SMU.
That it FEELS like they’re better than that is backed by a stuff rate that is looking solid: 35th. Michigan isn’t getting blown up all that often. Is it progress from last year – not really. Down from getting stuffed 18% of run plays all the way to 17%. Status quo from Drevno.
Numbers are lies. OK friend I hear you.
Let’s talk more subjectively about the pass rushes Michigan has faced.
Wisconsin’s DL was decimated by injury, featured a couple of Bryan Mone’s and a Carl Meyers. Their edge guys were nobodies. On top of all that they played conservative most of the time which kept their talented MLBs behind the LOS. They are 89th in sack rate for a reason.
Northwestern was conservative too – trusting they’re pretty decent DL to put pressure on without much blitzing. Maybe that’s why they’re 111th in sack rate.
Maryland may have that 5 star from Auburn but they still rank 57th in sack rate. They, also, generally play it safe (unlike Durkin’s reputation).
Nebraska? You know they’re in shambles – 71st in sack rate. We’ll skip past the tomato cans and just note that WMU has the best sack rate of any opponent Michigan has faced.
Here’s the good news: MSU hasn’t been any better. They rank 88th in sack rate.
Here’s the bad news: Notre Dame wasn’t any better statistically (84th) yet they put a lot of heat off the edge on Michigan. Remember how everyone was ready to put in a true freshman after that game?
My guess is that MSU is going to test this OL in a way they haven’t been since ND. Or possibly all year. ND had enough talent to rush 4 and get heat. MSU may not so they will likely be far more aggressive with blitzes and stunts to confuse our OL.
If Michigan passes the test that’s good. It still won’t be on the same level as PSU (52nd in sack rate) or OSU (15th in sack rate).
This OL still has a lot to prove.
What about the run game? Well – I think it’s a matter of how much belief you want to put in the QB running attack we saw against Wisconsin. Michigan came out running a very different gameplan than they had all year. Higdon was totally shut down in the first half but then you had the QBs running wild and Michigan adjusted to attacking the soft edges of the defense with great success.
Contrast that success against Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Maryland – where Higdon averaged less than 4 ypc in total. Nothing embarrassing, but not an area that appears to be a strength for this team. The highest ranked run D (by efficiency) in that group was Northwestern (28th). Notre Dame has a surprisingly middling ranked run D (58th, though other numbers indicate more like a top 30 defense).
Overall, the run game ranks 37th in efficiency in the country, but that includes those QB runs that may or may not be there as the defenses get better.
Now, in comes to town the #1 ranked rush D in the Country. MSU is going to be aggressive at stopping Higdon and you know they’ll take every shot they can at our QB as well.
PSU and OSU both rank in the 40s in rush defense so this will be the stiffest test of the year for our running game. It will be very interesting to watch how this plays out.
My opinion: Our OL is overrated right now.
They’re not terrible but they’re mediocre and (mostly) untested. They’ve been coached up to handle decent teams but may still have a long way to go. Last year, you saw things crumble when they were really put to the test.
This year, the 2 best defenses Michigan faced (Notre Dame #4 and Northwestern #43) led to close games. They did dispatch Maryland pretty easily (#45).
MSU is 21, PSU 16, and OSU is 41.
Did you really spend the day debating online with yourself? Only to come to the conclusion most (reasonable) fans have?
Jeez Louise 🤦🏽♂️
Sometimes one just has to ‘spress’ they selves in a written format in order to really grasp whats going on inside their cranium. I do it all the time, too, mostly with the Moral & Political philosophy shit I can’t get out of my head. Haha
My thoughts/ideas often become like ‘rodent’s teeth’. They never stop growing and a rodent needs to keep chewing on something in order to maintain a healthy tooth length. So writing ones thoughts is a good way to get rid of them and make room for the new.
If you have a lot of thoughts & ideas, writitng is a good way to simply get rid of them. Healthy expression. Haha.
This was too long I admit, but I kind of went into it with the assumption that the OL would show more improvement statistically. There’s a whole bunch of articles and player quotes right now about how the OL is kicking butt.
I don’t agree it was obvious to everyone that this improvement is flimsy, but whatever. Sometimes “obvious “things – like WE HAVE TO START STRONG – turn out to be BS.
Main stat is who scores the most points vs the days opponent in ones particular game………
As far as the Wisconsin game goes in order for one to coma back to earth somewhat:
Patterson’s fumble that Michigan recovered…………
Higdon’s fumble that barely made it out of bounds………
2 sure interceptions that Wisky couldn’t hang on to……….
These 4 potential turnovers that ALL went Michigan’s way and this game is prolly a different story. Michigan still has ALOT to work on regarding ball control safety.
Luck was on Michigan’s side on Saturday for sure. But they did outplay Wisconsin too. Maybe not as much as the score indicated.
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