That used to be us...
It wasn't so long ago that we had an interesting offense full of lowly recruited who-dats that would spread you out and infuriate opposing defensive coordinators. At least until we committed a few turnovers and fell apart in the second half.
But now we've returned to the pre spread and shred days. Now we've got an offense that can grind out the clock when needed. And now we've got a defense that can come up with the crucial stops and force critical turnovers. I think this game finally proved that we're not the same team as last year or the year before. Because this is exactly the kind of game we would have lost back then, i.e. it was a conference game against a team with a pulse.
But lets not start celebrating a division title just yet. Next week will be the toughest challenge yet and we've got lots of problems we need to correct.
It does bode well that we seemed to address many of the problems in the 2nd half, but let's take a moment to understand what went wrong in that first half.
1st half Denard
He's not a tailback playing QB. But he is still a young QB who makes bad reads sometimes. All three of his interceptions were due to him not reading zone coverage.
His first INT is probably the worst of the misreads. #45 is an OLB covering the slot, he's not going to be man to man with Jr. The free safety is drifting back at the snap, and the corners are playing off. I really don't understand how Denard could read this as anything other than a soft zone. And if he read it that way and threw it anway, then it's a terrible throw. The lack of a bubble screen is still bugging me as this play would have picked up an easy 5 or more yards with a good block on 2nd down.
Even without the bubble screen, Roundtree is wide open for the sideline hitch, but Denard is locked in on Jr. probably because he'd already hit him for one jump ball.
The 2nd INT was on a QB dive OH NOES! except NW had the right defense called.
When Denard looks to the right, he sees the safety has walked up, but if he had looked to the left, he would have seen zone coverage.
Denard starts towards the line, but the TE releases quick. The safety must have done a good job in film study, because he starts backing off to get into his zone.
Denard gets some pressure right in his face, which probably contributed to the pick, but the main point here is that the TE is supposed to drive off the safety to free up Vincent on the wheel route. This doesn't work if the safety is playing zone.
So with the ball in the air, and not much zip on it thanks to the pressure, the safety has an easy job of coming off the TE to get the pick. I think putting Koger on a steeper angle, more like a slant or a true post instead of this skinny post will make the read easier for Denard.
The third INT was due to Denard getting locked in on his man, not surveying the field, and not reading the safeties. He also had a terrible underthrow.
Before the snap, this looks like a straight up cover two. The playside CB moves up late.
Denard thinks he's in man and gets all excited when the WR zooms past him. But the CB has flat responsibilities on this play.
Because the ball is badly underthrown, there was some debate about whether it was really an overthrow to Jr. I hope not, because Jr. is bracketed with double coverage. I think Denard is staring down the outside fly route. But because he's looking that way the whole time, he's pulled the safety into perfect position for the INT.
Denard also had one more throw that should have been intercepted.
This pop pass to Koger was delivered too high and with too much steam. Too much adrenaline. This is a bad no-no.
Because if that safety is in the right position, this is the kind of tipped ball that gets taken back for six.
I'm not worried about the jump balls, so long as we're actually getting man coverage. Especially against the kinds of athletes Northwestern fields in its secondary, our WR ought to outfight most DB's for an underthrown jumpball. I am worried that if we try it too much against the likes of MSU or TSIO that have B1G caliber DBs, it'll blow up in our faces.
ND has good athletes at CB, but we showed it could work against half of them. Gary Gray got exposed, but Robert Blanton had a nearly soul crushing pick and another pass break up. I haven't studied MSU's DB's enough to see which are vulnerable, but hopefully Denard and Borges have. The game could easily turn on whether or not we get a couple of TD's or a couple of INT's on the jump balls.
1st half option woes
The defense wasn't looking very good in the first half either. When people talk about a return to the Lloyd Carr days, I hope that doesn't include an inability to stop the option. You hear it said all the time (because it's true) that stopping the option comes down to communication and being responsible on the edges. We didn't do a very good job of either of those things in the first half.
On Northwestern's first TD, they come out with a covered (and thus inelligible) slot receiver. This probably means it's going to be a run, because we're too close to the endzone for most double pass plays. The corners have to recognize this and be screaming at the far side OLB that he doesn't have support. (Really Ryan should recognize this on his own, but in the heat of battle, it really helps to get those cloud/eagle calls, or whatever we call them. Kovacs bears some responsibility for this miscommunication too.
At the snap, both MLB's get sucked in by the dive. Ideally, if you know the option is coming at you, Ryan should be drifting wider, Hawthorne should be scraping C gap and trying to get to the QB, leaving Demens with the dive and pursuit. I feel like in a split back situation, Hawthorne needs to be reading both backs, instead, he's only keyed in on the frontside back. That's fine, but it means Demens has a much harder task to follow the option man to the edge.
So yeah, all three of our LB's are blocked and Colter sees a lot of empty grass between him and the endzone
Kovacs almost saves our bacon on the play, but Colter puts a nice move on him.
And our other safety is way too far away to help out.
This next option play is from a trips formation.
I feel like Demens should slide over a bit against this formation. He's going to be in zone coverage on this play anyway.
NW runs the speed option from the pistol. The playside tackle pulls out and hauls ass to seal the edge and get to the 2nd level. This leaves RVB free, because he's the man that Colter is going to option. Demens is a little slow to react.
Mike Martin does an excellent job of beating his man on the slant, if RVB had seen that, he should have gone more upfield and tried to get in between the QB and pitchman letting Mike clean up the QB. The two slot WRs double down on the nickelback.
He does get held, which wasn't called.
Mark ran through some arm tackles and picked up a huge gain. Gordon has to do a better job of fighting through his blocker to make the tackle.
This next option is from the Colt 45 (what I call the heavy pistol).
The FB is really more of a secondary threat, as I think this play is designed to disguise the standard belly dive. This is also designed as a key buster, because normally it's the FB who takes the dive fake and the TB who goes into pitch relationship.
I think Hawthorne is reading the FB which is why he takes himself out of this play.
Kovacs is in no mans land because he has to respect the option pitch.
Give credit to NW's O-line who opened up a nice hole, although it does look like #76 is getting away with a bit of a hold. J.T. is not in run support on this play.
So we end up giving up a pretty big play to the first man through, but the first man through was the tailback. If you're looking for a silver lining, check out the pursuit. That's 5 guys who haven't given up on the play and it's this kind of thing that keeps a 20 yard play from turning into a TD. And if the ball happens to get knocked out, then we've got a lot of guys around it to fall on any potential fumbles.
On their 2nd TD, we've got pretty good alignment to stop the play
If you play a lot of DE against the option, you learn how to outside shade the QB so that you can bait him into keeping it and then collapse back into him and the pursuit. If he pitches it, you end up in good position to clog up any cutbacks. RVB runs a little too directly at the QB (and he looked gassed at the end of this long drive). The safety is in good position to make the tackle, but the DB's have to shed their blocks as soon as they sense linemen drive blocking (this is where people shouting RUUUUUN! RUUUUN! helps).
Floyd is getting pushed way too far back for this redzone play. And Carvin takes a bad angle and doesn't break down to make a solid tackle.
So he overruns the cutback.
Northwestern, who sees the option a lot in practice, shows you how you're supposed to defend it.
Their in a base 4-3 against this splitback slot. But the OLB is flexed way out to help with the zone coverage.
Both the Mike and the Sam read option and start flowing playside.
Hopkins doesn't sell his fake very well on this play. Huyge does a good job of scraping off his man, but he doesn't get to the LB who is on his horse, having correctly recognized the play.
The DE goes to Denard to force the pitch, but OLB has kept discipline and is playing the pitchman (who didn't get a good pitch relationship to Denard).
The Mike easily beats Huyge's block and Denard just has to eat it.
But the good news is that when it counts, our defense stopped a huge 4th down option because Kovacs is all heart and smarts.
Roh does a great job of playing outside shoulder on the TE and forcing the pitch. Morgan does an ok job of taking on the FB, which leaves Kovacs to clean up the pitchman. He didn't wrap up, but he took out the ball carrier's legs and he get a huge turnover on downs.
If you're a Northwestern fan, I can understand why you might be upset after that game. But on closer inspection I think the refs did a better job than it appeared on first blush. (Better than the announcers)
Let's start with one that went your way.
On 1st down, Colter gets tackled with 40 seconds on the clock, and you've got a T.O. that you don't take. O.k. w/e. Maybe you can get to the line and get off another play quickly...
BUT you DIDN'T. The ball isn't snapped until there's only 12 seconds left. That's pretty bad clock management.
And you're lucky to have those 2 seconds to try a field goal. Watching it live, I thought the clock had expired. Remember, it's not basketball, the clock doesn't stop until the ref signals it to stop. I've seen lots of games end this way, because it takes the ref a second or two to wave his arms and then for the clock operator to push the button. In this case, you can see that the ref made his incomplete signal with a second (not two) still on the clock.
Now let's look at one that went our way.
Gordon and Demens have stood up Ebert after NW had been killing us on bubble screens. Gordon strips the ball even though Ebert has two hands wrapped around it. You can see that the ball is coming out before his knee has hit the ground.
And Brian, please stop saying that fumble recoveries are mostly luck and are 50-50 as to who recovers them. Some fumbles are. But the ones that aren't tip the scales. Here we've got 5 guys hustling towards the ball versus one guy who is going to have a mountain of defenders on him and another guy who is flat footed. The odds for us recovering this fumble were very high.
And I almost feel sorry for this guy. He had a great game. It wasn't good enough to beat us, but it was a good effort.
Both of those plays look like good calls to me. The only one I think you've got a fair complaint on is the helmet removal.
Kovacs is coming on a delayed blitz (which, those are some big balls Mr. Mattison) on this all important 4th down.
Because Persa ducked, it doesn't look like a facemask from this angle. Just the friction of the defender's body can often remove a helmet in a situation like this.
But on the slow-mo replay you can see his hand in the grill.
And on this frame you can see that Kovacs actually Goatse'd the thing off with both hands, one in the facemask and one under the ear pad.
So I don't blame you if you felt like this. That's a pretty likeable coach turning Brian Kelly Red (Kudos to the liveblog commentator who came up with that). Howeva, to quote a quote:
Media, as in badge-wearers. Fox Sports's resident officiating expert on the Kovacs/Persa decapitating:
Some face mask penalties an official should never miss. This is not one of them. When I watched this play in real time and even after the first replay, I did not think the face mask was grabbed. So many helmets come off, and often it has nothing to do with the face mask being pulled. In this case, however, the last replay indicated that Kovacs did grab the mask with his left hand. The referee, who is behind the quarterback, would never see this, and he is the only official who is watching the quarterback. It was a foul, but not all fouls can be seen. Coach Fitzgerald was penalized for running out on the field to argue, which is absolutely the correct call. You cannot let a coach come as far onto the field as Fitzgerald did to scream at the officials. It makes no difference whether there is a missed call. That cannot be allowed.
The helmet came off pretty quickly, so it's hard to fault the refs. But I'm of the opinion that slightly less prideful officials might have huddled up, sneaked a peak at the big screen and then quietly dropped a flag. Flag coach Fitz, but also Kovacs, assess the liveball penalty, then march it back 15 for the deadball penalty, 1st and 10 Northwestern, but at the same LoS.
And lastly, we've got the interception by Hawthorne.
From the front angle it looked like he got his hand under the ball.
But from the back angle it looks like the tip of the ball hit the ground and the ball moved. This is the kind of play that is inconclusive and would have gone whatever way it was called on the field. So I guess we got lucky on that one.
- Jersey switch
Several players (including the entire D-Line) switched Jerseys at halftime. I didn't notice it on the fuzzy streams, but the board commentators pointed it out.
Depending on who you believe, it was either because the old jersey's are tighter, or because the new jersey's rip too easily. Either way, our D-line was being held a lot and not getting the calls.
- Mike Martin is still awesome (when not getting held).
- Good Shaw: getting to the pylon ala Chris Perry
That DE can't match his speed.
And Gallon gets an excellent block.
- Bad Shaw; juking a man that has been pancaked.
The play got about 7 yards, but it could have been much more. Seriously stop dancing when you don't need to. This is the kind of thing that Nick $aban would cut you for, just so he could recruit another 5* freshman to replace your indecisive ass with.
- The BTN is still more of a mickey mouse operation than the mickey mouse network.
- And the announcers are not very good with facts.
- Hey Spartans, guess who's next.
Michigan will enter the season as a top 10 pick nationally and in the upper half of the B1G, around 4th behind the likes of Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota. The Wolverines return 9 of 10 starters, including 6 NCAA qualifiers and a National Champ. This year, some notable names for other B1G teams might be taking an Olympic redshirt. Hit biggest by this are Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Badgers are a very star driven team, so those losses will leave a big mark on the lineup. tOSU is coming off a down year to begin with.
- 125 Sean Boyle (Jr) – Boyle is coming off a 28-15 season where he was 4th in the B1G, an NCAA qualifier and one tournament win away from being an All-American. He wrestled to his potential at the end of the year, but, was stuck behind 3 elite level wrestlers in conference. One leaves this year in NU’s Precin, bumping him to 3rd best. Nationally, look for him just outside the top 10. Maybe 11th. Cracking the top 10 should be a good year for him.
- 133 Zac Stevens (Sr) – 23-17 in 2010-11, 5th in the B1G. NCAA qualifier. 5th was a great finish in the conference for him at a packed weight. With Wisconsin losing Graff this season, Stevens should be an easy top 5 finisher and push for 3rd. Although I think he can compete with anyone, Iowa’s Ramos and Illinois Futrell are maybe at a tier above him. Nationally he looks to be ranked probably 10th.
- 141 Kellen Russell (RS Sr) – Returning National Champion with an undefeated season of 38-0. He won the B1G, but, that’s given. What should we expect? Well, he losses some of the tougher conference competition with only Iowa’s Marion really pushing him. He didn’t lose to him last year and why should he this season. I think anything less then another national championship would be a disappointment for him.
- 149 Eric Grajales (RS So) – Grajales was a top recruit coming out of high school and forced to wrestle at a weight probably too high for him last year. He still managed a 18-14 record, coming on strong at the end to finish 2nd in the B1G and an NCAA qualifier. He was one tournament win away from All-American status. There isn’t much difference in the national and conference outlook as the B1G peppers the national scene with 7 in the top 15, led by defending B1G champ, PSU’s Molinaro. Grajales will have a lot competition for that second spot, but, we should expect him to own it and maybe make a run at Molinaro. He will enter the season in the top 10.
- 157 Brandon Zeerip (RS So) – Zeerip was a puzzling case at the end of last year. He compiled a 27-13 record including 6-4 in the conference regular season. Yet, he failed to place at the B1G meet. Maybe his first year as a starter wore him down. His early performance was encouraging though, giving last years lineup a needed boost early. Initial rankings look to have him 7th in the B1G and just in the top 25 nationally. But, he has competed with and even beat some of those ahead of him. He could be a key piece to the team standing.
- 165 Dan Yates (RS So) – Yates had a solid 2010-11. He was 24-14, 5th in the B1G and a NCAA qualifier. He is another one, like B. Zeerip, that can compete with most those ahead of his 7th B1G ranking. Wisconsin’s Howe taking this year off helps. The favorite, PSU’s Taylor, may be at another level then Yates. Beyond that, he should push for a top 3 finish. Nationally he ranks just in the top 25, but, has the potential to be a top 15 guy.
- 174 Justin Zeerip (RS Sr) – Justin showed flashes of top level talent as well as crashes. He finished last year 16-15, 8th in the B1G, NCAA qualifier (although was 2 and out). That line is in no way a good representation of him. Mid-season I thought he may have a shot at All-American status and wouldn’t have been surprised with a run at it even after a disappointing conference tournament. There is a solid top 4 in the B1G ranked in the top 10 nationally that I would expect him to be competitive with. He’ll enter the season in the top 20.
- 184 Hunter Collins (RS Jr) – This was the weak spot for the Wolverines last year and will be the only weight without a ranked wrestler this season. Collins went 8-19 and was two and out at B1G’s. Collins is a ways off the top tier talent in the conference (like PSU’s Wright, Iowa’s Grambrall and Minnesota’s Steinhaus), but, may still be able to contend for that 5th spot. Everyone catches a break from Wisconsin’s Rutt taking the year off. If Collins can crack the top 25, that’s a plus.
- 197 Max Huntley (RS Fr) – The fresh face of this years team. They need to replace a 3-time NCAA qualifier in Anthony Biondo. Huntley sat out last year. His only exhibition action ended in injury. A product of Blair Academy, he looks to enter the season ranked in the top 25 and around 7th in the B1G. Tough weight for a underclassmen, but, Huntley has enough talent and experience to make this a solid spot for Michigan.
- 285 Ben Apland (RS Jr) – The curios case of Ben Apland. Here is a kid that has shown he could beat anyone in the B1G. But, just about the whole weight is a head scratcher for the conference. The top 7 or 8 could finish in any order. He was 18-15 last year, 6th in the conference and an NCAA qualifier. He’ll enter the season just outside the top 15 nationally and around 6th in the B1G. If I sorted out the madness and made a guess, I’d say he could make a run at 4th and should at least make 5th to have a successful season for him. That would be a top 10 national finish most likely.
Michigan kicks off with some exhibitions in early Nov. Don’t usually see a lot of starters in these. The regular season then gets going with a couple duals against @ Buffalo and @ Pitt. Pitt’s a mid ranked team nationally, so that should be a good early season test.
The Cliff Keen Invitational in early Dec. will help show the individuals how they are stacking up nationally. Also a good evaluation of the team.
B1G season kicks off in mid-December with a mat town invitational in PA and dual with a top 25 CMU at home mixed in.
As far as the B1G, Michigan host 4 teams. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and MSU. Illinois looks to be ranked just behind the Wolverines and is the only top 10 team at home. They’ll hit the road for Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. Those are some tough trips. Northwestern is a top 20 team. Minnesota and PSU are top 5. They catch a break missing top ranked Iowa. They’ll need to make sure and secure the Illinois win and pick off one of Minnesota and PSU to have a shot at the B1G dual title.
The year ends with some great wrestling. Cliff Keen duals mid-February (an extremely fun tournament), B1G’s in the first part of March and then NCAA’s.
Michigan didn’t get their lineup sorted out till after that early season Cliff Keen tournament last year. We have a much better understanding heading into this season, but, you never know till they get on the mat. I hope to break down matchups again this year on the big duals and tournaments along with recaps.
UGotW gets a bye week! Not two, not three, but all five of the top five play cupcakes! Sweet, delicious, in-conference cupcakes. This has to be the easiest column since last year's New Mexico/New Mexico State tilt that got one of the two teams their first (and I think only) win of the season.
So here's what passes for research for me: go to ESPN's scoreboard, flip ahead to the next week. What do I see but #1 LSU playing Tennessee, #2 Alabama playing Ole Miss, #3 Oklahoma playing Kansas, #4 Wisconsin playing Indiana and #5 Boise State playing Colorado State. I mean, it doesn't get any easier than that.
Cupcakes? Cupcakes. Or since we're all doing MST3K references this week, DEEP HURTING! Rock climbing, Joel. Rock climbing.
First off, Tennessee has already been beaten by a Florida team that has fallen out of the top 25. Last week, they scored a mighty 12 against Georgia. I was hopeful that the 12 would be all FGs, but 2 FGs and a TD with a blocked extra point gets a +1 for originality and style. Another bonus point for Tennessee for managing negative rushing yards against Georgia. LSU has only the 100th ranked passing offense, but giving up only 12 points per game, who needs it?
Staying in the SEC, we come to Ole Miss. They've got losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia to open 0-2 in conference. Alabama looks a lot like LSU on paper: 80th ranked passing offense, 1st in points allowed. Alabama has two shutouts for the season, and hasn't allowed more than 2 TDs yet.
I'm supposed to be nice to Kansas, since it's my wife's school, but what can you say? They are 120th in points allowed, pushing close to the 50 points per game margin. To be fair, it looks like they have a reasonable offense on paper (11th in rushing), but they must be playing traffic cones and office furniture on defense. This is shaping up to be a month to forget for the Jayhawks, after playing #6 Oklahoma State, #3 Oklahoma, #17 Kansas State and #22 Texas. Oklahoma is coming off a 55-17 pantsing of Texas.
Indiana already has losses to Ball State, Virginia and North Texas on their resume. Up to last week, none of those losses were more than 6 points, but if you need to equivocate a loss to North Texas, you're not very good. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is very good. The phrase "Crushin' Fools" comes to mind. They're #3 in points for and #2 in points against, and averaging over 500 yards per game. Plus they had a bye week after welcoming Nebraska to the BIG conference.
Last, but not least is Colorado State. Yes, the Rams are 3-2. Their wins are: 14-10 versus New Mexico, 33-14 against Northern Colorado, and an overtime win against Utah State. Boise State continues to be the bully on the playground, picking on the little kids. Since Georgia, they've played Toledo, Tulsa, Nevada, Fresno State, CSU, Air Force, and UNLV before finally playing TCU, who does not look like the TCU of previous years.
So here's my sporting advice for the weekend: take the over. I don't know if anyone will push triple digit scores, but I expect to see lots of 60's, 70's and probably a 80 as they all fight to make up ground on each other.
Michigan State will be wearing Nike Pro Combat uniforms for their game against Michigan this weekend. I actually think the uniforms look great and I'm probably not as offended as I should be about Nike's use of military words and pictures to market to teenage athletes.
Most Nike Pro Combat uniforms pay homage to great teams from the past, echo traditional uniform elements or employ locale-specific themes; I like to think that a total lack of options required Michigan State to go all the way back through their history to ancient Sparta for design elements worth repeating.
I laughed when I read the original press release in September as I imagined how the uniform would look if they really wanted to dress up their football team like Spartans. Nike could use dye sublimation to print 300-esque physiques on the jersey and pants and add blood spatter numbers and branding to reinforce the whole "Prepare for Combat" message. Nike isn't afraid of introducing new technology in their uniforms, so why not a partnership with Vibram to combine the natural feel of FiveFingers with the traction of Vapor cleats?
Here's what Nike's official press release would say about my version of Michigan State's Spartan throwback uniform:
Like the ferocious Spartan warriors of ancient Greece, the Michigan State University football team views every game as a battle of attrition, requiring the right equipment, body oil and attitude to die to the last man. Accordingly, the Spartans have been chosen to wear the innovative Nike Pro Combat system of dress-up for the 2011 season. When the gates lift for their battle against archrival Michigan on Oct. 15, the Spartans will sport a design with dye-sublimated physiques printed from full body scans to perfectly match each player's skin and muscle tone. Bronze helmets honor the heroic armor of their historic namesake and an intimidating detachable plume will be worn during pregame warmups. Realistic skin effects are visible throughout the uniform, adding the authentic skimpy durability synonymous with the Spartan name.
The uniform's overall innovation starts with the skin tight baselayer, as strategically placed seams, pads and cooling zones help minimize chafing and optimize protective coverage. It features customizable protection, incorporating a thin, incredibly strong carbon fiber plate textured and painted to look like genuine leather. This symbolically mirrors that of the Spartan body armor, which consisted of leather briefs and sash with a small amount of padding on the shield arm shoulder.
An exclusive partnership with Vibram brings natural running technology to the gridiron for the very first time. Like their ancient counterparts, these Spartans will battle barefoot, or as close to it as NCAA rules allow. For the first time, football players are able to experience the sensation and freedom of barefoot running with the protection and sure-footed grip of Nike's new Talon cleat technology.
Echoing the cry of King Leonidas, the back of the collar is inscribed with the words "Molon Labe," the Spartans' defiant challenge to the competition (and to fans clamoring for officially licensed gear) to "come and get them!" Flayed, blood-spattered numbers and branding compete the traditional Spartan post-combat look. Armed with intensity and determination, and realistic leather accessories, MSU will fight on the battlefield until the last team is standing.
The images below are a previews only. You can get the widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
I needed a solid white uniform to pull this off and was lucky to find a decent image from a previous version of LSU's Pro Combat uniform. As you can see in the video, I painted over the existing numbers and logos and then superimposed the muscles and other effects. If you're up for several minutes of uncomfortable closeups with bare-chested warriors being manipulated digitally then this making-of video is for you.
Motivation Level to Create a Wallpaper for State: 5 (Baseline 5; –1 for monuMental said he was doing rivlary wallpapers and he's WAY better at it than I am, –1 for it's kind of a dick move after I told cjm I wasn't going to, +1 for but people said they liked variety, –1 for but still... dick move, +1 for I have Columbus Day off and don't need to sleep tonight, –1 for but I have a sweet flick on DVR, +1 for by sweet flick I mean I Robot, +1 for and I came up with a good
Remember when lil bro got all excited about their pro-combat unis for the Michigan game? Well, I figured since they were going all 300 on us, I'd follow suit. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, there's a scene in the beginning where a young Spartan boy is sent out into the wild with nothing but his spear. He soon encounters a particularly hungry-looking wolf and slays it as a statement of his manhood... also, so he could live... but I digress. Well, I thought to myself,
"What if that lil Spartan dude never found the mangy-looking wolf?"
"What if he was unfortunate enough to come across a pissed off wolverine instead?"
"What if that particular wolverine hadn't tasted Spartan blood in 3 years and was hungry for it?"
I give you...
For many teams, this marks the midpoint of the season. Some teams are pleased with their progress, others are ready to hit the reset button. Regardless, no Big Ten team can avoid the inevitable second quarter report.
It’s time to look at the second quarter of the season report card for Big Ten teams, now six weeks into the season. The report card will factor in each team’s success (or lack thereof) offensively and defensively, while keeping their win-loss record in mind. I’ll also provide a few games to look at over the next three games for each team.
Readers have suggested I reference the previous quarter’s report card; those grades will be duly noted. To see the first quarter report card, click here.
To see articles like this and more, visit my blog at Before Visiting the Sportsbook.
Illinois – Projected Record: (6-0); Actual Record: (6-0)
Total Offense: 448 yards/game; 33rd. Quarter 1-[410 yards/game; 60th.]
Run Offense: 226 yards/game; 13th. Quarter 1-[223 yards/game; 22nd.] Pass Offense: 224 yards/game; 65th. Quarter 1-[187 yards/game; 83rd.]
Total Defense: 297 yards/game; 15th. Quarter 1-[269 yards/game; 17th.]
Run Defense: 80 yards/game; 9th. Quarter 1-[63 yards/game; 7th.] Pass Defense: 217 yards/game; 56th. Quarter 1-[205 yards/game; 59th.]
Notes: Illinois had their streak of three point wins snapped, with a 21 point win over Indiana, in less than impressive fashion. The passing offense has significantly improved under QB Nathan Scheelhaase (1238 passing yards, 66.7% completion, and 14 total TD). Before the season began, I had the Illini at 8-4, but I think they are VERY capable of double-digit regular season wins. Games at home to rival Ohio and on the road at Penn State will give a better idea.
Wins: Arkansas State (33-15); South Dakota State (56-3); #22 Arizona State (17-14); Western Michigan (23-20); Northwestern* (38-35); @ Indiana* (41-20).
Quarter 1 Grade: A-.
Current Grade: A-.
Indiana – Projected Record: (3-3); Actual Record: (1-5)
Total Offense: 369 yards/game; 82nd. Quarter 1-[417 yards/game; 55th.]
Run Offense: 119 yards/game; 92nd. Quarter 1-[169 yards/game; 55th.] Pass Offense: 256 yards/game; 44th. Quarter 1-[247 yards/game; 38th.]
Total Defense: 422 yards/game; 97th. Quarter 1-[373 yards/game; 73rd.]
Run Defense: 210 yards/game; 109th. Quarter 1-[177 yards/game; 87th.] Pass Defense: 212 yards/game; 48th. Quarter 1-[195 yards/game; 48th.]
Notes: The Hoosiers haven’t been .500 in conference play since 2001, so even by Indiana standards, this year will be a bad one. Indiana has tried to one-up Penn State and Ohio’s use of two quarterbacks by now employing the use of three quarterbacks, Edward Wright-Baker (925 passing yards, 62% completion, 4 TD, but 2 INT), Dusty Kiel (427 passing yards, 47.6% completion, 3 TD, but 1 INT), and Tre Roberson (148 passing yards, 64.7% completion, 1 total TD, but 1 INT), none of which have been effective. Make no mistake, if he ends up in Bloomington next year, Gunner Kiel will put the QB controversy to rest. Since the Hoosiers don’t play Minnesota, we may never know the worst team in the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers can show a lot of heart at Iowa and home to Northwestern.
Wins: South Carolina State (38-21).
Losses: vs. Ball State (20-27); Virginia (31-34); @ North Texas (21-24); Penn State* (10-16); #19 Illinois* (20-41).
Quarter 1 Grade: D.
Current Grade: D-.
Iowa – Projected Record: (4-1); Actual Record: (3-2)
Total Offense: 388 yards/game; 70th. Quarter 1-[411 yards/game; 59th.]
Run Offense: 129 yards/game; 78th. Quarter 1-[127 yards/game; 82nd.] Pass Offense: 281 yards/game; 28th. Quarter 1-[284 yards/game; 22nd.]
Total Defense: 388 yards/game; 66th. Quarter 1-[397 yards/game; 88th.]
Run Defense: 152 yards/game; 64th. Quarter 1-[157 yards/game; 76th.] Pass Defense: 235 yards/game; 80th. Quarter 1-[240 yards/game; 82nd.]
Notes: I like James Vandenberg (1264 passing yards, 60.1% completion, and 13 total TD), a lot, so pardon me when I say that he might be Iowa’s best throwing quarterback since Brad Banks. With that said, after the Penn State game, he has a lot to prove, only mustering a pathetic three points. Penn State’s defense is good, but even Eastern Michigan put three on the board. Senior leadership from WR Marvin McNutt (486 receiving yards, 16.8/catch, and 4 TD) and TE Brad Herman would certainly help. This week’s game against Northwestern will help to show the Hawkeyes’ potential.
Wins: Tennessee Tech (34-7); Pittsburgh (31-27); Louisiana-Monroe (45-17).
Losses: @ Iowa State (41-44 OT); @ Penn State* (3-13).
Quarter 1 Grade: C.
Current Grade: C-.
Michigan – Projected Record: (5-1); Actual Record: (6-0)
Total Offense: 491 yards/game; 14th. Quarter 1-[461.5 yards/game; 24th.]
Run Offense: 270 yards/game; 7th. Quarter 1-[245 yards/game; 13th.] Pass Offense: 168 yards/game; 105th. Quarter 1-[177 yards/game; 87th.]
Total Defense: 348 yards/game; 39th. Quarter 1-[374.5 yards/game; 76th.]
Run Defense: 142 yards/game; 58th. Quarter 1-[202.5 yards/game; 103rd.] Pass Defense: 206 yards/game; 39th. Quarter 1-[172 yards/game; 26th.]
Notes: Through six games last year, Michigan averaged roughly 37 points per game, and gave up an average of almost 27/game. This year, Michigan is averaging almost 1 point more per game (including the Western game), but is giving up on average only 12.5/game. The 1997 National Title team gave up, on average, 9.5/game. The defense could certainly use some help from Denard Robinson (1850 total yards, 57.3% completion, 18 total TD, but 9 INT), who is now averaging an interception per game. The Wolverines have been impressive, but they miss out on the A-, by virtue of the passing game.
Wins: Western Michigan (34-10); Notre Dame (35-31); Eastern Michigan (31-3); San Diego State (28-7); Minnesota* (58-0); Northwestern* (42-24).
Quarter 1 Grade: B.
Current Grade: B+.
Michigan State – Projected Record: (3-2); Actual Record: (4-1)
Total Offense: 398 yards/game; 61st. Quarter 1-[396 yards/game; 67th.]
Run Offense: 129 yards/game; 79th. Quarter 1-[125 yards/game; 83rd.] Pass Offense: 269 yards/game; 34th. Quarter 1-[270 yards/game; 26th.]
Total Defense: 173 yards/game; 1st. Quarter 1-[192 yards/game; 4th.]
Run Defense: 64 yards/game; 3rd. Quarter 1-[88 yards/game; 28th.] Pass Defense: 109 yards/game; 2nd. Quarter 1-[104 yards/game; 3rd.]
Notes: Statistically, the Spartan defense has been impressive, improving already gaudy numbers in the past three weeks. The problem? Florida Atlantic’s offense ranks 118th, Central Michigan’s ranks 88th, Ohio’s ranks 105th, and Youngstown is an FCS team. The only good offense they faced, Notre Dame, 21st, was a game Michigan State lost. The teams Michigan State has beaten are a combined 7-15. The offensive line needs to improve for QB Kirk Cousins (1197 passing yards, 67.8% completion, 6 TD, but 4 INT) and RB Le’Veon Bell (267 rushing yards, 5.1/carry, and 6 TD). In each of the next three games, Michigan State faces teams with winning records and who are ranked. In fact, the next three opponents, #11 Michigan, #4 Wisconsin, and @ #14 Nebraska, are a combined 16-1! Needless to say, each game is key.
Wins: Youngstown State (28-6); Florida Atlantic (44-0); Central Michigan (45-7); @ Ohio* (10-7).
Losses: @ Notre Dame (13-31).
Quarter 1 Grade: C+.
Current Grade: C+.
Minnesota – Projected Record: (3-3); Actual Record: (1-5)
Total Offense: 300 yards/game; 110th. Quarter 1-[373 yards/game; 78th.]
Run Offense: 145 yards/game; 65th. Quarter 1-[175 yards/game; 48th.] Pass Offense: 164 yards/game; 107th. Quarter 1-[197 yards/game; 77th.]
Total Defense: 414 yards/game; 91st. Quarter 1-[399 yards/game; 90th.]
Run Defense: 167 yards/game; 77th. Quarter 1-[93 yards/game; 31st.] Pass Defense: 248 yards/game; 91st. Quarter 1-[305 yards/game; 112th.]
Notes: You’ve got to feel for Coach Jerry Kill. Between his well-documented health problems, secondary with almost as much experience as I have (note: I didn’t even play high school ball), and an anemic offense, its been an awful year for him. One wonders whether Minnesota’s high point was almost knocking off USC, week 1. Injury to QB Marqueis Gray (625 passing yards, 48.4% completion, 4 total TD, but 4 INT) forced freshman Max Shortell (309 passing yards, 49% completion, 2 TD, but 2 INT) into action. I’m honestly not sure that Minnesota will be able to be within 21 points of any game left on their schedule, maybe they can keep it close against Iowa?
Wins: Miami (NTM) (29-23).
Losses: @ USC (17-19); New Mexico State (21-28); North Dakota State (24-37); @ #19 Michigan* (0-58); @ Purdue* (17-45).
Quarter 1 Grade: D+.
Current Grade: F.
Nebraska – Projected Record: (5-1); Actual Record: (5-1)
Total Offense: 419 yards/game; 46th. Quarter 1-[422 yards/game; 51st.]
Run Offense: 247 yards/game; 8th. Quarter 1-[252 yards/game; 11th.] Pass Offense: 168 yards/game; 104th. Quarter 1-[169 yards/game; 92nd.]
Total Defense: 373 yards/game; 59th. Quarter 1-[364 yards/game; 67th.]
Run Defense: 168 yards/game; 80th. Quarter 1-[132 yards/game; 61st.] Pass Defense: 205 yards/game; 37th. Quarter 1-[232 yards/game; 78th.]
Notes: Ground control to Lincoln, your run defense has gotten worse. After being outscored 75-23 in 97:36 against Wisconsin and Ohio, the Huskers finally got their act together, outscoring the Buckeyes 28-0 over the last 22:23 of Saturday. Nebraska will breathe a sigh of relief, facing Minnesota in two weeks and welcoming Michigan State to Lincoln. QB Taylor Martinez (1598 total yards, 54.3% completion, 15 total TD, but 6 INT) and RB Rex Burkhead (635 rushing yards, 5.9/carry, and 10 TD) have paced the run game.
Wins: Chattanooga (40-7); Fresno State (42-29); Washington (51-38); @ Wyoming (38-14); Ohio* (34-27).
Losses: @ #7 Wisconsin* (17-48).
Quarter 1 Grade: B+.
Current Grade: C+.
Northwestern – Projected Record: (3-2); Actual Record: (2-3)
Total Offense: 387 yards/game; 71st. Quarter 1-[390 yards/game; 71st.]
Run Offense: 188 yards/game; 37th. Quarter 1-[220 yards/game; 24th.] Pass Offense: 167 yards/game; 106th. Quarter 1-[169 yards/game; 93rd.]
Total Defense: 439 yards/game; 104th. Quarter 1-[394 yards/game; 87th.]
Run Defense: 176 yards/game; 87th. Quarter 1-[205 yards/game; 105th.] Pass Defense: 264 yards/game; 97th. Quarter 1-[188 yards/game; 39th.]
Notes: Going into the Michigan game, the Wildcats went 3-1 without QB Dan Persa (454 passing yards, 72.4% completion, and 4 TD), with a surprising loss to Army. Leading 24-14 at half, Northwestern was completely shutdown in the second half, being outscored 28-0. All-purpose Kain Colter (758 total yards and 6 total TD) and WR Jeremy Ebert (324 receiving yards and 5 TD) have led the way for the Wildcats. Games at Iowa and home to Penn State will give a better idea of what kind of team Northwestern is.
Wins: @ Boston College (24-17); Eastern Illinois (42-21)
Losses: @ Army (14-21); @ #24 Illinois* (35-38); #12 Michigan* (24-42).
Quarter 1 Grade: B-.
Current Grade: C.
Ohio – Projected Record: (4-2); Actual Record: (3-3)
Total Offense: 315 yards/game; 105th. Quarter 1-[342 yards/game; 86th.]
Run Offense: 169 yards/game; 48th. Quarter 1-[170 yards/game; 53rd.] Pass Offense: 154 yards/game; 111th. Quarter 1-[172 yards/game; 91st.]
Total Defense: 308 yards/game; 22nd. Quarter 1-[263 yards/game; 14th.]
Run Defense: 167 yards/game; 36th. Quarter 1-[107 yards/game; 37th.] Pass Defense: 192 yards/game; 21st. Quarter 1-[156 yards/game; 17th.]
Notes: Who knew that Angry Michigan hating God took up residence in Columbus? Since the end of last season, the Bucks have lost a QB, a WR for 10 games, RB for 10 games, and a lineman for 5. RB Carlos Hyde (400 rushing yards, 5.3/carry, and 5 TD) has led the way for Ohio. The Bucks have also lost three games and are viewed as the biggest NCAA violators, which is saying a lot, considering Miami (YTM) is included in that group. Ohio has averaged 35 points/game in their wins, but only 14/game in their losses. If you happened to listen to Buckeye Roundtable, Jim Lachey predicts the Bucks will be lucky to win 6-7 games this season. Games at Illinois and home to Wisconsin will provide clues as to whether Lachey is correct.
Wins: Akron (42-0); Toledo (27-22); Colorado (37-17).
Losses: @ Miami (YTM) (6-24); Michigan State* (7-10); @ #14 Nebraska* (27-34).
Quarter 1 Grade: C.
Current Grade: D.
Penn State – Projected Record: (5-1); Actual Record: (5-1)
Total Offense: 374 yards/game; 81st. Quarter 1-[306 yards/game; 103rd.]
Run Offense: 162 yards/game; 53rd. Quarter 1-[148 yards/game; 66th.] Pass Offense: 222 yards/game; 66th. Quarter 1-[158 yards/game; 100th.]
Total Defense: 251 yards/game; 4th. Quarter 1-[242 yards/game; 9th.]
Run Defense: 93 yards/game; 17th. Quarter 1-[111 yards/game; 42nd.] Pass Defense: 158 yards/game; 5th. Quarter 1-[130 yards/game; 7th.]
Notes: Based on the Iowa game, it looks as if Penn State has settled on a QB, Matt McGloin (758 passing yards, 58.9% completion, and 5 TD). Workhorse RB Silas Redd (574 rushing yards 4.8/carry, and 4 TD) and WR Derek Moye (485 receiving yards, 17.3/catch, and 3 TD) have chipped in offensively between the QB competition. The Nittany Lions have key games upcoming, at Northwestern and home to Illinois.
Wins: Indiana State (41-7); @ Temple (14-10); Eastern Michigan (34-6); @ Indiana* (16-10); Iowa* (13-3).
Losses: Alabama (27-11).
Quarter 1 Grade: B-.
Current Grade: B.
Purdue – Projected Record: (5-0); Actual Record: (3-2)
Total Offense: 412 yards/game; 50th. Quarter 1-[471 yards/game; 22nd.]
Run Offense: 215 yards/game; 20th. Quarter 1-[258 yards/game; 9th.] Pass Offense: 207 yards/game; 81st. Quarter 1-[212 yards/game; 64th.]
Total Defense: 346 yards/game; 36th. Quarter 1-[321 yards/game; 43rd.]
Run Defense: 143 yards/game; 59th. Quarter 1-[109 yards/game; 40th.] Pass Defense: 203 yards/game; 32nd. Quarter 1-[212 yards/game; 63rd.]
Notes: Purdue has averaged 32.6 points/game this year. Setting aside the Southeast Missouri State and Minnesota games, who are a combined 2-9 (and Purdue beat a combined 104-17), the Boilermakers are averaging 19.6 points/game. It looks as if QB Caleb TerBush (787 passing yards, 64.1% completion, and 6 total TD) will be the starter, but QB Robert Marve (182 passing yards, 53.3% completion, 1 TD) will get his snaps. The Purdue run game has been led by the tandem of Ralph Bolden (273 yards 4.8/carry, and 3 total TD) and Akeem Shavers (242 yards 5.5/carry, and 5 total TD). Games at Penn State, home to #16 Illinois, and @ #11 Michigan should give a better idea of whether or not this is a bowl team.
Wins: Middle Tennessee (27-24); SE Missouri State (59-0); Minnesota* (45-17).
Losses: @ Rice (22-24); Notre Dame (10-38).
Quarter 1 Grade: C.
Current Grade: C-.
Wisconsin – Projected Record: (5-0); Actual Record: (5-0)
Total Offense: 523 yards/game; 9th. Quarter 1-[505 yards/game; 14th.]
Run Offense: 243 yards/game; 9th. Quarter 1-[238 yards/game; 17th.] Pass Offense: 280 yards/game; 29th. Quarter 1-[267 yards/game; 27th.]
Total Defense: 264 yards/game; 7th. Quarter 1-[271 yards/game; 18th.]
Run Defense: 103 yards/game; 22nd. Quarter 1-[77 yards/game; 18th.] Pass Defense: 161 yards/game; 6th. Quarter 1-[193 yards/game; 44th.]
Notes: Wisconsin has continued to destroy teams, increasing their MOV from 37 points/game to 38.2/points game. QB transfer Russell Wilson (1391 passing yards and 13 passing TD; 140 rushing yards and 2 TD) has played pitch-and-catch with WR Nick Toon (447 receiving yards, 17.9/catch, and 6 TD) and TE Jacob Pedersen (224 yards 16.0/catch, and 4 TD). RB Montee Ball (511 yards 5.5/carry and 14 total TD) and James C. White (329 rushing yards, 5.59/carry, and 3 TD) have led the running attack. Wisconsin faces their first road test in two weeks at #23 Michigan State; Wisconsin hasn’t won at Michigan State since 2002, losing three straight in East Lansing.
Wins: UNLV (51-17); Oregon State (49-7); vs. Northern Illinois (49-7); South Dakota (59-10); Nebraska* #8 (48-17).
Quarter 1 Grade: A.
Current Grade: A.