The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
Previously on Draftageddon:
- Adam takes a guy with a ~33% chance to start first overall! Joey Bosa lasts until pick 3! Seth is generally sensible! For him that counts as Heiko-ing, I think!
ACE: Round 4, Pick 2: Jack Conklin, OT, MSU
OFFENSE: WR Michael Thomas (OSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU)
Michigan State has assembled a strong offensive line, finishing 7th in adjusted sack rate and 28th in adjusted line yards last year, and the strongest piece of that line is left tackle Jack Conklin, who went from recruiting unknown to a possible franchise tackle:
It has been well-documented that Cook and Calhoun might have been first-round picks had they declared for the upcoming draft, but according to Kiper, the same might have been true about the less-heralded Conklin.
"I think he's a first-round caliber, yes I do,'' Kiper said on his Wednesday conference call, asked about Conklin's upside. "I think Brandon Scherff from Iowa, not much separating Scherff from Conklin, and some may even think that Conklin is a more highly rated player.
"(Conklin) was on my radar because I thought maybe he'll come out, because he has such a high grade, but by going back, you're looking at an elite of the elite. Jack Conklin has a chance to be a very very high first round pick, certainly the first offensive tackle off the board.''
The former walk-on has allowed only 2.5 sacks in his 27 career games, which include 23 consecutive starts at LT. Ohio State's fearsome pass rush produced just one sack against MSU last year; that came from DT Michael Bennett. Only Baylor DE/Terminator Shawn Oakman gave Conklin much in the way of trouble last season, and nobody else's team in this exercise has a Shawn Oakman, let alone a Joey Bosa.
SETH: Round 4, Pick 3: Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut)
DEFENSE: HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich)
I'm going off the premise that I'm being judged on what Carroo accomplishes with Connor Cook throwing to him. But it's not like any of the 94 targets he turned into 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns were made easy by Gary Nova.
There are two schools of thought on the "Carroo did a lot of that on broken plays" theory. Ace gave you one. Here's another: behind a turnstile offensive line, Gary FRIGGIN NOVA was the third most efficient passer in the Big Ten last year, in large part because running around like Miley Cyrus then chucking it at Carroo and three defenders was a totally efficient thing to do.
I scouted this guy for last year's draft because Bill Connelly's targeting (YPT, NEY, RYPR) stats made Carroo pop out among the conference's best. I didn't end up taking Leonte then because the majority of his yards were against lightweights. Carroo still torched bad defenses (151 yards vs. WSU, 140 on Tulane, 125 on Indiana) in 2014, but also had 84 yards on 6 catches while matched against Jordan Lucas, 5 for 100 against Doran Grant, and 6 for 104 on Will Likely. Trae Waynes got the better of him (1 catch for 6 yards on 5 targets); Michigan stuck a safety over him and got bombed everywhere else. He finished top 10 in the country in all three of Connelly's imperfect metrics, indistinguishable from Lippett.
Michael Thomas is an excellent Avant; Carroo as a junior was more comparable to Braylon at his age (67 catches, 1035 yards 10 TDs). Yes, with the occasional drops. Still a highly dangerous weapon I didn't think would slip to me.
ADAM: Round 4, Pick 4: Jordan Westerkamp, WR, Nebraska
Round 5, Pick 1: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Westerkamp is suspended for the first game for tying a damsel to some train tracks
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU)
Westerkamp is best known for the time he hauled in a catch that looked like a Madden glitch, but there's more substance to him. His 65.7% catch rate and 11.1 yards per target are both better than oft-targeted (25.6% of passes) former teammate Kenny Bell's 54.0% catch rate and 9.1 YPT. Westerkamp was targeted on just 19.7% of Nebraska's passes, but that will rise due to the departure of the poofily coiffed hair and production of Bell. (I realize his hair had nothing to do with how often Westerkamp got the ball, but it's impossible to write about Kenny Bell and not mention the hair.) While Bell was more frequently targeted than Westerkamp on passing downs (25.6% to 17.1%, respecitvely), Westerkamp again had the better catch rate (60.7%) and YPT (14.0); even when defenses had an idea where the ball was going Westerkamp was able to put up good numbers. I'll happily take a guy who has a better catch rate and YPT than a fifth-round draft pick who was first-team All-Big Ten last season.
If the ball is ever going to get to Westerkamp there should probably be an offensive line, and Spriggs is arguably the best available with Decker and Conklin off the board. Spriggs has started at left tackle since he was a true freshman, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten status every season. He's 6-7, 305 and has anchored a line that has averaged more than five yards per carry the last two seasons. While that number was certainly aided by Tevin Coleman, Spriggs' pass protection is an asset. He'll give up two sacks as he does every year and I'll be happy to have one of the top-10 tackles in the 2016 draft. Also:
#iufb OT Jason Spriggs #'s Are NFL Combine Top of the Charts - 40: 4.82 / Vertical: 37.5" / Bench: 455 / 225 Bench: 33 Reps / Clean 365 etc.
— Kevin Wilson (@IUCoachWilson) March 26, 2015
[After THE JUMP: No more Ohio State players! That's right, not even one!]
Well... crap. We have this tradition where we seek to irritate every last one of our readers. We could not do that, but then the readers win. The readers cannot win. We are the only site on the internet. We have them in the palm of our hand. We must crush them.
So let's draftageddon again.
You are not going to be happy about this. Let's just state that going in.
Everyone drafts a team from available Big Ten players consisting of
- A QB, five OL, and six skill players on offense. Usually this breaks down in to a RB, three WR, a TE, and a wild card but things tend to get weird.
- 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S and one wild card on defense.
- A punter and a kicker.
Standard serpentine fantasy draft.
Once three teams have filled a position group the final team must do so at most three rounds later. This is mostly intended to prevent someone from waiting on a QB until the end of the draft and occasionally results in hilarious things like "Nathan Scheelhaase goes in round 8".
Seth will take an injured Northwestern player over any available Heisman contender.
Everyone will make fun of me for an excellent pick that ends up going in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.
The winner will be the person with the most impressive team.
As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is
Adam, you are on the clock. BryMac is on the email chain to throw out haymakers randomly.
BRYMAC: KURTIS DRUMMOND
ADAM - Round 1, Pick 1: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
"Will I even play" is an interesting question to ask the TOP PICK IN THE DRAFT
OFFENSE: JT Barrett (OSU).
ADAM: I'll play Buckeye roulette against my better judgement. Picking a quarterback who has a 33% chance of starting is terrifying for a risk-averse person such as myself, but that 33% is assuming all of OSU's quarterbacks have an equal chance of winning the job.
Braxton Miller returns, but he's coming off of multiple shoulder injuries and already had a tendency to turn into Delmon Young when he had to throw deep. Circling back to the risk-averse thing, that gets a big "nooope" from me. Cardale Jones was superb during OSU's playoff run, but he's reportedly behind Miller and Barrett as of now. Silly though it may be to put much weight on an imaginary July depth chart, it's enough for me to look in a different direction.
That leaves Barrett, who completed 64.6% of his passes while averaging 9.0 YPA. On top of that, he brings the dual threat capabilities I'm looking for; in 2014 he ran 14.25 times per game and averaged 5.49 YPC. Overall, Barrett accounted for 7.78 yards per play while throwing 34 touchdowns and rushing for 11 more. It's easy to see why he was named the 2014 Big Ten Quarterback and Freshman of the Year. Now I just have to hope he actually plays.
SETH - Round 1, Pick 2: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
SETH: I am committed to not doing the insane things this year, among which I include filling the most important position with a guy who's 67% likely to not start. And hell, if Cook played for the other rival, maybe we're be talking about the "next Alex Smith" instead of guessing which of the three stooges gets to drive Urban's war machine to New York.
When Connor took over in 2013 the State offense went from laughable to good enough/safe. When they took the apron strings off in the Big Ten Championship, the INT rate went from 1.41% (best in the country) to 2.12% (Tom Brady), while his YPA shot up to eight against Ohio State and Stanford. Yet I remained a skeptic, until Cook repeated those numbers over an entire season, capped by beating Baylor in a shootout. All told, MSU finished 6th nationally last year in pass S&P+, 10th in YPA, and 11th in turnover rate. Everybody else in range ran a vicious spread or had access to elite talent; Cook did this while working for Jim Bollman.
He won't have Lippett to make him look good this year but Cook made even State's pedestrian receivers look Lippett-esque--Keith Mumphery had 11 yards per target last year; Macgarrett Kings had nine. Arm accuracy is merely good, but it's functionally extraordinary because of a lightning release. His legs aren't up to "dual threat" level but they're enough to extends plays, and State even added a zone-read veer to the playbook last year. I think I've found my quarterback. And despite the ugly green/chrome/bronze/hellenistic helmet, I think Harbaugh would approve.
ACE - Round 1, Pick 3: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Looks like Joe Dirt, plays like Mean Joe Green
DEFENSE: Joey Bosa (OSU).
ACE: With the two elite quarterbacks off the board, assuming Barrett wins the OSU job (which I think he will, or I'd be bringing the snark much more heavily), I'll happily take the guy projected higher on most early NFL draft mocks than he went here. I don't need to spend much time or effort justifying this selection. Bosa had 21 TFLs and 13.5 sacks last season; both marks led the conference by a healthy margin. He earned unanimous first-team All-American honors. A lengthy section of his official OSU profile is dedicated to the 37 points the Buckeyes scored as a result of Bosa forcing or recovering fumbles last year; 30 of those points came after Bosa forced a fumble on the opposing quarterback. He did all this as a true sophomore.
On top of all that, Bosa is a solid run defender, already able to two-gap blockers to shut down rushes to his side. So, sure, I guess I'll build my defense around the best player in the conference.
[After THE JUMP: A lot more Buckeyes. Sorry.]
AHHHH PLAY FOR MICHIGAN
Ex-Harbaugh staffer: 'A great white shark, mouth open, staring at you'
That's from a longer profile he wrote in May on the often-inscrutable Harbaugh. I referenced this yesterday, but whenever these things happen I think about a Nietzsche quote despite never having read any Nietzsche. You see, there was this science-fiction Civ game called Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and when you got one of the techs it always said this at you:
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under. I love those who do not know how to live, for they are those who cross over.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche ,"Thus Spoke Zarathustra"
Pretentious! But sometimes Harbaugh does not know how to live, like when he's on a national radio show and the preening show host starts in by asking him if he's ever soft. The vision of masculinity presented by Cowherd is so disorienting to him that his mind goes blank in terror*.
The good news is that Harbaugh can now enact the Thought Control government form. So he's got that going for him.
*[Just as I recoil at the arrogant bro-dom presented by Jim Rome.]
More Harbaugh. Face time in the 1993 Rose Bowl.
Doesn't say much there, either.
Yes, please. The NCAA may be slightly loosening its tie when it comes to the NBA draft:
Under the proposal, which was a coordinated effort by the NCAA, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the NBA, underclassmen would be allowed to attend the Chicago pre-draft combine in May, get evaluated by team personnel and given a true reading on their draft status. The players would then be able to decide if they wanted to stay in the draft or return to school. They couldn't sign with an agent, though.
The current draft rules don't allow a player to return to college once he officially declares for the NBA draft. The NBA would still have an early entry deadline of late April and an official withdrawal date of 10 days before the draft, as per the collective bargaining agreement. But the NCAA would then have its own withdrawal date moved up from the week after the Final Four to sometime in mid-to-late May.
That last sentence is confusingly worded and should be "moved back". This is progress of a sort—the kind of progress that takes you back to about eight years ago when this was the standard. College coaches hated it because they didn't know who would go and who would stay when the late signing period—which also starts about week after the Final Four—began. So they changed it. Now they might change it back.
Anything that acknowledges the reality of the NBA and NFL is a good change. This one is a bit half-hearted, and it seems like it's flirting with disaster to make this change without delaying the late signing period. Kid signs, other kid decides to return: whoops. You know that's going to happen.
The best solution here is draft and follow.
Exposure to price. When people start talking about the inevitable cable unbundling that is coming, they often make this calculation: if only X percent of people would get ESPN and ESPN costs Y amount of money, then ESPN is going to cost Y * (1 / X) dollars. That's a lot of dollars! Bet you don't want unbundling now! An example:
So you'd think a standalone ESPN app, with all their channels, would cost around the same [as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc.]. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast. ESPN's perceived value and what the network actually needs to sustain their business model are vastly different.
One industry source I spoke to believes ESPN would have to charge sports fans at least $30 a month for an a la carte version of the networks to offset lost cable subscriber fees and advertising. MoffettNathanson Research believes Disney would have to charge $36.30 a month for ESPN to achieve the same level of reach it enjoys today.
At this point, we've reached a similar structure to European television. Channels such as Sky Sports, which carries popular properties like the English Premiere League, are not part of the basic service and run at $40 a month for the family of networks. Sky Sports even offers "day passes" for roughly $15. While hardcore American sports fans can justify similar prices here in the States, casual fans will balk and just catch the big event games on over-the-air networks.
But as taxi drivers and music labels and newspapers have found out, the internet tends to erode comfortable perches from which you can rake in piles of dough. ESPN has the advantage of still being a monopoly, but if the product was the only reason you could charge Y dollars you would not be able to get every song ever made for ten dollars a month.
The existence of Sling TV, which has ESPN and ESPN 2 and 18 other channels besides, for 20 bucks, is plenty of evidence that ESPN cannot reach that price point—and probably will not even try. Sky is a very different business model because the thing that is by far their main attraction, soccer, is virtually ad-free. You get some signage in the stadium, shirt sponsors, and halftime when everyone goes to the bathroom and gets a snack. That's it. The prime reason American sports keep spiraling in value (and can no longer fit in their assigned time slots) is that they are much more amenable to commercial breaks. Sky is trying to maximize its revenue; ESPN's attempt to maximize its revenue is going to come in much lower because 1) Americans are going to balk at the 40 dollar price and 2) advertisers want the eyeballs ESPN can deliver so very badly.
ESPN is currently subsidized by a lot of people who do not care about sports. When the internet is television, that goes away—and it does not necessarily get replaced one for one.
This is why adding Maryland and especially Rutgers was folly. In the near future the only people who get the Big Ten Network are going to be people interested in the Big Ten. They will no longer be able to snatch a dollar from the pocket of every cable subscriber in New Jersey who is a Tulane man. This is going to happen in ten years, at which point whatever short-term revenue gain will be spent, Jim Delany will have his bonus, and the Big Ten will be stuck with a couple of teams nobody cares about.
[HT: Get The Picture.]
Sauce relocates. Nik Stauskas is traded to the 76ers for… uh… stuff?
Many in Philadelphia wanted Stauskas last year. Now, 12 months later, Hinkie got him, a 1st rd pick, and 2 pick swaps for basically nothing.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) July 2, 2015
Stauskas had a rough first year in the NBA in a terrible situation, but that's awful quick to give up on a guy and dump him with some terrible contracts in exchange for cap space. Like the Pistons giving away a first round pick to be done with Ben Gordon, the main "asset" Sacramento acquired was the ability to not have Carl Landry on their cap any more. So they could go sign more free agents. Someone try to rip the face off the Kings GM just in case it's Joe Dumars.
Only incompetent Germans. Louisville's new helmet is… this…
Which I kind of like for an Arena League team. Of the future. Playing a life and death game against octopus space nazis.
Here is a conveniently-timed article titled "Adidas: Sports Apparel Laughingstock."
The old recruiting ghost story. Willie Williams has been revisited. It is a funny and sad story, one that you've probably heard before. Apropos of little, here is former Florida Gator on his trip to Penn State:
As if that story wasn’t juicy enough, Crowder spoke of his visit to Penn State as a recruit, which was “the worst.”
“They sit me in a room with two bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 Banana Red,” Crowder said. “They say ‘drink these, we’re gonna go out.’ Okay, I get all feeling good. We walk out of the door, go down two doors and go back into an apartment and it’s four big white girls sitting there and me. Big ole white girls. Talkin’ about 250.”
Crowder no doubt said his decision was all about the academics.
Here's this! It is a show featuring a bunch of Michigan guys, one a former walk-on QB under Moeller, and an mgoshirt.
It appears it is still looking for a home. If you are a TV executive, adopt it maybe.
Etc.: Here is a good thing about the buddha-fication of David Foster Wallace. Akron built a stadium. It's not going well. Warde Manuel($) is a name to watch for Hackett replacement. Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat on the NBA Draft.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Penn State 6 Michigan 4
PSU 1 UM 0 EV 03:13 Scheid from Richard and Conway
Penn State chips the puck in and chases. Zach Werenski loses a battle along the boards behind the net, leaving Scheid with the puck. As he takes off up the boards Kevin Lohan skates behind the net to cover.
Dylan Richard starts skating to the net while Scheid turns behind him. It isn’t quite a pick, but it (apparently) is enough of a diversion to wreak havoc.
Lohan makes an intelligent coverage switch to cover Richard. Scheid shoots, however, and beats Racine five-hole. This kind of goal (read: soft) is the reason no one has been able to win the starting role. It’s the goaltender problem in microcosm.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
3/6/2015 – Michigan 4, Penn State 6 – 19-12, 11-6 Big Ten
3/7/2015 – Michigan 3, Penn State 4 – 19-13, 11-7 Big Ten
twilight (not that twilight) [Patrick Barron]
A few years back I wrote something about a pivotal series against Miami that felt both correct and histrionic simultaneously. Michigan was swept 4-2 and 3-0, dumb penalties piled up like Lions mistakes with the Suh contract, and it felt like there was something gone from the program:
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Michigan proceeded to advance to the national championship game, so I may have pulled the trigger slightly early. But that feeling turned out to be correct, give or take a year. The next year one-seed Michigan was unceremoniously bounced from the tourney by Cornell in the first round; they have not been back since.
Their absence has grown more dispiriting and infuriating as it's lengthened. When Michigan started their slippery slope, they finished seventh in the CCHA only to storm through the tourney, beating #1 Miami on the way, before falling to those same Redhawks when every Michigan fan's "rule most likely to lead to homicide"—a goal waved off because the referee can't see the puck—came to fruition in overtime.
A couple years later they turned around a dismal season about halfway through, reaching the CCHA finals. There they found a very good Notre Dame team that beat them comprehensively in terms of attack time and chances, with the usual vagaries of hockey holding Michigan in it.
Last year all they had to do was beat Penn State, nascent, fledgling Penn State, in the Big Ten tournament to all but guarantee themselves an at-large berth. They lost in two overtimes to a team that was 8-25-2 on the year, allowing 65 shots—44 in regulation. This year they approached Happy Valley in first place in the league, an at-large bid within their grasp, and they blew it. They were down 3-0 and 4-2 in games they'd lose, and this is now their situation:
Gross weekend. Per http://t.co/9RVMXcI80e, chances of making tourney now 25%, 1% without winning B1G Tournament. Just 45% to get a bye.
— Yost Built (@YostBuilt) March 8, 2015
On the one hand you can't be surprised. Michigan has been playing with fire with sloppy goaltending and guys wandering through the slot unchecked all year. It's tough to get points when you give up five goals per game.
On the other… how the hell did we get here? Michigan had a 22-year (22 year!) tourney streak during which it was mostly impervious to these sorts of wobbles. We should be grateful for that. Minnesota, BC, North Dakota—every one of these programs had a year or three in which they were inexplicably bad. Michigan avoided that for an astoundingly long period of time.
No longer, and there's a pretty easy proximate cause to point to:
|YEAR||M RECORD||M TOURNEY||MEL||TECH RECORD||TECH TOURNEY|
|2015||19-13||must win BTT||Tech||26-8-2||#5 PWR|
Mel Pearson left for Michigan Tech after the 2010-11 season and immediately made them competitive; this year they're damn good. The above chart probably sells it short since it only goes back four years before the change. That middling year from the Huskies is a major outlier amongst even more seasons with 4, 5, 6 wins. Meanwhile, Michigan was rampant.
Even when Michigan beat Tech in the GLI, they were under siege for most of it, getting outshot 41-21. The series in Houghton was simply not competitive. Michigan was at ful strength; goals were 10-3 Tech. The inverse of that used to be the expectation for a Michigan versus Tech series.
Berenson's contract has one more year on it, and when it was signed he said it was almost certainly his last. I can't see any way that's not the case, and if Hackett has the stones to make a change now (I cannot believe I am saying this…) it might be time. In another situation with an unclear candidate pool, the argument for waiting would be stronger. With Pearson available and acting out the best-case scenario for Tech hockey, if you can get it done now that's a move you have to make.
Maybe Michigan wins the Big Ten tourney; maybe they outscore their mistakes for a bit in the tournament. The direction the arrow is pointing is clear enough even in that hypothetical scenario.
|WHAT||Michigan (19-11, 11-5 B10)
PSU (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B10)
|WHERE||Pegula Ice Arena,
State College PA
|WHEN||7 PM Friday
3 PM Saturday
|TV||BTN plus (ie: no)|
[@ right: Bill Rapai]
It says something that Penn State's farm-fresh program has become instantly competitive in the Big Ten. Half of that is Penn State, which is regularly selling out and has an attractive hockey-specific arena to offer.
The other half is the worrisome state of the league.
Things seemed a bit more worrisome three weeks ago, when Penn State was 7-2-1 in the Big Ten and had vague at-large hopes. Since they've been in a tailspin, losing five of their last six.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey, and David Goodwin. Addressed as a group because they are a group. Penn State has a very legit top line. You can see it in the plus-minus: these guys range from +12 to +14; there's a second-ish line that's just above even, and then you get into minuses.
Bailey leads PSU in scoring with a 21-16-37 line. 1) that production has continued in the Big Ten (10-10-20), and 2) a lot of that production is even strength, with just 4 PP goals.
Holstrom is the setup man with a 7-22-33 line.
Goodwin is a highly productive third wheel at 13-16-29.
PSU has another three or four guys who are somewhat productive depending on whether you're looking at the season as a whole or just the Big Ten. Scoring threat drops off relatively swiftly after that.
Michigan would be advised to try to line-match the Copp line against the Penn State gunners, but that'll be more difficult on the road.
All three Penn State goalies have seen significant time this year. Over the last month the competition has narrowed to juniors Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. Musico has a solid .923 save percentage but has struggled somewhat lately; Skoff is at .905. Despite that disparity, Skoff has seen twice as much time as Musico.
Skoff and Musico both gave up five goals last weekend to Ohio State, so your guess is as good as any. Whoever gets the Friday start will see playing time Saturday contingent on his performance.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Penn State's power play is effective at 22%; their penalty kill is weak at 80%. Similar to Michigan except slightly worse in both categories.
THE LAST TIME
PSU and Michigan split a series at Yost back in November. Penn State scraped out a frustrating-for-M 3-2 win in a game they got outshot 40-28. The next night Michigan bombed 'em 8-1 in a game where shots were a lot closer. Hockey is weird.
Michigan has a three point (ie: one game) lead on Minnesota for the Big Ten title, with MSU and PSU lurking around .500 further back. A sweep guarantees Michigan a piece of the title if they get at least a split from the MSU home and home finale; drop points, as Michigan has been wont to do of late, and they'll be relying on Meh Minnesota to help 'em out. (They've done that, splitting their last two series.)
Even more importantly, Michigan is the definition of a bubble team in the pairwise. They have four games left against .500-ish teams, and three are on the road—going 3-1 in this stretch should see them enter the Big Ten Tourney with a good shot at an at-large bid even if they don't get the auto. Anything worse and things start to look dicey.
If Michigan does end up hunting an auto-bid they would very much like to do so from one of the bye spots in the Big Ten tournament. Two games in two days is much easier than three in three.
Penn State's got a decent record but they've got a very bad SOS number so they're definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to an at-large. They are five points back of second place in the league and the second bye, so that's likely their goal.
If Michigan can keep the top line contained with the Copp line and use Hyman and Larkin to strike at the relatively soft underbelly of the Penn State roster… they could still be undone by randos unchecked in the slot and bad goaltending. But this does look like a relatively good matchup for Michigan: a team that's been scuffling that doesn't punish mistakes much save for the guys everyone needs to be alert for.
Here's hoping they can get 1-0-1 or better.