Opponent Watch 2015: Week 1

Submitted by BiSB on September 10th, 2015 at 12:00 PM

About Last Week

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Butt. “

~ Lao Tzu

Buttdown - Bryan Fuller


The Road Ahead

Oregon State (1-0, 0-0 PAC-12)

Last week: Defeated Weber State, 26-7

Recap: You’re going to have to resist the impulse to skip ahead to the Indiana and Penn State sections. I know why you’re here. You’re here for the snark. But you must be patient. We’ll get there. And in the meantime, there is some important information between here and there.

It’s hard to draw too many conclusions this early, but Oregon State struggling early with an FCS team that finished 2-10 last year does not bode particularly well for the Beavers to make a shocking breakthrough this year. The Beavs were up 6-0 at the half, and while the defense held the Fightin’ Hibachis in check all game (their only score was a pick-6), the offense, and in particular the passing game, were meh. True freshman Seth Collins went 10-18 for 92 yards (5.1 YPA), but managed to pick up 152 yards on 17 carries. Fantastically-named running back Storm Woods averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and didn’t break anything longer than 8 yards.

This team is as frightening as: 2009 Michigan when Denard was under center. Fear Level = 5

Michigan should worry about: Michigan just got done giving up an uncomfortable number of yards on the ground to a quarterback, both this week and, like, this century.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan opens as a 14 point favorite. No team has ever lost when favored by 14 or more points.

When they play Michigan: Presumably Michigan will provide a stouter test than Weber State. Otherwise… let’s just say I haven’t completely ignored the need to prepare a stock of Emergency Bourbon.

This week: @ Michigan, 12:00

UNLV (0-1, 0-0 MWC)

Last week: Lost to Northern Illinois, 38-30

Recap: Maybe this says more about the state of UNLV football than anything, but that looks like a pretty promising result for the Rebels. Even though they gave up 545 yards (including 360 yards passing at 13.8 YPA), they put up 493 yard, and actually had a 17-3 lead late in the first half. They’re probably still a tomato can.

Side note: How are they “the Rebels?” I’m not even asking in a your-mascot-is-probably-not-ideal-in-the-21st-century way. Nevada wasn’t a part of the confederacy. In fact, they joined the Union DURING the Civil War. They were the exact opposite of a rebel. I’m hard-pressed to think of a less fitting mascot, other than maybe the Utah Jazz.


A thing that makes no sense.

This team is as frightening as: Having gas while on a first date. Odds are, you can avoid the problem. But if you let up at the wrong time… Fear Level = 3

Michigan should worry about: Michigan has struggled to some degree with a cupcake non-conference game pretty much every year since 2006. This is the only cupcake game on the schedule, Popular Mechanics commentary notwithstanding. Therefore…

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Did you read the part where they gave up 13.8 yards per pass?

When they play Michigan: You will spend all week talking about Vegas in a Foghorn Leghorn accent. Your friends/classmates/coworkers will think this odd.

This week: vs. UCLA, 10:30 p.m. At home. Wait… wut?

[AFTER THE JUMP: Turtles and Rocks]

BYU (1-0)

Last week: Defeated Nebraska, 33-28

Recap: Oh man there is so much going on here.

Taysom Hill started the game, and was exactly as advertised, with 268 yards passing (7.9 YPA) and 72 yards rushing (8 YPC). But then Hill got hurt, also as advertised. True Freshman* Tanner Mangum relieved him, and then that happened. There was much rejoicing in Provo, and the tortured soul of Chi Chi Ariguzo is now free.

However, in the aftermath, BYU is left in a really rough spot. Hill, who was going to shoulder a Denard-level of burden in the BYU offense, is out for the year. By my math, when Hill was in the game, the rest of the team actually accounted for NEGATIVE total yardage. Mangum’s numbers look pretty good (7/11, 111 yards, 1 TD), but 80 of those yards came from the Hail Mary and a 38-yard 4th down prayer earlier in the 4th quarter. He ain’t Russell Bellomy stepping in for Denard, but he also ain’t Denard.

*He’s technically a freshman, but he took two years for a Mormon mission, so he’s a freshman in the Chris Weinke sense.

This team is as frightening as: The Space Jam team if Michael Jordan was made of dried angel hair pasta. Fear Level = 6

Michigan should worry about: The guy on the bench.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: In addition to the Taysom Hill thing, BYU made Tommy Armstrong look pretty good. Which is probably really not good for BYU.

When they play Michigan: /tentatively slides game from “toss-up” column.

This week: vs. Boise State, 10:15 p.m.

Maryland (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Defeated Richmond, 50-21

Recap: There aren’t many lessons to take away from a solid-but-not-annihilating victory over a run-of-the-mill FCS team, but one thing is pretty damn obvious:

Don’t. Punt. The. Ball. To. Will. Likely.

Likely returned 8 punts… for 233 yards. That’s 29.1 yards per return. And Richmond kept punting the dang ball to him. If you are the special teams coach, and after a guy has returned seven punts for 198 yards, and took the last one 67 yards to the house, don’t you tell your punter to just kick it to the cheerleaders? Or the drum major? Hell, just pull a Moxon and punt the ball straight sideways off the mascot’s head. You’re down by 30 points. This isn’t “directional kick” territory. This is “make the tiny man stop hurting us” territory.

This team is as frightening as: A turtle with some pretty advanced ironworking skills, decent hands, and some sort of laser-visionFear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about other than tiny return ninjas: Brandon Ross, who was Maryland’s leading non-QB rusher last year at nearly 5 yards per carry, ran for 150 yards on 18 carries and looked good in the process. He’s got some burst for a stout lil’ guy.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: We have a modern spread formation and a rugby punter who feels comfortable just taking the snap and waiting until the gunners have established legal residence downfield (or at the very least squatter’s rights) before deciding to kick the ball. That should help.

When they play Michigan: Maryland gave up the second most 4th down conversions in the B1G last year. They have a murderdeathkiller returning punts.

So… don’t punt?

This week: vs. Bowling Green, 12:00 p.m.

Northwestern (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Defeated Stanford, 16-6

Recap: “Rock paper scissors SHOOT”

/rock ties rock

“Rock paper scissors SHOOT”

/rock ties rock

“Rock paper scissors SHOOT”

/rock ties rock

“Rock paper scissors SHOOT”

/rock ties rock

/withdraws to laboratory, consults with scienceologists

/returns with several binders labeled “strategy”

“Rock paper scissors SHOOT”

/rock ties rock

Give Northwestern credit, though. The game had all of the strategic maneuvering of a tug-of-war between two giant tortoises on a sheet of ice, but at least Northwestern was leading when all of this was happening. They were perfectly happy to sit on the status quo and ride that slip-sliding turtle to victory. It was Stanford who should feel really, really bad about this one. They punted on 4th and 5 from the Northwestern 37 yard line. Their 4th quarter clock management was positively Hokian. If they were/are the 21st-best team in the country… eh, no need to finish that sentence. They weren’t/aren't.

From Northwestern’s perspective, the offense was… troublesome. They averaged 4.2 yards per pass and 4.2 yards per rush. They got a 42-yard quarterback draw from freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson, but beyond that they had trouble getting much of anything going.

This team is as frightening as: Realizing that if you’re not careful, a Jim Harbaugh offense can collapse into a David Shaw offense within a few years of Harbaugh’s departure. Fear Level = 6

Michigan should worry about: Justin Jackson. He was the only real bright-ish spot in the offense, as he went for 134 yards on 28 carries. Going back to last year, he’s rushed for at least 96 yards and for 4 YPC or more in 8 of his last 9 games…

Michigan can sleep soundly about: …with the one exception being last year’s Michigan game, where he rushed for 35 yards on 17 carries for 2.06 YPC.

And yes, I did just try to offer you a positive takeaway from #M00N. Shut up. It works.

When they play Michigan: Oh god this is going to be #N00M isn’t it.

This week: vs. Eastern Illinois, 4:00 p.m.

Michigan State

Last week: Won at Western Michigan, 37-24

Recap: I know you feel the urge to snicker slightly at Michigan State for their inability to really put Western Michigan away until an end-zone interception with about 90 seconds left. The temptation to laugh a little bit that Sparty gave up 365 yards passing (albeit at a middling 6.4 YPA) to a MAC team. However, this game was at Waldo Stadium, and one does not simply walk into Waldo Stadium and push Western Michigan around. Western has horses. Horses who row boats. Surely this counts for something.

Waldo Stadium

Pictured: Intimidation

All in all, the game pretty much confirmed what we already thought about State: balanced offense with a very good offensive line, stout defensive line and an aggressive front seven against the run, and a veeeeeeeeeeery questionable secondary in terms of not letting people throw the oblong thingy to their friends. The corners in particular were toasted to a fine ash several times. Maybe when Darian Hicks comes back from mono, things will improve, but for the moment, things in that portion of the defense look dicey at best.

This team is as frightening as: A video game boss that has a giant glowing ‘Shoot The Bad Guy Here’ target area, so you think to yourself, “hey, I know how to go about attacking this guy,” but then you realize he also has a bunch of missiles and lasers and sh*t and you’re like “oh I died.” Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Nothing comes to mind.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: /looks around to make sure Michigan State can’t hear.

HAHAHAHAHA 365 passing yards.

When they play Michigan: A healthy Drake Harris might be really useful right about then.

This week: vs. Oregon, 8:00 p.m.


Last week: Lost to TCU, 23-17

Recap: Minnesota had one of the conference’s best results of the week on paper, though the game wasn’t probably as close as it appears. TCU was up 10 points midway through the first quarter almost put Minnesota away early, and Minnesota only had the ball twice with the chance to tie or take the lead: with 23 seconds left in the first half, and with 27 seconds left in the second half. Both times Minnesota was 80+ yards away from paydirt. 

The positive takeaway for Minnesota though was that their defense looked very strong, both at the front end and in the secondary. TCU struggled to get receivers open for big gains; they were 7th in the country last year with 31 passing plays over 30 yards, and in this game they didn’t have a single one. And while Trevone Boykin had a decent day on the ground, he got hammered time and again by the Gophers.

This team is as frightening as: A thing that is the exact opposite of Indiana. Fear Level = 6.8

Michigan should worry about: Peter Mortell. The returning Big Ten Punter of the Year booted 8 kicks for an average over 45 yards per punt. Minnesota: fear our punter.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan hasn’t lost the Jug in consecutive years since Bump.

When they play Michigan: So much blood.

This week: @ Colorado State, 3:30 p.m.


Last week: Beat Norfolk State (yes, THE Norfolk State) 63-13



This team is as frightening as: Rutgers. Fear Level = 3.5

Michigan should worry about: Oh, hell, I didn’t watch. You didn’t watch. So, we’ll say, Leonte Carroo?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: A time before Rutgers was an embarrassment. Well, at least before they were an embarrassment to the Big Ten.

When they play Michigan: Every year for the foreseeable future. THANKS DELANY.

This week: vs. Washington State, 3:30 p.m.


Last week: Defeated Southern Illinois, 48-47

Recap: In fairness, Indiana suspended nine (!) players for this one, including two defensive starters in linebacker Tegray Scales and defensive tackle Darius Latham. But Indiana surrendered 659 yards to a 6-6 FCS team. They gave up 8.45 yards per play. They gave up 411 yards passing and 4 passing TDs at 12.8 YPA. These numbers are bad and Indiana should feel bad.

If you want to look on the bright side of life, Indiana won, primarily because the Salukis missed an extra point early in the 4th quarter, and then decided to go for two and the win when they scored with 18 seconds left only to have a pass dropped at the goal line.

This team is as frightening as: A thing that is the exact opposite of Minnesota. Fear Level = 3.2

Michigan should worry about: Wide Receiver Ricky Jones. He may be taking over the Explosive Tiny Receiver role vacated by Shane Wynn, with 186 yards on 6 catches.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: 411 yards.

When they play Michigan: Jake Butt might find himself wondering if he's experiencing a Sixth Sense scenario where he is dead and no one on the Indiana defense can see him.

This week: vs. Florida International, 8:00 p.m.

Penn State

Last week: Lost to Temple, 27-10

Recap: Numbers are great. I like numbers, and I’m guessing you do too. And there are a LOT of numbers from this game that are individually pretty amazing. Penn State gave up 10 sacks. Hackenberg dropped back 36 times and netted 44 yards of offense on those 36 plays. That’s 1.22 yards per passing play. 30% of Penn State’s passing plays ended with Hackenberg being tackled. Penn State had 180 total yards of offense, its worst output in a decade. Penn State's last 35 offensive plays netted 40 yards.

But numbers can have a numbing effect. To obtain a full appreciation, we must see what this actually looks like in the bruised, tenderized flesh.

That is Hackenberg being sacked on a 2-man rush. Out of the gun. There were six blockers, and only three defenders even remotely near the line of scrimmage at the snap. That is two blockers for every potential rusher, and three blockers for every potential rusher who, you know, rushed. And it wasn’t a coverage sack. He took his three steps and a little hitch, and he’s met immediately by a guy who didn’t have a sack all of last season.

The line had all sorts of problems, but among the biggest disappointments was that starting left tackle Paris Palmer, a junior college transfer, was awful. He was mediocre when facing a straight-up pass rush, but when Temple did anything moderately complicated, such as stunting, slanting, or pointing to Palmer’s allegedly untied shoes (which, on closer inspection, were loafers), things got ugly in a hurry.

You can also add to the Pile of Worry in Happy Valley the fact that Penn State’s defense, while fine, was not nearly as light-out as one would hope against a team that was offensively-challenged last year. They also lost starting linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White for the season.

This team is as frightening as: Shaley's back. Tell a friend.


Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: Being injured by a stray flying Hackenberg.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Watch that gif again. I know, I know, you already spent ten minutes watching it. Just... go back and watch it again. See? It's still awesome.

When they play Michigan: Willie Henry and Chris Wormley might as well order a pizza and have it delivered to the offensive backfield.

This week: vs. Buffalo, 12:00 p.m.

Ohio State

Last week: [Score not available as of press time]

Recap: Look, we’ll go through the motions here, but Ohio State beat the everloving crap out of one of the three or four best teams they’re playing this year, did so WITHOUT Joey Bosa or Jalin Marshall or a bunch of other guys, and barely seemed to break a sweat in the process. We’ll check back with them when they’re 10-0 and playing Michigan State.

This team is as frightening as: Yes. Fear Level = 10

Michigan should worry about: Errthing.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: November is a loooooooooong way off.

When they play Michigan: 24-12.

This week: vs. Hawaii, 3:30 p.m.



September 10th, 2015 at 1:20 PM ^

At 17 now. I hope the players look at it like we're 0-1 and they're 1-0. We're the underdogs. Put everything into this game and beat the living tar out of them. Like Bo and Jim say... No game is more important than the one you're about to play. Go Blue

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

Wolverine In Iowa 68

September 10th, 2015 at 1:22 PM ^

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan opens as a 14 point favorite. No team has ever lost when favored by 14 or more points.


Um....not to be a total kill-joy, but the unofficial line against App State was 33, and that didn't turn out so great for us...


September 10th, 2015 at 1:49 PM ^

When they play Michigan: Jake Butt might find himself wondering if he's experiencing a Sixth Sense scenario where he is dead and no one on the Indiana defense can see him.


The tried and true Jeremy Gallon coverage.


September 10th, 2015 at 1:49 PM ^

because they have the best WR in the conference, possibly in the country in Leonte Carroo. They have a pair of NFL prospects on DL in Darius Hamilton and Kemoko Turay.

After all, they beat Michigan last year.


September 10th, 2015 at 2:06 PM ^

I could watch that Penn State gif all day....awesome.  The best part is that if Number 35 doesn't bring Hackenburg down, the other guy rushing was well on his way to getting to him.  How bad is Penn State's OL?!


September 10th, 2015 at 2:06 PM ^

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September 10th, 2015 at 6:36 PM ^

is a HUGE loss.  He was the heir apparent in the MLB spot to Mike Hull (who was excellent in 2014).  Gary Wooten looked rather questionable at MLB in the 2nd half vs. Temple.  We'll get another data point soon, as he's getting the start again Saturday vs. Buffalo.

One PSU number not mentioned: 15 TFL against Temple on Saturday, a number that led all of FBS college football.  That's NOT what Temple's defense did to PSU, but the opposite.  Despite all of PSU's other problems, it's still an extremely stout defensive front.  The DTs performed as expected (very well), but it was nice seeing the new DEs exceed my expectations.

Good work on this, as always it's an enjoyable read!