Opponent Watch 2017: Week 11

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 11

Submitted by BiSB on November 16th, 2017 at 10:02 AM

About Last Week:

Sometimes it feels like all of your goals are ahead of you, then all of a sudden they’re above you, then they’re behind you, and you’re like, “the hell, goals?”

The Road Ahead:

Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Iowa, 38-14

Recap: Look, we could use this space to talk about Wisconsin. But Brian and Ace and Seth are more qualified than I to do such things, and my analysis would be superfluous at best, and objectively wrong at worst. No, instead, we’re going to use this space to talk about Iowa.

WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH IOWA?

the Hawkeyes beat Iowa State (who actually turned out to be good, because 2017 has gone full Honey Badger), and came within a fingertip of beating Penn State. Then they lost to Michigan State and Northwestern and beat Minnesota by a touchdown, all in awful, unwatchable games. Then they laid an unholy murderstomping on Ohio State where they put up FIFTY-FIVE POINTS and more than 500 yards at over 7 yards per play. Cool.

Then they put up 56 YARDS against Wisconsin. Fifty-six. With sacks included, their 28 pass attempts netted a total of 144 inches. Josh Jackson’s two pick-sixes covered about 40 yards more than Iowa’s offense for the game.

Iowa is that guy you know who is just awful with money. Like, he has a decent job, but he’s always broke. He gets his cable shut off pretty regularly, his credit is awful, and his diet consists primarily of off-brand ramen noodles purchased in bulk. But once per year he shows up with a new car, and when you’re like, “Kirk, how the HELL did you afford that,” and he’s like, “eh, I’ve been setting a little bit aside here and there.” 

This team is as frightening as: A black diamond ski hill after you've managed to get your feet under you on the bunny hill. It's the same principles, but there's no way to know how your French Fry/Pizza skills will translate. Also, it's really cold. And reeeeeally white. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Wisconsin is riding in with a 55-point transitive win over Ohio State over the last two weeks. That is many.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Alex Hornibrook threw 3 more interceptions on only 18 passes against Iowa, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. Of QBs nationwide with 125+ pass attempts in conference play, Hornibrook’s 8.1% INT rate is way worse than any other QB, with second place at 5.7% (Temple’s Logan Marchi), and is more than 3% worse than the second-worst Power Five QB (Jeff George Jr. is at 5.0%). Only six QBs have a conference INT rate even half as bad as Hornibrook's. And now he gets David Long and (hopefully) Lavert Hill.

When they play Michigan: Just large humans crashing into large humans. They may forget that there is a football involved for stretches of the game.

Next game: vs. Michigan, noon, FOX (UW -7.5)

Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 B1G)

Last week: Beat Michigan State, 48-3

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Recap: That was… comprehensive.

This is like one of those Rutgers games from last year where you can fold the box score however you want and it remains astonishing. Like, you could just crumple the box score up with your hands and it would still turn out looking like a perfectly formed crane wearing an Ohio State jersey peeing Calvin-style on a Block S.

  • MSU averaged 2.8 yards per play. OSU averaged 8.1.
  • MSU averaged 2.1 yards per dropback. OSU averaged 8.2
  • MSU’s running backs ran 18 times for 57 yards. Mike Weber and JK Dobbins ran 27 times for 286 yards
  • MSU took the opening kick and moved the ball 27 yards. The score was 28-0 before MSU had another drive that moved forward.
  • OSU had scoring drives of 86, 73, 68, 25, 82, 72, 56, and 79 yards. MSU’s scoring drive covered 24 yards, and resulted in a sad field goal to cut the deficit to 32.
  • Through 31 minutes, Ohio State had 7 touchdowns. MSU had 8 first downs.

I could go on. The stats lend themselves to rubbernecking. But we have other business to attend to.

What this means for Ohio State going forward is anyone's guess. Maybe they've figured it out. Maybe they will continue to yo-yo between pigeon and statue. But it's disconcerting to know that they still have this club in their bag, even if they have to wipe some Michigan State remnants off of it before they try to use it again.

This team is as frightening as: A team that has outscored their common opponents with Michigan (Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, Nebraska) by an average of 35.6 points, whereas Michigan has outscored those opponents by an average of… 4 points. Fear Level = 9.5

Michigan can sleep soundly about: JT Barrett threw two more picks in this one, including one in the end zone, and one that led to MSU’s only points.

Michigan should worry about: …whiiiiich means Ohio State probably should have won this game at least 55-0.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will not lose by 45. But Michigan will also probably not put up 55 like powerhouse Iowa. So, there is at least a limited range of outcomes.

Next game: vs. oh god they’re going to do unspeakable things to Illinois, 3:30 p.m., ABC (OSU -all the points)

[AFTER THE JUMP: The rearview mirror had themselves some struggles this week]

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 9

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 9

Submitted by BiSB on November 2nd, 2017 at 10:18 AM

About Last Month:

As you may have noticed, I have been absent. I apologize. I blame no one but myself. And my boss. And my immune system. And you, dear reader, if we're being really honest. But the blame largely rests with me. The opponents were unwatched, and that is not acceptable. As a peace offering, I bring you this otter of regret.

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The Road Ahead:

Minnesota (4-4, 1-4 B1G)

Last month: Lost to Purdue, 31-17
Lost to Michigan State, 30-27
Beat Illinois 24-17
Lost to Iowa, 17-10

Recap: I don’t think we ever believed Minnesota was going to be good this year. Which is good. Because they aren’t good.

Hopes briefly perked up after back-to-back routings of Oregon State and MTSU, but even those look like fool’s gold in hindsight, as the two have combined to go 4-12. Since that MTSU win, Minnesota’s best performance was a seven-point win over an Illinois team that, in analytical terms, suckyity-suck suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

Minnesota’s defense has been okay, but the offense has been a clown rodeo. They haven’t cracked 350 yards of offense since week 2, and their passing S&P+ ranking is #121 in the country. They only have one real receiving option; Tyler Johnson has been targeted 57 times, which is 42 times more than anyone else on the team. They don’t have another wide receiver with double-digit targets who is averaging more than 5.5 yards per target. And as Seth will likely point out shortly with the FFFF, Demry Croft is... not... good.

Fortunately, none of this bothers PJ Fleck. Because this year doesn’t count.

I want you to try to imagine the reaction if Harbaugh said this. Go ahead. Picture it. Glorious, right?

This team is as frightening as: Some years the rock doesn’t come through. This year… this Rock team might be the Most Rock Team ever.

Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: This is embarrassing, but… I don’t know. I’ve watched plenty of Minnesota football this year. I’ve combed the counting stats. I’ve combed the fancy stats. And nothing jumps out at me. They’re Generic Football Team. I mean, they’re #5 in the country in linebacker Havoc rate, and Carter Coughlin has 4.5 sacks and 8.5 TFLs? Maybe it’s him?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Minnesota doesn’t do anything fancy, and doesn’t do any of their non-fancy stuff very well.

When they play Michigan: I wonder who is going to start under center for Michigan.

Next game: at Michigan, 7:30 p.m., FOX (Minnesota +15)

Maryland (4-4, 2-3 B1G)

Last month: Lost at Ohio State, 62-14
Lost to Northwestern, 37-21
Lost at Wisconsin, 38-13
Beat Indiana, 42-39

Recap: When last we left Maryland, the goal was a bowl game. That goal may have drifted a little farther out of reach with the loss to Northwestern, but it isn’t gone entirely thanks to a weird win over Indiana. The Hoosiers ran 43 more plays than Maryland, but the Terps took advantage of a blocked punt for a touchdown and two very short fields off of turnovers. They now need to beat Rutgers (which S&P+ has as a toss-up), and steal one game from Michigan, Michigan State, or Penn State.

One thing that has vanished is Ty Johnson’s time as one of the best backs in the country. Johnson broke 120 yards three of the first four weeks and led the nation in yards per carry, but hasn’t cracked 100 yards in the last four games. He’s averaging 63 yards per game at 4.9 yards per carry. Likewise, Lorenzo Harrison is averaging 3.8 yards per carry over the last four games.

Max Bortenschlager continues to exist, which is important for Maryland’s preferred offensive scheme of “start a quarterback at quarterback.”

This team is as frightening as: Squirtle.

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Attack? Weak. Defense? Weak. Weakness? Grass. Fear Level = 3

Michigan should worry about: Between DJ Moore and Ty Johnson, Maryland still has a big-play capability that could give Michigan trouble. And with Johnson reportedly being Maryland’s emergency quarterback, there is a good chance Maryland has some Wild Turtle plays in the playbook.

WildTerp? TurtleCat? QB-in-a-Half-Shell (one play of which is presumably labeled “Turtle Power”)?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Maryland has allowed at least 37 points to all but one FBS opponent (they held Minnesota to 24 points in a 10-possession game), and at least 4.98 yards per play to every single FBS opponent. They also are currently Michigan’s second-lowest ranked opponent in S&P plus at #92, ahead of only Cincinnati. They’re even behind Rutgers (#89) and Florida (#90).

When they play Michigan: Don’t get Bortenschlager’d. That might legitimately be worse than getting Gary Nova’d.

Next game: at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m., BTN (MD -3)

[AFTER THE BREAK: Things that are less fun than Squirtle]

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 5

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 5

Submitted by BiSB on October 5th, 2017 at 11:20 AM

About Last Week:

Three and a half million Americans struggled to rebuild their lives, and for their very lives themselves, in the aftermath of one of the most devastating storms in recent memory. They did so again this week. They will do so again next week.

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(Gerald Herbert/AP)

Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a humorous departure from the realities of the world. We’re here to laugh in the midst of so much yelling. I get that. But this is one of those moments. As of yesterday, 34 people were dead (with that number expected to rise substantially) and 95% of the island remains without power. Only 14 hospitals have power. For all the talk in the last few weeks about what the American flag means, these are people who rise and sleep beneath that flag, and who are trying to rise again.

It takes about 90 seconds to donate money to any of these groups:

No guilt, no cajoling. No one will be called out. It’s is your call. But as a special one-time offer, if you donate money to these groups RIGHT NOW, I promise to make fun of Rutgers every week.

The Road Ahead:

Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Iowa, 17-10

Recap: Michigan State has matched their win total from last season. But their games aren’t much prettier.

Michigan State averaged less than 4.1 yards per play, and only 3.3 yards per play after their opening drive. On the bright side, they held Iowa to 3.8 yards per play. Neither team could run the ball for crap, with Akrum Wadley ay 1.8 YPC on 17 carries and Michigan State’s running backs at 1.7 YPC on 24 carries.

How dumb was this game? It featured a Full Tommy Rees:

(FWIW, if you ever find yourself wondering how far the Big Ten Network will limbo in the name of making the conference look as not-bad as possible, note that they labeled that video “Michigan State Forces the Turnover vs. Iowa,” as opposed to something more accurate like “Michigan State Stands Near Iowa While Iowa Re-enacts the Portion of Infomercial Where Regular Tasks Like Sitting in a Chair or Eating Soup Are Impossible”)

This team is as frightening as: A person who lives in your house and who has the same mother as you and the same father and you and who was born chronologically after you. I do not believe there is an exact English translation for this. Fear Level = 6

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan State’s traditional running game is still somewhat of a disaster. LJ Scott is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, and he’s lost three bad fumbles. Madre London is at 3.2 YPC, and Gerald Holmes is at 3.9. None have a Highlight Yards Per Opportunity over 4.0, which is fancy speak for “bad.”

Michigan should worry about: Brian Lewerke is still second in the Big Ten in yards per carry (sack-adjusted) at 8.5 yards per carry. BIG TENNNNNN.

When they play Michigan: Michigan needs to acknowledge the importance of this game. 

or not...

or...

But... oh hell, JUST TELL US WHAT YOU WANT

Next game: at Michigan, 7:30 p.m., ABC (MSU +11)

[AFTER THE JUMP: it's... it's hard to explain]

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 4

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 4

Submitted by BiSB on September 28th, 2017 at 10:03 AM

About Last Week:

Maybe he’s not… okay yeah NOW he’s dead.

The Road Ahead:

Michigan State (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Notre Dame 38-18

Recap: The good news for Michigan State is that the stats weren’t awful. They outgained Notre Dame overall, and were roughly equal in yards per play. S&P+ has them with a 17% win probability, which means that there are parallel universes not too far removed from this one in which Michigan State is 3-0 today.

The bad news is that despite playing a moderately even (or at least not terribly lopsided) game, they still got blown the hell out. The score was 28-7 at the half, and State never got it back within two scores. The primary reason things got away from State was an homage to Michigan State seasons past: the Grand F*ck-Up. A fumble near midfield is a mistake. A fumble on your own 20? That's a pretty big goof. A fumble on the one-yard line while literally falling into the end zone? That, my friends is the Grand F*ck-Up. 

LJ Scott Fumble

Forgot something, dude (MLive.com)

These Grand F*ck-ups used to be known collectively by a name. They have re-emerged this year. We’re getting awfully close to being able to actually use the name again. Brian Lewerke also threw a pick-6 and fumbled on his own 20 yard line.

The other bad news for MSU was that nearly 50% of their yardage, and 8 of their 18 points, came on three late face-saving drives after the score was already 35-10 or worse. You know the kind. One of those drives almost got Lewerke killed with a low, dangerous shot to the knee.

This team is as frightening as: Something really really frightening. Definitely frightening. Yep. That's the ticket. Respekt. Much respekt. Fear Level = 5

Michigan should worry about: Somehow, through four weeks, and even including sacks, Brian Lewerke has the 3rd best yards-per-carry average in the conference at 7.9 YPC. If you take out sacks, he’s at 10.2, which is better than current leader Ty Johnson’s 10.2 YPC.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: If this game comes down to “can Brian Lewerke beat Michigan with his legs,” we’re in good shape.

When they play Michigan: At night. For reasons that remain obvious to people at the league offices and a goddang bizarre mystery for people who live in the state of Michigan.

Next game: vs. Iowa, 4:00 p.m., FOX (MSU -3)

[AFTER THE JUMP: hey did you see what happened with Rick Pitino]

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 3

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 3

Submitted by BiSB on September 21st, 2017 at 9:57 AM

About Last Week:

It took a while to get there, but in the end, things worked out okay.

The Road Ahead:

Purdue (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Missouri, 35-3

Recap: Oh. Okay then. So we’re doing this.

Purdue beat the HELL out of Mizzou on Saturday. They outgained the Tigers 477 to 203 (5.7 YPP to 3.9), gained 26 first downs while allowing only 10, and held the ball for 43:43. They were up 21-0 less than five minutes into the second quarter and never looked back. They also forced three turnovers (or, more accurately, thrice they asked politely for the football and thrice Missouri handed it to them in a commemorative display case with the date and game time engraved on a little faceplate).

Fortunately, this is not an SEC-related blog, because I would have a lot to say about Missouri. Most of it would involve a thesaurus.com search for “feces” and “fornication.” But for Purdue’s part, they looked like a real football team for the third time in three weeks. As far as I can tell, this is the first time Purdue has gone three straight weeks without losing by double digits since a three-game winning streak at the end of 2012.

Purdue does have a weird sort of quarterback situation going on, with both David Blough and Elijah Sindelar getting significant run. Blough got pulled in this game for what were apparently performance-related reasons despite being 16 of 18 for 152 yards.

This team is as frightening as: Global thermonuclear war. The odds are pretty low, and the threat largely went away in the 1990s. But you can see how it could happen. Probably by accident, of course, but… oh man, what if. Fear Level = 5

Michigan should worry about: The last time Michigan won its first road game (when that game wasn’t against Rutgers) was 2013, when they baaaaaaarely beat a really bad UConn team.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Purdue has one sack through three games, which is dead last in the country. They’re averaging 2.7 TFLs per game, which is dead last in the country.

When they play Michigan:

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Next game: vs. Michigan, 4:00 p.m., FOX (Purdue +9.5)

Michigan State (2-0, 0-0 B1G)

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Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: Outlook hazy. Try again later. Fear Level = 6

Michigan should worry about: Look, this is a week in which I don’t have to think about Michigan State, so I’mma take that opportunity and jump on it like Michigan State defensive back jumping on a cab driver who refuses to take me from where I started to the same place he picked me up from (but only after gently setting my burrito on the ground, of course).

Michigan can sleep soundly about: And if you insist that I discuss it, I shall spit in your face like you just wrote me a parking ticket while I was purchasing some delicious, delicious Noodles & Co.

When they play Michigan: Soon but not yet.

Next game: vs. Notre Dame, 8:00 p.m., FOX (MSU +4)

[After the break: more words... BUT WHICH ONES?]

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 2

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 2

Submitted by BiSB on September 14th, 2017 at 9:59 AM

About Last Week:

The Road Ahead:

Air Force

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: Showing up to a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, but when you get to the third round they’re like “SURPRISE, this round is going to be Chinese Checkers instead of basketball.” Fear Level = 6

Michigan should worry about: The triple option is a different beast. An evil beast. One that should be avoided at all costs, DAVE.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: This is the game where having a Bryan Mone is reeeeeeeeally gonna come in handy.

When they play Michigan: Pray for all the knees.

Next game: at Michigan, noon, BTN

Purdue

Last week: Beat Ohio, 44-21

Recap: I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but Purdue is doing stuff.

Yes, I know Purdue has done stuff in the past. But the stuff they did was mostly cruel and tragic. Now they are doing stuff that is cheeky and fun. No. I’m not kidding.

Purdue is averaging more yards per play than either Ohio State or Michigan (or eight other Big Ten team, for that matter). David Blough is averaging 10.5 yards per pass, which leads the conference by nearly 2 full yards. It’s weird, y’all.

This team is as frightening as: That longshot celestial/geological/meteorological event for which the evidence is starting to mount. The only issues is that we don’t know yet if we’re in a disaster movie. Like, there’s a reason the higher-ups always ignore the scientist in disaster movies. It isn’t that the leadership is full of idiots. It’s that Jenkins has made cockamamie predictions in the past. He’s got that reputation. It isn’t like “Jenkins, the calm, measured scientist who has made a number of prior accurate calls and usually follows protocol has never been in a fist-fight with the Director, has put together a briefing we should probably see.” Jenkins is nuts. That’s why THEY. JUST. WON’T. LISTEN. TO. MEEEEEE: because he’s is almost always wrong.

Almost always. Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: Purdue has scored 72 points in the first two weeks under Jeff Brohm. Guess how many times they scored 72 points in a two-game stretch under Darrell Hazell? Go ahead. Guess. You’ll never gue… yes it was zero. Okay, maybe that wasn’t as tricky of a question as I thought.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Purdue is still giving up the second-most yards per play in the conference, behind only Nebraska. And many of those plays are big chunk plays.

When they play Michigan: This is technically a road game, but it may as well be considered a neutral site game.

Next game: at Missouri, 4:00 p.m., SEC Network

[Might as well hit THE JUMP, if only to save your knees]

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 1

Opponent Watch 2017: Week 1

Submitted by BiSB on September 7th, 2017 at 1:15 PM

About Last Week:

Life isn’t about whether you can outrun Mo Hurst. Life is about how soon you realize that oh shit Chase Winovich.

The Road Ahead:

Cincinnati (1-0, 0-0 AAC)

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Last week: Beat Austin Peay, 26-14

Recap: The good news for Cincinnati: they won.

The bad news: I’m staring at the tangled ball of yarn that was this game, and I don’t even know where to begin unwinding it. So we’re gonna throw it back in the junk drawer with the matches and the batteries. But before I do, I will leave you with this: Austin Peay is an FCS school. But more than that, they are the FCS school that the other FCS schools laugh at. They went 0-11 last year. They went 0-11 the year before that. They went 1-11 the year before that. They went 0-12 the year before that. Their nickname is the GOVERNORS for crying out loud.

Austin Peay outgained Cincinnati 313-248.

This team is as frightening as: did you read what I just said. Fear Level = 1.5

Michigan should worry about: A scheduling mix-up that sends the Bearcats to Baltimore to play the Ravens and brings the Bengals to Michigan Stadium.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan is better than Austin Peay by at least 13 points. Possibly more.

When they play Michigan: You know that roster everyone wanted? You’re gonna get to see it. All of it. Backups, walk-ons, managers, ushers… eeeeerybody.

Next game: at Michigan, noon

[AFTER THE JUMP: A marked decrease in the suckiness]

 

 

Opponent Watch 2017: Preview, Part 2

Opponent Watch 2017: Preview, Part 2

Submitted by BiSB on August 17th, 2017 at 10:00 AM

As you may have gleaned from the title, this is the second in a two-part series on the opponents facing Michigan this season. This is the part that has most of the good teams, as well as the worst of all the terrible teams. I'm not sure which of those sounds more interesting. 

Penn State

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So… how’s things?

Last year: 11-3 (8-1 B1G), B1G Champion, Lost Rose Bowl to USC 52-49

Recap: We did not see that coming. Penn State won their last 8 conference games, beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, and had a 14-point lead in the second half over USC before falling in a wildly entertaining Rose Bowl.

The reason we didn’t see that coming is because Penn State opened 2-2 with a loss to Not-Good-Enough-To-Be-Our-Rival Pitt, a 7-point win over Temple, and a total defenestration at the hands of Michigan. They then squeeked by Minnesota by three points. They then beat Ohio State in a game that Ohio State really, really should have won; Ohio State outplayed them in most respects, but Penn State blocked two kicks, one of which it returned to the house for the winning score. None of this screamed BEST TEAM IN THE BIG TEN, either then or in hindsight. 

So where does that leave us for this year? Man, that’s hard to say. Preseason polls have Penn State as somewhere between a top-5 and top-10 team. Michigan fans remember them as the team that put up slightly less resistance than UCF.

When last we saw them: Ah yes, the defenestration.

Michigan outgained Penn State 6.13 yards per play (Penn State’s worst defensive performance prior to the Rose Bowl) to 3.47 yards per play (Penn State’s worst offensive performance of the year by more than a yard per play, and more than 3 yards per play below their season average). The Wolverines didn’t punt in the first half, and they forced a field goal so sad it made Jim Harbaugh want to apologize to the game of football itself.

This team is as frightening as: Don Flamenco from Punch-Out, but when you face him in a rematch in the World Circuit. Everyone’s like ‘oooooh he’s so good now’ and you’re like ‘but this is the same dude I knocked the eff out like five bouts ago how much better could he be?’ Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Mike Gesicki, guy who catches things. Trace McSorley, guy who does Rex Grossman things. Penn State’s offensive line when pass blocking. Penn State vs. Not Michigan. Saquon Barkley.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Mike Gesicki, guy who blocks things. Trace McSorley, guy who has to manage games. Penn State’s offensive line when run blocking. Penn State vs. Not Not Michigan.

As for Barkley… nessun dorma, man.

When they play Michigan: Penn State is likely to be 6-0. Can anyone think of the last time Michigan faced a 6-0 Penn State team? Anyone? What if I gave you two extra seconds to think about it? Mario, any thoughts on the subject?

First game: vs. Akron, noon, ABC

[AFTER THE JUMP: Yep, we've reached that point.]

Opponent Watch 2017: Preview, Part 1

Opponent Watch 2017: Preview, Part 1

Submitted by BiSB on August 10th, 2017 at 12:36 PM

Oh, hello there! I didn’t see you come in. Please, sit, sit. Relax. Can I get you a GIF? I just put a batch of takes in the oven. They should be ready in a few.

If this is your first time at the Opponent Watch, we spend a few minutes together every week discussing, among other things, Michigan’s opponents. We’re still a few weeks from kickoff, though, so I figured we would continue the annual tradition of reviewing the 2016 seasons of our esteemed competition (and Michigan State), and to take a little gander into the future. It is not intended for gambling purposes, or, if we’re being honest, for factual, educational, informational, or entertainment purposes. 

tl;dr version of 2017: Michigan’s regular season is approximately four games long. One of those games is at the very beginning of the year. Two of those games are at the very end of the year. In between these flavor-filled cookies is mostly several layers of fluffy, nougaty filling. Also some nuts. I’m looking at you, Happy Valley.

About Last Year:

2016 was the year, until it wasn’t. But hot damn it was fun.

The Road Ahead:

Florida

Last year: 9-4 (6-2 SEC), SEC East Champion, Beat Iowa in the Cotton Bowl, 30-3

Recap: Florida had what sports media would call “an up and down year.” Florida fans see it more like the mine cart escape from Temple of Doom. Florida won their first three games. But then they lost to archrival Tennessee for the first time since 2004. But then they won their next three games, including a win over also-archrival Georgia. But then they got thumped 31-10 by a mediocre Arkansas team. But then they beat not-quite-as-arch-rival LSU and won the SEC East. But then they lost to dang-man-Florida-hates-a-lot-of-people-rivals Florida State and Alabama by combined Brazilian points. But then they thumped Iowa in the Cotton Bowl.

Florida's biggest problem was that they couldn't find a quarterback. Their best option for most of the year was Purdue transfer Austin Appleby. And without spoiling a later preview, the moniker "Purdue Transfer" is not an encouraging sign. This year it will be either freshman Feleipe Franks or Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire.

The defense was quite good, but they lose five defenders who were drafted in the first two days of the NFL Draft. they also lost their best returning DB, Marcell Harris to a torn Achilles.

When last we saw them: Michigan is 3-0 all-time against Florida, all in bowl games. The most recent victory was the 41-7 shellacking in the Citrus Bowl in which the Wolverines outgained the Gators 503-273 and picked up 28 first downs to Florida’s 14.

This will be the first regular-season matchup between the two, but it won’t be the first time Michigan has faced Florida at Jerryworld:

(We’ll all just agree to ignore the last football game Michigan played in Dallas. Agreed? Agreed.)

This team is as frightening as: Florida Man. You never know exactly what is going to happen, but you know it’s going to be stupid and involve someone being struck with in an uncomfortable place with an unexpected object for an unusual reason. Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: In the last three seasons, Florida has finished #5, #8, and #7 in yards per play allowed, and #6, #7, #4 in the country in defensive S&P+ rating. Quite the welcome for a bunch of new offensive starters.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: From 2013-2016, Florida’s offense finished #100, #74, #73, and #88 nationally in offensive S&P+. They finished #110, #94, #102, and #105 nationally in yards per play. They finished #113, #56, #100, and #107 in points per game. Quite the welcome for a bunch of new defensive starters.

When they play Michigan: FOOTBALL BACK Y’ALL

First game: vs. Michigan at Jerryworld, 3:30, ABC

[AFTER THE JUMP: Huuuuuuge tracts of woof.]

Opponent Watch 2016: Week 12

Opponent Watch 2016: Week 12

Submitted by BiSB on November 23rd, 2016 at 9:23 AM

About Last Week:

EUP-13.jpg

Upchurch

The Road Ahead:

Ohio State

When they play Michigan: This is a pretty simple week.

We can discard with the usual trappings of this column. Every other week of the season we recap the opponents’ previous games, and we analyze how frightening they are, and we look at what should worry you about those teams and what shouldn’t. Those are necessary artifices when we are trying to add some color to a game three weeks out against Maryland, or to put a win over Illinois in greater context. The Game needs no added color. It needs no greater context. It brings its own.

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You don’t need me to tell you what can make you feel better about this game. Nothing can, and you know that. You don’t need me to tell you why you should worry about this game, assuming you have the power of memory. And we don’t need to recap Ohio State’s previous games, nor Michigan’s for that matter. They don’t particularly matter, nor do they tell us much of note. The Game is an entity untethered from the rest of the season. Last year, Michigan came in as a top-10 team, and got their doors blown off at home. In 2013, 6-5 Michigan was a two-point conversion away from beating 11-0 Ohio State. In 2011, it was Luke Fickell’s 6-5 Ohio State team was one overthrown bomb away from beating Brady Hoke’s Sugar Bowl team. And the John Cooper era was one long video game where the player breezes through the level but can’t get past the boss.

The rest of the season has to be played, of course. Each week the two teams dutifully clash with their respective opponents. But each does so with one eye on the other, like two Homeric heroes cutting their way towards each other on an ancient battlefield. And sometimes, when things line up just so, the teams arrive as they do this year; with each having something extra weighing on the outcome. Not since 2006 have both teams had so much relying on the final score. But that simply affects the week leading up to The Game, and the days, weeks, and months afterward.

The hatred and familiar loathing take on a different hue in light of the conference and playoff implications, but the underlying artwork is unchanged. The first time the ghastly tones of that abhorrent fight song hit your ears, or the first time some Buckeye player throws up an O-H, or (god forbid) the first time the broadcast shows that vapid, poorly-cased narcissism sausage, Big Nut, you will be transported back to the place where the context is irrelevant, and the hatred is all-encompassing. Is this 1970? 1986? 2016? Who knows. Who cares. It’s these guys. I *hate* these guys. Get ‘em. F***ing get ‘em.

For those who demand greater context? Fine. Win, and there is a fooball game next weekend. Michigan goes to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time. You see Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis and Jake Butt and the rest of the seniors play to hoist a trophy. You will get to see more Jabrill Peppers. Michigan will be the favorite to earn a playoff berth. A win sends Ohio State, who entered this week as the #2 team in the playoff rankings, home as the #3 team… in their division. Lose, and none of these things happens, and the one-sided nature of the rivalry continues unabated for another year.

But that’s Saturday morning stuff. That’s just what they’ll talk about on College Gameday outside the Horseshoe. Noon on Saturday is about Maize and Blue and Scarlet and Gray and a hundred urgent, violent moments. Let God and the committee sort the rest out.

This week: Everything. Noon. ABC.

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Hawaii (5-7, 4-4 MWC)

Last week: Won at Fresno State, 14-13

Recap: Hawaii took down Fresno State, and is now one win away from Bowl eligibility (they get 13 games because they’re in the middle of the ocean and that’s how things work). To get there, they will have to win a rivalry game for the Voyages That Would Have Killed Anyone In The First 95% of Recorded History Trophy, as Umass will travel more than 5,000 miles to play the Rainbow Warriors. It would be quite something, after the entire offseason of laughter about Michigan’s no-conference schedule, if all three teams made a bowl game.

This week: vs. UMass, Midnight (Hawaii -7.5)

[AFTER THE JUMP: I told y’all about the Buffs…]