Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
[Ed: Credit for this post goes to user M Wolve.]
11/17: Union Ballroom 2:00 - 8:00pm
11/18: East Quad- Benz Library* 2:00 - 8:00pm
11/18: Business School 10:00-4:00pm
11/18: Union Ballroom 2:00 - 8:00pm
(Drives marked with an * are limited to members of the residence halls only.)
This week was essentially a pick-em so we’ll skip the spread and chart it straight up.
I have been making a few tweaks to the math behind the chart to take out some of the noise, especially on possession changes, hopefully it’s becoming a better product.
Michigan jumps out early, is in good position but can’t close it out for the second and third quarters before finally putting it a way in the fourth.
1. +12.5%, Play 3, Toussaint for 65 on the opening drive.
2. +5.2%, Play 5, Robinson punches it in for the opening score.
3. +5.0%, Play 153, JT Floyd picks Scheelhaase (+1.5%) and takes it back 43 yards (+3.5%).
1. –5.8%, Play 65, Michigan stopped on 4th and goal from the 1.
2. –4.9%, Play 33, Robinson’s first fumble with Michigan driving.
3. –2.7%, Play 137, Scheelhaase runs for a 31 yard score to cut the lead to 10.
Other Notes from Illinois
Last year we had a consistent defense and hoped our offense was good enough to win the game for us. This year we have a consistent defense and hope our offense is good enough to win the game for us. The difference is last year the D was so bad that the offense had to hit home runs to pull it out. This year the defense has consistently held serve and the offensive variability has largely dictated our success or failure.
This week the narrative expanded and not only did the defense hold serve, it produced extra value. This is the first game all season that offense had a negative win percent added (-13%) and the team still won the game. Iowa and Michigan St both saw negative scores but the defense couldn’t do enough to overcome.
How you feel about this game is largely dependent on how you view Illinois. If you view them as a Ron Zook coached mid-level BCS conference team you probably are part of the group that was uninspired about the showing on Saturday. You would probably point to stats such as Michigan had the best field position of any BCS conference team in any game so far this season and still only had 31 points (vs an expected 39 based on field position).
If you view Illinois as a Ron Zook coached mid-level BCS conference team with a stout defense and some weapons on offense, you are probably Brian. I have Illinois’ defense ranked #14 nationally at +7 and third in the Big Ten behind Penn St and MSU. Scheelhaase is a ranked as a top 20 BCS conference QB (+5) and AJ Jenkins is a top 10 receiver (+8, catches only) who was limited to +1 on a season-high 19 targets. I am in the second camp here. The offensive performance was far from perfect but the total performance of the team accounting for Illinois’ stout defense probably puts Saturday as the best/most important win of the year to date.
Rushing: –1, good and bad even out versus strong rush defense
Passing: +8, found some big plays and no meaningful interceptions
Rush defense: +1, decent day against a mediocre run game
Pass defense: +7, in JT we trust, apparently
Special Team: +1, a narrow miss on a FG away from best score of the year
Denard: +1 overall, +4 pass -3 rush, no games higher than +3 since Northwestern
Devin: +3, +5 pass –2 rush, best number of the year
Toussaint: +4, 3rd best of the year for a Michigan back (Fitz vs Purdue and VS vs E Mich, +6)
Scheelhaase: +4, +0 pass, +4 rush
Jenkins: +8 but took a season high 19 targets to get there
Third and Done
So I wrote this up on early in the week only to find that its become a topic across Michigan blogdom this week. Hopefully there is something new for you here, if not rest assured knowing that we own third and one.
Michigan hasn’t just been good on third (or fourth) and one, they have been amazing. Michigan has 15 stops in 27 competitive attempts against them this year. That’s a 44% offensive success rate. The national average is 72%. Michigan is literally getting twice as many stops as the average defense would on third or fourth and one.
Michigan is currently 12th over the last 9 seasons on the conversion rate in this situation. Only 1 of the 11 teams ahead of them have faced more than 18 attempts. The only comparison to what Michigan is doing so far this year is Boston College of 2008 who had 16 stops out of 25 attempts against. In fact, if Michigan gets two more stops on third or fourth and 1, they will have the most stops over the last 9 years in that situation. Michigan has ended a full 7 drives more than the average team would on super short yardage situations.
B1G Championship Game
The loss to Iowa effectively ended Michigan’s chances. I have them listed at 0.3% chance of making the inaugural title game but that assumes that Indiana has a chance to win on the road against Michigan St. A Sparty No on Saturday and a Michigan win puts the odds up over 20%. In total, Michigan needs wins over Nebraska and Ohio and Michigan St to lose to both Indiana and Northwestern. The Spartans hold a commanding 91% chance of making the title game, a win by both Michigan teams on Saturday would clinch it. Nebraska stands at about 8% but need to win out and have Michigan St slip to have any real chance. Iowa technically could win some 3 or 4 way tiebreakers but at less than 1 in 2000 odds, things don’t look so bright.
On the other side of the standings both Wisconsin and Penn St control their own destinies. I give Wisconsin an 84% chance of winning the head to head matchup so they have a 67% chance of reaching the title game. Penn St sits at 27% and thanks the Boilermakers upset over Ohio, those two schools both sit at 3% apiece. For Purdue the path is win out, Ohio beat Penn St, Illinois beat Wisconsin, Michigan beat Ohio and Wisconsin beat Penn St. Ohio isn’t dependent on as many game, but the odds are the same. Win out, Penn St lose out, and Wisconsin lose to Illinois.
My Heisman Thoughts
With some new chaos at the top of the polls, Wisconsin has got to be killing themselves for not being able to defend the deep ball late. It’s put them out of the National Championship race and buried Russell Wilson’s Heisman campaign. I think it should still be kicking. I have him leading in WPA (+3.0) ahead of Case Keenum (+2.8) and Brandon Weedon (+2.2) and EV (+13) ahead of Keenum (+12) and RG3 (+11).
Kellen Moore: +1.5/+10
Andrew Luck: +1.7/+6
Trent Richardson: +.3/+4
Denard still holds up well on WPA at +2.07 but his EV is way down at +4 and barely in the top quarter of all QBs.
PAN, National Rank (leader), Big Ten Rank (leader)
Michigan: +4, 12th (Georgia Tech), 2nd (Wisconsin)
vs. Nebraska D: –0, 63rd, 8th
Fitz: +1 (now in top 30 RB’s)
Michigan: +1, 50th (Boise St), 5th (Wisconsin)
vs. Nebraska D: +2, 30th, 6th
Michigan: +2, 21st (Alabama), 4th (Illinois)
vs. Nebraska O: +0, 53rd, 7th
Taylor Martinez: +1
Rex Burkhead: –1 (24th of 28 back that average 100 yards per game)
Michigan: +2, 39th (Oregon), 7th (Penn St)
vs. Nebraksa O: +3, 25th, 4th
Taylor Martinez: +4
Michigan: –0, 79th (Florida St), 9th (Purdue)
Nebraska: +2, 27th, 3rd
Rex Burkhead has the yards and the carries but my per play valuation point to a Nebraska team that pounds the ball on the ground for yards, but puts points on the board through the air courtesy of a throwing motion that makes Tebow look like Tom Brady. These teams are pretty evenly matched. Mobile QBs that are flawed passers who can succeed on the back of the run game and defenses far below historical precedent but not major deficiencies either. Michigan 31-28
This week I had two readers email me lengthy scouting reports from last week's game between Good Counsel (WR Stefon Diggs, RB Wes Brown, and several other D-I prospects) and St. John's in Maryland. They were too long to stick in this week's FBO or on the board, so I figured I'd put them both in a diary.
First up is the report from Adam, aka Hardware_Sushi, who not only broke down Diggs and Brown, but also four-star senior DE Ryan Watson and junior CB Kendall Fuller, who already has interest from big-time programs across the country:
Stefon Diggs [2012 five-star receiver]—Diggs is a phenomenal athlete. Diggs and Brown were the best overall athletes on the field. In the kick return game, his skills were extremely obvious. Despite getting the Devin Hester treatment from the St. John's punter, he still managed to field a rugby-style kick, run to one side of the field, loop around to the other, find a crease, and take it in for a touchdown. He would've had another return TD but basically stopped running after he noticed the flag when his teammate clipped a St. John's player.In the passing game, Diggs was electric when he received the ball, coming under on a crossing route and beating everyone to the corner for a touchdown. The Good Counsel QB was OK for a high-schooler, but Diggs could dominate the game even more if he had someone delivering the ball with consistency. I actually sat by a group of guys that are friends with Diggs. They told me "That boy has rabbit in him. They be feeding him rabbits." So yeah, he's fast.Wes Brown [2012 four-star running back]—Brown was the most dominating player on the field Friday night. He had 3 (4? I can't remember now...) long TD runs, two of which he waited for the line to make a crease before he hit the hole at 100 mph and blew by everyone in the secondary. I think Diggs is probably faster, but Brown displayed jump through the hole and awesome breakaway speed after he got to the second level.While he is fast, most of his runs came between the tackles and he displayed great power, several times lowering the boom and plowing several St. John's defenders back two or three yards. I liked that he fell forward whenever he was stopped close to the line. I haven't scouted many top high school running backs, so it's tough to say how well this translates to Big Ten-level football, but I don't really know what else Brown could've done to impress me against that level of competitionKendall Fuller [2013 four-star cornerback]—Fuller was the most impressive defensive player on the field Friday night. I don't think that reflects poorly on Diggs, mostly because St. John's QB (he's going somewhere for college...I couldn't find it in a quick search...)* stayed away from Diggs' side. Fuller made plays all night, displayed great coverage, had (by my count) 3 pass breakups, several tackles, and even contributed in stuffing the run game toward the line of scrimmage (before St. John's abandoned it). St. John's was a solid team coming into the game and Good Counsel only gave up seven, shutting them out after the first quarter.Ryan Watson [2012 four-star defensive end]—He didn't have a bad game, but he didn't impress like the other three. This may be partially because he played defensive line, partially because I just don't think he was as standout.
*Benjamin Onett, Rivals three-star and Temple commit.
And next, a report on Diggs and Brown from reader Justin, who couldn't get to the game until late in the second quarter but still managed to write up a lot of great stuff:
Going into the game Good Counsel was undefeated going against a team they already beat 28-14 earlier in the year. Compared to other games Good Counsel played, only losing by 14 is good for opponents so I was expecting a good game once again. When I arrived the score was 14-7 Good Counsel and I found out from a nearby fan that St. John's led 7-0 to start the game. The 3rd quarter was the changing point of the game with Stefon and Wes totally taking over. The starters were rested for Good Counsel two minutes into the 4th quarter. The final score of the game was 47-7 with Counsel winning. Now to the players themselves.
Stefon Diggs fits his 5-star billing. 100%. There's no other way to put it. Whenever the ball was in his hands, everyone in the stands held their breath waiting to see what he would do with it. His speed is not a fluke, as it seemed like he floated down the field with no one catching him when he had the ball. He has long strides to his run which make it look like he isn't moving fast, but believe me he is. His ability to make people miss with his juke moves (spins, jump cuts, etc.) were outstanding as he would make about three players miss him every time he touched the ball. And also his field awareness was tremendous as he knew where players were coming at all times to make the best cuts.
He finished the night (remember this is about a half's work since I was late) with two catches for approximately 50 yards, three punt returns for around 60 yards, and he had a 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the 2nd half. The one catch he had was a 15 yard in-route over the middle where he took it for 35 yards all the way to the 1-yard line before he got pushed out of bounds. Also on one of the punt returns, he had no business in picking the ball up as it was about dead with around five St. John's players standing around it. But he picked it up anyway and returned it for 40 yards before he was tackled by the shoelaces. On another punt return, he received it at his own 10, ran backwards twice and circled around the field and was about to break it loose, before a flag was thrown on Good Counsel and it was obvious he heard the PA announcer at the stadium call the flag so he pulled up and didn't even bother returning the ball anymore.
Stefon's build seems about right as far as height and weight. I'm 6'0 myself and standing about 10 feet away from him, he was nearly the same height as me. His weight seems about right at 185, too. He wasn't skinny, but at the same time he had some tone to his build. The one area that he didn't really blow me away was his physicality while blocking. This really is just nit-picking, but most time he would either lackadaisically block the corner or just try to run him off. I know that if he wants to be a receiver at Michigan, Coach Hecklinski will have him blocking defenders wholeheartedly. Anyway, he is a very energetic and confident kid as he would always be dancing on the field. After his kickoff return for a touchdown, he came off the field and asked for a cheerleader's pom poms and started dancing with them which the crowd seemed to love. At the same time however, when the game was close, you could tell he cared deeply about his team and the game as he would talk with coaches and teammates constantly to figure out mistakes that may have occurred. Overall, a great performance by Stefon tonight.
Now I'm going to be straight up honest with you. Going into the game I was so focused on Stefon, that I kind of pushed Wes Brown to the side. That was a mistake. This kid has a lot of talent. His 6'1 height given on Rivals may be a little too high as he was shorter than Stefon. I would say about 5'10. However, the kid is built and is stout. His lower body is probably his best feature of his body. When I arrived, I identified Stefon right away, but Wes I couldn't find. When I finally did see him, he was on a knee on the sideline with less than two minutes left in the half. So whether he was a bit banged up or they just don't use him in two minute situations, I don't know.
However in the 2nd half he was the go to guy. He had 8 carries for about 160 yards and three touchdowns all in the 2nd half alone. He broke tackles so easily with people bouncing off his thighs and once he got past the linebackers, he was long gone. He has a surprising burst of speed once he gets to the second level which makes him very intriguing as a running back. When he gets the handoff, he shoots like a cannon to the line of scrimmage with no dancing feet which is kind of nice to see. Unlike Stefon, Wes played offense only, without being part of any special teams or the defense. I honestly think though, that if things don't work out with Brionte Dunn, Wes would be more than an adequate replacement for the manball that Hoke/Borges want to become in the future.
Overall, Stefon and Wes are two players that I want Michigan to really pursue in the coming months. Both are players that can be game changers at the next level. I could tell very well that they are good friends as they always would talk on the sidelines when they had the chance. People have said that they could be a package deal, so I hope the Michigan coaches and even Blake Countess can keep them interested in Michigan. At the end of the game, Stefon and Wes led the student section onto the field since it was their last home game. Before they led them onto the field, I was close enough to Stefon to get his attention. I gave him a quick shout of good job and he said thanks and "Go Blue, baby!" when he saw my maize Michigan hoodie with Wes smiling beside him.
Obviously, a very big thank you goes out to both Adam and Justin for taking the time to head to the game and write up such detailed impressions. I know the season is winding down for most players, but if anyone else has the time to do something like this, I'll be happy to hand out mgopoints in return for scouting players outside the areas I can get to. Thanks to all the readers, including Adam and Justin, who have passed along tips and made the transition to this job a whole lot easier.
"Not such a great passer, but dangerous running the ball"
To the casual fan, it's easy to think that these three QB's have a lot in common, but the fact of the matter is that they are very different in their styles. They have different strengths and weaknesses that have as much to do with their football IQ and personality as their athletic ability
Taylor is the only one of the three to enjoy a redshirt season and the only one who hasn't had a change of head coaches. Because of that, he has slightly less playing time than Denard, but more time in the same system.
Taylor likes to run. He's got great acceleration and gets up to full speed in a hurry. He runs with urgency. He's not afraid of contact and will get north and south to maximize yards. He will try to run through small creases.
Shoulder shake. He likes to keep both hands on the ball as he's running and so his shoulders are naturally moving back and forth. He doesn't have elite change of direction but is quite shifty and has quick feet.
Most Dangerous Running Play:
Veer Option. He has a good sense of when to hold and when to pitch. He will hold the ball and suck in the defender before pitching late. He is good with the fake pitch to open up running lanes for himself.
Honarable Mention: Midline option keeper.
He keeps the ball too much on zone read plays. Against Penn State, he misread several zone read options like he had already decided to keep the ball.
He has a bit of a sidearm motion. He likes to zip the ball in on a frozen rope. Doesn't show much touch. Not a great scrambler, he doesn't have the strongest arm and can't get much velocity on the ball when his feet aren't set. He's very inaccurate on deep balls, especially deep sideline routes.
Most Dangerous Passing Play:
Intermediate in's and crossing routes. He's not very good at hitting receivers on the fly so he likes to have a nearly stationary target to throw at. Because of his low trajectory, he needs clear passing lanes and a direct line of sight to the receiver.
How to defend:
Attack Martinez with a free rusher. Assume he's going to keep the ball on 60% or more of the option plays, and force early pitches by commiting to hitting the QB. (Like Jake Ryan did on Sheelhaassseeee last week).
On passing downs, try to get underneath zone coverage in the passing lanes. Try to make him throw over a linebacker. And the coverage should flow to the rollout side.
Braxton played in a shotgun passing spread offense in Highschool. He's a true freshman pressed into duty because Terrelle Pryor is stupid and never met a handout he wouldn't take, and also because Joe Bauserman just sucks.
So, he's been learning a lot this season about things that worked in H.S. but don't work as well in college. He is also without any experienced receivers until Posey gets back this week, so we'll have to see how much that affects his game.
He's like a gazelle. He runs away from danger. He has exceptional speed. He likes to improvise and runs on his instincts. He will not force himself to go where the play is designed to go. Very dangerous once he breaks contain.
He runs around like he thinks other people can't catch him, but this is only sometimes true at the college level.
The reverse cut and the jump cut. He will go backwards to make people miss and has enough acceleration and speed to make it pay off enough times that his coaches let him keep doing it. He has elite change of direction, great balance, and will duck under tacklers who go too high.
Most Dangerous Running Play:
QB lead draw. He does not like to run through tight spaces and traffic. On the draw play, if the DE's rush past him, his instinct is to head upfield. He's very dangerous in space. If it's 3rd and long, there's a high probability that the lead draw has been called.
Honarable Mention: Scramble
Inexperience. He does not read blocking very well. He will cut back against the grain even when there are decent holes in front of him. Even if a guy is blocked, his instinct is to run away from traffic.
He doesn't read the zone option or the pitch option very well.
Not as bad as advertised. He doesn't throw a tight spiral, so the ball will flutter on him. This causes inaccuracy, especially on deep routes. But he has better touch and a better throwing motion than Martinez. His low completion percentage is due more to the lack of talent at WR, and his inexperience rather than his arm.
Most Dangerous Passing Play:
Wheel route to the RB's. Boom Herron and Jordan Hall are the biggest threats when Miller isn't running. All eyes will be interested to see what kind of impact Devier Posey will make this week (and then we'll wonder about how much money he made for the game).
Honarable mention: Throwback screen and short routes to Stonebrunner
How to defend:
Corral him on the pass rush and play coverage. (May I suggest man-free). This is not the game for speed rushes around the outside. I'd blitz him up the middle and have the the DE's stay home (like what MSU did). He will cut back into free pursuing defenders if you give him the chance. The pass rush needs to be under control so that you make him move laterally without losing contain.
Anyone reading this blog probably already knows everything they need to about Dilithium, but just to complete the comparison. here goes...
Patience with great vision. Denard is a team player and he relies on his blockers to open up running lanes for him. He has elite speed and elite change of direction. He has been a little more tentative in traffic this year, but is a determined runner on the goal line and is able to avoid the really big hits.
He is better at reading the zone read than the other two guys.
He is not a great improvisor and will not cut back all the way across the field by giving up yards. He usually makes a few cuts and then heads to the sideline or upfield.
Being fast. Denard doesn't do a lot of shake and bake, instead he just changes direction quicker than the defenders are able to.
Most Dangerous Running Play:
QB power lead. With the defense spread out, if the two running backs are good blockers he's a threat to go all the way on any play where every defender is accounted for.
Honarable Mention: Inverted zone read.
He does not have a good feel for when to pitch and when to keep of veer or triple option plays. He tends to get injured often over the course of the season.
He has a very strong arm but struggles with footwork. He is very accurate when his feet are set. But he has trouble with his deep accurace when on the rollout. When he scrambles, he's looking to pass. This has evolved a lot and is almost a 180 from his freshman year. He's very good on seams and jump balls.
Most Dangerous Passing Play:
QB dive pull-up. (a.k.a. the "QB, OH NOES!") Has excellent touch throwing while running forward in a fluid motion.
Honarable mention: The throwback screen
How to defend:
[Ed: argh, having some editing issues. Bump.]
"Play hard and play with great effort"
Immediately after the game, I was struggling to come up with a thru-line for what had just happened. But then Brian posted "Defensive Annhilation Muppets" and then the video of Mattison getting emotional surfaced. And for a moment I thought, 'you guys are over-reacting. Illinois does not have a good offense'. I like when coaches just give coachspeak. But then I thought about the last three years and yeah, it makes sense. The difference in emotion between Chip Kelly's comments and Mattison's are where you're starting from.
A couple of years from now, a win like this will only be notable for constructive criticism. There were a lot of bad plays that need to be corrected. But given the circumstances of where we were last year and what we were expected to be this year and the fact that we're 8-2 with a decent chance of picking up at least one more win and a very small chance of getting to 11 wins, emotional celebration is more than appropriate.
What a difference a week makes!
Al Borges didn't have a great game against Iowa, and I pointed that out. He had a much better gameplan this week. I don't know if he or anyone close to him reads blogs or not, but he responded to several very specific criticisms leveled here last week.
Holding the backside DE
I mentioned something about a lack of reverses.
Thanks Al! Odoms is coming from his slot position to take an end around fake. Not only did it hold the backside OLB and prevent the DE from crashing down on Denard, it also froze the MLB just enough for Fitz to run right by him.
But that wasn't the only trick up Al's sleeve. He pulled out another wrinkle from the Richrod days.
One of the problems with protecting Denard and limiting his carries is that the DE that you're optioning on the zone read doesn't have to respect the keep and is free to chase the TB. But here we see Koger coming from his H-back wing to block #9.
The O-line is getting good lateral movement and both Denard and Koger are eliminating defenders from the pursuit.
One caveat is that their safeties were pretty bad (someone mentioned they had backups in the game). #5 has badly misread this play, and he's too slow to catch Fitz anyway. Meanwhile, if you wonder how a guy can get over 100 yards in the first quarter, you can bet he's breaking tackles. This arm tackle didn't even slow him down.
This arm tackle slowed him down,
but it didn't stop him.
So Fitz had about 45 yards of YAC from the first arm tackle and then about another 15 yards of super YAC downfield.
The offense as a whole had a much better day (despite some derpiness in the 2nd and 3rd quarters). The O-line was doing a great job with the zone blocking in the first quarter and opened up some nice running lanes.
Here we've got Hopkins blocking the DE from his FB position instead of Koger, but the result is about the same. Gallon cracks down on his man and Omameh does a good job scraping off the double team and getting to the linebacker.
Huyge takes his man where he wants to go and it opens up a nice line.
On this next play, there's only 5 in the box because the OLB's are out on the slot receivers.
Molk does an excellent job of tracking down his man and we've got a hat on a hat.
The Zen of zone blocking is you just get on your man and take him away from the play using his own impetus. Of course you need a guy like Fitz back there who is patient enough and has good vision to see the hole developing.
Even though the OLB crashes down for contain, he's nowhere near Fitz and Denard has read him properly. If this were the pros Fitz would be owing five really large guys a nice dinner for this play.
The Numbers Game
We had some issues in the red zone last week. Part of that is due to Iowa's talent on the D-line and part of it is having Denard sitting in the pocket or handing off or otherwise not putting pressure on the defense to account for him.
If this were a normal pitch play or off-tackle dive, it would've been completely stuffed because they've got more defenders than we've got blockers on the playside. But when Denard keeps it, we've got an even matchup and Denard just has to pick his way through and find a hole.
But what really makes this play work is that Omameh gets a great cut block, upending his man. Now we've got 6 blockers against their 5 defenders and Denard with no one to track him down.
Omameh's block freed up Molk to get on the pursuing linebacker and the result is an easy touchdown for shoelace.
So what happened in the 2nd Quarter? Well let's compare to a play where we don't have a numbers advantage.
They've got 9 defenders in the box with both safeties playing up. If Denard has the freedom to audible (or we had gotten to the line with more than 8 seconds so that the coaches could call a check play #misshightempo), then he should be throwing a fade or "z out" to Roundtree at the bottom of the screen. We've got 9 in the box, but because we're in I form, the defense doesn't have to account for the QB (as his first 5 steps are backwards).
The play is a lead draw. The line shows pass blocking and then the center or whoever is free is supposed to head upfield after a couple beats. But this call means that Illinois has a lot of unblocked defenders. It doesn't help that Molk misreads the defense and doesn't scrape off to one of the linebackers. This means that Hopkins has three unblocked people he has to choose from. If Denard had been running, then both Hopkins and Fitz would have hit the MLBs so Denard would just have to juke the safety to get in the endzone.
Instead, Hopkins gets one LB and the other stuffs Fitz for a loss with both safeties racing up to make sure he doesn't fall forward.
[ed: follow the jump.]
The top three teams remain intact, with blowout wins in Lubbock (#2 Oklahoma State) and Baton Rouge (#1 LSU). The Crimson Tide also picked up a win in Starkville. Other than that, much is uncertain, as Oregon moved up, Stanford moved down, Oklahoma moved up, and Boise State moved down. If LSU wins out and Oklahoma State loses, a rematch could take place in the national title (with either Alabama or Oregon). We haven’t seen this in awhile: Four games involving FBS and FCS opponents this week.
As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas. We’ll also look at a sure-fire favorite and attempt to preview the Michigan game.
Be sure to check out my website, Before Visiting the Sportsbook, throughout the week, for more content.
Western Kentucky (5-5) +41.5 @ LSU (10-0). Result: LSU 42 Western Kentucky 9.
Miami Florida (5-5) +9.0 @ Florida State (7-3). Result: Florida State 23 Miami Florida 19.
Kentucky (4-6) +13.0 @ Vanderbilt (5-5). Result: Vanderbilt 38 Kentucky 8.
Washington (6-4) +12.5 @ USC (8-2). Result: USC 40 Washington 17.
@ Mississippi (2-8) +2.5 Louisiana Tech (6-4). Result: Louisiana Tech 27 Ole Miss 7.
@ SMU (6-4) -8.5 Navy (4-6). Result: Navy 24 SMU 17.
@ Illinois (6-4) +1.5 Michigan (8-2). Result: Michigan 31 Illinois 14 [Props to MichNukeEng for correctly predicting that Michigan would cover]
Number 7 chipped in on two picks, with Virginia (-9.5, 31-21) and Missouri (+1, 17-5).
Trebor loves his favorites, see Michigan State (-2.5, 37-21) but an underdog cam through for him, in Oregon (+3.5, 53-30).
Northern Illinois is playing on national television for the third straight week on a Tuesday night; however, they are at home this week, playing host to Ball State (8:00 PM EST/ESPNU). Ohio teams dominate ESPN coverage on Wednesday, with Ohio visiting Bowling Green (8:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3) and Western Michigan visiting Miami (OH) (8:00 PM/EST/ESPN2/ESPN3). Thursday brings us a pair of top 25 teams putting their rankings on the line, with (#20) Southern Miss visiting Legion Field, for a matchup with UAB (8:00 PM EST); North Carolina visits Lane Stadium, for a showdown with (#8) Virginia Tech (8:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN 3D(!)/ESPN3). (#2) Oklahoma State’s (nearly) point-a-minute offense takes the field Friday night at Iowa State (8:00 PM/EST/ESPN/ESPN3), knowing Bedlam looms; Toledo visits MAC West rival Central Michigan (8:00 PM/EST/ESPNU).
Only three games involving top 25 teams with week, again. (#18) Michigan hosts (#16) Nebraska in a Legends/Bo Division matchup (12:00 PM/EST/ESPN/ESPN3). (#5) Oklahoma puts their BCS bowl hopes on the line, visiting Waco (8:00 PM/EST/ABC); Baylor has never defeated Oklahoma (0-20). We’ll stay in the Big 12, at the same time, but different station, with (#13) Kansas State visiting (#23) Texas (8:00 PM/EST/FX); Kansas State has won three straight dating back to 2006.
@ Rutgers (7-3) +3.0 Cincinnati (7-2). The Scarlet Knights are 105th in total offense (118th rushing, 61st passing); Cincinnati is 40th (31st rushing, 66th passing). Rutgers is 21st in total defense (58th rushing, 11th passing); the Bearcats are 50th (2nd rushing, 115th passing). Rutgers is 2-4 ATS since 2005 against Cincinnati (1-5 SU). Cincinnati Coach Butch Jones is 11-10 at Cincinnati (9-12 ATS, 7-7 ATS as a favorite); Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano is 66-66 at Rutgers (67-56-1 ATS, 40-29-1 ATS as an underdog). Cincinnati will likely be without QB Zach Collaros (1854 passing yards, 63.4% completion, 14 passing TDs, but 8 INTs), who was on crutches at the end of the loss to West Virginia, last week. Sophomore Munchie Legaux (205 passing yards, 53.6% completion, 1 INT) will likely be under center for the Bearcats. Rutgers run defense against Cincinnati’s run offense is a bad matchup for the Bearcats, as is Cincinnati’s pass defense against Rutgers’ pass offense. Collaros is the second best quarterback in the Big East, needless to say, he’s a huge loss. Take Rutgers to cover, and win.
Kansas State (8-2) +9.5 @ Texas (6-3)The Wildcats are 85th in total offense (22nd rushing, 109th passing); Texas is 44th (15th rushing, 92nd passing). Kansas State is 82nd in total defense (25th rushing, 117th passing); the Longhorns are 14th (10th rushing, 48th passing). Since 1997, Kansas State is 5-2 SU against Texas (5-1 ATS). Since 2001, Texas Coach Mack Brown is 112-26 at Texas (69-65-3 ATS, 55-47-2 ATS as a favorite); Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder is 58-39 at Kansas State (51-39 ATS, 21-10 ATS as an underdog). In conference play, Texas has averaged 182.17 yards through the air (153.75 yards in the last four games). Against top 10 passing offenses, Kansas State is 1-2. Texas is not a top 10 passing offense by any means. Kansas State is 6-1 ATS as an underdog this year. Take Kansas State to cover.
@ Washington State (4-6) +3.5 Utah (6-4). The Cougars are 38th in total offense (103rd rushing, 9th passing); Utah is 109th (79th rushing, 102nd passing). Washington State is 84th in total defense (63rd rushing, 94th passing); the Utes are 27th (9th rushing, 76th passing). Since 1999, Washington State is 1-1 SU against Utah (1-1 ATS). Washington State Coach Paul Wulff is 9-38 at Washington State (22-24 ATS, 19-22 ATS as an underdog); Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham is 63-24 at Utah (39-34-2 ATS, 26-25-2 ATS as a favorite). Against teams with top 50 offenses, Utah is 3-1 against pass offenses outside the top 50, but only 2-3 against top 50 passing offenses. Washington State is 0-5 against top 50 rushing offenses, but 3-1 against rushing offenses outside the top 50. Take Washington State with the points.
Florida International (6-4) +1.5 @ UL Monroe (3-7).The Golden Panthers are 72nd in total offense (69th rushing, 68th passing); UL Monroe is 61st (70th rushing, 53rd passing). Florida International is 30th in total defense (34th rushing, 56th passing); the Warhawks are 31st (11th rushing, 83rd passing). Florida International is 2-5 SU against UL Monroe since 2004 (2-5 ATS). Florida International Coach Mario Cristobal is 22-37 at Florida International (29-30 ATS, 18-16 ATS as an underdog); UL Monroe Coach Todd Berry is 8-14 at UL Monroe (10-11-1 ATS, 3-4-1 ATS as a favorite). Florida International has averaged 25.6 points on the year (26.8 in conference, but only 16 in the previous three games before a 41-7 win last week). UL Monroe has averaged giving up 27.7 points game (25.5 in conference). Florida International has more talent and should win, but WR T.Y. Hilton (858 receiving yards, 15.1/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) needs to be productive; Hilton has averaged 54.25 yards in the last four games with 1 TD (2-2). Take Florida International with the points, and to win.
@ East Carolina (4-6) +7.0 Central Florida (4-6).The Pirates are 58th in total offense (112th rushing, 17th passing); Central Florida is 49th (51st rushing, 47th passing). East Carolina is 58th in total defense (89th rushing, 19th passing); the Knights are 10th (16th rushing, 18th passing). Since 2005, East Carolina is 4-2 SU against Central Florida (2-4 ATS). East Carolina Coach Ruffin McNeill is 10-13 at East Carolina (12-11 ATS, 8-7 ATS as an underdog); Central Florida Coach George O’Leary is 49-50 at Central Florida (52-43-1 ATS, 24-20-1 ATS as a favorite). UCF is 8-10 ATS as a road favorite under O’Leary. UCF is 3-2 when QB Jeff Godfrey (1745 passing yards, 68.5% completion, 4 passing TDs, but 3 INTs) rushes for a TD (1-4 when he doesn’t). ECU is 1-4 when QB Dominique Davis (2737 passing yards, 68.2% completion, 18 passing TDs, but 15 INTs) throws two or more interceptions (3-2 when one or none). UCF has largely been a disappointment this year. Under McNeill, the Pirates are 4-4 ATS as a home underdog (3-5 SU). Take East Carolina to cover the points.
Navy -4.5 (4-6) @ San Jose State (3-7).The Midshipmen are 47th in total offense (2nd rushing, 119th passing); San Jose State is 83rd (108th rushing, 35th passing). Navy is 85th in total defense (82nd rushing, 67th passing); the Spartans are 98th (103rd rushing, 65th passing). This is the first ever meeting between these teams. A win for Navy preserves their chances of making their 9th straight bowl game. Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo is 31-19 at Navy (25-22-1 ATS, 9-12-1 ATS as a favorite); San Jose State Coach Mike McIntyre is 4-19 at San Jose State (11-12 ATS, 11-7 ATS as an underdog). San Jose State is 6-2 ATS as an underdog this year; Navy is 3-3 ATS as a favorite. Navy is 4-5 against non-service academies this year (2002 was the last year Navy had a losing record against non-service academies; since 2002, Navy is 16-3 against service academies). Against teams with top 60 run defenses, Navy is 1-4 this year (1-2 against teams outside the top 60 run defenses). Take Navy to cover.
Bo Pelini is 37-14 straight up at Nebraska. Coach Pelini is 11-4 on the road (3-1 this year), 21-11 in conference play (4-2 this year), and 7-8 against the top 25 (2-1 this year). Coach Pelini is 26-24-1 ATS and 11-13 as an underdog ATS (2-2 underdog ATS on the road).
Brady Hoke is 55-52 straight up (13-12 at San Diego State, 34-38 at Ball State). Coach Hoke is 60-42-3 ATS and 32-17-2 against the spread as a favorite.
Nebraska’s defense is ranked 38th (21st passing [190.70 yards/game], 66th rushing [161.30 yards/game]). Michigan’s offense is ranked 33rd (84th passing [200.40 yards/game], 11th rushing [235.89 yards/game]).
Nebraska’s offense is ranked 50th (101st passing [171.40 yards/game], 13th rushing [232.70 yards/game]). Michigan’s defense is ranked 17th (22nd passing [191.33 yards/game], 41st rushing [130.89 yards/game]).
Since 1997, Michigan is 0-1 straight up against Nebraska (0-1 ATS), with the lone meeting being in the 2005 Alamo Bowl. Michigan had averaged 400 offensive yards with 270 of those being passing and 130 rushing.
Nebraska is second in the Big Ten in average points per game, with 32.9 (Wisconsin leads with 46.5); Michigan averages 32.5, good for third. Against teams in the top half of the Big Ten in average points per game, Michigan is 1-2 (3-0 against the bottom half); Nebraska is 1-2 against the top half (3-0 against the bottom half).
Nebraska is 36th in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 22.20 points per game, good enough for 7th in the Big Ten; Michigan is 7th in the country, allowing an average of 16.11 points per game, good enough for 3rd in the Big Ten. Nebraska’s defense has forced 15 turnovers to date (8 interceptions and 7 fumbles); Michigan’s defense has forced 20 turnovers to date (6 interceptions and 14 fumbles).
Michigan will need to contain Nebraska’s two biggest rushers on the ground: QB Taylor Martinez (768 rushing yards, 5.0/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and RB Rex Burkhead (1072 rushing yards, 5.1/carry, and 14 rushing TDs). The duo combined for 221 rushing yards and 2 rushing TDs against Ohio, 153 rushing yards and 2 rushing TDs against Michigan State, and 177 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD against Penn State. Burkhead has had six 100+ rushing yard games this season (four of six games in Big Ten with seven rushing TDs in Big Ten, at least one per game; averaging 108.67 rushing yards per game in Big Ten).
@ Michigan -3 Nebraska.
Michigan 24 Nebraska 14.
Who ya got?