No. 2 Alabama (12-1 overall, 8-1 SEC)
Last game: Beat Georgia 32-28 in the SEC Championship after Georgia futzed a last-second goal line play.
As frightening as: Rome, ca. 450 A.D. Currently idling between sacks. Fear level = 9 but waning.
Superlative: Best cry after a win.
If Michigan could play them now: The humanity would overwhelm.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not scheduled them.
Bowl game: Will play No. 1 Notre Dame in a battle of which team Michigan fans want to cheer for less.
Prediction: It’s Notre Dame.
Air Force (6-6 overall, 5-3 MWC)
Last game: Blown out by Fresno State 48-15. It’s like people know how to defend the triple option. Crazy.
As frightening as: Kryptonite. Ostensibly harmless, inert substance that glows green around Michigan players and makes them appear slow and weak. Fear level = 5.
Superlative: Most infuriating to root against due to nameplates bearing noble ideals.
If Michigan could play them now: Nobody needs that twice in one season.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Scheduled them later, as in not right after Alabama.
Bowl game: Will play Rice in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
Prediction: The ratings will be higher overseas.
UMass (1-11, 1-7 MAC)
Last game: Lost to Central Michigan 42-41.
Mike Cox!: 17 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD.
As frightening as: A flap of a butterfly’s wings. Every once in a while it might trigger a tiny vortex that blows a nearby butterfly off course. In this case that other butterfly would be 1-11 Akron. Fear level = 0.
Superlative: Most likely to appear in highlight reels of other teams.
If Michigan could play them now: It would be a nice glamour photo shoot for Michigan’s tailbacks complete with dramatic lighting, airbrushing, and green space.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not scheduled them. This game didn’t do anything for Michigan other than show us that Denard can throw a pick-six to even the worst defenses.
Bowl game: There should be an anti-playoff to determine the worst team in Division I.
No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0 overall)
Last game: Failed to lose to USC, 22-13.
As frightening as: MRSA. Fear level = 8.
Superlative: Most referees on payroll.
If Michigan could play them now: Michigan would probably find another way to lose again, which is fine. This year, as they say, is Not Ours.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Run the ball more, which sounds crazy now, but back then people had luxuries like ulnar nerves and tibias. This kind of thing worked.
Bowl game: Notre Dame is 60 minutes away from Returning to Glory. Agasp.
Prediction: Either way Ohio State won't end up No. 1 in the AP.
Purdue (6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G)
Last game: Won rivalry game against Indiana 56-35, fired coach.
Arithmetic: WALRUS minus STACHE equals MANATEE.
If Michigan could play them now: It would be a semifinal match for the title of “B1G Team with most season-altering injuries.” In the other bracket of this hypothetical tournament is Iowa, which has a bye because of its self-explanatory No. 1 seed.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Savored this win more.
Bowl game: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State.
Prediction: Oklahoma State is 7-5. All five of its losses have been to teams that were ranked at one point or another during the season; Purdue lost to Minnesota. In conference play, Oklahoma State beat TCU, No. 24 Iowa State, West Virginia, and No. 23 Texas Tech by multiple scores; in conference play, Purdue beat Indiana by multiple scores.
This should go real well.
Illinois (2-10 overall, 0-8 B1G)
Last game: Could not overcome five-score deficit; lost to Northwestern.
As frightening as: Someone else’s septic leak. Schadenfreude level = 4. It’s been a few years since they last beat Michigan, so it’s difficult to relish their misery.
Superlative: Most likely to develop oropharyngeal malignancy.
If Michigan could play them now: Be careful what you wish for, or Jim Delany might put them in Michigan’s division so Michigan can play them year after year after year until Fresno State joins the B1G and they have to redo the thing again. Playing Illinois every year doesn’t seem so bad, though. I just wish they could go back to being interesting rather than sad.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not injured Denard’s arm, since the arm issue would turn out to be kind of disastrous two games later. This is foreshadowing, for those of you who suffered from alcohol-induced retrograde amnesia after the OSU game and are now trying to piece the events of the season back together.
Bowl game: Ha. (By the way, what is with people typing “ha” over text or gchat? I normally have a two-“ha” minimum when I laugh electronically, unless I’m feeling derisive. Is being stingy with the “ha’s” a Michigan thing? I only ever notice this when communicating with people from Michigan.)
Michigan State (6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G)
Last game: Beat Minnesota 26-10, avoided a losing record.
As frightening as: A rock.
Fear level = 5.
Superlative: Most likely to throw up on self en route to Disney World, ruining the trip for everyone.
If Michigan could play them now: Maybe Michigan could have some fake audibles. Like, okay, you don’t want to play chess with Narduzzi, but wouldn’t it be fun to pretend like you are? “Alert alert alert!” = base play. “Blue 42! Blue 42!” = base play. “We’re going to throw it to Dileo!” = We’re going to throw it to Dileo.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Anticipated the most obvious fake punt situation ever, which has only become more obvious in hindsight.
Bowl game: B-dubs vs. TCU. Should be fun to watch actually.
No. 16 Nebraska (10-3 overall, 7-2 B1G)
Last game: Lost 70-31 to Alabamasconsin.
As frightening as: A teenager who finally gets his license after failing twice. Fear level = 7, to others and self.
If Michigan could play them now: Oh if only.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: I hate them so much.
Bowl game: It’s more loathing than hate. It’s how you would feel about someone who you let copy your homework and then gets both of you in trouble.
Prediction: Nebraska plays Georgia. Good luck!
Minnesota (6-6 overall, 2-6 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Michigan State 26-10.
As frightening as: Anything that can be described as “scrappy.” Fear level = 3.
Superlative: Best tire fire mitigation effort.
If Michigan could play them now: Same story, different day.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Prepared Devin Gardner to play quarterback a week earlier. This is purely a hindsight thing, though.
Bowl game: Ritual gopher slaughter at Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas vs. Texas Tech.
Prediction: The gods will be pleased.
All the better to play Monopoly with.
No. 20 Northwestern (9-3 overall, 5-3 B1G)
Last game: Managed to hold onto a five-score lead, beat Illinois 50-14.
As frightening as: Receiving an email with the subject line “Remove Me From This List!” Fear level = 7.
Superlative: Worst utilization of Kyle Prater.
If Michigan could play them now: I liked the screw-with-their-reads plan Mattison used late against Northwestern and Ohio State. Mattison knows how to play chess.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Michigan had a good game plan. Northwestern put up a good fight. Not much to change.
Bowl game: Gator Bowl vs. Mississippi State.
Prediction: No idea actually. This will be a good match, oddly.
Iowa (4-8, 2-6 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Nebraska 13-7. What a tease.
As frightening as: Nomads indigenous to the Great Plains who believe most bright colors to be evil and think the best cure for a gangrenous running back situation is to sacrifice linemen to a deity named AIRBHG. Recently discovered fire and a vertical passing game, no idea how to use either. Fear level = 3.
Superlative: Most unexpectedly overrated. People thought I was being harsh when I predicted Iowa to go 6-6.
If Michigan could play them now: It would just be sad.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Saved some of the game plan for Ohio State. This was the annual “We wasted the good surprise on you” game.
Bowl game: Iowa is a proud people who do not believe in bowl games.
Ohio State (12-0 overall, 8-0 B1G)
Last game: 1,000 newborns in the state of Ohio were named “Urban.”
As frightening as: VRSA. Fear level = 9.
Superlative: Worst thing ever.
If Michigan could play them now: By the end of the game, Braxton Miller will have sustained his tenth concussion (but still play anyway). Michigan will employ Denard and Devin in the same formation but hand it off to Vincent Smith anyway, because Ohio State would never expect it.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Scored some points in the second half.
Bowl game: Gator Bowl vs. Florida, last year.
About Last Saturday:
A 10-point lead late in the third quarter - 31, Is not enough points when you are Northwestern - 38 (OT)
The best wide receiver in the B1G at right; My new favorite Northwestern player at left. (h/t @shane_heck)
The Road Ahead:
Iowa (4-6 overall, 2-4 B1G)
Last game: Purdue 27, Iowa 24 (L)
Recap: You know things are pretty bad when you play the second-worst team in the conference (which is incidentally the second-worst conference in the BCS) and then all of a sudden you’re the second-worst team in the conference.
What is going on, Iowa? What’s the deal? Why do you have only one running play? Why do you refuse to throw a pass farther than five yards past the line of scrimmage? Why does your offensive coordinator still have a job? (Why did you hire him in the first place?) Why does your defense give up 500 yards of offense to an offense run by a guy who doesn’t have an ACL? How do you fail to beat a team when you’re plus 3 in turnover margin and have just two penalties for 16 yards to their 10 for 100?
These are the tough, existential questions I hope will never be asked about Michigan. /knocks on wood.
At this point, it seems like Iowa isn’t even trying. Let’s look at their season to date:
- vs. Northern Illinois, 18-7 (W)
- vs. Iowa State, 6-9 (L)
- vs. Northern Iowa, 27-16 (W)
- vs. Central Michigan, 31-32 (L)
- vs. Minnesota, 31-13 (W)
- @ Michigan State, 19-16 OT (W)
- vs. Penn State, 14-38 (L)
- @ Northwestern, 17-28 (L)
- @ Indiana, 14-21 (L)
- vs. Purdue, 24-27 (L)
That’s a couple of so-so games against randos, a couple of embarrassing close losses to Steele Jantz and Central Michigan, a close win against Michigan State that no one can really figure out, and then a bunch of games where they’ve gotten their asses handed to them, which have been disguised by final scores that belie reality.
Something isn’t working when Minnesota is the only convincing win of the season.
Okay, fine, there have been extenuating circumstances. The offensive line turned into a mess after the Penn State game when two linemen went out with injury, and then there’s AIRBHG, too, who wouldn’t even spare a fullback from his wrath. That shouldn’t be the end of the world, though. The Hawkeyes have a senior quarterback (best B1G pocket passer!), an All-conference caliber tight end, a bunch of fairly competent receivers, and a defense that … well, plays defense. Surely they could have mustered a better showing against Indiana.
Even more concerning: how will this team be any better next year?
After the game, head coach Kirk Ferentz passionately defended his “dog crap” team. A few days later he dropped an F bomb. I’m half tempted to grab some popcorn to see what happens over the next two weeks -- Iowa plays Michigan and Nebraska. This promises to be more entertaining than an MGoBoard flamewar.
And I say “half” tempted only because, on the other hand, I don't want to support Nebraska’s economy. Not for another year, anyway.
/refuses to eat any food that contains corn.
/starves to death.*
This besmacks of: Societal failure.
Michigan should worry about: Not beating up on Iowa too badly. Michigan needs them to be as intact as possible when they play Nebraska next week since they could be Michigan’s last hope to hand Nebraska another loss. Although right now I like Minnesota's chances better.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This has to be the easiest week of film study. Like ever.
When they play Michigan: It's Senior Day.
Also, bring tissues. It's going to get dusty.
Next game: No. 21 Michigan
*Joke stolen from Ace.
About Last Saturday:
Jug Half Full - 35, Jug Half Empty - 13
Tom Olmscheid / AP
Get well soon.
May I suggest a bacta tank?
/ runs away giggling.
The Road Ahead:
"This big?" / "No, THIS BIG."
No. 24 Northwestern (7-2 overall, 3-2 B1G)
Last week: Idlecats.
This team is as frightening as: A guy who shows up to a fight armed with only a Maglite. Except it's not a Maglite. It's a lightsaber. And he is Luke Skywalker. Fear level = 10.
Michigan should worry about: Northwestern possesses the best wide receiver in the world. His name is Kyle Prater, and you don't know this because they have been keeping him a secret. They have been saving the surprise. Michigan has no idea what's coming.
But I do.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: There is no shame in getting beaten by a player who is so elite that his presence at USC violated the laws of competitive fairness, which forced him to transfer to a small liberal arts school in Evanston and wear purple for the rest of his life.
When they play Michigan: Prater will have 12 catches for 170 yards and four touchdowns.
Next game: @ Michigan.
About Last Saturday:
Funny bone 9, Serious bone 23.
Denard suffered an ulnar nerve compression. [UPDATE: Mgoreader drbogue suggests that it is more likely classified as a traumatic neuropraxia of the ulnar nerve, and I think that's accurate. The following explanations still apply because tomato tomato. 90% of you just tuned out anyway.]
Whence the ulnar nerve? Brace yourself for the fancy artwork below. Please direct your attention to the stringy yellow thing.
As you can see, the ulnar nerve innervates the interosseous muscles that are primarily responsible for grip. It also innervates the skin covering the pinky and half of the ring finger. When the ulnar nerve gets injured, the symptoms therefore manifest as loss of strength and coordination while gripping and a tingly burning sensation in the pinky and ring finger.
How long does such an injury typically take to heal? The internet suggests anything from "immediately" to "weeks" depending on severity, i.e. I don't really know. UPDATE: I just found a journal article that says that if there is "compression of a sufficient magnitude to sever axons," recovery will require several weeks during which even normal physical stress on the nerve should be avoided. Yikes. Let's hope it's not that.
Why is it sometimes called a funny bone injury? Usually the ulnar nerve is compressed at the elbow. It gets banged into the humerus. Now if you look closely at the humerus ...
You can see that it is indeed a funny bone.
About Last Weekend:
Michigan State 10, Michigan 12
Apologies -- Spartyfreude is a little blurry. In any case, what are these people looking at? Oh I know. Anything but the scoreboard.
"You're good looking, and I'm good looking. We should be good looking together."
What TheOnlyColors and MaizeNBrew should do if they haven't done so already.
The Road Ahead:
Nebraska (5-2 overall, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28 (W)
Recap: When a team plays Northwestern, no deficit is too great to overcome. This is a fundamental law of football. With his team down 12 points in the fourth quarter, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (27/39, 342 yards, 3 TD) led the Huskers offense on two 80-yard touchdown drives to eke out a win. The Wildcats had an opportunity near the end to regain the lead but, as they are wont to do, they missed a long field goal.
For Michigan, this wasn’t the ideal outcome. While Northwestern had a nice streak going and remains one of the B1G’s two bowl-eligible teams, it would have been preferable to contend at home with a hypothetical one-conference-loss Northwestern team for the division rather than go to Lincoln to play a critical tie-breaker (sort of) game against a one-conference-loss Nebraska. If Michigan loses this weekend it no longer controls its own destiny. But you knew that.
So let’s focus on why the Huskers were down 12 to the Wildcats in the first place. For one, they didn’t have much rhythm on offense until Martinez went pass-happy against Northwestern’s defense, which plays a 4-3-Gibson scheme. The run game never broke anything big with the longest run being 15 yards. Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah both got nearly 20 carries a piece and averaged 4.5 ypc, though the Wildcats have a decent run defense, so that’s not a total surprise.
Defensively they did a good job against most aspects of Northwestern’s attack – they kept Trevor Siemian (15/35, 116 yards, 2 TD) to 3.3 ypa and almost limited the Wildcats otherwise effective run game to less than three yards per carry … had it not been for one spectacular bust that allowed an 80-yard TD run by Venric Mark (16 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD) from a triple-option handoff up the middle. That the Blackshirts linebackers busted an assignment is an understatement.
As a final note, Nebraska turned the ball over three times over the course of the game. They fumbled twice (the one at the end was maybe meaningless) on offense and had one epic puntmuffin, which led immediately to a Northwestern touchdown.
Huskers fans prefer to downplay these mistakes, particularly the ones on special teams, when projecting how their team will do against upcoming opponents. Against Michigan, though, they won't be able to afford to play sloppy no matter how many yards they end up racking up on offense.
This team is as frightening as: The Detroit Tigers. Brilliant when in a groove but somewhat subject to horrifying derailment. Fear level = 6 +/-2.
Michigan should worry about: Limiting mistakes on the road at night. I think Brady Hoke and Al Borges have that down at the infuriating expense of offensive play calls that adjust intelligently to defensive scheme. This means that Michigan is just going to have to wait for the opponent to make mistakes on defense. I’m actually kind of okay with that in this case, because …
Michigan can sleep soundly about: I do not believe in Nebraska’s defense. Their most impressive performance to date has been against nobody. Serious. They’ve failed to hold any of their BCS opponents under 27 points. Maybe they did well against Wisconsin by holding Montee Ball to 90 yards rushing on 32 carries, but that was when the Badgers were going through an offensive crisis that resulted in the defenestration of their offensive line coach.
Maybe the Huskers have an okay secondary and a couple playmakers in the front seven, but that does not an Al Borges Denard Fusion Cuisine-busting defense make.
When they play Michigan: Michigan will try to win on the ground; Nebraska will try to win through the air. The Huskers have at least four viable receiving options in their receivers and tight ends, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the secondary to stick to their assignments, particularly if Raymon Taylor isn’t 100%. Plus, Michigan is overdue for giving up a big WTF play or two on defense. On the bright side, if the Huskers can’t do it, no one left on the schedule save Ohio State will be able to.
Next game: vs. No. 22 Michigan.
About Last Weekend:
Illinois 0, Michigan 45
Michigan State (4-3 overall, 1-2 B1G)
Last game: Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 2OT (L)
Recap: That this game went into double overtime should have been an NCAA violation. If not the NCAA, then at least the FCC, because gratuitous ugliness is just as indecent as sex and four-letter words.
Ace has the breakdown in his weekly FFFF. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a visual summary:
Sometimes humor is controversial. Thankfully, dinosaurs are not.
The highlight of the game was the botched call at the end of the first half where half the team is running off the field, then running back on, then the offensive line shuffles (because that’s helpful), and then a guy who isn’t even the quarterback attempts to spike the ball as time expires.
The best part of the sequence is that Iowa’s defense is all like, LOL, and celebrates like they’re not down 10-3 with 20 yards of total offense or anything.
Your Quarterback Throws Like Denard*: Andrew Maxwell -- 12/31, 179 yards, 5.8 ypa, 1 INT.
BONUS Your Quarterback Throws Worse Than The Quarterback Who Throws Like Denard: James Vandenberg -- 19/36, 134 yards, 3.7 ypa, 1 INT.
This team is as frightening as: A large rock.
Fear level = 5.
Michigan should worry about: Right now, with Michigan State’s playcalling as imaginative as a law school textbook and with how well Michigan is playing on defense, it’s hard to see the Spartans moving the ball much at all. Although Le’Veon Bell will probably convert a couple short third downs here and there and Maxwell will maybe complete a bomb or two to Keith Mumphery or Aaron Burbridge, the maddening 80-yard, 13-play drives probably won’t happen.
The Wolverines defense has been so good despite not having super duper talent is partially due to their preparation. Like any smart coordinator, Greg Mattison coaches to tendencies. The problem with rivalry games is teams often break tendency (see 2011 Ohio State), especially if what they’ve been doing previously hasn’t been working (see 2011 Ohio State).
I wouldn’t be shocked if Michigan State comes out pretending to be Northwestern. If they're smart about it, they should.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Northwestern scored 21 points against Minnesota by pretending to be Michigan State.
When they play Michigan: If I were Michigan State, this is what I would do (on offense, because defensively they’ll be just fine):
- Stop sucking.
- Use a lot of four-wide, one-back sets and throw screens and quick passes. Pass on first down when Michigan is keying on the run. If anything, this mitigates Michigan State’s offensive line problems. “But Michigan defended the dink and dunk offense so well against Purdue!” That’s because Purdue never had a run game to threaten the middle of the defense. The Spartans, on the other hand, have …
- Le’Veon Bell. Get him going with counters and halfback draws. Illinois early success running against Michigan appeared to result from their offensive line screwing with the Wolverines’ keys. One of their biggest gainers on the ground was a halfback draw when the offensive line showed pass and fooled the linebackers into dropping into coverage.
- Throw deep to Burbridge when he’s one-on-one with Raymon Taylor. I fear this will be a frustrating matchup for Michigan.
- Quarterback draw with Andrew Maxwell. It would be the most epic trolling of all time.
Next game: @ No. 24 Big Brother
*There was an MSU College Gameday sign a couple weeks ago that read: “Braxton Throws Like Denard.” This was supposed to be some sort of insult.