Sunday, October 07, 2012

Dear Kirk: Your Purdue pick was strictly PU

Dear Kirk Herbstreit,
On the off moments when I glance to ESPN’s College Game Day telecast (in between soccer matches involving Chelsea of the Barclays Premier League), I watch you try to make “intelligent” choices in that day’s college football matchups.
But try as you might, the backup Ohio State quarterback in you emerges and more often than not, you get things wrong! And brother, were you wrong on last Saturday’s game between Michigan and Purdue.
You and Lee Corso nonchalantly (and without so much as a momentary pause) picked Purdue to win, based on … absolutely nothing. You got sucked up in the belief that the Wolverines were going to continue to look as bad as it did against Notre Dame and the bye week would make NO difference in Michigan’s next performance.
Dude, just because the game was in the STATE of Indiana didn’t mean Michigan was playing the second coming of the Irish. In fact, had Michigan played the same methodical, steady offensive scheme against Notre Dame, U-M would’ve won!
I cannot think of a single moment when Purdue was a factor in the 44-13 whipping Michigan handed the Boilermakers. As I wrote last week, facing a schedule that included Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Marshall is not the same thing as playing Alabama. Purdue simply was/is not as talented and skilled as Michigan in all aspects; the game results bore that out.
Here was Purdue, averaging just under 30 points in the first half, barely able to scrape out 10 at halftime and just a measly field goal for the final 30 minutes. The Boilers had no running attack whatsoever and three quarterbacks could not break the 200-yard ceiling.
Its first-down efficiency, allegedly ranked third in the nation, was a pitiful 1-for-13 (U-M was 10-for-17 on the other hand) and 2.2 yards per rush was pathetic. In this game, time of possession actually DID mean something as the Wolverines occupied the pigskin 12-½ minutes longer (almost an entire quarter), running 70 plays to Purdue’s 49.
The Purdue defense could not contain Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who stopped himself from firing long aerials downfield in favor of a short passing game as a second option. His feet were the first option, gaining 235 yards on 24 carries – mostly through the center of the line; the only U-M back to run with confidence and success between the tackles.
That disturbing trend, after five games, needs to be corrected by either a change in personnel (perhaps sophomore Thomas Rawls, more of a north-south runner than Fitzgerald Toussaint, who seems lacking in strength to run up the gut) or attitude (Toussaint NEEDS to be more aggressive before opposing defenses simply deploy wide of the tackles to keep him in check).
In fact, it appeared for much of the game as if Michigan was running a single-wing option offense (call it “zone read” or what you want), with Robinson serving as primary ball carrier. His carries never demonstrated an inkling to throw the ball; he never scrambled for yardage during the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Michigan’s defense continued to steady performance, getting better week-to-week and series-to-series. It turned the ball over four times, including Raymon Taylor’s Pick 6 for 63 yards in an incredible series of plays that effectively ended Purdue’s chances of winning (the touchdown was followed by a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff). Only those at Ross-Ade Stadium actually consuming boilermakers believed Purdue could rally.
No, Herby, you missed all that in your terse “I like Purdue” prediction, because you forgot the most basic element – Purdue is STILL Purdue and Michigan is STILL Michigan.
But, please do us all a favor this coming Saturday. Illinois comes to The Big House with its happy-foot quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. He was a problem two years ago, in that ridiculous overtime win by U-M, but Michigan didn’t field a defense back then; today, it’s a different story. The defense will be ready, and the Illini have no answer for Robinson.
And then comes Sparty for a visit, with its one-dimensional offense (a team that barely escaped losing to Indiana). Feel free to pick MSU while you’re at it – you need to be consistent.
Because, aside from the inside running game, Michigan is actually getting better at the right time – Big 10 Conference play (when it counts the most).

Chuck Bloom
Plano, Tex. (Big House South)

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