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College Football 2013: Week 10 Recap
Thursday, 2013 November 7 - 6:26 pm
Ugh. And Ugh.

Michigan 6, Michigan State 29
There is no way to look at this game as anything than an utter failure by the offense. Michigan had -48 yards rushing. Negative 48 yards. Even excising 8 sacks, Michigan would have had just 8 yards rushing on 21 attempts… an average of 0.4 YPC. That is just unspeakably bad.

Why is the running game so bad? Yes, partly it's the inexperienced and undersized interior offensive line, and partly it's MSU's extremely good defense. But it's also on Al Borges for not understanding how to put together a running scheme. Right now there's one decent running play in Michigan's playbook, the inverted veer option (where tailback Fitz Toussaint runs a sweep, and quarterback Devin Gardner reads the playside defensive end; if the end crashes down, Gardner hands off; otherwise he keeps and runs a dive). It works reasonably well. But when the defense adjusts to it (by, say, sending a linebacker or safety careening down to take the tailback), then you need a counter-piece to the play: a quick pass to the slot receiver, a zone read to the backside, a play action pass downfield, a "Down-G" pulling guard scheme, a bubble screen)... all of those constraint plays are in place when you're running a true spread offense. But I guess if you're Al Borges, you just pick the inverted veer as the one play from the spread playbook you'll run, as a grudging acknowledgement that your quarterback is your best runner. Then, when the defense adjusts, you simply eat zero-yard-gain after zero-yard-gain.

With no credible rushing attack, MSU could tee off with blitz after blitz, preventing Borges' fancy combo-route passing attacks from having time to develop. And that's what gets you eight sacks and a beaten and dejected Devin Gardner.

Borges, Hoke, and some journalists simply keep saying that the offensive line is young and they need to get better. That's certainly true. But coaches have a responsibility to put players in a position to succeed, and Borges is just not getting it done. Even Purdue, the worst team in the Big Ten, put together 66 yards rushing against MSU. That's a 100 yards better than Michigan's -48.

I don't blame Gardner by any means. He put together a heroic effort. He was criticized for holding the ball too long sometimes, but that's because the need to avoid interceptions has been drilled into his head every waking minute since the Akron game. I don't blame Toussaint; he had nowhere to go. The receivers, Funchess, Gallon and Chesson, played well. The offensive tackles played pretty well (though Taylor Lewan lost his temper and did some stupid things, like twisting MSU defender's helmets around, reminiscent of what MSU did to Denard Robinson a couple of years back... there's just no excuse for stuff like that). It's the rest of the offensive line that's a problem. So when that's the case, it's up to the coaches to make the game simpler for them, and to call plays that emphasize getting the skill players into space away from the line.

Heroes: Gardner, for toughing it out; Gallon, for making plays; the defense as a whole, for keeping the game within reach for three quarters.
Goats: Al Borges, the interior offensive line, and Al Borges again.

Next week: Nebraska.

N.C. State 19, North Carolina 27
Ugh. State had moments where they looked good, but for the most part, failed to sustain drives. There were two critical interceptions as N.C. State was attempting to come from behind in the second half, plus an inexcusably dumb fake punt attempt in the second quarter that failed (and led to a UNC touchdown). Meanwhile UNC put up 275 yards passing (including a 59-yard touchdown in the second quarter) and aside from an early interceptions, avoided making major mistakes. I had predicted that turnovers would be the difference, and it looks like I was right.

State is now 0-5 in the ACC and every remaining game looks like a potential loss… even Duke, which is next week, is playing better than State. Unlike with Michigan, it's hard to blame play-calling for State's woes; injuries and the lack of personnel seem to be the major issues.

Next week: At Duke.

Other Notable Games
As expected, #3 FSU destroyed #7 Miami 41-16, pulling away in the second half after being up just 21-14 at the half.

#9 Missouri had no trouble with Tennessee, winning 31-3. I'm going to stop saying that Tennessee has "improved" this year.

#18 Oklahoma State beat #15 Texas Tech 52-34.

#24 Wisconsin demolished Iowa 28-9. Wisconsin is starting to look like a pretty formidable team again.

#25 Notre Dame narrowly escaped Navy, 38-34. Navy made it to the Notre Dame 31 on their final drive before running out of downs.

Penn State needed overtime to beat Illinois 24-14.

Minnesota beat Indiana 42-39.

Nebraska beat Northwestern 27-24 on a stunning last-second 49-yard pass. That's reminiscent of UM-Colorado from years ago, though I doubt Northwestern will have to suffer through 20 years of "most memorable play" TV segments like Michigan did.

Georgia beat Florida 23-20. Florida is now 4-4 and looking at a pretty forgettable season, with South Carolina and Florida State still left to play.

USC beat Oregon State 31-14. USC's resurgence since firing Lane Kiffin is pretty remarkable.

Arizona beat Cal 33-28, an uncomfortably small margin against a 1-8 Cal team.

Ken's Top 10
1. Oregon 8-0
2. Florida State 8-0
3. Alabama 8-0
4. Ohio State 9-0
5. Baylor 7-0
6. Auburn 8-1
7. Stanford 7-1
8. Missouri 8-1
9. Clemson 8-1
10. Texas A&M 7-2

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