It is upon us. For my poorly fleshed-out thoughts on the deeper meaning of the game, check out this morning’s post.
Michigan v. Detroit
Detroit Offense v. Michigan Defense
I’ve maligned the Detroit offense for not being an assist-heavy outfit early in the season, despite the chemistry that should exist between lifelong pals Shayne Adams and Joel Matthews. Against Michigan, however, the individually-oriented offensive scheme might work better. The Wolverins don’t have the manpower to match up one-on-one all game with Detroit’s offensive options.
The Michigan defense is also a work in progress schematically. The Wolverines’ coaches have been open about their slide packages being slow to install with an inexperienced unit. Because of that (and Detroit’s offensive style through two games), we might see Michigan’s defense go with an early slide package to deny Shayne Adams, et al, an easy path to the goal.
The matchup then, becomes as much between the coordinators as between the players on the field. UDM’s Bill Tully will have to identify Michigan’s sliding packages, and put in plays to get his best scorers open when the slide comes. Michigan’s Ken Broschart is tasked with mixing things up – and maybe even using some zone against a team that hasn’t passed crisply early in the year – to keep the Titans on their toes.
If Michigan’s goalie situation – what with several hand injuries on the depth chart – was better than it is, they would better be able to take advantage of the matchups that they can get by preventing UDM’s best players to kill them. As it stands, whoever starts in goal may have to stand on his head with early slides leaving some offensive openings.
Michigan Offense v. Detroit Defense
The situation almost seems to be the opposite on the other end of the field: the Titan defense is a formidable one, while Michigan’s offense is still coming into its own. THe styles of play, however, should be quite different.
Detroit, as is well known, is a man-to-man, takeaway-oriented defense. That hasn’t shown as much on the boxscore this season, except in penalties. With an extremely small sample size, the Titans are the most-penalized team in the country by a mile, and it hasn’t paid off in many turnovers. Against Michigan, if they can play a clean game, they should be able to take advantage of limited talent for the Wolverines.
Michigan is going to scheme to get Trevor Yealy the ball on the crease as much as possible. Anybody who has seen the team play – and seen Yealy’s skills – in the past four years knows that. Gameplanning to get him open, or make Detroit pay for keeping him covered, is Judd Lattimore’s main task.
The Wolverines have other talented players, of course, though none with the DIvision-1 experience (or Canadian flair) of Detroit’s top offensive options.
The faceoff X is one spot on the field that Michigan seems to have a clear advantage. Both Delaware and Ohio State left the field (figuratively) smeared with the blood of the UDM FOGOs, and turned around with much less impressive performances against Bucknell (Delaware) and Mercer (!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ohio State). Brian Greiner is not proven at the Division-1 level, but in a one-on-one battle, I’ll side with the guy who doesn’t have a body of evidence over the guys who have a demonstrably bad history.
In the ride/clear game, Detroit – which was very good on the ride last year, finishing N0. 16 in the country – should put pressure on Michigan’s inexperienced team. Their stick skills won’t be up to snuff right away, and Providence showed that heavy pressure can cause Michigan to turn the ball over plenty.
Coming the other way, Detroit has been mediocre-to-poor through the first two games – albeit against some pretty good defenses – which is a continuation from last year, when the Titans were the second-worst team in the country at getting the ball out of their own end. Michigan will try some aggressive riding tactics of their own, and the chess match should be an interesting one.
That brings us to penalties. As mentioned above, Detroit has been horrifically penalty-prone early in 2012. They have to turn that around if they want this season to live up to expectations. Playing Michigan and their lesser stick skills than Delaware or Ohio State should mean a cleaner game with more turnovers forced. On the other side, Michigan might find themselves in the box in attempt to protect their keeper on at least a few occasions.
The man-up for Michigan is schematically sound, with several wrinkles available at Judd Lattimore’s disposal. Being short also takes Detroit out of their element, which is playing aggressive man defense. Advantage, Michigan.
When the Wolverines are a man down, I don’t think it’s as harmful to their gameplan as the opposite is for Detroit. Michigan’s defense isn’t going to light the world on fire man-to-man, and playing a packed-in zone on the man-down isn’t going to be as a major dropoff ans it will be for Detroit.
I’ve covered the meaning of the game itself earlier this morning. As for individual team stakes:
Detroit can break their disappointing streak to start the season, and get on the right foot going into a stretch of the schedule (after next weekend’s North Carolina contest) that includes eminently winnable games against Mercer, Georgetown, and even Quinnipiac to close out the pre-conference schedule. If their season is going to stand a chance to live up to expectations, this is a must-win game. Not because the result against Michigan has any effect on their conference record, but rather because Siena is going to be a much tougher out than an expansion team.
For Michigan, the varsity era can kick off with good feelings in addition to a good result. Not much – if anything – is expected from this Michigan team, and proving doubters wrong can propel them into a surprisingly competitive year, even if it’s one in which they only win a couple more games. The groundwork can be laid for the program, showing that even a brand new Michigan team can own the state over a Detroit squad expecting to win its conference.
Detroit should – and I think will – win this game. They have more depth, more high-level talent, and more experience. How competitive the game is will speak more to Michigan than Detroit, I think (except in the case of a Titans loos, as outlined above).
That’s not to say it will be smooth sailing from start to finish for UDM. I think each team will have its moments of competence, and some head-scratchers, during the course of the game.
- Michigan is going to hold their own on the faceoffs. It might not be a Dan Cooney or “insert Buckeye here”-esque domination, but Brian Greiner and Alex Marcus will finish with better than a .600 combined success rate.
- Detroit’s offense will run much more smoothly than Michigan. The game’s more talented O v. less talented D should turn out like this, and I think it will. However, Michigan’s unit will show signs of growth for the future.
- Michigan’s defense is going to be kind of bad. This should not come as a surprise (and in fact it would be more surprising for it not to transpire).
- Detroit will still frustrate with its penalties, a few of them of the “stupid” and “overly emotional” variety. Fortunately, it won’t be enough to lose them the game, as an argument could be made that it was a huge factor in each part of the 0-2 start thus far.
The lighting is weird in the South end of Ultimate Soccer (as I learned during the MSU/Davenport game yesterday, pictured at right). This is going to cause something goofy to happen if it’s sunny out this afternoon.
It’s risky to predict this, but I think Michigan will surprise by not looking like a fish out of water. They are going to win, but they will look like they belong on the same field as UDM – something that many observers don’t believe going in. That said, The Titans will use this game as a springboard to a successful back half of the schedule, just like last year’s game at Ultimate Soccer against first-year Mercer did. ultimately, the Titans come away with a 13-7 victory.
Fair warning: a lot of these links are going to talk about what the game means as Michigan’s first in D-1, rather than anything about the game itself.
Michigan’s official site covers the Wolverines’ lone spring scrimmage. Mark Dixon of ESPN talks about Michigan’s entry to Division-1. The New York Times‘ Quad blog talks Michigan’s promotion, and whether other schools will be able to follow the club-to-D1 path. UDM senior defenseman Jason McDonald blogs on Lacrosse Playground. AnnArbor.com briefly mentions Michigan’s debut.