It’s back, ladies and gentlemen. It’s that time. The time that seems impossibly far away when the snows melt in spring. The time on which you try not to let yourself dwell through the summer months, lest it somehow prevent the pot from boiling. You can say it out loud now, without fear that your family or coworkers will think you insane. It’s football season. Say it out loud. "Football season." It’s okay. No one will judge.
As part of the tradition here at MGoBlog, we provide a weekly update on Michigan’s opponents. For very complicated reasons that would take far too long to explain, we call this feature “Opponent Watch.” Most will not be 3800 words, but we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
About Last Year:
Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can't move
Awake but cannot open my eyes...
The Road Ahead:
Last year: 9-4 (5-4 PAC 12), won Las Vegas Bowl over Colorado State
Recap: The Utes had a pretty solid 2015. They put up wins over UCLA, USC, and Stanford, and had Oregon on the ropes early before Kaelin Clay pulled an all-time you see, what had happened was and Utah fell 51-27. Three of their four losses were to then-Top-15 teams (Arizona State, Oregon, and Arizona).
When last we saw them: Utah allegedly made a trip to Ann Arbor as recently as last season. Obtaining eye-witness evidence of this fact is difficult, and those who claimed to have witness it cannot explain significant portions of their experiences. However, from what we can gather from those in attendance it was, quote, “not great, Bob.”
This team is as frightening as: Getting a new car, but the first time you drive it is in downtown rush hour traffic. You’re pretty sure the car is gonna be awesome, but you would have liked to take it for a spin in some easier conditions until you get used to it. Also the car is clinically insane. Fear Level = 8
Michigan should worry about: Michigan has struggled offensively in all three games they’ve played against Utah. In two of those games they scored a combined total of two touchdowns, one of which was a Willie Henry 7-yard interception return. Their most productive offensive game from a scoring standpoint was the one that NICK SHERIDAN started… against the Utah team that beat Alabama to finish undefeated and #2 in the country. Football is stupid and makes no freaking sense. Yay football.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan already played part of a game against Utah in front of more Utah fans than Michigan fans, so there will be a certain comfort level there.
When they play Michigan: If Michigan loses, Utah will be only the second team Michigan has played more than three times (among teams Michigan has played at least once since the Kennedy Assassination) against whom they have a losing record. The only other team? USC.
First game: HARBAUGH COMIN’ UP ON A THURSDAY
[AFTER THE JUMP: 11 more opponents to watch. Wait, is that why they call it…]
Last year: 5-7 (2-7 PAC 12), no bowl game
Recap: Oregon State was… okay. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay. 47th in offense (per FEI), 81st in defense. They won five games, but only one against a team that had the slightest pulse (Arizona State).
When last we saw them: Michigan is 4-0 all-time against Oregon State, with the most recent matchup coming in the season opener in 1986. And who exactly was the quarterback of that 1986 team?
/shuffles through notes
It says here it was “Jin Harbaugh.” I wonder if that’s a typo.
This team is as frightening as: Rutgers’ academic prowess, Northwestern’s brawn. Fear Level = 3.5
Michigan should worry about: This is the home opener, so the three hour standing ovation for Jim Harbaugh will make it hard for Michigan to hear Jake Rudock (or someone else (but probably Jake Rudock(unless this is all an elaborate ruse (but it almost certainly isn’t, so it’ll be Rudock)))) call out a cadence.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This was a bad defense that didn’t do anything particularly well, and it lost nine (!) starters from that bad defense that didn’t do anything particularly well.
When they play Michigan: Generic opponent is generic and opponent-shaped.
First game: vs. Weber State
Last year: 2-11 (1-7 Mountain West), no bowl game
Recap: UNLV was bad.
Actually, I should amend that. Since 2007, UNLV is averaging three FBS wins per season. Their average FEI rank is 104.4, and it hasn’t been higher than 90th in that time. So, I guess my point is that it is more accurate to say that UNLV is bad.
When last we saw them: We’ve never seen them. Michigan has never played them. They’ve never been on TV in Michigan. We can’t confirm they exist. No one even knows what “UNLV” stands for. Go ahead. Google it. It doesn’t return any results. This could just be a ruse Dave Brandon constructed wherein some random “team” is announced, and then right before the ball is kicked a bunch of fireworks go off and fans are invited to drop money to the roving State Farm Like-A-Good-Neighbor-State-Farm-Is-There Donation Drones Brought To You By Arby’s.
This team is as frightening as: #branding. Fear Level = Synergy
Michigan should worry about: If insufficient money is provided to the SFLAGNSFIT Donation Drones, fans will be subjected to a new Personal Seat License License, wherein fans will be required to pay a license fee for the right to purchase the license that allows them to purchase their season tickets.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The bad man is gone now.
When they play Michigan: Watch out for those drone blades. Them’s sharp as hell.
First game: at N. Illinois
Last year: 8-5 (no conference record because BYU is weird like that), Lost to Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl on a TKO in the 7th round.
Recap: Michigan’s annual clash with a religiously-affiliated independent school is slightly different this year, as we’re swapping out Touchdown Jesus for Fair Catch Joseph Smith*. The Cougars were better-than-mediocre last year, finishing with eight wins including an utter shellacking of Texas, 41-7. But then QB Taysom Hill got hurt, and BYU stumbled down the stretch.
When last we saw them: The last time Michigan played BYU was in the 1984 Holiday Bowl, when the undefeated Cougars squeaked by a mediocre 6-5 Michigan squad that was without an injured Jim Harbaugh, thereby claiming their only national championship.
The last time we saw BYU on the field, they were rather unhappy with Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl, possibly because it was extra embarrassing losing something as dumb-sounding as the “Miami Beach Bowl.”
I swear I heard someone in that scrum yell “Hasa diga Memphis.”
This team is as frightening as: Getting punched in the face by a really polite person. Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Taysom Hill. The guy was very effective in 2013, very effective in 2014 before breaking his leg, and you’d bet good money he’ll be very effective in 2015. The phrase “dark horse Heisman candidate” comes up a lot. He’s a duel threat QB who has that Denard quality where you can just give him the ball, say “make the ball go that way,” and the ball will go that way somehow.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Robbie Bosco ain’t walkin’ through that door.
When they play Michigan: Unless Michigan somehow comes into this game with two losses, the stakes are probably gonna be about as low for this one as any game in recent memory.
First game: at Nebraska
Last year: 7-6 (4-4 B1G); Lost to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl
Recap: Maryland’s first lap of the Big Ten was average. Very, very average. Maryland was:
- 8th in the B1G in offensive yards per play in conference play
- 8th in the B1G in defensive yards per play in conference play
- 8th in the B1G in YPA in conference play
- 8th in the B1G in YPA against in conference play
- 7th in the conference in Yards Per Carry against
- 7th in the conference in Scoring in conference play
I mean, look at their offensive and defensive footprints in Bill Connelly’s Maryland preview. That’s about as average a team as you’ll ever see. Not surprisingly, they finished 4-4 in conference. But if anything, they were lucky to get to .500. They were walloped by Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, and squeaked by Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan by a combined 15 points.
This season, Maryland will be replacing their starting quarterback, CJ Brown, as well as their leading rusher… CJ Brown. They also have to replace three of their top four receivers, including Stefon Diggs, he of the Overplayed Maybe-Stefon-Diggs-Is-The-Silent-Commit Recruiting Joke. On defense, they lost basically their entire front seven. On the bright side, the secondary is solid, and CJ Brown wasn’t that good to begin with.
When last we saw them: The bad news was that Michigan only threw for 106 yards. The good news was that Michigan got a 52-yard run from Joe Kerridge. On a fake punt. Which was Michigan’s only 50+ yard play from scrimmage in the entirety of conference play.
This team is as frightening as: Turtles. Fear Level = 10
Oh, sorry, I forgot. Most people don’t have an irrational, crippling fear of turtles. Fear Level = 5
Michigan should worry about: Will Likely. Sure, the guy is like 5’2” on his tiptoes. But check out his matchup with Devin Funchess last year:
Also, they have a freshman lineman named Quarvez Boulware. How can you not assume that the team with Quarvez Boulware will win?
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Maryland lost errrrrrbody.
When they play Michigan: Michigan will be taking its first ever trip to…
/tabs over to Google
Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, which is named after…
/tabs back over to Google
Harry Byrd, who was a segregationist who “advocated the development of a separate university system for African American students in order to avoid integrating the University of Maryland,” and “refused to allow an African American football player from Syracuse to play in a game at Maryland in 1937.”
First game: vs. Richmond
Last year: 5-7 (3-5 B1G), no bowl game
Recap: How does one sum up a season in which a moribund offensive team beat Wisconsin and Notre Dame but lost to Illinois, Cal, and Michigan, and lost 48-7 to a Kirk Ferentz/Greg Davis joint? Oh, if only there could be a single, all-encompassing way of explaining such a team. Like a password to a secret society, the uttering of which conveys that you are in tune with a sacred zeitgeist. A shibboleth that carries with it the tortured memories of a million likeminded souls who, though foes, have walked through the same fires and emerged as kindred spirits. Alas, in our complicated modern times, it is impossible to adequately encapsulate such complex affairs in this manner.
When last we saw them: Oh, right.
This team is as frightening as: M00000000000000000000000000N. Fear Level = 5
Michigan should worry about: Michigan being lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that Northwestern will have the outward appearance of a team that kinda sucks.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Northwestern was 122nd in the country last year at 4.50 yards per play (a full 1.4 inches per play better than Eastern Michigan), which fell to 4.30 yards per play in conference play.
When they play Michigan: Last year’s game was literally played under a full moon. This year’s game will be played only two days from a new moon. So even if it is a ridiculous derp-fest, it’ll probably be closer to the 2000 Michigan-Northwestern game than the 2014 game. Which would be… better?
First game: vs. Stanford
Last year: 11-2 (7-1 B1G), Won Cotton Bowl over Baylor.
Recap: Michigan State played in a game in which this happened.
Presumably other things happened as well… but you don’t care about those, do you?
When last we saw them: Controversy still rages about the 2014 Michigan-Michigan State game. Some call it a trouncing. Others call it a throttling. Still others insist it was a shit-canning. No one can quite decide how to categorize this one.
In the least surprising outcome in this rivalry since probably 2006, Michigan State dominated Michigan in every facet of the game on the way to a 35-11 stomping. And somehow, Michigan still had to apologize after the game for the least significant pre-game field incursion of all time.
/Throws wallet at Jim Hackett
This team is as frightening as: What can I say here that won’t somehow be taken as a sign of TOTAL DISRESPEKT? Because, that. Michigan State is as scary as that. Fear Level = MOST RESPECTFUL NUMBER BETWEEN 1 and 10.
Michigan should worry about: nothing, why do you ask?
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan hasn’t lost at home to Michigan State since 2010.
/waves tiny flag.
/tiny flag is tackled for a three yard loss.
/tiny flag apologizes for any damage caused while it was being tackled.
When they play Michigan: Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh will shake hands. The possibilities. Oh, the possibilities.
First game: at Western Michigan (seriously)
Last year: 8-5 (5-3 B1G), Lost to Missouri in the B-Dubs Bowl. Hurray for #TeamCoconutShrimp
Recap: If you’re curious what Alternate Universe Successful Brady Hoke looks like, I present you Jerry Kill. Kill ran the most progressive offensive schemes ever personally approved by Kaiser Wilhelm, and his run-first, run-second, hey-why-did-that-guy-throw-the-thing-you’re-supposed-to-run-with third offense did exactly what it was supposed to do. They ran the ball on 77% of standard downs, which was more than every non-option team in the country. They punted and played field position. They relied on a good defense. They slowed the game way the hell down. And they won eight games.
(And yes, this does mean that Michigan was employing a Poor Man’s Jerry Kill at $Texas per year.)
The bad news for Minnesota is that they lost the two biggest pieces of their offense. Maxx Williams’ 36 catches and 569 yards might not look like much, but when you consider that no one else had more than 18 or 298, that becomes a bigger deal. He also hauled in 8 of Minnesota’s 12 receiving touchdowns. David Cobb carried the ball 315 times for 1629 yards per carry and 13 TDs. The only significant production they bring back is Mitch “Marginally Whiter Tim Tebow” Leidner’s 126 carries at 3.6 yards per carry.
When last we saw them: Why read about it here when you can go purchase John U. Bacon’s wonderful new book “BRANDON’S LASTING LESSONS,” which contains a helpful Dave Brandon cutout that can be punched or taped to a dart board or generally subjected to most standard voodoo practices. NOTE: this function is NOT recommended for the e-reader version of the book. Most e-readers are not dart-proof, even with that protective screen film thing on there.
This team is as frightening as: A Rich Man’s Brady Hoke. Fear Level = 6.5
Michigan should worry about: Of all the peoples against whom you would like to play a Halloween night road game, these seem to be the least ideal:
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Maxx Williams is gone.
When they play Michigan: SMASHY SMASHY SMASH SMASH SMAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH.
First game: vs. TCU
Last year: 8-5 (3-5 B1G), Beat UNC in the Quick Lane Bowl
Recap: Quick: after JT Barrett and Connor Cook, who was 3rd in the Big Ten in Yards Per Attempt last year (among people who played significant snaps)? As you can probably guess from the heading, you are bizarrely correct: Gary. Freeking. Nova. At 8.7 yards per pass, Nova bested such luminaries as Tommy Armstrong and Mitch Leidner to capture the bronze.
#B1G? Oh, so #B1G
Rutgers wasn’t as comically bad as we’d all hoped, but if you’re looking for a baseline of expectations going forward, remember that they rushed the field when they beat a 5-7 team who was in no way a rival.
When last we saw them: I don’t want to talk about it okay.
This team is as frightening as: Rutgers’ home state recruiting prowess. Fear Level = 4
Michigan should worry about: Leonte Carroo is legit.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Leonte Carroo does not play defense.
When they play Michigan: I swear to all things holy if one of you so much as CONSIDERS rushing the field I will find you and I will strike you in the most sensitive portion of your testicle with great force.
First game: vs. Norfolk State
Last year: 4-8 (1-7 B1G), no bowl game
Recap: For those of you who remember Draftageddon from last year – hey, SIT THE HELL DOWN, we’re not gonna discuss it for long – you may remember that Indiana came into the year theoretically loaded at quarterback. But then Tre Roberson (he of the 15 TDs, 4 INTs, 8.2 YPA, and 5.0 YPC) transferred. And senior Cam Coffman transferred. And Nate Sudfeld, who was averaging a mediocre but non-disastrous 60.5% completion rate and 6.9 YPA, separated a shoulder against Iowa. And Indiana was pretty well screwed. Redshirt freshman QB Chris Covington finished the game against Iowa and completed 3 of 12 passes for 31 yards, so the next week they took the redshirt off of Zander Diamont. Unfortunately for Indiana, the redshirt itself comprised about 10% of Diamont’s total weight.
All of this should give you an appreciation for Tevin Coleman. Despite facing approximately 13 defenders in the box, and with “play action” being cruel joke in the huddle, Coleman racked up 2036 yards and 15 TDs at 7.54 yards per carry. He led the nation with 8 (!) carries of 60+ yards. To put that in perspective, Michigan had 6 carries of 60+ yards… in the entire Hoke Era.
When last we saw them: Jimmy beat Timmy 34-10. For the only time in conference play, Michigan cracked 6 yards per play, and outgained Indiana 404-191. True to form, Tevin Coleman rushed for 108 yards, and the rest of the Hoosiers accumulated 83 yards, including 24 solid passing yards. Then again, Indiana was playing most of the game with only 10 defenders, as Kevin Wilson sent one defender to shadow Jeremy Gallon… you know, just in case.
This team is as frightening as: A team that gave up 34 points to 2014 Michigan. Fear Level = 3
Michigan should worry about: Being impregnated by this picture.
Too late, you’re pregnant. It’s a Hoosier.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The resulting three-second-old zygote is currently third on the depth chart to take snaps for Indiana.
When they play Michigan: Michigan has won 19 in a row over Indiana, and has lost once in the 34 games played between the teams since Bo took over. So, if I were a man who believed in statistics, I would believe Michigan to be the favorite in this particular matchup.
First game: vs. Southern Illinois
Last year: 7-6 (2-6 B1G), Beat Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Recap: Penn State had the #9 rated defense in the country according to FEI.
They had the #101 rated offense in the country according to FEI.
They gave up 2.95 yards per carry.
They managed 2.94 yards per carry.
Christian Hackenberg is a potential top-10 pick in the NFL draft, and has two full seasons of experience as a starter.
Christian Hackenberg averaged fewer yards per attempt than Reilly O’Toole.
And fewer YPA in conference play than Austin Appleby.
And had 4 touchdowns and 9 INTs in the B1G.
And finished 2014 with the lowest QB grade in the entire FBS according to College Football Focus.
Are you just going to keep…
And at this point he has been hit so many times he no longer has what science-types call a “skeleton.”
Are you done?
For the moment.
Okay. Then, gee, that’s bad.
When last we saw them: We were reminded that there’s a big difference between “exciting football” and “good football.” Under The Lights III was a cool environment, and there was much cheering and revelry, but the football was bad. Michigan’s lone touchdown was thrown directly to Penn State’s safety. Michigan called a timeout with three seconds left in the half in order to make sure that Penn State could throw a Hail Mary because Brady Hoke actually thought a team would punt the ball* with three seconds left in the half. At the end of the game, James Franklin took a crucial timeout to avoid a 1-yard delay-of-game penalty so he could strategize how to snap the ball into the 14th row.
On the bright side, AAAATOOOMIIIIIC DAAAAAAAWWWAAWAAAWWAAAAWGGGGG
*This was not some elaborate strategic gambit as some have suggested. Michigan sent the punt return team onto the field. If you ever have the chance to play Brady Hoke for money in a game that involves game theory, I highly recommend you do so.
This team is as frightening as: An armadillo. No real ability to attack, but pretty stout on the defensive. Also it’s just generally a pretty goofy creature. Fear Level = 7
Michigan (and trees) should worry about: Anthony Zettel.
A video posted by @dudas_5 on
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Remember how we all had a good laugh a few sections ago when I said that Northwestern averaged 4.30 yards per play in conference play? Well Penn State averaged 3.72 yards per play in the B1G. They didn’t exceed five yards per play in any conference game, despite playing Rutgers, Indiana, Maryland and Illinois.
When they play Michigan: First to 20 points wins.
First game: at Temple
Last year: 14-1 (8-0) B1G, won BTCG, won the thing the SEC used to win all the time.
Recap: Hey, look over there!
When last we saw them: I’m serious, look over there right now!!!
This team is as frightening as: You won’t believe what’s happening, and you’ve gotta see it for yourself!!!
Michigan should worry about: No I can’t just TELL you, you have to see it to understand!!!
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Nope, never mind, it went away.
When they play Michigan: Okay, where were we?
First game: vs. Virginia Tech