Preview: Michigan vs. Western Michigan

Preview: Michigan vs. Western Michigan


September 7, 2018

RUSHING OFFENSE vs. WMU RUSHING DEFENSE

Senior running back Karan Higdon (21 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD) dominated the carry count last week against Notre Dame; the only other running back to carry the ball was Chris Evans (2 carries, 1 yard). The offensive line’s blocking was okay against a solid Notre Dame front, but they weren’t getting to their second-level blocks and Higdon didn’t do the team many favors by missing a gaping hole and failing to break tackles. His longest carry went for 9 yards. Michigan’s line will likely remain the same as last week, meaning left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. and right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty will still have something to prove. Western Michigan’s defensive line consists of light defensive ends (240 and 235 lbs.), a decent sized nose tackle (converted offensive lineman Wesley French, who’s 6’5″, 295), and a light 3-tech (Ralph Holley, who’s 6’2″, 270). Free safety A.J. Thomas led the team in tackles last week against spread-happy Syracuse, but junior linebacker Alex Grace (6’1″, 220) is the front seven’s most effective tackler. Syracuse allowed 334 rushing yards to the Orange last week.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

PASSING OFFENSE vs. WMU PASSING DEFENSE

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson had a rough week against Notre Dame, but it wasn’t all bad. He completed two-thirds of his passes for a decent average, and his only truly bad throw came when Cesar Ruiz/Higdon combined for some really bad pass protection. The Wolverines have potentially discovered a new star receiver in sophomore Nico Collins (3 catches for 66 yards), while presumed star Donovan Peoples-Jones (6 catches for 38 yards) still hasn’t really lived up to his potential. Meanwhile, the offensive line allowed pressures on 50% of the passing plays last week, and left tackle Runyan was very bad in pass protection. Both tackles had better improve quickly if they don’t want to be replaced in the coming weeks. Redshirt junior defensive end Antonio Balabani (6’2″, 235) led the team in sacks last season with 4.0, along with 7.5 tackles for loss. The Broncos were #8 in the MAC last season with 222.4 yards/allowed per game through the air. Of WMU’s 10 interceptions on defense last year, only 2 return . . . from backup defensive back Obbie Jackson. Syracuse completed just 11/26 passes last week, but they went for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Advantage: Michigan

RUSHING DEFENSE vs. WMU RUSHING OFFENSE

Michigan is #31 in rushing average allowed after one week (2.81 YPC), which came against a solid running team in Notre Dame. While the interior defensive line will likely take a step back this season, the defensive ends and linebackers as a whole are excellent. Defensive end Chase Winovich had 8 tackles and 3 tackles for loss, and middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. had 6 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Western Michigan was led last week by junior running back Levante Bellamy (5’9″, 185) with 11 carries for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, and in fact, the Broncos had three running backs average 10.0+ yards per carry; starter Jamauri Bogan had 6 carries for 68 yards. The offensive line averages 6’4″ and 300 lbs., so it’s a good-sized offensive line. Last year they were #83 in Adjusted Line Yards, so while they had a good performance against Syracuse, that may not be indicative of how they will fare against Western Michigan. The Broncos have some speedy running backs, but Michigan will hold them in check better than Syracuse did.
Advantage: Michigan

PASSING DEFENSE vs. WMU PASSING OFFENSE

Overall, Michigan has been excellent at pass defense, and they were pretty good last week, except for a couple early blips. Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush has a cannon for an arm and took advantage of backup safety Brad Hawkins, Jr., who should be back to backup safety again this week, since Josh Metellus will be back from his targeting disqualification. Backup cornerback Brandon Watson notched an interception, and the two starters were two of the best in the country last year. Meanwhile, Michigan’s pass rush is elite, especially from edge rushers Winovich and Rashan Gary. The team notched just 2 sacks last week, but they were in Wimbush’s face all night. Western Michigan was #87 in Adjusted Sack Rate last season. Junior quarterback Jon Wassink (6’2″, 200) was 19/36 last week for 379 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Junior wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge (5’9″, 185) had a monster game against Syracuse, catching 8 passes for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns. Eskridge will be a tough matchup for Michigan’s safeties, but it might be tough for Wassink to have enough time to get him the ball downfield. Former Michigan receiver Drake Harris (1 catch for 12 yards) starts for the Broncos, too, and so does freshman Jayden Reed (6’0″, 170), who had 7 catches for 121 yards and 1 score.
Advantage: Michigan

ROSTER NOTES

  • Former Michigan WR Drake Harris (1 catch for 12 yards this season) is on WMU’s roster
  • WMU QB Griffin Alstott is the son of former Purdue FB Mike Alstott
  • WMU safety Justin Tranquill is the younger brother of Notre Dame safety Drue Tranquill, who played against Michigan last week

LAST TIME THEY PLAYED . . . 

  • On September 3, 2011, Michigan beat WMU, 34-10
  • Michigan LB Brandon Herron had the longest INT return for a TD in program history (94 yards)
  • Herron also set a school record with 2 defensive touchdowns (he added a 29-yard fumble return TD)
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 11 times for 80 yards and 2 TDs
  • Brady Hoke jumped out to a 1-0 career record at Michigan!

PREDICTIONS

  • Chase Winovich makes 2.5 sacks
  • Karan Higdon runs for 140 yards
  • Shea Patterson throws 2 touchdowns (to Nico Collins and Zach Gentry)
  • Michigan 37, Western Michigan 7

30 comments

  1. Comments: 962
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Sep 07, 2018 at 9:15 AM

    Crush em. Let’s finally start to develop our depth, so our starters aren’t beat down in November

  2. Comments: 962
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Sep 07, 2018 at 9:26 AM

    What ever happened to Brandon Herron? Did he ever start another game?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 07, 2018 at 11:18 AM

      Nope. That was his first and only start. IIRC, he injured his knee (though it wasn’t a season-ender) but got passed on the depth chart. It was a very weird deal. A defensive player scores two touchdowns in the season opener and then never gets another chance to play. EDIT: It was a hip flexor injury for Herron, not a knee.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 07, 2018 at 11:22 AM

      Here’s my plea for him to play more from post-WMU: http://touch-the-banner.com/michigan-vs-western-michigan-awards/

  3. Comments: 86
    Joined: 9/28/2015
    PapaBear
    Sep 07, 2018 at 10:29 AM

    So Thunder, what more or different do you want to see from UM’s offense? Given this group, what would you do?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 07, 2018 at 11:05 AM

      In this game?

      I would work on my dropback pass protection for the offensive line.
      I would pound them with inside zone.
      I would work on my downfield play-action passing game off inside zone.

      I don’t think this week is a time to get fancy. It’s a time to work on the basic stuff, because they should be able to overpower and outman WMU’s defense. Slow screens, fancy formations, RPOs, etc. should be saved for tougher opponents, IMO. You can pull some out if you need them, but I don’t think Michigan will.

      • Comments: 848
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 07, 2018 at 11:29 AM

        When you say “work on” dropback pass protection during the game, what exactly do you mean? Isn’t that something these guys have been doing in pretty much every serious practice for years?

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 07, 2018 at 12:43 PM

          You didn’t ask me but my answer would be that games are different. Different schemes, different personnel, different looks. Most development happens in practice but some things don’t sink in until the lights are on.

          • Comments: 848
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Sep 07, 2018 at 2:55 PM

            Or until your quarterback gets carted off the field.

  4. Comments: 7
    Joined: 2/23/2016
    DexterGardener
    Sep 07, 2018 at 11:25 AM

    I re-watched the ND game. (And it wasn’t as bad as I thought the first time.) But one thing I noticed was on the play right before the interception was thrown. Someone rolled up on the back of Ruiz’s leg and he went down in pain. At the time, I didn’t know the interception was the next play, and I thought ‘damn, I hope he wan’t injured.’ Then the next day he whiffed pretty badly on his block (with Higdon) and their opponent got in Patterson’s face during the throw and it was intercepted. I don’t know if that means I cut Ruiz some slack, or if he needs to learn that if you aren’t good to go, take yourself out.

    • Comments: 962
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 07, 2018 at 12:58 PM

      I haven’t the stomach to rewatch, but I keep reading & hearing the same. If that’s not just more hype, we should see:
      -Higdon/Evans look like they did against Minnesota
      -Shea/WRs/TEs look like Rudock & co against Indiana & Florida

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 07, 2018 at 2:00 PM

        In thinking about if anyone is going to look like Jake Rudock looked against Florida.

        The 2015 OL:

        28th Nationally in Adjusted Sack Rate

        Personnel:

        Glasgow – current NFL starter (Lions)
        Cole – current NFL starter (Cardinals)
        Magnuson – NFL starter (49ers) in 2017, currently injured
        Braden – current NFL backup (Jets)
        Kalis – current NFL Practice Squad 2018 (Browns)/ NFL starter in 2017 (Colts)

        2018 OL:

        Less good.

        And then there’s the WRs and TEs….

  5. Comments: 86
    Joined: 9/28/2015
    PapaBear
    Sep 07, 2018 at 11:39 AM

    Slow screens, fancy formations, RPOs, etc. These are things you’d have liked to have seen vs. ND? Can we execute them?

    I know football reasonable well (HS level). Not you level. But…I re-watched the game. I didn’t think the play-calling was all that bad! Not sure we can run fancy stuff (some) with our current personnel. We tried things. ND’s defense is good!

    Fix the O-line!

    Man, look at Willie Taggert’s high flying offense? Geesh!

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 3827
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 07, 2018 at 12:09 PM

    I’m with Thunder in wanting to see Michigan focus on core competencies and keep the frills to a minimum.

    BUT – isn’t RPO supposed to be something you can run as a base play? I don’t know that I would include that kind of thing as a frill.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 07, 2018 at 12:29 PM

      You can run RPOs as a base play. You can run lots of things as base plays. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to throw it out there every week against every opponent.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 07, 2018 at 12:41 PM

        My opinion: They should rep what they are going to run when it counts. Get core competency down and build out from that (frills and constraints). If the idea is this offense is going to leverage Patterson’s RPO talents than that’s what they should run against everyone.

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 3827
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 07, 2018 at 12:25 PM

    Thing to watch: Aubrey Solomon.

    We talked ourselves into Mo Hurst not being missed too much, but the objective odds were always long

    In hindsight, the signs were there. Mattison praised his DL plenty but when we heard that Marshall and Kemp were right in there with Dwumfour and Solomon and Mone, that was a hint. The high ceiling guys weren’t surging ahead of the serviceable vets.

    When last year’s 2nd best DT by a good bit, a freshman at that, isn’t getting any offseason hype… In that realm, absence of hype is more telling than anything.

    I don’t know what’s ‘wrong’ with Solomon. His play last year, the expected trajectory, he should be an all-conference guy. Clearly he wasn’t that last week. Brian Cook has theorized he is injured. That’s possible, but also an optimistic guess. It could be something else – off field issue, coaching issue, motivation issue. None of us know but the insider silence is worrisome.

    If Solomon is not the kind of all conference talent he could/should be that’s a season-altering event for Michigan. Pair this with the thud of Dwumfour’s hype and Michigan may be looking at an adequate but unexceptional DT rotation. That’s enough to keep this defense outside it’s top 5 potential. That’s enough for good opposing offenses to put a stop to Gary, Bush, Hudson, & Winovich.

    There will be more immediately entertaining things to watch for in the WMU game (offense especially) but I’ll be keeping a very close eye on Solomon’s role and effectiveness tomorrow. I’m hoping the biggest surprise from the ND game (meh DT play) was just a blip induced by a combination of an elite OL and some sort of temporary factors that kept Solomon down.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 07, 2018 at 12:28 PM

      WOTS is that Solomon had an appendectomy and is not back to full strength.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 07, 2018 at 12:37 PM

        Didn’t that happen in the spring? Recovery is supposed to take weeks not months.

        I hope there is a very reasonable and temporary explanation, but I’m not sure this one passes the sniff test.

        …Of course there can always be complications..

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 07, 2018 at 12:37 PM

        It would/did explain lack of offseason hype.

        • Comments: 86
          Joined: 9/28/2015
          PapaBear
          Sep 07, 2018 at 12:56 PM

          It’s just part of the 5 star jinx at UM. Name the last 5 star we had that lived up to the billing.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3827
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Sep 07, 2018 at 1:46 PM

            Rashan Gary & Jabril Peppers

            • Comments: 86
              Joined: 9/28/2015
              PapaBear
              Sep 07, 2018 at 3:33 PM

              Your’re Right. Thanks!

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 07, 2018 at 4:34 PM

        Rumors of a knee surgery coming for Solomon.

        Good news: that explains the lack of production.

        Bad news: Might be out a while.

    • Comments: 962
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 07, 2018 at 1:00 PM

      Our DTs were a vulnerability last week. Hopefully that improves. If Western & SMU are able to move the ball, we can bet that PennSt & ohio will

      • Comments: 229
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        INTJohn
        Sep 07, 2018 at 9:27 PM

        Western has a guard and a center on the Outland Watch list………..
        I’m looking forward to seeing what plays out when they take on Michigan’s interior defensive line and Bush. Should be some good battles at the interior point of attack. ND gashed Michigan’s interior a few times; keep an eye on what Western does here.

  8. Comments: 8
    Joined: 9/2/2018
    johnnavarresrightarm
    Sep 07, 2018 at 1:22 PM

    Does anyone remember that hit by Jordan Kovacs? He lit up that Western QB. I was at the game and can still remember that pop.

  9. Comments: 4
    Joined: 9/7/2018
    lightning
    Sep 07, 2018 at 2:26 PM

    While reading the first section I was stunned not to see some mention of your man crush/daddy Ty Isaac. I’m sure he would have done much better!!!

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 07, 2018 at 2:34 PM

      The truth is, he might have done better. But we’ll never know. He’s out of eligibility.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 07, 2018 at 2:55 PM

        Don’t even pretend you’re not JACKED for February when Issac runs circles around the defenders of the Alliance of American Football.

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