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College Football 2013: Week 12 Recap
Friday, 2013 November 22 - 4:59 pm
Michigan wins in bizarre fashion; N.C. State loses again.

Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT)
I think it's safe to say that Michigan didn't really deserve to win this game.

Northwestern had a large number of dropped interceptions which could have salted the game away early. As it was, Michigan still failed to sustain drives on offense; I believe they didn't convert a single third-down play until overtime. But the defense hung tough and gave Michigan a chance for a game-tying drive in regulation, down 9-6.

On that final drive, Michigan had to convert on fourth down twice. On the final series, Michigan was sacked on first down and threw incomplete on second down. Facing 3rd and 23 with some 20 seconds left, Michigan threw a 16-yard completion... inbounds and short of the sticks. The clocked ticked down from 11 seconds as Michigan scrambled to get the field goal unit on the field. I thought to myself, "this never, ever works." But Michigan got set, snapped the ball with one second left, and Brendan Gibbons nailed the 44-yard field goal. Michigan ended up moving the ball better in overtime (perhaps Northwestern was demoralized) and eventually pulled out the win.

The good: we did see a couple of hopeful points on offense. First, Borges dialed up the bubble screen a few times, and then had a fake bubble screen draw play as a constraint play for it. That helped open up some running lanes for Derrick Green (who started in place of Toussaint; the coaches claimed that Toussaint had been injured during the week). Second, Michigan went to straight up inside zone blocking for most of the day: no pulling guards, nothing fancy, just mash and plow. That ended up being rather effective, certainly compared to the last couple of weeks. Third, Michigan rolled the pocket for Gardner; while that makes it harder on Gardner in some ways (it compresses the field and takes away scrambling lanes), it also helps simplify the blocking assignments (they can simply slide to the rollout side and not worry too much about backside pressure). So at least Al has learned a few things.

Also on the good side: Mattison has quickly figured out how to defend the option pitch: come out in cover-two, and as soon as the defense diagnoses the option, send the strong safety (usually Thomas Gordon) screaming upfield to take away the pitch man. The linebacker can focus on stopping the quarterback and forcing the pitch. This turned out to be extraordinarily effective; I wish we'd brought that out against Nebraska. Of course, Ohio State will blow this up every now and then with an option pass, but that's probably better than giving up 10 yards every time.

On the bad side: Gardner frequently threw into coverage, mostly I think because the Northwestern defense knew exactly what was coming. Northwestern would send zone blitzes a lot, dropping defensive ends into coverage right where Gardner was throwing. I still don't think Borges realizes how much we're tipping our play calls. Michigan was extremely fortunate not to end up with a half-dozen interceptions on the day; mostly, Northwestern defenders simply dropped the ball.

But a win is a win. It gets Michigan to 7-3 and we're now guaranteed to at least have a winning season. So I'm not going to complain too loudly about this game. I'm still not particularly enthused about our chances against Iowa and Ohio State.

Heroes: Mattison, defensive line, offensive line (hooray!).
Goats: Borges (but only 1x this time).

Next week: At Iowa.

N.C. State 21, Boston College 38
Brandon Mitchell didn't play in this one... he was out with some kind of injury. Or that's what the coaches said, anyway. Pete Thomas played adequately, but State didn't run the ball very well (or very much). Excluding sacks, State rushed for 88 yards on 21 carries... it certainly seems like they went away from the ground game too early. Meanwhile BC was nearly impossible for State to stop on the ground, gaining 420 yards on 53 carries. Yeesh.

State gets East Carolina at home this Saturday and ECU is a 6-point favorite.

Other Notable Games
#1 Alabama struggled a bit but put away Mississippi State 20-7.

#2 Florida State demolished Syracuse 59-3. More about FSU in the next post...

#3 Ohio State cruised by Illinois 60-35, but the defense looked a bit shaky at times. I still think they have a few vulnerabilities (though probably not enough for Michigan to beat them).

#4 Stanford was upset by USC 20-17 on a last-minute field goal. USC is a scary opponent for anyone right now.

#5 Baylor crushed Texas Tech 63-34.

#7 Auburn beat #25 Georgia 43-38 with help from a crazy desperation pass late in the game. This was after a furious Georgia comeback where they scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the lead.

#10 South Carolina beat Florida 19-14. Florida is now 4-6.

#12 Oklahoma State handily beat #24 Texas 38-13. Oklahoma State has a fierce slate ahead of them, though: Baylor and Oklahoma are up next, with the Big-12 title on the line.

#16 Michigan State soundly beat Nebraska 41-28. The only team left standing between them and the Big Ten championship game is, surprisingly, Minnesota. Yeah, remember that team that Michigan beat 42-13? They're the only other team in the Legends division with a chance to get to the title game.

#22 Wisconsin destroyed Indiana 51-3. Indiana ran up 47 points against Michigan and even managed to score 28 against Michigan State... and Wisconsin holds them to 3? Wisconsin is scary good right now.

Duke beat #23 Miami 48-30. Duke is well on their way to the ACC title game where they will probably get killed by Florida State... but still, well done Duke. As for Miami... just ha.

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