Playing with House Money: 2022 Michigan Football

Zososoxfan

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After last year's breakthrough against OSU, the volume of Michigan's football preseason is lower than usual (for me anyway). Nevertheless, Michigan returns a very good squad against a weak schedule and should compete for a conference title.

The loaded and experienced offense will have to carry the load this year for a young D with some real holes. At QB, Michigan has 2 very good players in Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy. Cade was underrated last year, but his conservative throw selection was buoyed by an elite D. This year Cade will have to take and hit more shots to keep the crazy-talented JJM off the field. JJM has all the tools you'd want from a QB, but he had plenty of freshman mistakes last year that kept him as the clear second option. I expect Cade will start the season as the starter, but JJM will take over midway through when Michigan needs a more effective O. Both will gets tons of snaps this year. At RB, Michigan lost Hassan Haskins to the NFL but returns crazy-talented Blake Corum and electric Donavan Edwards. They may struggle in short yardage but both these guys are home run threats on every touch. They'll be running behind a very strong OL again, which returns 3 starters in LT Ryan Hayes, OGs Zach Zinter and Trevor Keegan, and they've brought in a Rimington award finalist (best C in the country) in Oluwatimi from UVA. Trente Jones is expected to start at RT, and Karsen Barnhart can back up almost every position on this line. They should maul in the run game and be very good in pass pro, although the OTs may be susceptible to elite bendy ends. The TEs in Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker are also excellent blockers, and All is a very good target. At WR, Michigan is far more stacked than they deserve for a team that runs the ball so much. Cornelius Johnson looks like a NFLer on the outside, Ronnie Bell returns from a torn ACL to play in the slot, and Michigan has strong returning starters in Roman Wilson, AJ Henning, and Andrel Anthony. They also nabbed a couple of exciting freshmen in Amorion Walker and Darrius Clemons.

On D, it's a different story. This team will struggle to replace 2 1st rounders in Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson at SDE and Dax Hill at S/CB, and 2nd rounder WDE David OJABO. Generally speaking the D should be very good against the run, with the biggest questions surrounding how to generate pressure. The team returns everyone in the secondary and the D will lean heavily on the secondary living on islands in order to generate said pressure--through a D system aped from the Ravens. While not elite recruits or toolsy (outside of RJ Moten), the secondary should be sound and organized. There's not a high ceiling on returning players at CB but there should be some depth. Perhaps the biggest thing to look out for is elite recruit Will Johnson as CB breaking thru as early as possible to bring elite athleticism, and perhaps fellow top 100 recruits Keon Sabb or Zeke Berry also breaking thru later in the season. LB may be improved with talented and super-fast LB Junior Colson having another year in college ball. Guy covers a ton of territory but took a lot of wrong steps last year. Hill-Green is the other returning LB that should see lots of time. At DT, Michigan is hoping Mazi Smith can be a real force on a lot of snaps or at a minimum make life easier for DT-mate Kris Jenkins. There's not much depth behind them. DE is the biggest hole on the squad, with only Mike Morris giving any confidence as an opening day starter. Taylor Upshaw is interesting, Braden McGregor has potential, and there are a couple of other guys that are interesting, but they all profile as run-stoppers first as opposed to bendy game-disruptors. The X factor on the DL may be the development of top 50-100 recruit Derrick Moore. Reports say he's coming in fairly polished, but realistically the hope has to be that he can break thru later in the season.

What gives me hope for big(gish) things this season is the schedule setting up so nicely. Michigan starts with 4 games that they should absolutely win and get to work on weak spots (Colo. St, Hawaii, UConn, Maryland) before heading to Iowa City on 10/01. Getting Iowa earlier in the season than later is hugely helpful, as late season Kinnick is brutal. Michigan gets PSU and MSU at home with a bye week in between, and has 3 relatively easy games (@Rutgers, Nebraska, Illinois) before The Game @the Shoe. This season looks like it will be defined by 4 games--the 3 division rivalries and the early tilt @Iowa. 8-4 is the floor, 9-3 probably the biggest part of the curve, 10-2 eminently reasonable, 11-1 not out of the question, and 12-0 unlikely as always but possible depending on the strength of the rivals and bad Kinnick juju.

GO BLUE!
 

Granite Sox

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Word out of preseason camp is that the interior DL looks a little better than anticipated. Moore has gotten recent buzz as being the true freshman most ready to contribute irrespective of position. The LB corps seems a little thin/inexperienced beyond the presumptive starters (Colson, Hill-Green, and Mike Barrett). Hood, McLaurin, Pollard, Rolder, Spurlock are the names of the backups. Jaylen Harrell is listed as an LB, but he seems slotted for Ojabo's former spot at the end of the line, and even started over him in the Orange Bowl vs. Georgia.

One minor quibble with your (very good) note: the secondary is not all back; Vincent Gray bolted early and is(?) a UDFA with the Saints. Gemon Green returns for a 5th year and looks to be the starter opposite DJ Turner. I also expect Will Johnson to get plenty of run, as well as Ja'Den McBurrows if/when he returns from injury. Berry is supposedly "popping" as a freshman, but Sabb apparently is a little farther away from contributing ostensibly because he is learning both safety positions (resulting in a steeper learning curve).
 

Zososoxfan

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Word out of preseason camp is that the interior DL looks a little better than anticipated. Moore has gotten recent buzz as being the true freshman most ready to contribute irrespective of position. The LB corps seems a little thin/inexperienced beyond the presumptive starters (Colson, Hill-Green, and Mike Barrett). Hood, McLaurin, Pollard, Rolder, Spurlock are the names of the backups. Jaylen Harrell is listed as an LB, but he seems slotted for Ojabo's former spot at the end of the line, and even started over him in the Orange Bowl vs. Georgia.

One minor quibble with your (very good) note: the secondary is not all back; Vincent Gray bolted early and is(?) a UDFA with the Saints. Gemon Green returns for a 5th year and looks to be the starter opposite DJ Turner. I also expect Will Johnson to get plenty of run, as well as Ja'Den McBurrows if/when he returns from injury. Berry is supposedly "popping" as a freshman, but Sabb apparently is a little farther away from contributing ostensibly because he is learning both safety positions (resulting in a steeper learning curve).
Good shout on Vince Gray. I forgot Brad Hawkins too which is a big D'OH (especially so considering he's with the Pats), as he's only the record holder for most appearances in program history with 51(!). I'm just hoping that Gray and Hinton's premature departures have to do with getting passed on the depth chart. They were both solid starters last year.

While I think DT is a relative strength of the D, a lot depends on Jenkins taking advantage of the attention that Mazi will presumably get. Mazi isn't a twitchy guy like Hurst, he's just an incredibly strong NFL-shaped NT. Hopefully he can bull rush effectively to limit the QB's view and time in the pocket, but Jenkins will be the guy we hope gets some interior pass rush. Problem is the lack of a threat from the DEs means that good OLs will double/chip the DTs and leave their OTs 1v1. I'm confident we can scheme some pressure, but there's also the issue of short depth behind Mazi/Jenkins.

Just looking at last year's stats makes it even scarier (TFL, sacks, FF):

Hutch - 16.5 TFL (!), 14 sacks (!!), 2 FF
O-JA-BO - 12, 11, 5 (!)
Ross - 9, 0.5
Dax - 4.5, 0.5
Gray - 3.5, 1, 1
Hawkins - 3, 0, 2

That's a fuckload of production. Now, I think it's possible Colson/NHG can improve upon Ross's numbers, maybe Turner or Green can do better than Gray, and perhaps more importantly we see more TFLs and sacks from the LBs and Secondary generally (especially at S), but it's clearly a glaring weakness and JH better get comfortable getting into shootouts when the D can't get stops. I'm sure he'll plan to control clock with the O, but they'll need the O to be multifaceted to really make noise this season.

The one silver lining in the production numbers from last year is that Upshaw is probably due for a big season. In just 4 games he had 3.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks, and if he can extrapolate that we have at least one guy on the outside who can be a difference maker.
 

Granite Sox

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As the Michigan football team's fall camp comes to a close, the eighth-ranked Wolverines have voted on their captains for the 2022 season. Fifth-year senior receiver Ronnie Bell, senior tight end Erick All, redshirt junior quarterback Cade McNamara, redshirt junior defensive tackle Mazi Smith and senior defensive back Mike Sainristil were voted by their teammates as captains for the coming season.
Michigan football names 2022 captains

Interesting. Some respected leaders on this list. Mazi Smith has come a long way over the past couple of seasons.
 

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Thoughts after today’s game? D was very solid. Not really dominant early, but our depth showed on a hot day. Offense was… not explosive. Workmanlike, but I was disappointed that they didn’t show more looks with McNamara out there. When given only one or two options, Cade struggled to extend plays. (He also was simply inaccurate early.). Why not play some 4 wide and let the “field general“ see and exploit mismatches? Playing conservatively, leaning on the O line, is fine - against lesser competition. I was hoping they’d show more wrinkles with such an experienced group. Did they even take one shot down the field? Maybe they’re saving that for conference play. But McCarthy has an opportunity next week. And there is also a ton of depth on O. 15 guys caught passes! Stokes also looked good.

Special teams look excellent again.
 
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Zososoxfan

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Looking back, I'm not sure why I thought Upshaw was a good shout for a breakout. He probably collected those stats in garbage time or while all the attention was being paid to Hutch. This year he's basically the bar to get real PT, but he's also been passed by Macgregor, Anoma, and Moore, perhaps others. More importantly, this is a good thing as those guys all have higher upside and more eligibility.

I know JH said he's going to name a starter after this week, but I don't believe him. I think he'll certainly take at least week 3 to get both lots of PT and ensure that his eventual pick deserves the bigger share. And the likeliest result here is that JJ gets the job, but Cade gets about the same amount of snaps as JJ did last year.
 

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I know JH said he's going to name a starter after this week, but I don't believe him. I think he'll certainly take at least week 3 to get both lots of PT and ensure that his eventual pick deserves the bigger share. And the likeliest result here is that JJ gets the job, but Cade gets about the same amount of snaps as JJ did last year.
I know that these early games are against cupcakes, but if the trend from last week continues, I think McCarthy is named the starter.

More specifically, I don’t know if it was nerves (which would be odd) or he was too pumped up, but Cade looked bad out of the gate, missing short throws by a lot. If he even wants a chance to be named, I think he needs to light it up in a reserve role.
 

Average Reds

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JJ has won the starting job.
I get that they were playing against low-level competition, but McCarthy looks to be everything we had hoped for. The athleticism, instincts, arm strength, accuracy … it’s all there.

Harbaugh must see a lot of himself in McNamara, so I’m sure this was a difficult decision. That he still made it without flinching is to his credit.

Still won’t know how good the defense is until they go up against real competition, but the offense has the potential to be elite.
 

Zososoxfan

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Yeah, welcome to the JJ era. In retrospect, JH gave Cade the first start out of respect and to keep him in the program. And TBF, I do expect we'll see Cade play meaningful minutes this year either due to injury or a mistake-prone JJ.

Can't take much of anything from this game, other than JJ. DL played well again, so did the D generally. Onto the next cupcake.
 

Zososoxfan

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OK. Preseason is over, and now we can at least play teams with a pulse. Interesting couple of games here as Maryland looks decent, sporting an explosive offense but shit D, and @Iowa the following week who has a very good D but putrid O.
 

Eric1984

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I'm glad we came away with the win. I'm also oddly glad Turtle got the late TD because a 34-19 final score would make it look more one-sided than it was. I was disappointed with the performance at home in a game that -- while the opponent was clearly better than expected -- still should have been a rout. The losses on D really seem to hurt once you get past the cupcake games. Hopefully the new starters will settle in. Because if they play like this going forward, we're looking at 8-4.
 

snowmanny

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Sloppy and too close. On the other hand Maryland is not horrible and should petition to switch divisions.
 

Jason Bae

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Just wish they had tried throwing short and underneath earlier than they did. They weren't having much luck against Maryland's zone defense. They did leave points on the board with that fumble and the missed FG, though they got gifted on the opening kickoff.

Nothing bad can ever happen at Kinnick...
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGfKb5winmc
 

Average Reds

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Because if they play like this going forward, we're looking at 8-4.
I don't disagree, but judging a team based on one flat game isn't realistic.

Every team - from Alabama to tOSU - has a game or two during the season where things just don't click. (Last year's Michigan team barely beat Rutgers and Nebraska, yet they rolled when it counted at the end of the season.) This offense is loaded and versatile to the point where they should be able to play with anyone. The defense is more of a work in progress.

I do believe next week may be a rock fight but Michigan should prevail. And that's what matters. Just win.
 

Jason Bae

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I don't disagree, but judging a team based on one flat game isn't realistic.

Every team - from Alabama to tOSU - has a game or two during the season where things just don't click. (Last year's Michigan team barely beat Rutgers and Nebraska, yet they rolled when it counted at the end of the season.) This offense is loaded and versatile to the point where they should be able to play with anyone. The defense is more of a work in progress.

I do believe next week may be a rock fight but Michigan should prevail. And that's what matters. Just win.
It's also possible Maryland is fairly decent. 30th in S&P+, just behind Iowa (27th) and Wisky (29th).

Not worried about going 8-4, still think they've got a good shot at 10-2 or even 11-1. I don't think Michigan matches up very well against OSU right now though. I think the offense can certainly hang, but it's just hard to see the defensive line putting a lot of pressure on Stroud (and Hutchinson/Ojabo played a pretty big role in last year's win). Could also see them eating our LBs alive. Hopefully our edge rushers improve.
 

Zososoxfan

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Agree with everyone that it's hard to be optimistic about the team after that MD game. But, I think it should be viewed in conjunction with these week's game @Kinnick. It was their first real opponent, and that was JJ's first start against a real opponent. Corum is legit, Michigan has 3 good/great TEs even without Eric All, and the OL played pretty well. JJ had a bad game, but he obviously still has the tools and I hope and expect he'll play better going forward. The D looks shaky. Best case there is MD's OL is better than we give them credit for. But the DBs are a STRONG group, and hopefully that lets Minter 'cheat' a bit more with the front 7 and generate pressure, or at least get the run under control.
 

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Weird game in some ways. A dropped ball away from a pick 6 and runaway 27-0 game turned into a game that got a bit tight at 20-7 with Iowa inside the 5 early ish 4th quarter… but the D held and that was pretty much that. Overall the offense was fairly efficiently against a pretty great D, on the road, first difficult environment of the season.
 

Average Reds

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Wasn’t perfect, but that’s a pretty solid victory at Kinnock.

As an aside, Blake Corum is just a hellaciously tough runner. Too bad he’ll be gone at the end of the year.
 

Zososoxfan

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Pretty encouraging win @Kinnick. The run game is real, and the TEs are a real strength. Don't love the pass blocking thus far, especially on the right side, and I'd like to get our WRs activated more, but hard not to like what's going on so far on O. Hopefully teams will see that we're plenty good at establishing the run and working underneath, and will take more risks, leaving more opportunities for the WRs. Because I think with all the talent and high profile guys we're getting at the position, we need to feature them a bit more. Also great to see Donovan Edwards back at it. I'm already a bit worried about Corum's workload. Also good to see Keegan back at LG. Any official word on Eric All?

On D, it was nice to see some pressure, especially to close out the game. But it looks like that's going to be opponent-specific. We're going to do better against lighter lines where our power DL can bullrush, but against more mauling teams where speed is a better weapon we'll see how we fare.
 

Average Reds

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On D, it was nice to see some pressure, especially to close out the game. But it looks like that's going to be opponent-specific. We're going to do better against lighter lines where our power DL can bullrush, but against more mauling teams where speed is a better weapon we'll see how we fare.
I’m actually very bullish on the rapid development of Eyabi Okie. (A/K/A “the grad transfer formerly known as Anoma”) Ton of talent and still learning the system. If Morris continues along the same path, they may look like the second coming of Hutchinson and Ojabo by the end of the season.

Penn State will be a critical test.
 

Zososoxfan

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I like me some Okie, but I'm particularly bullish on Derrick Moore. He seems like one of those players who comes in with very good natural abilities and polish for a true freshman, who starts to put it together by the end of the season. Realistically, Michigan needs Okie, Moore, and maybe even MacGregor to hit, in addition to Morris' continued strong showings, to have a good rotation and be able to weather potential injuries. I'm not sure where Harrell fits in. Have we heard anything about Welschof this season?? The other thing I'm curious to see is if Benny, Rooks, and/or Graham continue to play well and show consistency, is whether they can kick Jenkins outside. Not sure if that's even an option. But they do need to develop some more Ojabo-like pass rush to hang against very good teams I think.

PSU is the best non-OSU offense left on the schedule, but UI is currently the best scoring D in the nation (!). And I don't think next week @IU is going to be a walk in the park. I'd say leaving in-state bad juju aside, the games against @IU, @UI, and PSU are all tougher than MSU.
 

Eric1984

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Game wasn't nearly as close as the score either. Cue up the "Penn State is overrated and shouldn't even be ranked. And neither should Michigan because they haven't played anyone" narrative.
 

Average Reds

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Game wasn't nearly as close as the score either. Cue up the "Penn State is overrated and shouldn't even be ranked. And neither should Michigan because they haven't played anyone" narrative.
That will be the narrative and it doesn’t matter at all. If they beat Ohio State they’ll prove their worth and make the playoffs.

Tremendous performance. Bring on MSU.
 

Zososoxfan

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Yeah, that's a pretty encouraging win. PSU was hanging their hat on run D and explosive plays on O. Michigan ran them over to the tune of 400+ rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs. Corum and Edwards each had 150+ yards and 2 TDs. JJ added 50+ himself. PSU had Clifford's long run, and that was it. Impressive performance and excellent coaching on the D side especially.

My biggest non-injury related concern at this point is that Michigan is slightly too reliant on their run game. This team was trailing in the second half for the first time all season, and it was by one point early in the 3rd quarter. But what if Michigan goes down and needs to chase a game? I really do believe that JJ and his WRs have all the talent they need, but the passing game has definitely been a complement to the run game so far this season. If Michigan can't establish the run, can the OL pass block long enough to get into longer patterns? I mean, maybe it really goes down like it did last year and Michigan can impose their will on the entire conference, including OSU, but the remaining schedule prior to OSU likely won't involve any shootouts, as MSU, Nebraska, and Illinois are all defense first teams.

MSU, Nebraska, and Illinois all rank between 60-80 in the country by points, yards, and Offensive FEI. Per FEI, Nebraska's D is ranked in the 90s, MSU is in the 60s, Rutgers is in the 50s, and Illinois is top 5. So even granting that Illinois is a top 25 team (FEI has them at 31), if that game's competitive it will likely be low scoring. Maybe MSU or Nebraska gets silly and turns into an offensive show, but I doubt it. It's worth mentioning that MSU has the highest overall FEI ranking (55) of MSU, Nebraska (81), and Rutgers (99).

All of this is to say that I hope Michigan tries a pass-heavier approach during some of these games, as sort of a 'tie your hands around your back' exercise. Based on average pass yards allowed, here are the national ranks:

Illinois, 2
OSU, 7
Michigan, 9
Rutgers, 27 (!)
MSU, 107 (lol)
Nebraska, 121 [jaw hits ground]

Against the run:

Illinois, 3
Michigan, 6
Rutgers, 8 (!)
OSU, 9
MSU, 80
Nebraska, 117 (!)

I have no idea how Rutgers translates those numbers into their team D and overall rankings, other than by just saying...joisey [shrugs].

So Nebraska's D is just bad and Michigan will likely run to setup the pass. But against MSU and Rutgers, it would make sense to pass to setup the run considering both teams are stouter against the run. Now, I never played football and it's possible that it's more important to JH that the team 'play their game' and go strength against...not biggest weakness, but Michigan ranks 109/131 nationally in pass attempts, and I'd like to see some more balance in the next month.
 

Zososoxfan

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MSU improved their run D to 60th nationally, but their passing D is actually down to 111th. Michigan should absolutely pass to setup the run on Saturday, but I could easily see Harbaugh insisting that Michigan first try to run MSU to Bolivia.

How is everyone feeling about this? I mean, it's a night game at home, but this game has always defied expectations. Is this a Michigan blowout, does MSU cover, or does Michigan end with egg on it's face again this year?

Thank goodness Kenneth Walker is gone.
 

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MSU has had a really shitty season and I don’t think they are too much of a threat, but they have enough talent on that roster to begin the season as a highly-ranked team. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m nervous about Michigan as a massive favorite in this game.

Don’t think there will be egg on anyone’s face, but I’d love to see a comfortable game from the outset.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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Last year’s collapse should ward off complacency or cockiness by Michigan. And watching both teams this year, it shouldn’t be close. But weird and bad stuff happens in this game too often to not be nervous!

I really hope we come out with a varied offensive game plan. MSU is likely to stack the box and clog the middle to try to shut down Corum and the running game, so taking a deep shot or two early makes sense, and pressuring MSU’s secondary generally should be a big part of the game plan early. Defensively, play with the same discipline we showed against PSU. I don’t think we need to be over-aggressive; MSU is going to have a hard time sustaining 10+ play drives against us.

We’re at home. I think we should cover easily. But I’ve thought that before.
 

Jason Bae

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I'm loving the MSU special teams gaffes after having to hear about TROUBLE WITH THE SNAP all fucking week.
 

thehitcat

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I’ll admit to being a Bo disciple but I love leaning on teams until they cave. Would I prefer they figure out their red zone touchdown issues? Sure but mostly I love making teams quit. Especially State. Welcome home Paul.
 

soxhop411

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Penn State complained about that tunnel a few weeks ago and UM behavior. Awful look for those players, yikes.
Awful is an understatement. Those MSU players should not see the field again (and by again I mean kicked off the team). That was assault. 10v1
 

Humphrey

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Mel Tucker's 90 million dollar contract ain't lookin like such a good move for Sparty.
 

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Penn State complained about that tunnel a few weeks ago and UM behavior. Awful look for those players, yikes.
To be clear, the incident with Penn State involved some PSU players throwing sandwiches. (A literal nothingburger.)

https://www.clickondetroit.com/all-about-ann-arbor/2022/10/18/dietitian-penn-state-threw-pbjs-at-michigan-football-players-before-being-run-out-of-big-house/

Regardless, the assault this week means that the procedure for entering the tunnel at halftime and postgame will now be changed. (As it should be.)
 

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I’ve seen the two videos, but can’t find much information on the context. The helmet swinging seems indefensible, so good luck to that player. The “10-on-1” video shows MSU players whacking at Green but it’s not clear how that started. I suppose it’s going to take more witness testimony to get that information.

Is there anything else out there so far other than the two videos and reporting available?
 

Zososoxfan

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I’ve seen the two videos, but can’t find much information on the context. The helmet swinging seems indefensible, so good luck to that player. The “10-on-1” video shows MSU players whacking at Green but it’s not clear how that started. I suppose it’s going to take more witness testimony to get that information.

Is there anything else out there so far other than the two videos and reporting available?
I don't think it matters how it started. I mean, unless there's video of Green or McBurrows throwing the first punch (not alleged nor seen yet), all of these MSU players are likely to be charged by Washtenaw County, and at least in Green's case, by Green.
 

Eric1984

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Gotta think they'll get their shit together in the 2nd half but so far this is just painful to watch.
 

Eric1984

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Yes! And even after the blocked punt, I realized they had punted once in the MSU game and not at all vs. Penn State, so they had 1 punting play in like the last month...
 

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CFP should rank them #2 ahead of OSU, which looked bad against a one win team.
They won’t (IMO) which is reflective of the soft early schedule. But it really doesn’t matter, as it all comes down to beating Ohio State.

BTW, I was at the game last night and the early third quarter blitz was even more impressive in person, as the defense just completely clamped down on Rutgers after halftime adjustments.
 

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They won’t (IMO) which is reflective of the soft early schedule. But it really doesn’t matter, as it all comes down to beating Ohio State.

BTW, I was at the game last night and the early third quarter blitz was even more impressive in person, as the defense just completely clamped down on Rutgers after halftime adjustments.
Yes, I agree. OSU didn’t lose, on the road, in bad weather, so why penalize them?

But…. Anyone who’s watched them the past two weeks has to realize they’ve been mediocre in both games for 3+ quarters. Maybe getting their RB and WR back will make a huge difference, but their lines don’t dominate. If they’re really the #2 team, we might as well give GA the trophy now.

Hoping UM works out the kinks in their downfield passing O and D and then crushes their remaining Big 10 opponents.