so much for that
Opponent Watch: Week 8
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.
Minnesota (4-3 overall, 0-3 B1G)
Last game: Minnesota 13, Wisconsin 38 (L)
Recap: Basically a redux of Michigan vs. Purdue. Wisconsin ran and ran and ran while Minnesota fell down and played dead.
Things relevant to Michigan: The Gophers broke in a new quarterback after moving MarQueis Gray permanently to receiver and relegating Max Shortell to the bench. The new guy’s name is Philip Nelson, he’s a freshman, and he managed to complete just over half his passes (13/24) for 149 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INT. Not great, but not bad. He’s also … dual threat? In a bizarre turn of events, Nelson was also Minnesota’s leading rusher (by a lot!) with 16 carries for 67 yards. Their next leading rusher? Some rando with six carries for 20 yards. Their usual go-to guy Donnell Kirkwood had only five carries for eight yards. Not sure what the deal is. Maybe having a hard time recovering from a hit during the Northwestern game that knocked the decal off his helmet?
This team is as frightening as: The person who thinks it’s a great idea to sprint the first three miles of a half marathon and therefore has to walk the rest of it. Fear level = 2.
Michigan should worry about: I can’t finish this with a straight face.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan gets to play them every year.
When they play Michigan: A laugh track would be suitable.
Next game: vs. Purdue
That's a very red shade of purple out there.
Northwestern (6-2 overall, 2-2 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28 (L)
Recap: How bad is Northwestern’s secondary? Well. The two game-swinging Nebraska drives in the fourth quarter consisted of Taylor Martinez passing or Taylor Martinez scrambling. On these two drives, Martinez was 10/12 for 137 yards and 2 TDs with three rushes for 16 yards. Tony Gibson could not be prouder.
Offensively the Wildcats benefitted greatly from a turnover for field position and a huge linebacker bust on Venric Mark’s 80-yard run, but otherwise they were erratic. QB Trevor Siemian (15/35, 116 yards, 2 TDs) did little worth writing home about. It was a little surprising that Northwestern kept him in the game for so long. Kain Colter, who spent most of the game in the slot, probably wouldn’t have completed more passes, but he would have been able to effectively run the option with Mark, which may have gotten the running game going, particularly late in the game when they needed to burn some clock.
Apparently Colter also had some doubts about the playcalling after the game when he told the media that the Wildcats were having some identity issues on offense. I think the main problem is that there’s no ideal way to utilize both Siemian and Colter when both of them are most effective at the same position.
Also, in case you missed it: Northwestern had to use a silent snap count at the end of the game because it was too noisy. On their own field.
This team is as frightening as: The V-22 Osprey. Cool concept, dubious utility … glaring technical flaws that result in self-destruction. Fear level = 4.
Michigan should worry about: They may have a lead at some point during the game.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: They will still lose.
When they play Michigan: I will gaze longingly at Kyle Prater while he sits on the bench.
Next game: vs. Iowa
Iowa (4-3 overall, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: Penn State 38, Iowa 14 (L)
Recap: Some days you drink Sparty tears, and some days you drink gasoline after your entire team (23 carries, 20 yards) gets outrushed by Matt McGloin (5 carries, 26 yards).
Injury update: LT Brandon Scherff and RG Andrew Donnal both went down during the game, and Ferentz has recently revealed that both will miss the rest of the season. Scherff has a broken leg and Donnal has an unspecified knee injury. Deus ex machina: AIOLHG.
This team is as frightening as: The Black Knight circa the 3:51 mark of the below clip.
Fear level = 3.5.
BONUS UPDATE from an email a guy named Jeremy Kloubec sent to Brian [update update: it is via Home Run Jack from EDSBS]:
Please don't go look at the box score of Iowa-Penn State. You're thinking "hey, it will make me feel better about the state of my own team," but you have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Matt McGloin is out-rushing Iowa by himself. MATT MCGLOIN. This isn't a train wreck. This is a train full of apple-cheeked children hitting a bus full of puppies.
NO YOU WENT AT LOOKED AT IT I KNOW YOU DID WHY WHY DID YOU DO THAT
This is your late thread. Somebody please help us drive Iowa to the vet. We can't put her down by ourselves.
Fear level incremented to 4.
Michigan should worry about: I feel like we said similar things about Iowa last year only for Michigan to lose to them for the third consecutive year. Let’s not make it four, yeah?
Michigan can sleep soundly about: There now exist not one but two angry deities working toward this common goal.
When they play Michigan: Iowa will be forced to use a formation composed exclusively of a quarterback, four tight ends, and six receivers. [Ed-S: We call this the "Heiko Fritz Offense."]
Next game: @ Northwestern
Just got the wind knocked out of him.
No. 1 Ohio State (8-0 overall, 4-0 B1G)
Last game: vs. Torn ACLs (W)
Recap: Phew. Good thing there are no ACLs in your head and neck region. Braxton Miller is fine, in case you were wondering.
Next game: vs. Zombies
Objects in Mirror:
No. 1 Alabama (7-0 overall, 3-0 SEC)
Last game: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 (W)
Next game: vs. No. 11 Mississippi State
Air Force (4-3 overall, 3-1 MWC)
Last game: New Mexico 23, Air Force 28 (W)
Recap: New Mexico RB Kasey Carrier carried the ball 39 times for 338 yards and 3 TDs.
Next game: vs. Nevada
UMass (0-7 overall, 0-4 MAC)
Last game: Bowling Green 24, UMass 0 (L)
Mike Cox: 10 carries, 37 yards
Next game: @ Vanderbilt
No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0 overall)
Last game: Notre Dame 17, BYU 14 (W)
Recap: Why won't it die.
Next game: @ No. 8 Ooooooklahoma where the wind comes sweepin down the plain.
Purdue (3-4 overall, 0-3 B1G)
Last game: Purdue 22, Ohio State 29 OT (L)
Recap: Dead to me.
Next game: @ Minnesota
Illinois (2-5 overall, 0-3 B1G)
Last game: BYE
Next game: vs. Indiana