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College Football Recap: Week 10
Tuesday, 2010 November 9 - 12:44 am
Michigan wins in epic fashion; N.C. State falls to Clemson but remains in the ACC title race.

Michigan 67, Illinois 65. Yes, that was the actual score. It is the highest scoring game of the year, and the highest scoring game in Michigan history.

Those of you with heart conditions, do not watch Michigan football games this year. Michigan turns the ball over five times, gets 676 yards of offense, gives up 561 yards of offense, gets a miracle deflected pass for a touchdown, leaves the tailback wheel route wide open twice for Illinois touchdowns, and manages to pull out a triple-overtime win by sending an all-out blitz. I died eight times during the course of this game.

There are so many things that I could highlight from this game, but we might as well look at the game-winning play. It is the third overtime and Michigan has scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion on its possession. Illinois has scored a touchdown and now needs the two-point conversion to tie the game. Illinois lines up with two tight ends, two wideouts, and a tailback in the backfield; quarterback Nathan Scheelhaasse is in the shotgun.

UM-Illinois 1A

Illinois is going to send both wide receivers and both tight ends in pick routes. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois' dominating tailback, will stay in the backfield to block. Michigan responds with an all-out blitz: six guys will blitz at the snap; the defensive line will stunt and both outside linebackers will charge. The inside linebacker, Kenny Demens, will also come as a seventh blitzer, once he sees that his man (Leshoure) is not going out in a pass pattern. The tight ends and receivers will be in one-on-one coverage.

UM-Illinois 1B

Michigan actually tried this blitz before (on Illinois' initial two-point conversion play in the first half) and failed. But this time, Ryan Van Bergen cleanly occupies the right guard and tackle, leaving Craig Roh free on the inside. (RVB: gold star #1 on this play.) The tight ends are in a crowd, partly because of the stunting linemen; this becomes important shortly.

UM-Illinois 2

Meanwhile Jonas Mouton hurdles the cut block, beating the left tackle. The cut block tells me that the passing lane is designed to be to this side, probably to the wideout. Mouton and Roh disrupt Scheelhaasse's vision on this side, taking away his first read. (Mouton: gold star #2.)

UM-Illinois 3

Cam Gordon (who is clearly better at linebacker than at safety) beats Leshoure and takes away the Scheelhaasse's scrambling option. And the wash of traffic in the middle of the field has probably taken away Scheelhaasse's second read. Now, I think receivers are open on both sides of the field, but there just isn't enough time for Scheelhaasse to find them. Gold star #3 goes to much-maligned defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who managed to dial up the right blitz at the right time, and somehow got all his players to execute their assignments... for once.

UM-Illinois 4

Scheelhaasse's desperation pass falls incomplete. He's a freshman; with more experience, he might find a way to buy a second or two in the pocket and find his open receiver. But not this time.

UM-Illinois 5

And thus Michigan wins, and becomes bowl-eligible. Hopefully this quiets Rich Rodriguez's critics just a little bit.

For those of you who still may despise him, consider this: with his career on the line, Rodriguez took his star quarterback Denard Robinson out of the game because Robinson was feeling a little bit dizzy. Other coaches (*cough* Brian Kelly *cough*) might have told the kid to suck it up and go back in, but Rodriguez cared more for Denard's health than the win. Michigan's offense played their hearts out and never gave up or lost hope, even after turning the ball over five times. And after 87 defensive snaps, when everything was on the line, the magnificently-conditioned defense came with speed and athleticism to take down the Illinois quarterback. Say what you want about Rodriguez, but you simply have to love this team's heart, and that has to be a reflection of the coach.

Grades: Offense B, Defense B. You might wonder how the offense gets a B after turning the ball over five times, but yo, 67 points and 676 yards on one of the better defenses in the Big Ten. And you might wonder how the defense gets a B after giving up 65 points, but yo, the offense turned the ball over five times and repeatedly put the defense in bad positions. Remember the Penn State game (or every other game this season) when it seemed like opponents could convert third downs with impunity? Illinois was just 6 of 16 on third down in this game. The improvements may be small, but they are real.

N.C. State 13, Clemson 14. This was an ugly, mistake-filled game, and the two teams combined for just 535 yards of offense. (Michigan and Illinois both surpassed that on their own.) Clemson took the lead in the fourth quarter after trailing the whole game. N.C. State gets the ball and drives to the Clemson 43 yard line. Facing fourth and one with just over three minutes remaining, Tom O'Brien decides to punt. The punt nets four yards. When a coach doesn't believe in his offense, karma punishes him.

Notable Games

#3 TCU demolished #5 Utah 47-7. If Oregon or Auburn slip, TCU absolutely deserves to be in the national championship game.

#4 Boise State kept its own BCS-busting hopes alive by beating a pretty good Hawaii team 42-7.

#10 LSU knocked off #6 Alabama 24-21. This one certainly surprised me; I didn't think LSU had the talent to keep up with Alabama. But combine LSU's defense, a bit of inexperience in the Alabama secondary, and a typical Les Miles trick play, and that adds up to an upset victory for the Tigers.

#7 Nebraska struggled to survive an upset bit from Iowa State, winning 31-30 in overtime.

Texas A&M shocked #8 Oklahoma 33-19. Meanwhile Texas Tech upset #12 Missouri 24-17. Are the top Big 12 teams a bit shaky, or are the mid-tier teams that good? I think it's more of the former.

#13 Stanford whacked #15 Arizona 42-17. There's a lot of talk about Jim Harbaugh and whether he'd be the Michigan coach if Rodriguez gets canned. Harbaugh is also being mentioned for several NFL jobs.

#16 Iowa squeaked by Indiana 18-13. Indiana played valiantly in this game and almost pulled it out; I had wondered if the Indiana that played Michigan would ever show up to look competitive against anyone else.

Texas lost to Kansas State 39-14. Remember when people thought Texas was a national title contender even after losing their star quarterback to the NFL? I think people lose sight of the fact that in college football, legacies and coaching only get you so far. In the end, you need players.

UNC beat Florida State 37-35. Florida State's loss keeps N.C. State in the ACC title hunt.

Penn State rallied from behind to beat Northwestern 35-21 and get Joe Paterno his 400th win. Congratulations, Mr. Paterno; that is a historic accomplishment for a classy coach.
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