BIG games that just got more interesting

Submitted by massblue on August 31st, 2014 at 7:54 PM
We have a sample of one, but these games just became more interesting after one week. In particular, I think OSU's schedule just became tougher. MSU's may have become a little tougher and UM's schedule is perhaps a little easier.
UM @ Rutgers: Rutgers ran the ball well and showed good defense against a pass happy WSU. 
OSU @ Maryland: Maryland ran the ball well.  OSU’s offense may still be work in progress.
Nebraska @ MSU: Nebraska’s offense better than expected. Could give MSU a scare.
October 25
OSU @ PSU:  OSU’s defense still has some issues and Hackenberg is a great QB.
November 8
UM @ NW: NW did not look good. This was supposed to be toss up for UM. It is most likely a win.
November 15
MSU @ Maryland:  Maryland is better than expected and MSU is coming off an emotional game against OSU


Wolverine Devotee

August 31st, 2014 at 7:59 PM ^

The Maryland-sparty game will be interesting only because sparty will be on a two-game losing streak heading into it. That's why their game against ohio will be emotional.

They'll still be too busy weeping about their loss to Michigan. 


August 31st, 2014 at 8:04 PM ^

Rutgers allowed 5 TDs against WSU, so I'm not quite seeing the "good defense" that you are describing. I fully expect Devin2Devin to do serious damage when the Wolverines head to Jersey.


August 31st, 2014 at 8:15 PM ^

Even better than this, despite the loss, Washington State outgained Rutgers in that game overall 538 yards to 496 yards. What it means for Rutgers defense on a yards per paly basis, across WSU's 70 snaps, is that they still were averaging 7.69 yards per play allowed. That's still pretty subpar and comfortably somewhere in the bottom two quartiles of overall defense most days. 


September 1st, 2014 at 8:01 AM ^

That YPP figure is pretty misleading.

WSU ran 70 total plays: 56 passes and 14 runs. Passing attempts almost always yield higher yards per attempt (7.5 to 8.0 yards per pass is pretty standard) than rushing attempts (4.5 to 5.5 yards per rush pretty standard), so a team who is as pass heavy as WSU is always going to skew towards a higher YPP than many teams who run a more balanced (roughly equal run to pass ratio) offense.


September 1st, 2014 at 8:28 AM ^

You're right, of course, and it was admittedly a bit lazy of me not to break it out, particularly when we're talking about the Air Raid in the case of WSU. I keep forgetting, for example, that some Big Ten offenses traditionally sit in the middle of overall YPP because, with noted exceptions like Wisconsin, some tend to be more or less balanced (with a slight lean towards the run, in several cases, as I recall) . 

Actually, 80% passing (56 out of 70) was a smidge higher than their typical ratio from last season too (which was closer to 75/25, which is pretty standard for Leach-style offense, I think)

snarling wolverine

August 31st, 2014 at 8:27 PM ^

WSU's QB, Halliday, completed 63% of his attempts last year for 353 YPG, 6.4 YPA and threw 34 TDs to 22 INTs.

Against Rutgers, he completed 71% of his attempts for 532 yards, 9.5 YPA and had 5 TDs to 1 INT.

Not sure how this is indicative of Rutgers playing tough D.  They got a stop at the end of the game, but that was about it.




August 31st, 2014 at 8:34 PM ^

I watched that whole game, and it was pretty much an offensive shoot-out in the second half. As LSA pointed out, the two teams had over 1,000 total yards combined. Rutgers showed a competent run game and has a guy or two who can get to the QB, but overall their defense looked pretty porous.


September 1st, 2014 at 8:18 AM ^

Agreed with a caveat.

OSU had extra time to prepare for the Navy game because it was the first game of the season and they could spend the entirety of fall practice focusing on the triple option yet they still gave up nearly 6 ypc.

I think OSU's defense might have an easier time agasint VaTech simply because they (VT) have proven to be a pretty mediocre offensive team for a while now. The real challenge will be how OSU's offense fares against a much better VaTech defense than what they faced against Navy.

The game is in Columbus and being played at night so I still expect an OSU win but it could be another close game. I'll take OSU by 8: Buckeyes 24 Hokies 16.


August 31st, 2014 at 8:12 PM ^

I'm gonna call it right now, I think Nebraska pulls off the win against Sparty.  Their offense moved the ball on them last year and if not for the turnovers - which they've been prone to under Pelini, so that might againt be their demise - they very well could've been in a position to win last year.  Like I said in another thread, for some reason Nebraska's offense has been the kryptonite to Sparty's D the last couple years (wish we could figure out what it is!). Plus there's always that one game where Pelini's team plays frickin' lights out somehow - then the next week inexplicably loses to the Gophers.

That's my pick and I'm stickin' to it!

Mr. Yost

August 31st, 2014 at 8:28 PM ^

I did think it might be NW or IU...but Maryland is definitely the non power team game that scares me most. That said, they've got to play in the same East division we even if they were to beat us...they've got to beat everyone else too.

I don't want to lose to anyone...but if we are 11-1 and the 1 loss is Maryland...I think we're in Nap Town.


August 31st, 2014 at 9:02 PM ^

Maryland is the consensus choice of everyone as a trap game.  If I stroll over to RCMB or 11 Warriors its the same thing - "Man Maryland just looks like an offense that can take you out and it falls at a rough time in the schedule - we better be ready."  So either Maryland is going to have a hell of a year upsetting everyone or they are going to get lucky upsetting 1 team and being Maryland otherwise.   They remind me of Northwestern a year ago where everyone had them as a darkhorse to take the Big 10 or at least upset everyone. 

They seem to have QB issues - their starter did not have a very good game and doing some reading up on him he is not solid gold material.  IT seems like they have WRs galore but maybe not the right guy to get them the ball. 


September 1st, 2014 at 1:40 AM ^

They will win a few home games against better teams. Home field advantage is huge when no one on the opposition has ever been in your stadium. Watch, Rutgers will knock someone off at home, too.

But by the same token, they ought to struggle on the road. That helps us v. Maryland.


August 31st, 2014 at 9:18 PM ^

I think Michigan will be playing Maryland at the perfect time.  Maryland is coming from the ACC - and for all the hell the Big 10 catches, at least it is physical.

Here is what Maryland will be doing before they arrive in AA - this is consecutive with only bye weeks in between, no patsies like Illinois or Purdue or Rutgers to get your bearings straight before another beating commences.  (They should be fresh for OSU at least!)

  • Ohio State
  • Iowa
  • Wisconsin
  • Penn State
  • Michigan State

Then we show up.  They are going to be beaten to shreds by early November.


August 31st, 2014 at 8:56 PM ^

You are overselling Rutgers.  Yes nice to go on the road and get a win. WSU is not good. Look at their quality of wins last year - their best were RichRod and a bad USC team.  The other 4 were not quality unless Utah is quality.  Rutgers has 1 RB and a bad QB.  And a bad defense.

Also Hackenberg is going to be dangerous everywhere as is Maryland if they get hot on offense.  If Hack is on it won't matter if it he is playing in Tuscon, Ann Arbor, Happy Valley, or Moscow.  We happen to play both those teams as well.  I do think PSU v MSU is interesting from the fact MSU has a ridiculous run defense the past 3 years and PSU already can't run.  So PSU might throw 70x that game.

OSU will be a different bunch in a month.  Just too early to extrapolate much except Northwestern who I think could be brutalized in the next 6 weeks if they dont improve in a hurry due to tough schedule.  So many teams every year look 1 way week 1 and another completely different in week 2.


August 31st, 2014 at 9:08 PM ^

did he make bad decisions in the UCF game?  If you are referring to his freshman year I am sure as a first time starter he had a tendency to make bad decisions.  As has every 1st year starer in the history of football.  My point is not that he is superman.  My point is Hackenberg on any single night can put up zilly numbers.  Anywhere.  It could be 5x this year.  It could be 9x a year.  Based on how far he has come but early returns are pretty scary.  UCF had Bortles last year but they had a pretty legit defense who faced guys like Teddy Bridgewater - Hackenberg did better than a 1st round pick senior who was playing at home... on the road at a neutral site.


August 31st, 2014 at 9:13 PM ^

Yes he had 2.  Along with nearly 500 yards and being the entire offense for PSU - not at home.  He had no run game - he was the whole offense.  That's an issue for PSU as a whole.

I'll stand by the fact a future 1st overall pick can completely dominate the game from the QB position even if his team is outmanned on any given night.   But to the OP's point - Hackenberg is going to be dangerous anywhere, not just at home IMO.  The same issues he poses to MSU and whomever else will be issues for UM. 


August 31st, 2014 at 9:49 PM ^

A well-coached defense will eat that number one pick alive. A QB--especially lacking the ability to threaten a defense with his legs--will be targeted for destruction by a MSU-style defense. A QB like VInce Young who did take over games had the ability to run and pass with effectiveness. Hackenberg does not. He is a relatively stationary targeted who, if forced to move around consistently, will become less  effective. 

Frankly, I'd much rather face a Hackenberg than a Braxton Miller. Miller with his running ability and ability to extend plays can unhinge a defense quicker than a Hackenberg.

It is  for that reason why Golston and ND are going to be scary Saturday. His ability to move around--and now armed with an accurate deep ball--he can escape pressures that a Hackenberg cannot.

Hackenberg is a sensational talent and will most likely be an excellent NFL QB, but in college the dual threat is the optimal type of QB to have in my opinion.



August 31st, 2014 at 10:14 PM ^

I watched that game and saw a QB with a great arm and an emerging sense of the game, but also a guy who floats balls out to his WRs at times and was bailed out a bit by UCF's corners inability to break up passes.  He's a good QB and might be a future #1-type pick, but let's see how he holds up all season before we annoint him a superstar.


August 31st, 2014 at 9:40 PM ^

Putting up 500 yards on an unranked non-power 5 school is something that is expected of a 5 star QB. Is Hackenberg talented? Yes and so is Gardner. Both are 5 star talents. Both have also have had issues with turnovers and inconsistent play. I think we should treat Hackenberg as we do Gardner.



August 31st, 2014 at 10:13 PM ^

I think you actually make my point more than dispute it with the Gardner comparison.  I am agreeing with you that Hackenberg will have highs and lows. None of us know which night the lows will be. My point was on any given night Hackenberg can equalize PSU versus a superior or equal team.  Devin single handidly destroyed Notre Dame ... and was a monster vs OSU.  2 teams UM is either has about the same talent (ND) or lagged (OSU) last year.  PSU is not eons behind UM at this point.  So again my only point is on any given night a special talent can do special things and make a game where you are better in all other aspects very uncomfortable.  So no game is safe vs PSU simply due to that 1 player.  Devin did the same for us a few times last year - in between his struggles.

As I wrote this I wondered how Texas A&M would look if Hackenberg was the QB and how PSU would have looked in Kenny Hill had been their QB.  It is a shame for Hackenberg his surrounding talent is lacking - A&M has a stud OL and "SEC" speed in the skill positions. 



August 31st, 2014 at 10:20 PM ^

"Hack" looks fine out there, but if he's throwing 70 times against MSU Penn St. is going to be run off the field.  It took a million things going right for PSU last year to beat UM, and PSU is going to be worse due to the sanctions while UM looks stronger outside of the OL.  PSU will probably surprise a couple of teams in the league this year, but I'm supremely confident that UM will handle them when they come to Ann Arbor.



September 1st, 2014 at 2:09 AM ^

I'm not sold on Hackenberg yet. I bet as an upperclassman he'll be one of the best QBs in the league, but not so much yet. Everyone looks at that huge yardage total, but be couldn't punch it in. He was great between the 20s, but that was mostly because his receivers got wide open, and then when they got close he couldn't make it happen. UCF is a decent team, but they don't have defenses like M, MSU or OSU.


August 31st, 2014 at 9:54 PM ^

and don't think you can draw too much from week one except that the SEC is still the best conference, or at least has crazy athletes at all positions. How big10 teams will do against each other 3 weeks from now is a crap shoot for the most part.

NO ONE would have predicted MSU's great run last year after the first game (s). Connor Cook and their entire offense went from being the worst to being the best in the league.

This year, Indiana and Minnesota are underdog teams that I thnk will pull off a big upset or two in conference play.


August 31st, 2014 at 10:11 PM ^

I think everyone should pump the brakes a bit on reading too much from these games.  Rutgers looked okay against a WSU team that does not play defense and still outgained The Knights by nearly 100 yards.  Hackenburg looked good at times, but UCF definitely looks to be a step back from the team they had last year, and there were a number of busted assignments that left PSU receivers wide open.  I mean, Geno Lewis was 10 yards behind the safety on his 79-yard TD, and that was mostly a result of good route running plus a safety absolutely getting lost.  I think Hackenburg will be a good QB, but UCF's corners aren't in the same league as UM's.  

MSU's defense looks legit though (in my opinion) not up to last year's level, which is to be expected.  It's probably still the best in the conference, but it won't be one of the top 2-3 in the country.  OSU looked a bit lost but they've got a couple of weeks to get settled down before the conference slate, and any struggles they have no are irrelevant for when they play UM.   

I do think Nebraska's offense looks solid on the ground, but relying on any of those QBs to put up good passing numbers against competent defenses is a step I'm not willing to take quite yet.  


August 31st, 2014 at 11:08 PM ^

You made some sound observations.  However, I believe the struggles Ohio is having now actually are relevant for when we play them.


Freshman quarterback.  (Will still be a freshman when we play.)

Offensive line inexperience and uncertainty.  That can be a hard problem to correct.   (As we've been through it.)

No Carlos H to bail them out.  (Although I'm sure they do keep a good bailbondsman on retainer to bail them out.)

Defense seemed slower, tentative.  (Okay, option can throw you off.)

Urb has a short shelf life.   His hyper style wears out his welcome when things don't break just right.  (One minute you're on top; the next minute you're alone, eating pizza in a golf cart.)