Monday, November 28, 2016

Harbaugh vs Meyer: To the scorecard!

Jim Harbaugh has has suffered two of the worst losses I've ever seen in just two short seasons as the head coach at Michigan. In 2015 the "go blue" faithful were devastated by the blocked punt incident at home against the Michigan State Spartans, who then went on to claim the Big 10 championship and a bid in the playoffs.

This year it was the narrow defeat to the hated Buckeyes that included a fourth and one play where JT Barrett picked up the first down by the narrowest of margins and then Ohio State won the game on the next play.

There was a lot of fury over that fourth down spot, as well as Ohio State's avoidance of penalties throughout the game. Personally I thought the Buckeyes did enjoy a little bit of home cooking overall but I also thought it looked fairly conclusive (or at the least too inconclusive to overturn) that Barrett did indeed pick up the first down.

In my "Harbaugh vs Meyer: Round II" preview at Football Study Hall I scored their first round in 2015 a 10-8 win for Meyer.

I'm calling this one a 10-10 tie. Yes, technically the Buckeyes won but Michigan controlled the game up until the fourth quarter, took things into double overtime, and were playing on the road. I think the Wolverines are the better team this year, but the Buckeyes won where it matters and they'll probably gain the reward that comes with it in the form of a playoff berth.

In the playoffs, I think Ohio State will be a worthy entry and have a good a chance as most of beating Alabama.

Now, the popular sentiment in Columbus right now seems to be that the Buckeyes just staved off the Wolverines and that now they'll be in position to reign supreme in the Big 10 East for a year or so while Michigan licks their wounds and rebuilds a roster that is about to lose a ton of players to graduation and the NFL. This is, of course, totally wishful thinking and completely detached from reality.

Harbaugh vs Meyer will continue on and next year the Wolverines will also have a veteran QB and will be the team playing at home. Don Brown has built elite defenses at Boston College utilizing less talent then what he'll have on the Michigan roster next season and the Wolverine offense will likely be one step closer to realizing Harbaugh's vision for a power-coast team with balance from the passing game and overpowering muscle at the point of attack.

When you have a system and program fully installed, losing starters doesn't have to kill you so long as you have players waiting in the wings that have been developed in the system for two-to-three years waiting to step in. Ohio State fans should know this as it's the reason they are consistently good every year regardless of whether they have returning starters at multiple positions or not.

The Buckeyes just survived the opening salvo from Harbaugh that came with Hoke's players. They aren't going to come away as the kings of this rivalry and the Harbaugh vs Meyer war until they fend off a Michigan team stocked with Harbaugh players.

Round III should be another good one.


  1. On that fourth down play, I'm not so sure about the forward progress spot. The rules seem to indicate that a player wouldn't get credit, in terms of forward progress, for running into the butt of his own teammate and falling backwards.

    Under 2-9-2 "Forward progress is a term indicating the end of advancement by the ball carrier or airborne pass receiver of either team and applies to the position of the ball when it became dead by rule. Under rule 4-1-3, a play isn't dead until the "ball carrier is so held that his forward progress is stopped." It didn't look to me like Barrett was being held by a Michigan player such that his forward momentum was stopped so much as he was knocked back by his own player.

    I suppose there's the argument that Barrett had been contacted by a Michigan player at the same time as he collided with the butt, but I'm not sure that was what stopped his forward progress.

    1. If a player is knocked backwards by a hit and then tackled after being knocked backwards, do they give him forward progress?

    2. In that instance, being later tackled would be considered a continuation of being "so held" by the original hit, I would assume.

      What isn't clear to me under the rules is whether "so held" can be interpreted broadly enough to count an action by a teammate that stops the runner. If so, then the rules were correctly enforced. But at the very least, the rules seem to be incredibly vague.

    3. But I think you could argue that the reason he ran into his teammate was that a Michigan defender had blown up the block and halted his forward progress (if not pushing him back), leading to Barrett running into the back of him.

      It's not like Barrett just clumsily ran into a guy, he ran into one of his own blockers that was being battled by a Wolverine. So it seems cheap that Michigan should get credit in the form of stopping the advance of the ball by beating a block but that Ohio State shouldn't get credit in the form of forward progress.

    4. Right, but forward progress refers to the movement of the ball carrier, not to the forward progress of a blocker.

      The "so held" language is so incredibly vague. If you reference prior versions of the college rule and versions of the rule used at other levels of competition, many refer to the concept of a runner being "in the grasp" of a defender. At the very least, there seems to be intertwined in the rule the concept that forward progress is determined by the action of a defender in stopping the runner, rather than a runner stopping progress of his own volition. Certainly nobody would argue that forward progress should be awarded to a runner who runs back a few yards to try to gain an advantage. There just seems to be an odd vagueness in the rules between hit by a defender = clear stopping of forward progress, voluntarily runs backwards = no award of forward progress where an intervening teammate of the runner is concerned.

      And I'm no Michigan partisan so I don't really have any stake in the matter. I'm just curious why nobody is discussing this weird little nuance in the rule. Everyone just seems to be taking for granted that forward progress should be awarded where Barrett collided with the tight end.

    5. I don't know the specifics of how they like to apply the rules but I think that your own blocker being knocked backwards into you counts as a defender stopping your forward progress.

    6. The rules aren't clear on that point (which is the entire point of my posts)

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