Stats & Info: Michigan

Seven signees that will impact 2013 season

February, 8, 2013

Zuma Press/Icon SMNotre Dame's Greg Bryant (with ball) is a 2013 signee than can make an immediate impact this fall.
Signing day has come and gone and with much of the ESPN 300 having made their college decisions, we look at seven signees from the 2013 class that can make an immediate impact next fall:

RB Greg Bryant, Notre Dame
Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick are gone, leaving a vacancy in the backfield and over 300 carries to go around. Bryant is the first top-10 running back the Irish have signed since James Aldridge in 2006. Notre Dame posted a respectable 4.9 yards per carry as a team last season and will return three starters on the offensive line. With returning dual-threat quarterback Everett Golson, Bryant should have plenty of room to work.

QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Matt McGloin threw for eight touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 2011. He had the same amount of picks last season, but led the Big Ten in both yards (3,271) and touchdowns (24) through the air. The difference? Coach Bill O’Brien, who tailored his offense to McGloin’s skills. Hackenberg's No. 1 ranking indicates his physical tools and with O’Brien’s help, will likely be put in a position to succeed.

ILB Reuben Foster, Alabama
Is Alabama the new hotbed for talented linebackers? Nick Saban is certainly making a case for it. Under Saban, the Tide’s marquee linebackers have all been in the running for the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker). With Nico Johnson heading for the draft, Foster could very well step in next to C.J. Mosley to solidify the front seven on one of the most dominant defensive units in the FBS.

WR Robbie Rhodes, Baylor
Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson are leaving Waco, but the Bears will still be running their wide-open offensive scheme and need playmakers on the outside. Losing Williams is huge, as no player in FBS had more receiving yards than he did last season. But Rhodes is the highest-rated player the Bears have signed since the ESPN 150 began in 2006, and he is the first top-10 receiver they have signed as well.

RB Derrick Green, Michigan
Fitz Toussaint’s status for 2013 is unknown following ankle surgery and by the end of last season, Denard Robinson was getting a majority of the carries at running back with Devin Gardner at quarterback. Green is the highest-ranked running back prospect to head to Ann Arbor in the history of the ESPN 150, and without Robinson or a healthy Toussaint, the Wolverines backfield should have plenty of carries up for grabs.

ATH Greg Taboada & TE Eric Cotton Jr., Stanford
There is not a school in the country which has relied on its tight ends more than Stanford in recent seasons. Like Coby Fleener before them, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are headed for the NFL draft and the Cardinal are looking for help at a vital position in their offense. The last top-20 tight end that signed with Stanford was Davis Dudchock in 2010, but he has yet to catch a pass in his collegiate career. Cotton is a pure tight end, while Taboada projects at either tight end or as a pass rusher - which is another position the Cardinal value, as the FBS leader in sacks last season.

Keep an eye on Eifert, because 'Bama will

January, 5, 2013
When the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Monday, one of the biggest difference-makers on the field could be Tyler Eifert.

Eifert, this season’s John Mackey Award winner, given annually to the nation’s top tight end, is the latest and possibly the best in a long line of great players Notre Dame has produced at that position.

Notre Dame’s last three starting tight ends –- Anthony Fasano (2003-05), John Carlson (2004-07) and Kyle Rudolph (2008-10) –- are all playing in the NFL, yet no tight end has caught more passes for more yards in Irish history than Eifert.

A major reason Eifert could be the player who gives the Crimson Tide defense more fits than anyone else is that Alabama has had issues when its linebackers are forced into pass coverage.

When opposing offenses have lined up in four-or-five-receiver sets against the Tide, they’ve been more effective than in sets with three or fewer receivers.

The numbers are even more telling when you take a look at the five games in which Alabama faced ranked opponents (Michigan, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia).

No team was more successful than the Aggies, a natural spread-offense team with a mobile, redshirt freshman quarterback; eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel completed 19 of 23 passes for 184 yards and 2 TD when A&M operated out of a four-or-five-receiver set in a 29-24 upset in Tuscaloosa, the Tide’s only loss of the season.

In comes Notre Dame, also a natural spread-offense team with a mobile, redshirt freshman quarterback. As a unit, the Irish passing attack is better when operating out of a four-or-five-receiver set.

However, when it comes to Eifert, the senior has been more effective when working out of a set with three or fewer receivers (including him), a formation that usually dictates opposing defenses cover him with a linebacker.

When the Irish had three or fewer receivers on the field and Eifert was the targeted receiver, they completed 25 of 42 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

He was most lethal when Notre Dame operated out of what’s known as “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) and he was the targeted receiver.

In those situations, the Irish were 15-of-23 for 208 yards and a touchdown. But when operating out of a four-or-five-receiver set and Eifert was targeted, Notre Dame was 19-of-33 for 261 yards and no touchdowns.

In other words, Eifert’s presence opened things up for the other receivers.

Therein lies the conundrum for Alabama. What should the Tide do with Eifert?

No one’s had success covering him with a linebacker when the Irish are operating out of “21” (two backs, one tight end) or “11” personnel and rolling the coverage over toward him when they’ve operated from four-or-empty (five-receiver) sets only opened things up for Notre Dame’s other capable pass catchers like TJ Jones, Robby Toma and Theo Riddick when they move him from running back spot and into the slot-receiver position.

It’s a sure bet that Nick Saban is glad to have had the extra time to prepare for this problem.

SEC duo may top AP Poll for first time ever

August, 17, 2012
The release of the preseason AP Poll officially means college football is right around the corner. This weekend's release does have some drama attached, as Alabama, LSU and USC each have claims to being ranked preseason No. 1. Here are some things to look for when the poll is released on Saturday:

• If Alabama and LSU are No. 1 and No. 2, it would be the fifth time (and first since 1987) where the Top-2 teams in the preseason poll came from the same conference. In all four previous instances, neither team ranked first or second went on to win the national title. Alabama and LSU would be the first SEC schools to accomplish the feat.

• In the Coaches' Poll, Alabama, LSU and USC had 20, 18 and 19 first-place votes, respectively. In the history of the preseason AP Poll, only once have three teams been separated by two first place votes. That came in 1955 when No. 1 UCLA had 33, No. 2 Oklahoma had 32 and No. 3 Michigan had 34. Since 1960, there has never been a preseason poll in which three different teams received at least 15 first-place votes.

• There is a chance the SEC could have as many as five teams ranked in the Top 10. If that happens, it would mark the first time a conference ever had five Top-10 teams in a preseason AP Poll. The Big Ten came close in 1959, with five teams ranked in the Top 11.

• Who will be the highest ranked team in the preseason that did not finish 2011 ranked? Texas is the most likely team to fit this mold in 2012. Dating back to 2004, four of the eight teams finished the year unranked, with only Oklahoma in 2010 and Michigan in 2006 posting Top-10 finishes.

• Being preseason No. 1 hasn't guaranteed a great finish lately. The last preseason AP No. 1 to finish the year ranked first was USC in 2004 and in three of the last four years, the preseason AP No. 1 team has actually finished 10th or worse.

• If Oregon and USC are both in the preseason Top 5, it would mark the first time the Pac-12 has ever had two Top-5 teams in the preseason poll.

• Michigan may begin the season ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 2007. That year, Michigan lost to Appalachian State in its season opener.

• Boise State (46 weeks) and Stanford (23 weeks) have the longest active streaks of being ranked in the Top 10 but both will likely end with the release of the 2012 preseason poll. The new leaders in consecutive weeks ranked in the Top 10 will likely be Alabama and LSU (Both enter 2012 with 17 straight weeks ranked in Top 10).

• Notre Dame has been unranked in six of the last 10 (and seven of the last 12) preseason polls. From 1950-1999, Notre Dame was unranked only five times in 50 years. After being ranked to begin 2011, Notre Dame is looking to be ranked in consecutive preseason polls for the first time since 1998-1999.
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Tuesday.

Creighton 93, Evansville 92 (OT)
Evansville’s Colt Ryan scored 43 points, the highest scoring output by a player in a loss this season. He made 17 field goals, one shy of the high this year, set by Creighton’s Doug McDermott. McDermott was 6-for-13 from the free-throw line Tuesday; he had missed just six free throws in his previous eight games.

Michigan 67, Northwestern 55 (OT)
Thirty-eight of Michigan’s 56 field-goal attempts were 3-pointers (67.9 percent), the highest 3-point attempt percentage by a major conference team this season.

North Carolina 86, North Carolina State 74
North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall had 22 points, 13 assists and no turnovers in the win. He’s the first player this season with at least 20 points and 12 assists in a turnover-free game.
The Wisconsin running game was on the ball, or shall we say on the Ball, in Saturday's win over Michigan.

Though Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson danced and doged his way to the FBS record for most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback, that was overshadowed by the performance of Badgers running back Montee Ball.

Ball, who finished with 173 yards rushing, became the fifth player to rush for four touchdowns in a game against Michigan, an elite list that includes the likes of Vince Young and college football legend Red Grange. Wisconsin dominated on the ground throughout, rushing the ball on 33 of its 34 offensive plays in the second half. Ball's teammate, James White, added 181 yards rushing and two scores.

Ball's two touchdowns made it such that the Badgers now have three running backs who have each met the following statistical measures this season:

• rushed for 500 yards

• rushed for 10 touchdowns

• rushed for 100 yards in at least three games

It also was, according to the school, the second time in school history that two players have rushed for at least 150 yards in the same game. The only other time was against Wyoming on Oct. 6, 1973, when Billy Marek had 226 yards and Ken Starch had 184 yards.

Robinson did become the first player in NCAA history (not just FBS) with 1,500 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a season. But that's a statistical footnote in defeat.

The other Big Ten team in the state of Michigan was more fortunate.

The Michigan State senior class set a school record for most wins by earning its 32nd against Purdue on Saturday, but this one may have been as tough as they come. It required a rally from 15 points down in the fourth quarter and kept alive hopes of a share of the first Big Ten title for the team since 1990.

Here's why that win for the No. 12 Spartans was huge.

If Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all finish 7-1 in conference play, the BCS Standings will determine the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA. Thus, no team has control of its fate. A Spartans loss would have changed matters significantly.

Michigan State's seniors broke the mark of the 1990 senior class, which finished with 31 wins. The Spartans reached 10 wins for the third time in school history and improved to 7-0 at home this season. The last time Michigan State finished unbeaten at home was when it went 6-0 in 1999.

Iowa-Michigan: A battle on the ground

October, 12, 2010
Three notes heading into Saturday's Iowa-Michigan game, all dealing with the battle on the ground.

The nation's leading rusher is actually a rusher
For the first time since Week 1, a running back and not a quarterback leads the country in rush yards per game. After Denard Robinson was held to 86 yards on the ground against Michigan State, Oregon RB LaMichael James takes over the throne. Robinson was held under 100 yards for the first time this season despite carrying the ball 21 times -- more than in any of his previous three games.

In between a Hawk and a Denard-place

Forgive the play on words off the classic phrase, but this game will directly match up two teams' strengths. There's more than a 200-yard discrepancy between the Michigan offense and Iowa defense in rushing yardage per game. Both teams rank in the top six in FBS in their respective category, and both are adept at finding, or denying, trips to the end zone. Iowa hasn't allowed an opponent to rush for more than 80 yards in any game this season. To put that in perspective, Denard Robinson singlehandedly surpassed the 80-yard mark before the first quarter was even halfway done two weeks ago against Indiana.

A streak meets its nemesis

Iowa enters this game riding a streak of 21 straight quarters without allowing a rushing touchdown. That streak dates back to January's Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech. Not only is Iowa the only team to not allow a rushing touchdown, only three teams (Colorado, West Virginia, Wisconsin) have allowed just one.

But Michigan is where streaks like this go to die. Last year, the Hawkeyes entered the Michigan game riding a longer streak -- 33 straight quarters -- without allowing a rushing touchdown. The Wolverines promptly broke that streak in the first quarter, then tacked on two more rushing touchdowns later in the game.

Nickel Package: Notre Dame's bad luck

September, 23, 2010
1. All of the preseason top 8 teams are still unbeaten, and Alabama (at Arkansas) is the only team out of that group that isn't a double-digit favorite this week. If all are victorious, it will be only the second time that the preseason top 8 have gone undefeated into October. The first time was 1952, when the season opened on Sept. 27. Even then, one of the teams had a tie on the first weekend.

2. You'd think it would take Nick Saban more than three-and-a-half seasons in Tuscaloosa to equal any of Bear Bryant's accomplishments there, but he's now a win away from a fairly significant one. Going back to last season, Alabama has been ranked No. 1 in the last six AP polls. Believe it or not, that’s just one shy of the school record for consecutive weeks at No. 1, achieved by Bryant's teams in both 1979 and 1980.

3. Here are a few eye-popping numbers on Joe Paterno's tenure as Penn State head coach. Since he took over that job in 1966, there have been 876 head-coaching changes in major-college football. Twenty-two active head coaches in the FBS weren't even born then. And, in Penn State’s game against Kent State last Saturday, Beaver Stadium attendance during Paterno's time as head coach surpassed 23 million (23,098,439 to be exact). That's more than the population of Australia.

4. Even with an Irish head coach, Notre Dame hasn't been able to improve in the luck department this season. After back-to-back tough losses to Michigan and Michigan State, ND now has eight straight defeats by seven points or fewer - the longest active streak in the nation. That's one more than Iowa, which had some tough luck of its own last weekend at Arizona.

5. A Michigan win Saturday against Bowling Green would make the Wolverines 4-0 for the second straight season. Even before recently falling on rough times, back-to-back 4-0 starts wasn't exactly a common occurrence in Ann Arbor. The last time Michigan started consecutive seasons at 4-0 was 1995-97. Before that it was 1985-86, and then 1976-78 prior to that. In other words, it happens about once a decade.

Nickel Package: Why Alabama will win

September, 9, 2010

1. Not many people are predicting that the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will fall to the No. 18 Penn State Nittany Lions this weekend, partly due to the Nittany Lions starting a true freshman at quarterback. Here's one more reason to like the Tide. In the last 15 years, the No. 1 team in the AP poll is 26-0 at home against ranked opponents, with an average victory margin of nearly 22 points.

The last AP No. 1-ranked team to lose at home to a ranked opponent was Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, who dropped a 36-33 decision to sixth-ranked Auburn in 1994.

2. Alabama and Penn State are the only teams in the FBS that haven't allowed more than 24 points in a game since the start of last season. Recent history suggests that trend is in no jeopardy of ending for either side on Saturday. In Penn State's last four trips to Alabama, the teams have combined for 52 points. That's 13 per game with an average score of PSU 9, Bama 4. Without scoring a TD in any of the four games, the Tide somehow managed to win half of them ... mainly because Penn State mustered only two TD (both in 1986). The cumulative scoring of the teams in PSU’s last four visits to Alabama: 12 FG, 2 TD, 1 safety.

3. In the spirit of the Auburn Tigers return to Starkville to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs this week (Auburn won 3-2 there in 2008), here's another SEC offensive futility trend. The South Carolina Gamecocks host the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, and the last four times the Bulldogs have gone to Columbia, the Gamecocks have averaged 7.5 points, scoring a total of three offensive TD. On the other side of the ball, UGA hasn't scored more than 20 in any of its last seven visits to Williams-Brice Stadium ... yet has managed to win five of those seven games.

4. The weekly AP poll began in 1936, and the first 25 times the Michigan Wolverines and Notre Dame Fighting Irish met in the poll era, at least one of the teams was ranked. Times have changed. Saturday will mark the third time in the last four meetings that neither team has a number to the left of its name.

5. The Big 12 has a big weekend of non-conference games, highlighted by the Oklahoma Sooners visit from the No. 17 Florida State Seminoles. The Kansas Jayhawks also host the No. 15 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and the Iowa State Cyclones travel to the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes. One of those teams needs to save a little face for the conference. Why? Because, last season, the Big 12 didn't have a single non-conference win against the final AP Top 25. Going by that final poll, the best out-of-conference win for the Big 12 in 2009 was Oklahoma's victory over the Stanford Cardinal in the Sun Bowl.

Harris deep ball could key Canes upset

September, 8, 2010
It's a big weekend in college football. Let's take a look at some of the key storylines in the biggest matchups via Next Level previews:



• Miami finished 2009 with a 9-4 record, and Jacory Harris' success throwing downfield was a good barometer for the Canes' success. Harris connected on 7-of-9 passes thrown at least 10 yards down the field against Florida A&M to start 2010, and the Ohio State defense must be ready to contain Harris' downfield throwing ability. Since the start of the 2009 season, Harris has completed 58.3 percent of his throws of 10+ yards in wins, compared to 39.4 percent in losses.

• Harris got off to an incredibly fast start last season, and helped Miami out to a 5-1 record through an incredibly tough early schedule. Much of this was due to his accuracy on passes of 20+ yards. But as injuries piled up and the toll of the season's 34 sacks wore on him, Harris faded in the season's final seven games as Miami lost three of its final seven.


Terrelle Pryor is dangerous on third down because of his ability to tuck the football and run with it. Pryor finished with 366 rushing yards on third down in 2009, second most in the FBS, and had 16 rushes of 10+ yards, which was the highest total in the FBS on third down. Pryor has picked up yardage when called upon to run, but has also shown the ability to improvise: 14 of his 49 third-down runs over the last two seasons were on scrambles. He averaged over 14 yards per carry on those runs, compared to 6.1 on called run plays.


• Pryor has had recent success throwing downfield when he targets a receiver in the middle of the field. Since the start of 2009, Prior has completed 57.7 percent of his throws of at least 15 yards to the middle of the field. Conversely, he's completed just 37.9 percent of such passes to the right or left side of the field.


• Since 2009 Terrelle Pryor has completed as many deep throws of 20+ yards to receiver DeVier Posey as all other Buckeye targets combined, but against Marshall, Pryor's only deep connections came with Dane Sanzenbacher. Six of Pryor's eight pass TD on throws of 20+ yards since 2009 have gone to Posey. If both Posey and Sanzenbacher prove to be viable options down the field, Ohio State opponents could be in for some trouble.



• Alabama won the National Championship last season, but it was a struggle for the Tide when the offense reached the red zone. Alabama scored a touchdown on just 47.5 percent of its red zone trips, ranking the team 108th out of 120 FBS teams. Quarterback Greg McElroy finished 2009 with a 35.0 percent red zone completion rate, the third-worst completion percentage among FBS quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts. McElroy can improve this season if he can find a way to get the ball to star receiver Julio Jones when deep in opponent territory. Jones' only red zone reception last season came against FCS opponent Chattanooga.


• Greg McElroy has had far more success throwing down the field when he uses the threat of the run to set up his passes. 68 percent of his completions on downfield throws (15+ yards) have come after a play-action fake since 2009 began. He's completed 47.5 percent of such attempts off of play-action, compared to just 29.0 percent with no play-action.


• Alabama running back Trent Richardson may have to carry the load Saturday if Mark Ingram is unable to go. Richardson averaged over 6 yards per carry against San Jose State, and found most of his success when lined up in the pistol formation rather than a traditional I-formation with a fullback. In the pistol offense, the quarterback is not under center, but also closer to the center than a traditional shotgun snap. The running back then lines up behind the quarterback.


• While Richardson is a tremendous talent, he was not able to match Mark Ingram's production between the tackles last season against SEC competition. Ingram averaged 6.2 yards per carry between the tackles, while Richardson averaged 3.3. Ingram took 17 of his 117 carries for 10+ yards, while Richardson did so with just 3 of his 48.



Landry Jones struggled last season to complete downfield passes, connecting on just 29.8 percent of his passes thrown 15 or more yards, but did have success when targeting star receiver Ryan Broyles. Oklahoma's offense would get a huge boost this season if another receiver can emerge as a downfield threat.


• Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder was very solid when outside the pocket in the Seminoles' first game of the season against Samford. In fact, he was a perfect 5-for-5 on throws from outside the pocket (with 1 TD pass), while he was 7-for-9 from inside the pocket. Ponder used a play-action fake on 71.4 percent of his passes against Samford, completing nine of his 10 attempts with 4 touchdowns after faking the run.



• Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had a coming out party against Connecticut, and looks like one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the country. Robinson hurt Connecticut in a variety of ways with his legs last Saturday.


• Robinson worked hard to boost his passing game in the off-season, and his performance against Connecticut was an indication that his ability to drop back and throw a pass in the pocket is much improved. He was 8-for-18 passing from inside the pocket in 2009, but was 14-for-14 from inside the pocket against UConn. He was also 2-for-2 on throws of 15+ yards after going just 1-for-11 on such throws vs FBS opponents last season.

The Michigan Wolverines beat the Connecticut Huskies 30-10 Saturday to get Rich Rodriguez's third season in Ann Arbor off to a good start. Sophomore Denard Robinson got his first career start at QB and turned in quite a performance. He rushed for a career-high 197 yards, setting a school record for rushing yards by a QB. He also set career highs in completions (19), attempts (22), completion percentage (86.4) and passing yards (186). And Michigan beats an FBS school for the first time since Sept. 26, 2009. Robinson also is just the sixth FBS player since 2005 to rush and throw for 185 yards in the same game.

The No. 11 Oregon Ducks also set several records on Saturday when they beat New Mexico 72-0:

• 72 points ties the school's single-game "modern" record

• 720 total yards sets a new single-game school record

• Their 72-point win is the largest in school history over an FBS school

Sophomore RB Kenjon Barner had a day to remember. Barner rushed for 147 yards and four TD, and added a receiving TD -- all in the first half! Barner entered the game with four career TD, and is just the second player in the last five years to score five TD in one half.
It’s just three days before Rich Rodriguez kicks off his third season at Michigan and he still hasn’t said which speedy sophomore will start under center Saturday against Connecticut. Tate Forcier made plays with both his arm and legs for the Wolverines in 2009, but he struggled when defenses were able to keep him in the pocket. In 11 games against FBS opponents last year, Forcier completed more than half of his passes of 15 or more yards when outside the tackles. When Forcier threw the deep ball from inside the pocket, he hit on just under 28 percent of his throws.

While Forcier struggled to work the ball down the field from inside the pocket, Denard Robinson had trouble with nearly every type of throw in 2009. As a freshman, Robinson attempted just 27 passes against FBS competition, completing 11 for 103 yards with four interceptions. When you consider that more than half of Robinson’s completions came on passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage, it’s clear that he’ll need to be more effective on deep and intermediate passes as a sophomore if he’s going to unseat Forcier as the team’s primary signal caller.

With just eight wins in his first two seasons with the Wolverines, the pressure on Rodriguez is mounting. 96 FBS teams have won more games than Michigan since 2008 and another losing campaign would give the maize and blue three straight losing seasons for the first time in school history and could mean the end of Rodriguez’s tenure in Ann Arbor. As he debates which quarterback he’ll rely on to right the ship, he’s surely not comforted by the fact that with Steven Threet recently being named the starter at Arizona State, two QBs on the Wolverines roster when Rodriguez took the reins in December 2007 have now locked down starting jobs at big-time programs (in addition to Threet, Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett was a freshman at Michigan in 2007).