Finally, a post on Tuesday. November is championship football, and championship football requires championship opponent watching.
(Fear scale: 0 = Bye week; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team Lloyd Carr will announce his retirement a second time; 5 = Illinois any given year; 8 = Best in B1G, which may or may not actually be any good; 9 = National title contender somewhere in the SEC; 10 = Hold me, Ace)
About Last Saturday:
No. 24 Michigan 31, Illinois 14 (W)
The Road Ahead:
No. 19 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2 B1G)
David Swanson / Philadelphia Inquirer
Chattanooga, 40-7 (W)
Fresno State, 42-29 (W)
Washington, 51-38 (W)
@ Wyoming, 38-14 (W)
@ No. 7 Wisconsin, 48-17 (L)
Ohio State, 34-27 (W)
@ Minnesota, 41-14 (W)
No. 11 Michigan State, 24-3 (W)
Northwestern, 28-25 (L)
Last game: Nebraska 17, No. 12 Penn State 14 (W)
Recap: Nebraska shrugged off last week’s upset loss to Northwestern as well as the national scandal that has been monopolizing headlines to win a football game on the road.
Their rush offense steadily churned out a 17-0 lead midway through the third quarter before Penn State finally put together a cohesive touchdown drive. A Rex Burkhead (25 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD) fumble at the beginning of the fourth quarter gave the Nittany Lions a short field, so with the help of some trickery, Penn State was able to find the endzone again to cut the lead to 17-14.
That’s when the Huskers defensive front, led by LB Lavonte David, who had been quiet for most of the game, stiffened. Three times they stuffed Lions running backs for no gain on short yardage. 2nd and 1 turned into 3rd and 1 turned into 4th and 1, which ultimately led to a turnover on downs.
Miraculously, the Penn State defense was able to force a Nebraska four and out to get the ball back with 49 seconds remaining, but Nittany Lions QB Matt McGloin (16/34, 193 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) had trouble finding receivers on the desperation drive, and his last pass under pressure fell incomplete.
Huskers QB Taylor Martinez had a pedestrian day, completing 13 of 26 passes for 143 yards and no TDs or INTs. He was also limited on the ground, carrying the ball 19 times for just 56 yards -- only one of those carries was a sack. He did manage the game well, however, and the offensive play of the game was his last-second option pitch to Rex Burkhead that went for a touchdown.
Right now they are as frightening as: The mounting sense of unknowing you get as you stare down the betting lines this week. 7.
Michigan should worry about: Option offense, which is something Michigan doesn’t really know if it can stop. Northwestern ran it successfully but then outsmarted themselves by abandoning it in the second half. Illlinois used it in limited quantities, and while Michigan stifled the hand-offs, the Scheelhaase keepers were effective and therefore worrisome.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Numerous reports indicate that Nebraska’s offensive line is about as deep as Michigan’s, i.e. drowning is a hazard only for the very young or the very intoxicated. The Wolverines D-line play has been steadily improving since the bye week, so that matchup looks to be favorable.
Additionally, if you’ve ever watched Martinez throw … eesh. Imagine Denard passing, but instead of an arm he has a chicken wing. Expect to see Jordan Kovacs nuzzling the line of scrimmage frequently.
DE Jared Crick has been out with a torn pectoral muscle, so Mark Huyge at least can sleep a little better.
When Michigan plays them: Both teams are going to try to make each other take to the air, at which point it’s anyone’s guess.
Martinez thrives on the kind of passing game that made Denard a 2500+ yard passer last year -- as teams choke up on the run game, receivers find themselves wandering alone in areas of the field large enough to raise a horse. Michigan’s safeties have done a good job of not blowing these sorts of assignments or getting beat deep so far, but again, they haven’t been tested by a true option offense where the whole point is to get safeties to bite on play-action. Worry if the Wolverines can’t stop the Burkhead-Martinez tandem early.
As far as Michigan’s passing game goes, jump balls are probably not such a great idea. Nebraska boasts one of the B1G’s best cover corners in Alfonso Dennard, and the guy playing opposite him is not so bad either. The Wolverines’ passing game does seem to be more sophisticated than the Huskers’ and relies less on establishing the run game, so there’s that.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams combine for six turnovers.
Next game: at No. 18 Michigan
(more after the jump)
Ohio State (6-4, 3-3 B1G)
Chris Russell / Dispatch
Last game: Ohio State 23, Purdue 26 OT (L)
Recap: The general feeling around the Ohio State blogowebs after this game was that the archaic offensive playcalling cost them the game. While OC Jim Bollman and the offense were undoubtedly major culprits -- I mean, going three-and-out seven times against Purdue, for real? -- the other problem was that the Buckeyes defense allowed the Boilermakers to gash them to a 10-0 lead in their first two possessions. It established a level of confidence for Purdue’s offense that they maintained throughout the rest of the game.
Ohio State gave up 363 yards to the Boilermakers and forced just three three-and-outs. This is the same defense that held Wisconsin to 342 yards and forced four three-and-outs. That’s inexcusable.
The Buckeyes climbed back into the game on a long catch-and-run by RB Jordan Hall and some fresh-out-of-his-rear-end plays by QB Braxton Miller (8/18, 132 yards, 2 TDs), who seemed to do better when the framework of the offense was crumbling around him.
Late in the fourth quarter, down 20-14, Miller connected with Hall again for the apparent winning score, but the PAT was blocked by Purdue DT Bruce Gaston’s heroic effort. Ohio State lost the overtime coin toss, and that seemed to deflate their last hope for a victory.
The Boilermakers topped the Buckeyes' field goal with a touchdown, and for the third time this season, fans stormed the field to celebrate the victory.
Right now they are as frightening as: An Ohio State team whose season now boils down to beating Michigan. 6.
Michigan should worry about: That.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Ohio State first needs to learn how to score more points and do a better job preventing the other team from scoring points.
Also, field kickoffs.
Also, kick PATs.
Next game: No. 21 Penn State
Objects in Mirror:
Western Michigan (5-5, 3-3 MAC)
Last game: … was on a Tuesday, actually (Western Michigan 63, Toledo 66). So nothing’s happened since then.
Next game: at Miami (NTM). On Wednesday. Crazy.
Notre Dame (7-3)
Last game: Maryland 21, Notre Dame 45 (W)
Neither of you ain't got no alibi.
Next game: Boston College
Eastern Michigan (6-4, 4-2 MAC)
Last game: Buffalo 17, Eastern Michigan 30 (W)
Recap: Put the Eastern Michigan Bowl Eligibility Alert back on. They need one more win. Go Eagles!
Next game: at Kent State
San Diego State (6-3, 3-2 MWC)
Last game: San Diego State 18, Colorado State 15 (W)
Recap: San Diego State had a 2:1 time of possession advantage over Colorado State yet still needed a field goal in the final minutes to clinch the win.
Next game: No. 10 Boise State
Minnesota (2-8, 1-5 B1G)
Last game: Wisconsin 42, Minnesota 13 (L)
Recap: Either Minnesota has gotten a lot better or Bret Bielema finally learned that running up the score against a weaker opponent is bad karma.
Next game: at Northwestern
Northwestern (5-5, 2-4 B1G)
Last game: Rice 6, Northwestern 28 (W)
Recap: Northwestern racked up 533 yards of offense and nearly shut out Rice despite turning the ball over three times. Sadly, there was no Sam McGuffie sighting.
Next game: Minnesota
No. 17 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 B1G)
Last game: Michigan State 37, Iowa 21 (W)
Recap: Michigan State took advantage of three Iowa turnovers to beat them handily at Kinnick. Unless Nebraska wins out and Sparty sparties one of their next two games (along with a handful of other possible but unlikely scenarios), Michigan State will go to Indy.
Next game: Indiana
Purdue (5-5, 3-3 B1G)
Last game: Ohio State 23, Purdue 26 (W)
Recap: See above.
Next game: Iowa
Iowa (6-4, 3-3 B1G)
Last game: Michigan State 37, Iowa 21 (L)
Recap: Iowa’s highlight reel from this game contains a spectacular one-handed catch by WR Marvin McNutt, and that’s it.
Next game: at Purdue