(As with everything I do on this site, there was much technical difficulty at first, which is why this is coming a day later than advertised. Also, disclaimer: stats and analyses won’t bear much significance until maybe four games into the season. Finally, I welcome your suggestions for how I can make this segment – and myself -- better.)
About last Saturday:
Last game: WMU 10, UM 34
The Road Ahead:
Last game: USF 23, #16 ND 20 (Loss)
Recap: Notre Dame rode an improved defense to finish the 2010 season with four straight wins. This came as a surprise after they were projected to go bowl-less when they exited October with an embarrassing loss to Tulsa. Fast forward to the end of a hype-filled summer, during which they made every fourth ESPN.com headline, the Irish entered the season ranked No. 16 and slotted to reach a BCS game.
Then reality -- and South Florida’s goal-line defense -- hit them. RB Jonas Gray fumbled away Notre Dame’s first scoring opportunity to give the Bulls the first lead. Two unsuccessful drives later, freshly re-anointed starting QB Dayne Crist threw a interception into the end-zone early in the second quarter, causing head coach Brian Kelly to bench him for moxie extraordinaire Tommy Rees. At that point, USF was up 13-0. Rees and Notre Dame RB Cierre Wood went on to rack up a whole bunch of yards, but with two more interceptions and a muffed Theo Riddick punt return, the Irish squandered its comeback chances.
After the game, Brian Kelly fought through extensive neurovascular damage to give a semi-lucid sound bite:
"You can't start winning until you stop losing," coach Brian Kelly said, and even Touchdown Jesus seemed to nod in agreement, after the Irish outgained South Florida 508-254 and still lost.
Right now they are as frightening as: A seven year old with an M80. Why? Because they’re going to hurt someone, but right now that someone is more likely themselves. I’m going to award them a fear level of 6.
Michigan should worry about: Michael Floyd (12 catches, 154 yards, 2 TDs) and Manti Te’O (9 tackles, 1 sack). The Irish defense as a whole played well, allowing just 254 yards to an offense driven by a dual-threat quarterback.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: QB controversy, minus-5 turnover margin, Brian Kelly’s mini-mental status score.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Michigan wouldn’t have needed to injure Crist to remove him from action for the second year in a row. Jeremy Gallon would have not been the worst punt returner on the field. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon would have argued that the game was in hand during the halftime rain delay, and he would have been mostly correct.
Last game: Howard 9, EMU 41 (Win)
Recap: Due to Midwest Monsoon 2011, Eastern Michigan took the field a day late against Howard, an FCS team from the MEAC that went 1-10 last year, one worse than EMU’s 2-10 record. To give the free-admission crowd a reminder of last year’s team, Eagles QB Alex Gillett went out on the first play and authoritatively threw a pick-six. Former-Michigan-star-turned-quality-control-assistant Mike Hart then said*, “Hey, maybe we could try, you know, winning,” at which point the Eagles started playing defense and putting up points behind a ground game. Four quarters later, EMU had blown out the Bison 41-9. This was a new experience for almost everyone involved, so when the exuberance finally faded, the lingering regret was just, “If only people cared.”
Right now they are as frightening as: The common cold. At worst it’s an inconvenience, and a week later, nobody ever remembers you were sick. 1.
Michigan should worry about: It’s possible (but not probable) that Hart may have some kind of fifth-year/grad/transfer eligibility left.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: The highway that separates Ann Arbor and Ypsi.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Dave Brandon would have argued that the game was in hand before the game even started.
San Diego State
Last game: Cal Poly 21, SDSU 49 (Win)
Recap: SDSU QB Ryan Lindley (203 yds, 4 TDs) went into Saturday’s game missing every wide receiver who had contributed meaningfully in 2010. So naturally he went ahead and threw four touchdown passes. Cal Poly, an FCS team, isn’t really, you know, good -- so the stat doesn’t mean a whole lot, but SDSU should be building some confidence in a passing game that looked precarious a couple weeks ago. Not that it matters, because most of the Aztecs’ yards came on the ground anyway. RB Ronnie Hillman (28 carries, 189 yds, 2 TDs) had himself a day.
For what it’s worth, the SDSU defense gave up 3 rushing TDs, and only one of those came in garbage time.
Right now they are as frightening as: The ex-fiancé of a girl that you dated before they were together to whom you are now married. Yeah, you were there first -- and he totally understands -- but you accidentally mailed him an invitation to your baby shower. Oops. 4.
Michigan should worry about: Lingering toughness and accountability from San Diego State’s Hoke era.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: The best scouting report EVER.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Ryan Lindley, meet Jordan Kovacs. Kovacs, Lindley.
*This is probably how it went down on the sideline.
(more after the jump)
Last game: Minn 17, #25 USC 19 (Loss)
Recap: With the matching color scheme, what appeared at first to be a closely matched intra-squad scrimmage turned out to be Minnesota coming within a field goal of upsetting USC at USC. Gophers QB Max Shortell (7 of 13 for 98 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), who entered the game at the end of the third quarter when QB Marqueis Gray went down with cramps, led a ferocious comeback until he suddenly remembered that he was a true freshman, whereupon he threw an interception to end Minnesota’s potentially game-winning drive. With 53 seconds left in the game, the Trojans had no choice but to squat on the ball to clinch a hard-earned win over the worst team in the Big Ten. Victory formation, indeed. At least the fans didn’t storm the field (see Purdue).
Gray was so-so. In three quarters, he completed 7 of 12 passes for 94 yards, and he rushed 16 times for 47 yards for 2.9 yards per rush. So basically he’s like Denard, with Less Speed and Less Accuracy.
Right now they are as frightening as: Their mascot. Fear level = 3.
Michigan should worry about: Minnesota held USC scoreless for the entire second half and allowed the Trojans to rush just 67 yards on 28 attempts.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: The Trojans didn’t need to run the ball because Matt Barkley was too busy bombing the Gophers’ secondary for 304 yards.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: The Wolverines’ defense would feel as if they were defending against a less talented Denard.
Last game: NW 24, Boston College 17 (Win)
Recap: Northwestern QB Dan Persa was never going to be healthy enough to start against Boston College, but a lot of money went into his Heisman campaign in Chicago this summer, so the Wildcats had to keep the investors mollified by listing him as “questionable” for as long as possible. And then, surprise, he didn’t play.
In Persa’s stead, Kain Colter proved that he was a serviceable backup. He threw for 197 yards and 1 INT and ran for 71 yards and a score. Though Northwestern gave up as many yards on defense as it gained on offense -- about 450 yards -- it was able to make a critical game-saving stop: when the Eagles threatened to put the game in overtime, the Wildcats took advantage of a BC false start and delivered a sack on the very next play to end the game.
Right now they are as frightening as: Ash Ketchum without Pikachu. 4.
Michigan should worry about: A healthy Persa.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: A road game that will have more Wolverines fans than Northwestern fans in attendance.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: It would have been the best “who’s starting?” match-up of the week.
Last game: Youngstown State 6, #17 MSU 28 (Win)
Recap: Against Youngstown State, it took Michigan State nearly 15 minutes of mediocre play to remind themselves, “Wait a minute, we’re Michigan State!” and another 15 to decide whether that was a good thing. The first quarter ended with the Penguins having played 22 snaps on offense; the Spartans had played just six. Youngstown State moved the ball well, albeit fruitlessly, and prevented the Michigan State offense from finding rhythm. At the end of the half, though the Penguins were down 14-6 having left four points on the field due to a bad kicking game, the moral victory was in hand.
The Spartans never appeared to be that good. The O-line allowed too much penetration for the running backs to break long runs, and the defense looked tired on Youngstown State’s longer drives. Michigan State eventually outmuscled the Penguins to score just two more unspectacular touchdowns in the second half, but when you can’t blow out an FCS opponent that went 3-8 in 2010, you should feel embarrassed.
Right now they are as frightening as: Your younger step-brother, who went and got jacked while you had mono. Fear level = 6.
Michigan should worry about: Kirk Cousins (18 of 22 for 222 yards and 1 TD), and LB Max Bullough (15 tackles).
Michigan should sleep soundly about: Recruiting.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Hoke’s countdown clocks would have been really, really off.
Last game: Middle Tennessee 24, Purdue 27 (Win)
Recap: Purdue has had such bad luck lately that a win over Middle Tennessee is now considered a green light for fans to storm the field. The Boilermakers committed 11 penalties and two turnovers en route to competitive parity with the Blue Raiders (the Blue Raiders, to be clear, are a terrible football team). Purdue RB Ralph Bolden (17 carries, 120 yds) was solid. Third-string (?) QB Caleb Terbush (19 of 33, 219 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) was mediocre. The Boilermakers’ defense (460 total yards allowed) was crap. Purdue needed an incomplete pass and a blocked field goal in order to seal their victory against Middle Tennessee.
But hey, a win is a win is a good reason to go nuts.
Right now they are as frightening as: A Kia with an expired warranty. 2.
Michigan should worry about: Having to call the game early when Purdue runs out of quarterbacks.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: Ryan Kerrigan’s diploma.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: The MGoLiveblog would be clamoring to see a Bellomy to Roundtree touchdown.
Last game: Tennessee Tech 7, Iowa 34 (Win)
Recap: Iowa QB James Vandenberg -- you may remember him as the guy who almost didn’t lose to Ohio State two years ago when Ricky Stanzi got injured -- made his first start since 2009 and actually did a pretty good job. He threw for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns, prompting Adam Jacobi at BHGP to declare him Iowa’s next-great-Michigan-quarterback:
The guy Vandenberg reminds me of--and this is going to make Brian Cook shoot nuclear missiles at my house from Ann Arbor in protest--is Chad Henne.
Duck and cover.
RB Marcus Coker, the sole survivor of the Hawkeye running back Armageddon a year ago, coughed up the ball twice in the first quarter, so he got replaced by freshman Mika’il McCall, who -- I’m pretty sure this play is called “RB Smash” -- went out and immediately broke his ankle. So what did we learn? That Iowa running back Armageddon continues, and Coker is approaching Cockroach Status.
Right now they are as frightening as: The stock market. Over the past two years, they’ve earned the title of Least Predictable Team. To illustrate: they beat Michigan State to a pulp, then almost lost to Indiana, then actually lost to Northwestern, then really awfully lost to Minnesota, but then beat Missouri in the the Insight Bowl! For now, fear level = 6, +/-2.
Michigan should worry about: Brian’s nukes wiping out all the corn in Iowa.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: There’s still Nebraska.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Where there is Chad Henne there is Tacopants.
Last game: Arkansas State 15, Illinois 33 (Win)
Recap: Like Michigan State, Illinois played a competitive first half with an opponent that had no business being competitive with Illinois. Thanks to a pair of field goals and a safety, the Red Wolves led the Illini 8-7 late in the second quarter. Illinois finally came to and rattled off 10 points to reach halftime with a 17-8 lead. The Illini would give up another touchdown in the fourth quarter, but only with Arkansas State safely out of comeback reach.
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase threw for a career high of 267 yards and 2 scores, and RB Jason Ford solidified himself as the natural successor to the departed Mikel Leshoure with 22 carries for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Right now they are as frightening as: A large rock. They don’t look threatening, but it’s going to take a lot to get them out of the way. 5.
Michigan should worry about: Scheelhaase actually developing into what Gerry Dinardo called the most balanced dual-threat QB in the Big Ten. Heh.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: On fourth and short against the 2010 Michigan defense, Fighting Illini head coach Ron Zook chooses to punt.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Rain delays vs. triple overtime.
Last game: Chattanooga 7, #10 Nebraska 40 (Win)
Recap: Under a new offensive coordinator, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez rushed 19 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns as the Huskers steamrolled Chattanooga. Unfortunately for Martinez, the Mocs (Q: What’s a Moc?) are an FCS team, and that fact puts a low ceiling on how many times analysts can call his week one highlight reel “electrifying.” Through the air, Martinez completed 11 of 22 pass attempts for 116 yards. For some reason, words more like “underwhelming” and “pedestrian” come to mind.
Nebraska’s defense gave up a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Shame on them.
Right now they are as frightening as: Charlie Sheen. 8.
Michigan should worry about: The Big Ten making this an Ugly Trophy game.
Michigan should sleep soundly about: But at least it can’t be uglier than Cy-Hawk.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: Let’s be honest.
I’m just gonna give you the look.
Last game: Akron 0, #18 Ohio 42 (Win)
Recap: In this week’s Non-Game-Of-The-Week (Nebraska came close), Ohio
State’s biggest accomplishment was that they didn’t allow any sacks on their mascot.
Right now they are as frightening as: The Soviet Union, circa 1990. 7.
Michigan should worry about: Bri’onte Dunn
Michigan should sleep soundly about: Kyle Kalis.
If Michigan had played them last Saturday: WHAT HAPPENED TO LAST SATURDAY IN NOVEMBER? RABBLE RABBLE DOWN WITH DAVE BRANDON!