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Stadium and Main: Rose Bowl pre-game thoughts

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Rose Bowl pre-game thoughts

I’ll leave the point-by-point breakdowns to the big boys, but here are some thoughts running through my head this New Year’s weekend:

Leon Hall’s shot at redemption

One of the images burned into my mind from the 2004 Rose Bowl (along with Braylon dropping a long bomb on our first drive) is Leon Hall getting knocked over by USC WR Mike Williams. Granted, Leon was only a True Freshman then, but I hope he remembers what USC’s Offense did that day: four passing TDs, with each scoring drive taking less than five minutes. If Hall can keep WR Dwayne Jarrett in check, USC’s big play chances will hinge primarily on WR Steve Smith, who called out Morgan Trent this week. Time for the secondary to prove they’re not just one star and three scrubs.

Have we actually prepared for, you know, blitzes?

USC sacked Michigan QB John Navarre 9 times in the 2004 Rose Bowl. Possibly the most frustrating thing about this was after the game, when Michigan OT Tony Pape said the team didn’t prepare for blitz protection (I don’t have a link, but I assure you, we’re open he said it). I have no idea what the coaches were thinking, and I don’t even want to guess because thinking about it still makes me mad. Regardless, Michigan had better be ready to pick up the blitz, because USC will bring the heat.

Our Defensive Line has to play up to its potential

USC QB John David Booty is good (25 TDs, 9 INTs, 61.8% completions), but doesn’t have great mobility, and looked flustered when pressured by UCLA (and rightfully so). One would think that although UCLA has quality DEs, their front seven isn’t as good as Michigan’s. We need to get to the QB early and often.

Neutralizing USC’s defensive speed

More screens, more draws. That has been the MO of Michigan’s offensive gameplans against faster defensive units (think recent OSU games, 2003 Outback Bowl vs. Florida, etc.). I think it might work this year, since we haven’t run many screens for Hart. In the 2004 Rose Bowl, USC was expecting them and had no trouble defending them. As far as draws go, I also think they could work. The change of pace from zone blocking sweeps to pure power-blocking draws might throw off USC, as it did many other Michigan opponents this season.

Prediction?

I don’t usually do predictions, especially right before a big game like this. Too superstitious. But I am concerned, to say the least. As my friend Jake put it in an e-mail exchange this week, I’d be much more confident in Michigan’s chances against USC on, say, November 25th. But give Pete Carroll a month to prepare, and he usually gets the job done. I think the players and coaches “deserve a win” – I’m just hoping they’re smart enough to realize that it’s theirs for the taking if they play their game. I’m expecting big things next season, so we might as well start 2007 the right way, no? Enjoy the game... Go Blue!

P.S. The game-time weather looks fine (is it ever not?).

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Analysis is spot-on as usual. And unfortunately, the results of the game suggest that the coaching staff could not figure out these keys to the game.

Very disappointing. That was a long time to wait for such a pathetic showing.

Oh well...

10:28 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

If we play USC 100 times, do you think they will continue to sack us at will? Do you think we will continue to avoid the shotgun and have Henne take 5-step drops while they blitz and blitz and blitz?

Too many things to think about now. Need some rest.

11:14 PM  

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