Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Michigan vs. Alabama — Wrap Up — Part I
Finding Corners on a Round Table
While the Saturday evening bash at Jerry Jones Land turned out to be humorous for only one side, Alabama, the idea of finding corners on a round table aptly fits the challenge of analyzing the game without emotion, hyperbole, or tinted smoke. Perhaps, the best way to approach the task is to break the discussion down into a series of smaller, discrete questions. There is no logical sequence to this venture.
The first question is one that always surfaces after a game in which one big name team dominates another: Is Alabama that good, or is Michigan that bad. Michigan is not bad, but the idea that Michigan is now elite was busted like a bubble in a hurricane. Media hype placed Michigan at an unreasonable number eight national ranking, based on the rush of last year’s whirlpool success and the improbable Sugar Bowl victory. Michigan is one of those teams that on a good day, when everything clicks, can beat a team in the ten to twenty area of the rankings, and on a bad day can lose to a middle of the pack team. It is a team that if healthy probably will advance and improve.
Alabama is that good, the closest the Tide came to exhibiting a weakness was two aggressive defensive backs bit on some nice receiver moves because the book on Denard was he could not throw a deep ball completion.
On the other hand, Alabama’s team and staff clearly reinforced evidence of Michigan’s shortcomings. Alabama played Alabama football, brutal on defense and controlling on offense, and Michigan did not play what has been conceptualized as Michigan football. So, where does the final verdict fall, Alabama good or Michigan not playing its game? Readers can decide, but make no mistake on this debate; Alabama’s players, coaches, and planning had something to do with Michigan’s difficulties.
Throughout the preseason the readers heard some “pundits” state that the entire Alabama defense would be suspect and that the early year would be a good time to take advantage of Alabama’s defensive “weaknesses.” The front seven of Alabama’s defense in no way had weaknesses and the back four will only grow with experience.
The offensive line is much ballyhooed and for good reason. The group is that good, and if this group remains injury free and intact every opposing defensive front seven will have their greatest challenge. The stable of offensive backs is four deep and the group can take advantage of the great line to run either with power inside or with speed at the edge.
Some have trumpeted during the off-season that AJ McCarron really is not that good and that a dose of pressure would reveal him as a weakness. Well, nonsense to that claim. McCarron has size, is a great game manager, has more than adequate arm strength, and excellent accuracy. More than anything else, he knows the offense and understands how the coaches want to exploit weaknesses on the other side of the line. This Alabama offense is not the most explosive ever in college football, but it is extremely effective.
Alabama put on display why big programs are sticking with power football, and while using spread tendencies and formations are still pro style where power and strength trump sophistication and “cutting edge” scheme.
In many ways Michigan wishes to emulate what Sabin has accomplished and the future holds visions of an attack that can run with power and hit hard through the air with play action and a very good use of tight ends and h-back tactics. The end all is a big offensive line that has experience size, and strength.
Tight end remains a concern, but the line situation looks bright. The Stanford three tight end look is catching on quick and Michigan is still unsettled with the future positions of Williams and Funchess uncertain. Jake Butt is a talent, and Khalid Hill is versatile and probably very useful in future schemes.Michigan in the future needs to secure better skill players that mold into the Borges vision. Round into square, or square into round, postpones progress. Sooner of later the transformation will be complete only with a quarterback with multiple skills like McCarron, a running back that puts fear into a defense, tight ends that can be used in a multitude of ways and formations and wide-outs that can be physical, both on the edge and going up for the ball. Michigan is attempting to make that transition with a number of wide-outs with size and the ability to go get the ball. Michigan is grooming one pocket quarterback and awaiting another. Both have good qualities and both need work. Both have patience and are willing to work.
Question two: Was Alabama that much better than Michigan? On that particular day the answer is certainly. It is the belief here that Michigan adjusted somewhat to the Alabama level of talent and speed and played better in the second half, that is, even before the substitution started.
Alabama’s offensive game plan and execution were nearly flawless. Some would say the task was made easier by Michigan’s “weaknesses” or areas of mismatch if one wishes to be polite. Perhaps, but the Tide was rolling and essentially this team can roll anyone this year that is not at the very top-shelf of talent and execution: say perhaps USC (on a good day) or maybe LSU (who plays Bama at home). LSU may get rolled as well, what may help the Tigers is the offense may actually be a little better this year. Florida State has a great defense and a team with a great defense has a chance.
Question three: Was Michigan out-coached? The view here is Michigan had fewer options and less talent. Coach Borges is taking heat from some quarters. But what is a coach to do when the base play is not working or being executed and the passing option yields nothing in the early going? The defense did not keep the score close and as always one unit’s success depends on the other’s success. Alabama hit a few screens on Mattison’s blitzes, but oh well, when a team is getting dominated a coach cannot lay back, try something. Alabama was certainly well prepared.
Part II coming later today.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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