Preview: Michigan vs. BYU

Preview: Michigan vs. BYU

September 25, 2015

Rush Offense vs. BYU Rush Defense

Michigan is #55 nationally in average yards per carry at 4.78 and #61 in yards per game with 185. Those numbers come after a poor start against a pretty good Utah defense and then two fairly easy games against overmatched opponents. Starter De’Veon Smith had just 13 carries for 33 yards last week, but he leads the team in rushing yards while averaging just 3.9 yards/carry. Head coach Jim Harbaugh likes him because of his toughness, but he is not the most productive runner. Harbaugh said last week that he won’t discuss position controversies outside of QB, but backup Ty Isaac is making a push for more playing time after an 8-carry, 114-yard performance against UNLV. He leads the team with 8.9 yards/carry and broke a 76-yarder for a touchdown last week. On the offensive line, right guard Kyle Kalis and center Graham Glasgow were noted following last week’s performance for their quality play, and the line does seem to be performing at a higher level than at most points over the past couple seasons. BYU is #74 in the country for giving up 162 yards/game on the ground, and their average per carry allowed is 4.58, good for just #92 nationally. However, their three games have come against some pretty good competition in Boise State, Nebraska, and UCLA. The Cougars run a 3-4 defense where the linemen are going to eat up blockers while the linebackers and safeties hopefully run free. Strong safety Michael Wadsworth (6’2″, 221 lbs.) leads the team with 22 tackles, followed by middle linebacker Harvey Langi (6’3″, 240 lbs.), weak inside linebacker Manoa Pikula (6’1″, 235 lbs.), and SAM linebacker Fred Warner (6’4″, 225 lbs.). Nose tackle Travis Tuiloma (6’2″, 300 lbs.) is a formidable player who might be returning from the injury he suffered in week one, although his career highs of 27 tackles and 6 tackles for loss in 2014 are nothing too frightening. Michigan had a good rushing day against Oregon State, who ran a 3-4 as well, although not with the same size or talent. Part of the reason is that it freed up left guard Ben Braden to pull and release to the second level, where his leverage issues aren’t as apparent as when he has to deal with down linemen.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for the remainder of the preview.

Pass Offense vs. BYU Pass Defense
Michigan is #101 nationally in passer rating, and fifth year senior quarterback Jake Rudock has thrown just 3 touchdowns compared to 5 interceptions. It has been a bit of a rough start, although Michigan has largely depended on the running game over the last couple weeks. A better rush defense this week will force Rudock to have to make a few more plays if Michigan wants to win this week. Michigan has a good tight end in Jake Butt (14 catches, 132 yards, 1 touchdown) and a good possession receiver in Amara Darboh (16 catches, 185 yards, 1 touchdown), but nobody has been able to take the top off the defense successfully. With Rudock’s struggles to throw the ball down the field, it’s a dink-and-dunk offense. To the Wolverines’ credit, they are tied for #6 in the nation in sacks allowed, having given up just 1 through three games. The Cougars will be a stiff test in that department, since they are tied for 27th with 7 sacks so far this year. Langi and backup nose tackle Logan Taele lead the team in sacks with 3 and 1.5, respectively. Meanwhile, free safety Kai Nacua (6’2″, 213 lbs.) has been a ballhawk so far this year with 4 interceptions and 3 pass breakups; three of those picks came against Boise State, and one was returned for a touchdown. The do-everything Langi has 2 interceptions of his own. Despite the interceptions (7 total, tied for #1) and sacks (#29 overall), BYU is a mediocre #59 in passer rating defense and gives up 7.1 yards/attempt.
Advantage: BYU

Rush Defense vs. BYU Rush Offense
Michigan is #15 nationally for giving up 93 yards/game on the ground, and that has come mostly against spread teams who want to run the football, though those teams’ competence is questionable. Michigan is also allowing just 2.62 yards/carry, which sits at #15 in the country, too. Senior inside linebackers Joe Bolden (26) and Desmond Morgan (19) pace the team, but the tackling could afford to be improved after the team missed 18 total tackles against UNLV last week. Michigan has a strong interior defensive line, and BYU will have to hit the edges if they want to find success running the ball. The Cougars’ strongest blockers are their interior guys, while their weakest guys are on the edge – a good matchup for Michigan’s defense. BYU is #112 nationally with just 122 yards/game on the ground and their 3.44 yards/carry puts them at #115. Those numbers are thrown off by the absence of dual-threat quarterback Tayson Hill, who has given way to more of a pocket guy in Tanner Mangum. Running back Adam Hine (6’1″, 216 lbs.) averages 6.1 yards/carry, but his backups have produced practically zilch. Hine can do some damage if he gets past the first level, but BYU averages over 40 passing attempts/game, so they’re not extremely committed to the running game.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. BYU Pass Offense
The Wolverines are #13 in passing yardage allowed (144 yards/game) and #30 in passer rating against, but the best quarterback they have faced so far was a pretty mediocre one in Utah’s Travis Wilson. They have not been tested much in the passing game, and Wilson did find some holes in Michigan’s coverage. Those numbers won’t hold up this week against Mangum and his crew. Michigan is tied for #68 in sacks, but no one has emerged as a standout rusher, so the Wolverines rely on blitzes to try to generate pressure. Michigan’s leading interceptor is backup cornerback Jeremy Clark, but the best player in the secondary is cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who is tied for #2 in pass breakups with 6 so far this season. Elsewhere, safety Jabrill Peppers has shown the ability tackle in open space, but overall, the safeties can be taken advantage of if put in one-on-one coverage situations. Mangum is completing almost 63% of his passes for 7.7 yards/attempt, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. His top target is Mitchell Juergens (5’10”, 182 lbs.), who has 13 catches for 244 yards (18.8 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns. Juergens and third-leading receiver Devon Blackmon are average size, but the other top-five receivers are all 6’5″ or 6’6″ and between 205 and 225 lbs. They may pose problems for Michigan’s cornerbacks, although the aforementioned Lewis is a technician and Clark did well against Oregon State’s 6’5″ wideout, Jordan Villamin. Regardless, this is a more effective passing attack than anything Michigan has seen so far. The Cougars will likely take advantage of Michigan’s lack of a pass rush and questionable linebacker coverage over the middle, so I expect this aspect of the game to be somewhat frustrating. Until I see the Wolverines generate a pass rush and improve their linebacker recognition in the passing game, I won’t be optimistic against decent passing offenses. The one saving grace may be that BYU is tied for #123 in the country for giving up 11 sacks already, so perhaps the Wolverines’ mediocre pass rushers can get home a couple times.
Advantage: BYU

Roster Notes

  • The only BYU player recruited by Michigan is LB Troy Hinds, who is injured.
  • Koy Detmer, Jr. is a freshman quarterback. He is the son of former Colorado and NFL quarterback Koy Detmer, as well as the nephew of former BYU Heisman winner Ty Detmer.
  • Sophomore linebacker Va’a Niumatalolo is the son of Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
  • Matt Foley is the name of a freshman long snapper.

Last Time They Played . . .

  • In the 1984 Holiday Bowl, BYU beat Michigan by a score of 24-17 in the two schools’ only meeting
  • Bob Perryman had 13 carries for 110 yards
  • Garland Rivers led the team with 18 tackles
  • Mike Mallory – whose son has been offered by Michigan – and Curt Mallory combined for 13 tackles and 1 interception (by Mike)


  • BYU loads up the box to dare Jake Rudock to beat them, resulting in a poor rushing day for the Wolverines
  • Rudock finally hits a deep throw to Jehu Chesson
  • Tanner Mangum picks apart Michigan in the middle of the field
  • BYU 28, Michigan 24


  1. Comments: 522
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Sep 25, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    “BYU 28, Michigan 24”

    Well, boo … I hope you’re wrong about that. We’ll see.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 25, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      I hope I’m wrong, too.

  2. Comments: 48
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 25, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    This is a game where we see how far the O-linr has come. If they can’t open holes against this team we could be in for a long season. Rudock has to be able to hit the open guys deep to open the run game up and keep the BYU defense honest.

    On Defense this could be the game where Peppers breaks out. Lewis and Stribling are gonna have to cover really well which could open Peppers for the middle of the field.

    Let’s hope your wrong on the score, but you are definitely being honest.

  3. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 25, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    My initial reactio when I saw Vegas post Michigan as -4 favorites was : why in the world isn’t BYU the favorite? They have a big ol mean DL, veteran LBs to smite Michigan’s run-oriented attack and Rudock doesn’t look ready to make them pay for the loaded up boxes. They have a big-armed QB with big WRs who make big plays and a squirrelly slot guy to convert key 3rd downs. This BYU team is quite good and very battle-tested for this early year.

    Then I dug into the advanced numbers and saw that BYU has been extremely lucky so far. Bill Connely has them +7 ppg in turnover luck (and Michigan -6) on the season. Worth noting that BYU were 16 point dogs at UCLA and that was coming off wins vs Boise State and BYU. They probably would have been right too, had it not been for all those Rosen INTs, as BYU’s defense looked unimpressive and their offense inconsistent.

    A closer look at the numbers said they played Nebraska to a standstill (hail mary aside, the game was dead even). They got a bit lucky vs Boise and very lucky vs UCLA to keep it close. Impressive outcomes, but less impressive statistically than one might think. Toss out the headlines, final scores, and turnover luck and you have a team that doesn’t look so scary anymore. Dig into yardage, turnovers, and circumstances and I think there’s a lot of reason for optimism.

    If this was a neutral field game at 3PM EST, with their best defensive player healthy, I think the line would be about even. But it’s not – BYU has 3 of it’s best players injured, has to travel to Michigan to play an early game, and has a disadvantage in preparation (since Michigan effectively gets an extra day due to differences in game times last saturday and travel, AND the fact that Michigan could look ahead a bit past UNLV.)

    Professional gamblers have seen the data, analyzed the circumstances, and reached a conclusion. They’ve put big bets behind Michigan to bump the line all the way to -7 late in the week.

    Sounds about right. Michigan 21 – BYU 13.

    I do have worries about the run game and Rudock against this D. However, I think we’ll see Butt be the focal point again, a lot of screens and easy stuff, and a big play at last for Harris leading to Rudocks best game of the year. I also expect some clever tricks from Harbaugh.

    Defensively, I think our secondary can lock their passing game down. I expect Hill and Wilson to come in for more action (and praise) than they have had all year. Somebody like Stribling, Clark, or Peppers will get beat a few times, but no one is going to be an exploitable weak link. Mangum drops at least 2 INTs as our DL shuts down the run game and keeps him from rolling right.

  4. Comments: 3
    Joined: 9/26/2015
    Sep 26, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    You seem much more down on the defense than I am. I think the defensive backs are looking better and that the defensive line has been getting pretty good pressure. I guess perspective depends on how much of a handicap you give them for going against such weak opponents in weeks 2 and 3.

    I also am not so sure that I’d describe BYU’s passing offense as “effective.” They seem to flounder for large stretches before hitting on the occasional hail mary or desperation heave. It makes their stats look good, but that is definitely not a sustainable or reliable approach to offense. I guess they have a pretty massive WR corp, which makes those down field bombs a little more reliable, but I still am skeptical that that is an approach they can consistently rely on working.

    My primary concern is how well Rudock handles the blitz pressure. He’s going to have to make quick decisions and get the ball out for a lot of short and intermediate passes in the face of a variety of blitzes. I’m not sure I’ve seen him yet handle that kind of pressure well. I fear we’ll see more bad decisions, as he gets rattled early. That’s the key to BYU winning this game – not their passing offense, but their blitzing D.

  5. Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 26, 2015 at 8:50 AM

    We’ll see if Harbaugh is capable of coaching this team up and putting a winning game plan into effect. This is a winnable game, but also one that we could easily lose. Coaching will be the difference, IMO.

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