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):
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.
Recap: Illinois scored first at Camp Randall on a Nathan Scheelhaase keeper, which was so exciting that they forgot to do anything on offense again until the fourth quarter, when they were trailing 24-7.
Two years ago -- maybe even last year -- this game would have been much more impressive to behold. Tough defensive battle. Field position chess. Making Plays. Manball. But given the way both teams have been riding the strugglebus since September, I don’t think either team left the field being overly excited about anything.
Wisconsin got back on track in the running game with RBs Montee Ball (19 carries, 116 yards, 6.1 ypc) and James White (6 carries, 42 yards, 7.0 ypc) against a decent Illini rush defense (ranked somewhere between 30th and 40th), but they got most of their yards late in the game when the game was pretty much out of hand. They did nothing before the end of the third quarter.
Badgers QB Joel Stave (16/24, 254 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) proved himself an apt replacement for Danny O’Brien, but the offense did an awful job on third down, converting only two of 10 attempts. Stave threw one bomb in the fourth quarter to WR Jared Abbrederis (7 rec, 117 yards, 1 TD), but was otherwise unremarkable. His other long TD was a screen to White.
So … what about Illinois? Illinois has a running quarterback and a couple scary-ish guys on defense. The rest of the team wears jerseys with nameplates that alternatingly read “Despair” and “Self-pity.”
Personnel note: CB Terry Hawthorne was involved in a nasty collision during the game (he got flagged for the dangerous hit), lost consciousness for several long moments, and had to get carted away in an ambulance. He’s deemed “questionable” for Saturday and needs to clear a bunch of concussion tests and cardio workouts, and then endure practice. Yeah. I don’t think he’s playing.
This team is as frightening as: Once upon a time Illinois was a rock: full of inertia, heavily influenced by gravity, a hazardous roadblock. Then someone stuck a stick of dynamite beneath it and blew it into a pile of rubble. Now all anyone needs to do is roll over it slowly and watch for jagged edges, of which there are few. Fear level = 2.5.
Michigan should worry about: Every once in a while a flailing team coordinates all its movements to put together an improbably coherent and effective performance against a confidently unsuspecting opponent. You can’t have followed Michigan football over the last several years and not experience this feeling on a weekly basis.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The fact that they were better under Ron Zook, which is kind of like saying chocolate was better with orange juice because now all you have is tobacco juice.
When they play Michigan: Home game Big House wooooooo.
Recap: Purdue’s defense gave up 534 yards and 41 points to a middling C-USA team, but this was okay because Purdue had a 42-14 lead going into halftime and ended up with four takeaways on the day due to the fast and loose nature of Marshall’s offense. The Boilermakers were never really in danger of losing, but for argument’s sake let’s go with the storyline that QB Caleb Terbush’s brilliant performance (27/37, 294 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT) saved the day. Who needs Robert Marve when you have Drew Brees under center. Yeah.
(As Ace noted in his FFFF yesterday, most of these were screen passes, so really, credit goes to the skill guys).
Purdue didn’t do much on the ground, where they averaged a little under 3 ypc. Most of their offense was generated by screens and quick passes. If lingering concern still exists about Michigan’s defensive front, it shouldn’t matter much against Purdue. Most of the action will go outside.
Defensively the Boilermakers got papercutted to death. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato (45/68, 439 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT) … well you can just read his stats to see how that went. Unfortunately Michigan has eschewed the dink-and-dunk offense for a Big Boy NFL vertical passing game, so it’s unlikely that Denard will have as much production through the air compared with Cato. But for the amount of hype Purdue CB Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen have generated over the offseason, that kind of a ho-hum day (although they each did record a pick-six) seems reasonable to believe that there is room to get guys open against them. Again, different offenses, different game plan, but there is room for optimism.
This team is as frightening as: Notre Dame lite. Fear level = 5.
Michigan should worry about: This is the team Michigan will likely need to beat twice in order to reach the Rose Bowl.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: If Michigan can beat them on the road, they can beat them on a neutral site, eh?
When they play Michigan: The same sorts of matchups and opportunities exist against Purdue that existed against Notre Dame: a stout defensive front with key weaknesses behind them and a mediocre offense led by solid but uninspiring quarterback play. Michigan should succeed with a more conservative game plan on offense that emphasizes the ground game (just don’t run at Kawann Short) and easy reads for Denard. Michigan’s defense should take care of the rest.
Recap: Another Michigan fan on twitter suggested that watching this game was like watching two douchebags trying to get with your sister at Rick’s. If that’s the case, congratulations to Notre Dame for the equivalent of having more than three dollars to pay for her drinks.
Anyway, Football. Right. The Irish beat Michigan State by a healthy margin. After scoring twice in the first half to get to a 14-3 lead, Sparty never came close to breaking the chokehold despite holding the Notre Dame offense to a pair of field goals in the second half. The Irish front seven was just as impressive as Michigan State’s. Their defensive line ran through Sparty’s offensive line on nearly every play, which made life miserable for MSU QB Andrew Maxwell (23/45, 187 yards) in passing situations. They limited RB Le’Veon Bell’s (19 carries, 77 yards) effectiveness such that Michigan State had to abandon using him in the second half. More importantly, the pass rush allowed the inexperienced secondary to make a few plays on Sparty’s equally inexperienced receivers.
The linebackers impressed as well, and Manti Te’o (12 tackles, 2 PBU) was Manti Te’O, despite dealing with the tragedy of losing both his girlfriend and grandmother just days earlier. There are lots of Notre Dame players who are very easy to root against. Te'o is not one of them.
Offensively Notre Dame was underwhelming but relatively error-free. The game plan was to rely on the defense to win the game, so offensive playcalling focused on the ground game save for a couple spectacular big plays that ultimately resulted in points. The conservative approach resulted in some ugly stats like 1 of 14 on third down conversions, but it won the game, so I won’t criticize. I’d be surprised if the Irish deviate from that plan against Michigan since offensive errors cost them the last two games in the series.
This team is as frightening as: Windows 7. The previous version was buggy and unintuitive and too complicated with all the bells and whistles -- it sucked. This one looks like it could actually be viable for the long term, but by this point pretty much everyone owns a Mac. Bill Gates was so last century. Regardless, fear level = 8.
Michigan should worry about: An Alabama redux. If Michigan doesn’t hit a bunch of passes early, there will be no room for either Denard or Fitz to run.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: With S Jamoris Slaughter out, Notre Dame’s secondary looks an awful lot like NEVER FORGET. Michigan might actually be able to hit a bunch of passes early.
When they play Michigan: If this were any other game, I wouldn’t bother getting my hopes up for a Michigan win. But it’s Notre Dame, and weird things happen when Michigan plays Notre Dame.
14 - I’m totally over it!, 41 - Haha over *twitch* what?
I do not remember this happening.
The road ahead:
Air Force (1-0)
Michael Ciaglo, Colarado Springs Gazette
Last game: Idaho State 21, Air Force 49 (W)
Recap: Let’s be honest: I didn’t watch this game. Nobody did. Not even Ace. Poor guy, though. Had to go down to Dallas and sit through the worst three hours of Michigan football since the Gator Bowl, and then had to break down film from a Notre Dame game. You know, my heart really goes out to him. He has a Facebook page. 1,000 likes and I’ll donate him half of my liver; 10,000 and I’ll throw in a kidney, too.
So word on the street is that Air Force bulldozed Idaho State for half a kilometer on the ground. This is completely unsurprising. Triple option teams are designed to put up 300 yards rushing on opponents like Alabama despite having far less talent in the traditional sense. 49-21 is therefore what happens when such a team plays someone that has even less talent than they do -- Idaho State is FCS.
News item: Air Force’s center Michael Husar, Jr. (Dad was a tackle for Michigan from ‘85-‘88) went down with an ACL/MCL tear. He was reputedly their best lineman, so look for their offense to be somewhat less impressive against Michigan. Get well soon, Michael.
This team is as frightening as: A fleet of MiG-15’s; Michigan is a squadron of B-52’s. Michigan will be fine as long as they get to their base before the other guys ever get off the ground. I realize that sounds a little strange, and I’m trying really hard not to say “bomb,” but the analogy works because the MiGs are smaller and have less firepower than the B-52’s, and during the Korean War … you know what screw it. Go read a book. Maybe you’ll learn something. Fear level = 3.
Michigan should worry about: Defense vs. triple option stuff. Close your eyes, cross your arms, and yell “LALALALALALA” if Kenny Demens never takes a step toward the line of scrimmage and as a result gets plowed by their backup center every other play.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: All their linemen are undersized because they’re the Air Force and the Air Force doesn’t make cockpits for fatties.
When they play Michigan: I will be sober. I promise.
People of the Earth: this is how you recruit for a fantasy league. Actually this is how if you're a college sports site editor you motivate your hypercompetitive (Michigan grads, remember?) staff to become insane experts on the rest of the conference right before football season begins. For that reason, despite quarterbacks chosen out of position and so so much snark, right now we feel as competent as anyone at putting out one of those All-Such-and-Such list things.
The draft is still going on and some of the picks we've made have yet to be revealed, however we have tagged enough positions at this point to post an official-ish pre-season All Big Ten team. There's a few specialists I'll include but won't reveal who drafted them. I'll also follow up either next week or later on this week with a "what we learned about the Big Ten" post that breaks down all the picks by team. This one's about the best by position.
Site note: We're bringing back jumps again so we can fit more content on the front page for you during the season. You see the "Read more" thing below this? CLICK THATto get to the good stuff.
Dear Brian Santa, Ace and I thought it would be great if we could go to this game. We promise to be extra good this year.
Offense line matters. Toward the end of last season it became increasingly clear that you could use trench matchups (O-line vs. D-line, D-line vs. O-line) as a heuristic for how teams would do against each other. Which is to say that it wasn't a great year for the league's skill positions.
Nebraska was an outlier. Coming into the season the Huskers were the B1G's version of Virginia Tech. They were loaded at every skill position save wideout, but they were relatively mediocre on the lines, particularly on offense. Their issues became pronounced on defense early in the season when DT Jared Crick got injured against Washington and on offense later in the season when injury robbed them of their starting tight end and a guard or two.
By the time they got to Michigan they were doing things like this:
screencap via BWS
And then all of a sudden it didn't matter that they had a speedy running quarterback and a bulldozer of a tailback. The Wolverines defense could choke them to death three yards behind the line of scrimmage every other play.
Nebraska finished fifth in the conference in yards per game (379.9 ypg, 66th nationally) and fourth in scoring (29.2 ppg, 49th nationally), which was disappointing given the preseason advertising. Part of that comes from the intangible aspects of transitioning into a new conference, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that their offensive line wasn't very deep or very good even though they got by decently in the Big 12 where teams generally sit back on defense and try to outscore you on offense.
The point is the Huskers are going to have to recruit a lot more big uglies if they want to gain elite status in the B1G. So far they haven't really done that,
#5 Nebraska - 8 Commits
but I guess it is still only June.
Obligatory Taylor Martinez shotput Youtube clip:
If you ever want to know how to throw like this, grab a football and pretend there's a foot-long string connecting it to your ear.
The actual preview part.
I would get the presser transcripts done so fast if I were there.
Nebraska's B1G debut in 2011 didn't go completely according to plan. They lost three conference games -- at Michigan and at Wisconsin in spectacular blow-outs and vs. Northwestern in game that even Brady Hoke couldn't believe happened. Other than that they had the singular highlight of clobbering Michigan State. They also beat Ohio State, but I'm sure Huskers fans talk about what happened during that game the way Michigan fans talk about what happened during the Sugar Bowl.
If the Huskers want to prove that their are truly of the B1G elite as they were billed to be, they need to put on a more convincing show and reach Indianapolis this season. They need their defense to stop underachieving, and in addition to to keeping their offensive line healthy, they need their offense as a whole to learn how to deal with adversity. Nebraska was frankly underwhelming on defense last season despite the number of star players, and their offense crumbled often on the road whenever they fell behind in the count. Much of that can be attributed to problems in leadership and coaching, so whether or not Bo Pelini is worth his paycheck, his evaluation period begins now.
Sept 1, Southern Miss
Sept 8, @ UCLA
Sept 15, Arkansas State
Sept 22, Idaho State
Sept 29, Wisconsin
Oct 6, @ Ohio State
Oct 13, WIFEDAY
Oct 20, @ Northwestern
Oct 27, Michigan
Nov 3, @ Michigan State
Nov 10, Penn State
Nov 17, Minnesota
Another part of the problem last year was the scheduling -- Nebraska's B1G slate was ... shitty. The Huskers played all five of the Bigs: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State, three of which were away games. No other B1G team faced more than four upper tier teams, even if you count Nebraska itself as one.
The matchups don't get any softer this season, but Nebraska will benefit marginally by having just two of those teams on the road and eight home games total. A well timed bye after Wisconsin and Ohio State should help the Huskers regroup for the bulk of the conference schedule.
Even with a visit to UCLA in week two, I see Nebraska sweeping their nonconference opponents. They'll likely lose to Ohio State and one if not both of the Michigans, but any more than three or four B1G losses would be highly surprising.
This schedule is as favorable as: Swimming 1000 yards, downstream.
X's and O's, Jimmys and Joes
"What was that?" "Idunno I've never seen that before."
Style: Spread/option, but a lot more option than spread.
Key losses: backup RB Aaron Green (105 yards, 4.4 ypc, 2 TD) , WR Brandon Kinnie (257 yards, 1 TD), C Mike Caputo, LT Yoshi Hardrick, RT Marcel Jones.
Top returners: QB Taylor Martinez (56.3%, 2089 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT), RB Rex Burkhead (1357 yards, 4.8 ypc, 15 TD), RB Ameer Abdullah (150 yards, 3.6 ypc, 3 TD), WR Kenny Bell (461 yards, 3 TD), WR Quincy Enunwa (293 yards, 2 TD), TE Ben Cotton (189 yards, 0 TD), TE Kyler Reed (257 yards, 1 TD).
Nebraska's offense was a lot like Michigan's offense last year -- frequently unstoppable on the ground, temperamental through the air -- but not quite as good. Like the Wolverines, the Huskers were adjusting to a new offensive coordinator with a second-year starting quarterback who was equally capable of breaking open the game or inciting a fan to break his TV screen on any given play.
Not much will change going into 2012. The offensive line may get better, which would allow Nebraska's talented and experienced backfield to do some fancier stuff, but the backbone of their offense -- option -- will be predicated on whether Taylor Martinez makes the right reads and decisions. Lots of offseason fluff has been devoted to his throwing mechanics and accuracy, which is silly. The bread and butter of the Huskers offensive identity is the option run game, and that's equal parts athletic talent/skill and decision-making. So far Martinez hasn't proven himself to be that good at the latter.
The good news for him is that Rex Burkhead, the quintessential workhorse that Nebraska can always feed the ball to from the I formation when all else fails, returns at tailback. The Huskers should be mindful of his mileage, though. 38 carries against Iowa was cool last season, but after Cody Green's transfer, Nebraska a high ankle sprain away from being Iowa.
On the "needs improvement" list: receivers. None of the Huskers receivers were that good last season, and it's pretty safe to say they won't be unearthing any new talent this fall. Again, because of the nature of their offense and the play-action potential, it may be unnecessary, but preventing opposing safeties from sucking up against the run every play would make things a lot easier.
This offense is as frightening as: A musket. Fear level = 6.
No. 94 Cameron Meredith
Key losses: DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard, S Austin Cassidy (61 tackles, 2 INT)
Top returners: DT Baker Steinkuhler (25 tackles, 2 sacks), DE Cameron Meredith (56 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 INT), DE Jason Ankrah (17 tackles, 1 sack), LB Will Compton (69 tackles, 1 sack), LB Sean Fisher (21 tackles), CB Andrew Green (38 tackles, 1 INT), S P.J. Smith (33 tackles, 1 INT)
Nebraska's disappointing defense in 2011 was much weaker against the run (158.5 ypg, 64th) than expected. They suffered from the loss of DT Jared Crick, who tore his pectoral muscle against Washington and eventually sat out the remainder of the season after Ohio State two games later, but to be honest, they were underwhelming even before that happened.
Against the past they fared okay (192.2 ypg, 19th), but you can mentally adjust that for how good you think B1G passing offenses were last year.
This season they lose the stars -- Crick, David, and Dennard -- but return a solid squad. Cameron Meredith was impressive last year and should continue to trend up. There's not much to say about anyone else.
Perhaps the most intriguing development for this defense was the hiring of defensive coordinator John Papuchis to replace Carl Pelini prior to the Capitol One bowl. Papuchis was the D-line coach under Bo Pelini while he was defensive coordinator at LSU during the 2005-2007 seasons, the last of which ended with a national championship. The reuniting of the Papuchis/Pelini duo should rejuvenate the Huskers defense, and with a full offseason of coaching, there should be tangible results in 2012.
If anything, it adds some oomf to recruiting, which means that Nebraska could be very good in a few years.
This defense is as frightening as: a 12-year-old kid who wets his bed, is cruel to small animals, and likes starting fires. You are a 28-year-old woman who reminds him of his mother. Fear level = 7, trending up with time.
Loses ball in 3 ... 2 ...
Key losses: No one important.
Top returners: K/P Brett Maher (44.5 ypp, 19/23 FG), KR/PR Ameer Abdullah (29.3 yards/kickoff, 7.1 yards/punt)
They should be really good! When they're not fumbling kickoffs.
I would bring my fancy camera and take sweet wide-angle photos. If I were there.
Record: 9-3 overall, 5-3 B1G.
Against Michigan: Lincoln is a difficult stadium to play in, and Michigan has been pretty bad on the road, so I'll give Nebraska the edge for that. Without a Mike Martin ragdolling backup offensive linemen, the Huskers will probably put up more points than they did last year. Going out on a limb here -- if Michigan wins, it'll be really close, like 27-24.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: Swimming 1000 yards, downstream, in a race vs. Michael Phelps, who has just donated blood.