About Last Week:
The Road Ahead:
#7 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0 B1G)
Last week: Won at Rutgers, 31-24
Recap: I can’t recall a team ever get ranked #2 in the country, win two consecutive conference games, and land at #7. Then again, I can’t recall a #2 team in the country playing back-to-back nailbiters against the likes of Purdue and Rutgers, so I guess I shouldn’t be shocked.
If I’m a State fan, though, this game is a much bigger red flag than the Purdue game. Michigan State ran out to a 21-0 lead on Purdue, took its foot off the gas, and then when things started to tighten up forgot which one was the gas pedal and which one was the “do a Dukes of Hazzard ramp into a hay stack” pedal. This game was a close contest the entire way, with Rutgers holding the halftime lead after largely outplaying Sparty. Fortunately for Michigan State, Rutgers went Full Rutgers at the end of the game, but the feelings are not warm and fuzzy in East Lansing.
Sparty did outgain Rutgers 489-349, but once again struggled to run the ball, rushing for less than 3.5 yards per carry against the team that surrendered 330 yards rushing to Penn State. And despite the fact that Connor Cook played a hell of a game, the offensive line was on roller skates against a team that is not known for its pass rush. And this was almost entirely before losing their (in my opinion (which is correct)) most important lineman, Jack Allen, to a naaaaaasty-looking ankle injury. He’s listed as a co-starter with 37 other guys for the Michigan game, but he left the game after giving it one play, and he left the stadium in a cart, so who wants odds.
It should also be noted after last week’s heroics that Michigan State has the lowest touchback-on-kickoff percentage in the conference and they give up the most kickoff return yards in the conference. Just sayin’.
This team is as frightening as: A big brother, but after you hit a really sudden growth spurt that puts you a couple of inches taller and a few pounds heavier. It doesn’t mean you’ll win that next fight, but it makes you feel a hell of a lot better about your odds. Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Aaron Burbridge. He’s second in the conference to Geronimo Allison in receiving yards (on about 61,000 fewer targets), and has more than triple the receiving yards of anyone else on Michigan State’s roster.
Check out Burbridge’s stats compared to the rest of State’s receiving corps: (via Bill Connelly):
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Jourdan Lewis is… well, you know. The thing at the top of the page.
When they play Michigan: Well hello there, Natural Order of Things. Have a seat right over there. We’ll be with you in a moment. Can I get you something to drink?
This week: @ Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
[AFTER THE JUMP: If I told you it would spoil the surprise and you wouldn’t hit the jump]
Minnesota (4-2, 1-1 B1G)
Last week: Won at Purdue, 41-13
Recap: Minnesota put together a competent performance! Hurray! Dilly Bars for EVERYBODY!
Okay, okay, so it was Purdue, who is dead last in the conference in rushing defense and ahead of only Maryland in scoring defense. And Minnesota only managed 82 yards passing on 18 attempts. But the Gophers’ running game finally looked like we expected it to look all year. Shannon Brooks finished with 176 yards rushing on 17 carries, including a really pretty 71 yard touchdown.
Given the catastroballs that is the B1G West, Minnesota could actually, potentially, theoretically climb back into the race if they can get their crap together on offense. That would have to start-slash-continue this weekend when they take on the abysmal Nebraska defense in the battle for the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy. It will be an uphill battle, as no team has ever won the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy in back-to-back seasons, only partially because the trophy is only 11 months old.
This team is as frightening as: Mitch Leidner's arm. Fear Level = 3.5
Michigan should worry about: Michigan forgets how football works during the bye week
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Two weeks to game plan for Minnesota should be sufficient.
When they play Michigan: Violence. So much violence.
This week: vs. Nebraska, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
Rutgers (2-3, 0-2 B1G)
Last week: Lost to Michigan State, 31-24
Recap: I watched this game with my Father-in-Law, who is a big sports fan but not particularly familiar with Rutgers football. And I assured him at halftime, with Rutgers leading 14-10, that not only would Rutgers blow it, but they would do so in a fashion that only Rutgers could manage. And every time Rutgers did something good, I reassured him that this would still happen. And sure enough, though it took 59 minutes and 57 seconds, Rutgers managed to Rutgers the sumbitch away by spiking the ball on 4th down. Of course, their odds of winning the game at that moment were virtually nil, but Chris Laviano took those slim odds and literally said, “nah.”
Still, this was an encouraging-ish outing against a team which **cough cough is not the 7th best team in the country but cough cough** is undefeated and is generally competent on offense and defense. The biggest difference-maker was Leonte Carroo, who returned from his suspension following his total, unequivocal, and in no way insane “exoneration.” Kyle Flood also returns this week from his totally adequate and in no way insane suspension-in-lieu-of-termination. So everything is just fine in Piscataway, thank you very much.
This team is as frightening as: Going head-to-head with Rutgers for a top recruit from the state of New Jersey. Fear Level = 2
Michigan should worry about: Leonte Carroo is back, and is therefore we will revert to our default answer here of “eh, probably Leonte Carroo.”
Michigan can sleep soundly about: S&P+ currently has Michigan projected to win this game 46-4. And that 4 feels a little high.
When they play Michigan: Rutgers is an awful team sandwiched on the schedule between two bad teams, and it’ll be a home game. There are exactly zero hallmarks of an upset.
This week: @ Indiana, 3:30 p.m., BTN
Indiana (4-2, 0-2 B1G)
Last week: Lost at Penn State, 29-7
Recap: Well, the bad news is that the Zander Diamont Experience was about what we remembered from last year. The really bad news is that when Diamont went out injured in the 3rd quarter, the Zander Diamont Experience was more like Tombradyland compared to whatever theme park backup quarterback Danny Cameron is headlining. Let’s call it “Six White Flags over Bloomington.”
Cameron finished 6 of 16 for 65 yards and a pick. He also didn’t show anything in terms of mobility (his one carry was a sack). Couple that with Jordan Howard’s continuing absence, and the Indiana was never really in this game. The Hoosiers were outgained 420 to 234, which usually means you’re gonna have a bad time.
This team is as frightening as: A team with Michigan State’s level of injuries and Minnesota’s upside. Fear Level = 3
Michigan should worry about: Generic comment about Any Given Saturday.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan has won 19 in a row and 34 of the last 35 against Indiana. Y’all really think Harbaugh is gonna lose this one?
When they play Michigan: According to Bill Connelly, this game is statistically more difficult for Michigan than the Michigan State game. We have entered a strange realm, lady and gentlemen.
This week: vs. Rutgers, 3:30 p.m., BTN
Penn State (5-1, 2-0 B1G)
Last week: Beat Indiana, 29-7
Recap: So, we had a good laugh at Penn State early in the season, but at this point the Nittany Lions have seemingly settled into a reasonable groove. It’s not a GOOD groove, necessarily, but at least it is a competent groove. They’re middle-of-the-pack in offensive yards per play at 5.52 (albeit against a comically week slate of defenses) and 4th in the conference in defensive yards per play allowed at 4.23 (albeit against an even more comical slate of offenses). They’re still dead last in the conference in sacks allowed with 19, but only 9 of those have come in the last 5 games.
At this point, Penn State may be without a paddle, but at least they’re merely floating along like a drunk guy in a canoe rather than upside down underneath said canoe wondering why it is suddenly so dark and cold.
This team is as frightening as: Same rock time, same rock channel.
Fear Level = 4
Michigan should worry about: Penn State leads the Big Ten by a mile in terms of total sack yardage (214 yards on 25 sacks) and tackle-for-loss yardage (281 yards on 53 TFLs).
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan has allowed the fewest TFL yards of any team in the conference thus far. Through 6 games, Michigan has surrendered 28 TFLs for a loss of 87 yards. In 13 games in 2013, Michigan surrendered 113 TFLs for a loss of 460 yards. Drevno Uber Alles.
When they play Michigan: Run, Hack. Run. Here is a fake passport under the name “Robert J. Terwilliger.” Cross over into Canada at Niagara Falls. From there we have arranged safe passage for you to Manitoba. You’re on your own after that. You have a four week head start on Willie Henry and Mo Hurst and Ryan Glasgow and Chris Wormley.
This week: @ Ohio State, 8:00 p.m., ABC
#1 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 B1G)
Last week: Beat Maryland, 49-28
Recap: If Ohio State has suffered from the same illness as Michigan State this year, the Buckeyes have had the good fortune to experience a mild case. Whereas Michigan State has spent the last six weeks looking like hell and trying desperately to not shit itself, Ohio State has just felt a little off and has occasionally hacked up funky-looking stuff.
Fortunately for Buckeye fans, playing Maryland is the salve that cools the burn of many Hot Takes. And while Maryland did manage to keep this game close for much of the first three quarters, Ohio State pulled away comfortably late. Cardale Jones had a nice game, and JT Barrett filled in well as the designated red zone quarterback in an almost exclusively ground-based attack (he had 12 carries to 2 pass attempts). Braxton Miller, who remains criminally underutilized, had 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
This team is as frightening as: Cthulhu with a bad hangover.
Google Image Search, you never fail me.
Fear Level = 8.5
Michigan should worry about: With the likes of Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, and Jalin Marshall, Ohio State is one of the few teams in the country that might be able to out-athlete Michigan’s secondary.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: There’s a really good chance Michigan will be playing with house money by this point.
When they play Michigan: 24-12
This week: vs. Penn State, 8:00 p.m., ABC
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
#4 Utah (5-0, 2-0 PAC-12)
Last week: Beat #23 Cal, 30-24
Recap: In one of the more highly-anticipated matchups of the week, Utah got a little lucky to come away with the win. Cal turned the ball over six times, including five picks by Jared Goff, and missed a mid-range field goal that ended up being a major difference at the end of the game. Cal outgained Utah, and had the ball at the Utah 21 with under a minute left and a chance to win the game, but the drive stalled and the Bears turned the ball over on downs.
Utah is halfway through what appeared at the time to be the gauntlet portion of their schedule, notching wins over Oregon (which, in hindsight, notsomuch) and Cal. Their next two games are against Arizona State and at USC. Matchups with Washington and UCLA also loom, but the odds of Utah running the table and doing the dang thing are getting shorter by the week.
This week: vs. Arizona State, 10:00 p.m., ESPN
Oregon State (2-3, 0-2 PAC-12)
Last week: Lost at Arizona, 44-7
Recap: So, about that “maybe Oregon State is okay” thing…
This week: @ Washington State, 4:00 p.m., PAC12 Network. You probably don’t have that network. But you probably didn’t want to watch this game anyway.
UNLV (2-4, 1-1 MWC)
Last week: Lost to San Jose State, 33-27
Recap: So, about that “maybe UNLV is okay” thing…
This week: @ Fresno State
Last week: Beat East Carolina, 45-38
Recap: When Taysom Hill went out at the beginning of the year, BYU thought they were staring into the abyss with the prospects of a freshman under center. But when Mangum left this game, BYU fans REALLY saw what an abyss looks like. BYU was up 38-21 when Mangum left the game with a shoulder injury, and backup Beau Hoge when 1/5 for 9 yards and a pick on his three offensive drives, and East Carolina tied the game. Mangum then returned, and promptly led a 10 play, 75 yard game winning touchdown drive.
Still, this game may portend trouble for BYU. ECU put up 518 yards of offense at 7.0 yards per play, which is the fourth time in six games that the Cougars have surrendered over 400 yards of offense. On the bright side, BYU has already played the five best teams on its schedule (according to S&P+ ranking), so, a nine or even ten win season looks possible if Mangum stays healthy.
This week: vs. Cincinnati, 8:00 p.m., ESPN
Maryland (2-4, 0-2 B1G)
Last week: Lost at Ohio State, 49-28
Recap: They bad. Now they bad for an interim coach. They will still be bad whenever they hire the new permanent coach.
For what it’s worth, it appears Perry Hills is apparently going to be the starter going forward. He actually managed 170 yards rushing against Ohio State, though he struggled through the air.
This week: Bye week. Merciful, merciful bye week.