The thing that really brought me to write this post was the fact that defense has always seemed to be a weakness under Rich Rodriguez. Part of it is due to the fact that his teams have put points on the board in bunches and quickly putting the defense in a precarious position, but part of it might also be attributed to the recruiting on the defensive side of the ball.
Rodriguez recruits really really well.
Let me rephrase...
Rodriguez recruits really really well on the offensive side of the ball.
Ok, so the rephrased statement is obvious. Rodriguez is an offensive guru, so it's obvious he recruits well on that side of the ball. But on the other side, I cannot say the same. I can already hear the comments coming. "What about Craig Roh, Justin Turner, and Will Campbell?" Yes, Michigan OBVIOUSLY does recruit defensive players, but take a look and see what the ratio of offensive-to-defensive players recruited is.
Offense Defense Athlete/ST
2008 14 8 2
2009 9 9 4
2010 10 7 2
So these numbers aren't THAT telling until you check the athlete section.
2008 athletes: Feagin (O), JT Floyd (D)
2009 athletes: Robinson (O), Gallon (O), Thomas Gordon (O to D), Gibbons (ST)
2010 athletes: Dileo (O), Hagerup (ST)
Heck, a lot of offensive recruits end up getting moved to defense because they can't compete with the talent on the offensive side.
This is a BIG problem. USC recruits defensive players. Florida recruits defensive players. OSU recruits defensive players. Michigan (under Rodriguez) recruits offensive players and turns them into defensive players. This should be VERY alarming.
The #11 Michigan team will face #9 Minnesota in Minneapolis Saturday night (8pmET). The game will be streamed live over the BigTenNetwork.com's new video player. This will be Michigan's first appearance on the new video player, and should be a solid matchup. The cost will be $2.99 (Note: $5 cheaper than the hockey game against BU, which is available through BU's SID for $7.95. BTN is a steal).
Also worth noting, this will be another game where the hosting team moves to a bigger arena (Williams Arena) in order to get a big crowd in against Michigan. Minnesota is expecting around 10k in attendance. That's awesome.
The Golden Gophers enter the game at 15-2 (pending the outcome Friday night at Michigan State), but they suffered a huge setback this week. Brook Dieter, a Second Team All-American last year and current leader in kills for the Gophers, spontaneously quit the team earlier in the week. Not much is really known on what happened. The team captain Gibbemeyer mentioned "personal reasons," while coach Herbert claims it was a "earning playing time" issue. Either way, Dieter and senior setter Carico were both benched against Northwestern last weekend. It sounds like Carico, who is second in the BigTen in assists, should be back in the starting rotation by this weekend.
Taking the place of Dieter is junior Hailey Cowles, a defensive player turned outside hitter. This move makes no sense to me having not seen the Gophers very much, but while reading through some of the comments on those Dieter articles, it doesn't sound like it makes much sense to some of the more informed commenters:
Do you really believe that replacing Brook Dieter (hitting at a pretty good, but not outstanding 0.250 pace) with Hailey Cowles (hitting at an astonishing 0.061 pace) at left side hitter will improve the team? I consider this incident a train wreck [compared to their women's basketball team with a similar experience a few years ago] - dmhopstock
I would guess that Cowles as the OH will not last. Soon, Wilson will move to OH and Harms will play OPP. As good an all-around player as Cowles is, she is not tall/long enough to be successful against premier teams. She will return to her DS position and Harms' athleticism will shine. - fahningm
They sound like they have a decent idea of what's going on, but they are just commenters on a newspaper website, so take it FWIW.
Minnesota definitely looks vulnerable. They were swept by Penn State and Illinois in consecutive games before handling a weak Northwestern team 3 sets to 1 over their last three games.
Michigan will definitely try to test Cowles as Michigan will have a height advantage for perhaps the first time all season. Cowles is 5'10", perhaps the shortest outside hitter we've faced in the BigTen so far. Dieter was one of Minnesota's better blockers with .64 blocks per set (10 solos and 31 assists). That'll be a huge loss for the Gophers.
Add that Michigan is coming off their best defensive game in a while, this loss of Dieter could be huge. Donhoff had a great game against State, which probably went unnoticed by most casual observers. It helped that our block had plenty of tips up. I really want to see that intensity at the net happen in this game as well.
Here's where things start to get dicey for Michigan. In the middle of the last game, Lexi Zimmerman dislocated her thumb. She was playing with obvious pain, and she was sporting a hand brace. While she finished the game against State, we'll have to see how much she plays over the next few games. Most dislocations take a few weeks to fully heal, and really bad ones can knock a player out for 2-3 weeks.
I imagine if had been that bad, the trainers wouldn't have let Lexi play, no matter how much her game day adrenaline would have allowed Lexi to keep going. I'm expecting to see Lexi start, but at the first sign of aggravation, I wouldn't be surprised to see Yager enter the game.
Yager is expected to be a great setter by the time she makes the starting lineup. She was ranked #41 overall in the nation by volleyballprep.com in last year's volleyball recruiting class.
Yager made a brief appearance in the game on Wednesday, but you could tell she was just a freshman setting. Her sets weren't nearly as quick or crisp as Lexi's, and it allowed State to get a few points Michigan probably wouldn't have given up. That said, Lexi made a few bad sets due to the thumb. It'll be interesting to see who plays how much and how well.
I kind of like the one I did for Michigan State. It's not perfect, and I'm still trying to figure out what I call a push versus a true advantage, especially with Aces per Game versus Server Reception Errors per Game (SR Errors/Game) or Attack Percentage versus Blocks per Game. Bear with me. Comments on how to improve it are welcome.
|Aces/Game||1.7||SR Errors/Game||0.9||MICH||SR Errors/Game||0.6||PUSH|
|Serve Errors/Game||2.73||Serve Errors/Game||1.64||MINN||Serve Errors/Game||1.24||MINN|
|Passing Errors||18||Passing Errors||12||MINN||Passing Errors||10||MINN|
|AVG Oppo RPI||68.1||AVG Oppo RPI**||63.9||PUSH||-||-||-|
- *Doesn't include Friday against MSU
- **Doesn't include MSU's RPI, which being around #18, will help weight it down to ~61.6 average opponent RPI
So with Dieter, I would have given the edge to Minnesota in just statistics, not to mention the home court advantage. With Dieter out of the lineup, Michigan picks up quite a few more matchups. That's a big drop in kills/game and even digs/game. I think the backups will be able to handle the digs, so that may not be such a big advantage for Michigan, but the kills… that'll hopefully be the game breaker.
Some of the ones Michigan still losses are also deceiving, such as service errors per game and attack percentage as Minnesota removed about 1/5 to 1/4 of their attempts on the season, inflating the overall totals. I don't think you can just assume that the backups will produce nearly as well as Dieter.
I'm liking our chances to get a big road win, but I'm in no way confident enough to pick an outright win. I could see this game going any number of different ways. If I had to buckle down and guess, though, I see Michigan victorious in 4 sets.
The match begins at 8ET (7pm local), so for those interested and with $3 to spare, check out the BTN.com. It should still be a good one.
(all pictures from MGoBlue.com)
Press release. Note: it cracks me up that Mitch Albom gets these.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan Athletic Ticket Department has announced today (Friday, Oct. 23) four ticket pack options, as well as the dates for single game ticket sales for the 2009-10 men's basketball season.
Beginning Tuesday (Oct. 27) at 8:30 a.m. the following ticket packages will be available:
Go Blue Pack -- This pack is a five game package, along with FREE tickets to the Coppin State game (Tuesday, Dec. 22) for $80 in the upper level gold seating. Games featured in this exclusive package include Ohio State (Sunday, Jan 3); Michigan State (Tuesday, Jan. 26); Wisconsin, (Saturday, Feb. 6); Illinois (Tuesday, Feb. 23) and Minnesota (Tue or Wed, March 2 or 3). Purchasers of this pack will be given FREE tickets to the Coppin State game equal to the number of packs purchased.
Weekend Pack -- This pack is a four game package for $40 in the upper level gold seating. Games featured in this exclusive pack include Connecticut (Sunday, Jan 17); Northwestern (Sunday, Jan 10); Iowa (Saturday, Jan 30); and Penn State (Saturday, Feb. 20).
Buy 2, Get 2 Free -- With this pack, fans who buy two or more upper level gold tickets to Indiana (Thursday, Jan. 14) will receive two FREE upper level gold tickets to Minnesota (Tue or Wed, March 2 or 3).
Family Pack -- With this pack, fans must purchase a minimum of four upper-level gold tickets for $40 for the Big Ten games and $20 for the non-conference games. For each ticket purchased, fans will receive a coupon for a free drink and hot dog. Games featured in this pack include Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Saturday, Dec. 5); University of Detroit (Sunday, Dec. 13); Northwestern (Sunday, Jan 10); Iowa (Saturday, Jan 30) and Penn State (Saturday, Feb. 20).
Beginning Tuesday (Oct. 27) at 8:30 a.m. single game tickets for all non-conference games (except Connecticut) will be available. Ticket prices range from $5-$22. To order group tickets (10-or-more), please call the Athletic Ticket Office.
Beginning Tuesday (Dec. 15), single game tickets for Big Ten games (except Ohio State and Michigan State) and Connecticut will go on sale. Single game prices range from $10-$22. To order group tickets (10-or-more), please call the Athletic Ticket Office. There will be no group orders for Ohio State, Connecticut and Michigan State games.
There will be no public sale of tickets for Ohio State (Sunday, Jan. 3) or Michigan State (Tuesday, Jan 26) games, but these games are included in various packages.
To order tickets, call the Michigan Athletic Ticket Office at (866) 296-MTIX or (734) 764-0247, log on to mgoblue.com/tickets, or visit the U-M Ticket Office located in the Hartwig Building at 1000 South State Street, Ann Arbor. The U-M Ticket Office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
U-M Men's Basketball Ticket Packages
Starting Tuesday, October 27 at 8:30 a.m.
Go Blue Pack -- $80
Ohio State (Sunday, Jan 3)
Michigan State (Tuesday, Jan. 26)
Wisconsin, (Saturday, Feb. 6)
Illinois (Tuesday, Feb. 23)
Minnesota (Tue or Wed, March 2 or 3)
FREE - Coppin State (Tuesday, Dec. 22)
Weekend Pack -- $40
Connecticut (Sunday, Jan 17)
Northwestern (Sunday, Jan 10)
Iowa (Saturday, Jan 30)
Penn State (Saturday, Feb. 20)
Family Pack -- $40/$20
Minimum 4 tickets purchased required & Coupon for Free Drink & Hot Dog
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Saturday, Dec. 5)
University of Detroit (Sunday, Dec. 13)
Northwestern (Sunday, Jan 10)
Iowa (Saturday, Jan 30)
Penn State (Saturday, Feb. 20)
U-M Men’s Basketball Single Game Sales
Starting Tuesday, October 27 at 8:30 a.m.
Exhibition Games -- $11 Blue; $8/$5 Gold
Wayne State (Friday, Nov 6)
Non-Conference Single Games -- $15/$22 Blue: $10/$5 Gold
Northern Michigan (Saturday, Nov. 14)
Houston Baptist (Friday, Nov. 20)
Boston College (Wednesday, Dec. 2)
Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Saturday, Dec. 5)
University of Detroit (Sunday, Dec. 13)
Non-Conference Student Break Game -- $15 Blue; $10/$5 Gold
Coppin State (Tuesday, Dec. 22)
U-M Men’s Basketball Big Ten Single Game Sales
Starting Tuesday, December 15 at 8:30 a.m.
Big Ten Games -- $22 Blue; $15/$10 Gold
(Except Ohio State and Michigan State)
Northwestern (Sunday, Jan. 10)
Indiana (Thursday, Jan. 14)
Iowa (Saturday, Jan. 30)
Wisconsin (Saturday, Feb. 5)
Penn State (Saturday, Feb. 20)
Illinois (Tuesday, Feb. 23)
Minnesota (Tue or Wed, March 2 or 3)
Athletic Ticket Department Contact: Marty Bodnar (734) 764-0247
Rush Offense vs PSU
Michigan O +4 (9th) vs Penn St D +4 (9th)
Pretty evenly matched here, although Penn State has done equal damage against much fewer plays. Michigan's performance has ranged from a +15 vs Eastern and +9 vs Iowa to a low of -4 vs Michigan State.
Penn State's defensive performances against the run have been very consistent with a high of +8 vs Akron and lows of +1 against Syracuse and Illinois.
If either team can dominate this matchup, it could very well swing the entire game.
Pass Offense vs PSU
Michigan O +0 (57) vs Penn St D +4 (22)
While Michigan's pass offense has been very average, Penn State's defense has been well above average, their +4 rating puts them 3rd in the Big 10.
Since an opening week +8, Michigan's passing game hasn't seen anything more than the +4 posted against Indiana and has been below average in 3 of their last 5 games.
Penn State has averaged over +5 for their three Big 10 games to date hasn't been below +2 since their opening matchup vs Akron.
This matchup clearly favors Penn State. A solid performance from the a passing attack that is yet to go through a game interception free would be a surprise bonus on Saturday.
Rush Defense vs PSU
Michigan D -2 (98) vs Penn State O +2 (22)
This one is a bit scary for Michigan fans. In the Big 10, only Illinois is worse than Michigan in run defense and only Michigan is better than Penn State at running the ball. With Penn State typically slowing the game down and reducing possessions through the ground, Michigan will have to close this 4 point gap to have any shot at keeping the pace up where they like it.
Going into the game details shows there is some film out there for success against Penn State's rushing attack. The Nittany Lions gashed Illinois and Temple at nearly +10 a game, but in their other 4 games they have averaged -1 and haven't been above +1. Michigan can't afford to join the Temple and Illinois group to have a chance on Saturday. Unfortunately, since the Western game, Michigan's run defense hasn't produced a single + performance, with Iowa two weeks ago being the best at -1.
Pass Defense vs PSU
Michigan D +4 (26) vs Penn State O +4 (21)
A second battle of strength vs strength. I don't see this matchup being quite as critical as when Michigan is running the ball, but this is the second time we have two highly rated units facing off.
After going +6/game through non-conference, Penn State started weakly against the Big 10, going -2 against both Iowa and Illinois but then bounced back for their best performance of the year last week vs Minnesota, +10.
Michigan pass defense, on the other hand, has been very consistent. Through Big 10 play they have gone +2,+4 and +5 and haven't posted a negative game yet this year.
I touched on this in my team rankings column on Wednesday, but there is a stark difference in the pace at which each of these teams play.
Michigan's offense is currently ranked 21st in points vs expected at +6 and 17th in pace at 12.3 possessions per game. Contrast this with Penn State's offense which
is right behind Michigan in points vs expected at +5 (24th) but their pace of only 9.8
possessions per game is 110th out of 120 FBS schools.
Michigan +1 (26) vs Penn State -1 (69)
Special teams appear to be Michigan's biggest advantage going into the game. Going unit by unit, you can see Michigan has significant advantages in kicking, Kickoff return and punt teams while Penn State leads in kickoff team and punt return by default.
Kicking M (15) P (99)
Kickoff M (73) P (35)
Kick Return M (30) P (72)
Punt M (6) P (65)
Punt Return M (105) P (71)
Michigan 24 Penn State 28
Nothing in the numbers shows Michigan being the better team coming into the game, but nothing in the numbers indicates that they don't still have a great shot. I know I ended up sitting right on the line again this week (it really isn't this close, this often) but if anyone is dumb enough to use this with actual money, split hairs at your own risk!
Elsewhere in the Big 10
My picks first then the formula numbers in ()
Minnesota 14 Ohio State 28 (14-26)
Illinois 17 Purdue 35 (16-36)
Iowa 21 Michigan St 17 (21-18)
I have limited amounts of time and knowledge of statistical models, so I am going to trust Jeff that his model is complete and accurate within reason (call me lazy, I prefer efficient with a desire to remain gainfully employed). Sagarin includes a predictor rating, which rates the teams based on all data. Since it is a slow week at work, I took the time to combine the betting lines with the predictor.
The expectation is that the predictor ratings, adjusted for the home field advantage of 3.5 pts, plus or minus the spread should equal zero. I am sure there is a noise factor in there (a threshold for statistical significance) but that is beyond me. I selected the games with the highest absolute difference from zero.
Idaho (predictor = 70.69) at Nevada (net predictor of 69.78) -15, difference = 16.41pts
WSU (59.20) at Cal (net 82.76) -35, difference = 11.44
N Illinois (75.46) - 11at Miami not that Miami (net (55.10). diff = 9.36
Maryland (59.05) at Duke (net 72.28) -4.5. diff = 8.73
Louisville (63.45) at Cinci (net 88.73) -17. diff = 8.28
Vandy (59.55) at S Car (net 80.95) -13.5. diff = 7.90
Games of local interest:
PSU (82.77) -4.5 at UM (net 81.65) diff = 3.38 (significant?)
Iowa (86.00) at MSU (net 81.10) pick 'em. difference of 4.90
There are 17 games with an absolute difference above 5.00. I assume this will get tighter as the games are played.
- I do not have any knowledge of the Sagarin model or its corrections, adjustments etc.
- Home field advantage is a plug number, each team should have its own number.
- I pulled the lines from Yahoo sports, which may or may not be the latest.
- As a CPA, I can add and subtract, all other functions are considered immaterial or buried in a footnote in small print.
- This is for entertainment purposes only and all numbers should be verified.
Results this week:
Tulsa (72.55) -7 at UTEP (net 61.67).The play? Tulsa. The result? Loss.
FSU (78.49) at UNC (net 74.43) -2.5. The play? FSU. The result? Win.
Edit: I have not researched any external factors such as injuries or swine flu.
(Diarist Note: I should have some takes, opinions and picks on the rest of Saturday's action on the Just Cover Blog by tomorrow morning. We're leaving for Ann Arbor before 10:00 tomorrow, so thats my deadline. Also: Big time props to Mazie4Blue, the genius behind the site's redesign.)
Well, it's here. Penn State comes to town tomorrow. We're about 24 hours out from kickoff. It's time for the money to meet the mouth.
I have been chirping for two weeks now that Michigan takes this game. Let me formally lay out my case.
1.) This just in, but Michigan is a good team. I know we want to wail on defensive breakdowns, question our merits after those road losses, gripe that a walk on plays a lot of minutes on D and moan that since freshmen aren't instant impact players that they're probably busts. But, get over it people. September 2007 isnt walking through that door. Nor is 2008. This club is better team than those. You'll see tomorrow.
2.) Michigan dominated PSU for a half last year. Michigan is leaps and bounds better this season, Penn State is not as good as last year. The fatal flaw for Michigan in this game last year, and in a lot of their season in 2008, was an inability to turn to second, third and fourth wrinkles once the original gameplan wore out. No such issues this season. Michigan will put up 17 first half points again, but instead of getting shutout, will match that in the second half.
3.) I love the matchup of Michigan's defensive line versus Penn State's offensive line. While everyone else touted the PSU Oline this summer, I kept writing that no team in the league lost as much talent on the line from last year as Penn State did. As it turns out, the line has been 'meh' at best. They could not block Iowa a few weeks ago. Michigan is just a shade behind them as far as DLine quality. Brandon Graham will take over the game. Van Bergen's steady rise will continue. Michigan will stone the running game.
4.) Dayrl Clark is overrated. And perhaps not even that good. We'll see. He is in his second year behind center and he has yet to complete a big pass in a big spot to lead his team to a win. He compiles stats against mediocrity, but often struggles in the bigger games. Fact is, this team misses and has yet to replace the presence of do-everything Derek Williams. He has been the hardest player in the league to replace (with Beanie Wells in columbus a close second). He made more big throws last year than Clark in the money games. Big drives on the biggest stages last year were spearheaded by Williams who caught the ball, ran it out of wildcats and reverses and threw it out of direct snap formations. The defenses no longer have to guess what he is doing. The Lions have not been as explosive as they were last year as a result. They dont look like a team you need to plant at least 30 on to win, like they did at times last year. Remember how mediocre PSU became compared to the top of the league after Michael Robinson departed after the 2005 season? Williams had as much an impact on last year's Rose Bowl drive, even if he was not statistically as potent as Robinson, and I've been expecting a step backwards from PSU all season. The first step back happened last month against Iowa. A second step back happens tomorrow.
5.) Special teams. Big advantage for Michigan. Zolton wins the field position game for Michigan. Stounum can set Michigan up with field position. The Penn State return team (again, there's no Derek Williams back there) can not.
6.) This will be the best offense PSU has faced all year. Their brand new secondary has not been tested like it will in this game. Spread out, with a speed disadvantgae, this will be a bigger chore than thwarting Paulus and Syracuse and Weber and Minnesota. Night and day. The Lions will have their hands full trying to matchup. Michigan had little trouble running the football on PSU last year. Michigan is much better at that this season. The power of Minor and speed of Brown will be the story. The fact is, Penn State has not been forced to really play a full four quarters in most of their games. Tomorrow they will have to. Michigan's offense will put a lot of pressure on this defense. They will score points. The burden is on PSU to keep up. I dont think they can. They scored 21 fourth quarter points to finally shake Illinois, the league's worst team, earlier this month. Otherwise, they have scored just 36 points in their other six second halves. That wont do it against Michigan. Even last week, in their alleged best game of the season, they struggled to finish drives, only found paydirt twice and scored in the single digits during the second half.
Ok, I've said a lot. It's getting repetitive as I have been beating this drum for two weeks about this game. I didnt drop any analysis in the above screed that I have not laid out in piece meal fashion throughout various threads here the last several days. The Revolution takes a big step tomorrow, comrades.
The Pick: Michigan +5......I wont lie. I feel very confident here. I am getting the same vibe about this game as I did heading into the matchup twelve years ago. We all know how that turned out. Translation: Take the points, but you wont need them.
Illinois at Purdue, noon, BTN. Lines: Purdue -10, O/U 55.5
When was the last time a 2-5 team was a double digit favorite in a Big 10 game? Thanks to the 2009 Illinois Illini, we might be breaking new ground here.
Purdue is on letdown alert, playing at home a week after a monumental upset over Ohio State. I'd worry, except they're playing a team that's probably mostly quit. If you take Illinois here, you must be banking on one of two things: Hoping that this is the week that they will finally look prepared, interested and talented enough to compete in a legit football game. Or, that Purdue is still awash in morning glory apres Ohio State. The latter is a distinct possibility. The former, I will bet against. In fact, its enough for me to make a call here.
The Pick: Purdue -10........there is no reason to stop betting against Illinois. The Boilers are a few plays away from probably reversing their current 2-5 record. The Illini, meanwhile, are a few plays away from at least being in the game at the half in all their games. Yeah, I'll give the head start and take my chances with the suddenly PurDOIN' It Boilermakers.
Indiana at Northwestern, noon, BTN. Lines, NW -5, O/U 53.5
Critical Motor City Bowl positioning is on the line when Northwestern Wildcats host the Indiana Hoosiers this weekend in Evanston. The winner could be in the driver's seat for a post-Christmas weekend of skirting team rules while trying to secretly play blackjack or cross the border for the Windsor clubs. Oh, yeah, and a football game where they will likely be shredded by Central Michigan, one of the best teams in the nation. Arguably.
Despite being the road team, I like the Hoosiers in this one, not only with the points, but straight up. Both teams are 4-3. But, I think Indiana has played better, against pretty comparable slates, than Northwestern to this point in the season. Northwestern will have trouble with the WR combo of Tandon Doss and Damario Belcher. Indiana ought to be able to play their game on offense without much trouble. On the other side of the ball, I think IU's active front seven, spearheaded by Kirlew, Middleton and Repogle will bottle up NW QB Mike Kafka. He's really been a one man show this season. He could carry the Cats to the win all by himself. But the Hoosiers appear to have better athleticsm and skill than the last couple years on defense and I think they will do a solid job of containing Kafka. Contain. Not stop. This could be a high scoring game, so grab some of the Over if thats your thing. It should be pretty close. The last five games between these two have been decided by 4, 6, 7, 3, and 2 points.
Here's a tidbit: In games with IU and northwestern this year, the underdog has gone 9-3 ATS, including 5-1 in the Big 10. I'd wager that oddsmkaers, and the betting public, still have not figured these teams and take my chances with the points. Frankly, I would not lay five points with either of these teams in a conference game. I'll take the points, please.
The Pick: Indiana +5.......this may sound simple, but through seven games the Hoosiers have been making more plays than Northwestern. That continues this weekend and the Hoosiers get the win. But, I am taking the 5 points anyway. Maybe it comes from seeing them play in person in that great game last month in Ann Arbor, but that team we did see should not have a problem winning at Northwestern.
Minnesota at Ohio State, noon, ESPN. Lines, OSU -16.5, O/U 42.5
After seeing Minnesota play Penn State last week, do we really think they can score any points against an OSU defense fired up to punish somebody after last week's debacle? The Gophers are a one trick pony. If Decker to Weber isn't rolling, they really have no answers. That's what happens when you rotate offensive coordinators every year during your tenure and you cant decide on offensive philosophy. But, hey, you did cajole Sentreal Henderson to at least visit your campus on an official recruiting visit. Just dont forget to buy ESPN Gameplan so you can watch him play at USC the next four years.
Of course, in the other corner is the equally disturbing offense from Ohio State. Talk about lacking an identity. The team has not been to pass the ball in two seasons. And boy do they miss the threat of Beanie Wells, one the league's best home run runners in the last 20 years. I've heard a few stories or two this week about a quarterback that likes to turn the ball over and looks lost at times trying to lead this offense. Can anyone confirm those stories? They have not allowed newspaper delivery or live radio here in Ohio since last Saturday night. In fact, I am writing this under candlelit with Shoelaces the Puppy Rot running on a treadmill chasing a stick giving the power generator enough juice to get the computer fired up. We havent had much Internet access this week either.
The Pick:Ohio State -16.5......When push comes to shove, I dont really want to lay 16.5 points with Ohio State. But, after that ridiculous effort and offensive strategy last weekend, I dont want to take 16.5 points with the Gophers either. The Buckeyes have struggled this year. But, they're an angry bunch. And the Gophers just look bad all of a sudden. They are walking into a hornet's nest in this one. The angry Buckeyes will pummel their offense. Pryor's bounce back game wont be half bad. I am seeing 31-10.
Iowa at Michigan State, 7:00, BTN. Lines, MSU -1.5, O/U 42
This begins and ends with something I said in yesterday's podcast. Iowa makes other QBs look awful and, as a result, they're able to keep points off the board, even if it doesnt look pretty in the box score. In fact, its not meant to be pretty. It's meant to win. And destroy QBs physically and mentally. In three weeks when they invade Columbus, take the Under in every prop stat for Buckeye quarterbacks. Just sayin'
Of course, you might want to do that with Kirk Cousins tomorrow as well. Check out some of these numbers. They're holding foes to a less than 50 percent completion rate. They've swiped 14 picks and allowed just five touchdowns. Completions that do get made, generally go nowhere as the Hawkeyes allow just 5.43 yards per pass attempt. The carnage include harassing Daryl Clark into his worst day, knocking around a potent Arizona to the point where the Cats tried three different signal callers and, sadly for us, swiping Tate Forcier's cnady.
There is no reason to think MSU can buck those numbers. The Spartans enter this game a bit one-dimensional. A year after Javon Ringer leaves, the Sparties are dangerously close to the bottom third of the country in running the football. Kirk Cousins has elevated the QB production, but Iowa will force them to pass even more tomorrow and that plays right into the Black and Gold's plan. This will be far and away the toughest defense Cousins has had to face in his 7-start career. He's going to go down. Hard. He'll be wearing Adam Clayburn's helmet paint before its all said and done.
Also, nobody has scored any points against Iowa in the second halves this season. They've allowed just 21 points in the second half against the five BCS foes they've faced this season. On the road at Penn State and Wisconsin, they shutout the Lions and badgers during the second stanza.
Iowa has the best side of football in the Big 10 with their defensive lineup from top to bottom. They also have the most dominant positional group in the conference with its defensive line, a collection of would-be pass rushing ends, all trained to move back and forth along the line until mismatches are found. This defense can carry the team to a surprise Big 10 title. At the least, it will push Cousins into his worst day of the season en route to another win.
The Pick: Iowa +1.5.........We know how this is going to play out. It will be tight at halftime. Tied, or a slight lead for either team. Iowa will dominate the second half. Nobody has really scored on them all year in the third and fourth quarters. They will slowly, but surely through field goals, sacks, batted passes and a long pass play to either Moeki or Johnson-Koulianis pull away in the final 30 minutes to a 23-13 win.