Opponent Watch 2015: Week 9

Submitted by BiSB on November 5th, 2015 at 1:06 PM

About Last Week:

The Road Ahead:

Rutgers (3-5, 1-4 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Wisconsin, 48-10

Recap: Hayden Rettig is Rutgers’ backup quarterback. Rettig replaced starter Chris Laviano, and promptly posted a QBR of 2.9. And somehow, this was an improvement over Laviano’s 2.7.


Rutgers was outgained 426-165, and were more than doubled up in the air and on the ground. It wasn’t all his fault, Laviano was legitimately atrocious, going 4 of 14 for 31 yards (2.2 YPA) with no touchdowns and a pick. When you factor in rushes/sacks, Laviano’s 19 touches gained a total of 11 yards. That’s approximately two Subway sandwiches per pass attempt.

In conference play thus far, Rutgers is averaging 5.16 yards per play and surrendering 7.3 yards per play. That’s a negative differential of 2.14 yards per play, which is dead last in the B1G, more than a half-yard worse than second-to-last place Purdue and more than a yard worse than the likes of Indiana and Maryland. Part of that is because they have played four of the better offenses in the conference in Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Part of it is because they are bad.

On the bright side, basketball season is right around the corner

SI forecasts that Rutgers (288) will be the worst team from a BCS conference by a huge margin: The Scarlet Knights are the only BCS-conference team outside our top 200, and we project them to go 1-17 in the Big Ten. Rutgers' projections are so bleak that we would still have them finishing last if they were in the CAA.


This team is as frightening as: the prospect of facing Rutgers basketball once or twice per year for the foreseeable future. Fear Level = 2

Michigan should worry about: Leonte Carroo…

Michigan can sleep soundly about: ...has a bum ankle and is questionable for the game, and if he does play he’ll probably be lining up across from Jourdan Lewis.

When they play Michigan: Walls may not be necessary. Michigan will probably be able to get by with those nylon extend-o ropes that banks and airport security lines use.

This week: at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., BTN


Indiana (4-4, 0-4 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: The good news for Indiana is that no one was injured or got arrested during the bye week. The better news is that because of the insane expansion in the number of bowls and some convenient derpitude by the unwashed masses of FBS football, Indiana might make a bowl game even if they don’t get to that magic sixth win. There’s a good chance that several teams that fall below the Swag-bag Mendoza Line will make bowl games. And believe it or not, the determination of which 5-7 teams get bowl bids is based on APR.

Of course, Indiana has a shot to make it to six wins the honorable way by beating Maryland and Purdue at the end of the year (or by somehow throwing a win over Iowa or Michigan into the mix, I guess).

This team is as frightening as: 2009 Michigan, but late season 2009 Michigan. Fear Level = 3.5

Michigan should worry about: Unlike Michigan State and Rutgers, Indiana has several receivers that they target regularly, specifically Simmie Cobbs, Ricky Jones, and Mitchell Paige. Indiana can potentially dictate matchups that will involve a safety on one of their primary targets.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: The way Indiana’s defense plays, Michigan can afford a couple of whoopsies on defense.

When they play Michigan: I am more concerned about this game than is reasonable. Which is to say, a little.

This week: vs. Iowa, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Penn State (7-2, 4-1 B1G)

Last week: Beat Illinois, 39-0

Recap: Well well well, what have we here? Could this be a sighting of the rare Slinging Hackenberg in the wild? Wow, I’d thought they’d gone extinct. Shhhhh, don’t spook it. It gets skittish. Just observe from a distance.

Hack’s completion percentage exceeded 60% for the first time this year, and exceeded 70% for the first time since his FIRST START EVER in 2013 against Syracuse. He has now hit 9 YPA in three straight games for the first time since his first three starts of his career (against Syracuse, EMU, and UCF, so yeah, but still). He also hasn’t thrown an interception in six games, and has an 8-0 TD-INT ratio in conference play.

And I know you’re tempted to say “but it’s Illinois.” And you are correct. But this year, Illinois is Illinois because of its moribund offense, not its defense; the Illini are actually #13 in the country in defensive S&P+, and #20 in S&P+ against the pass.

This team is as frightening as: Could… could it be?


The rock moved! Fear Level = 5

Michigan should worry about: Remember the thing that happened last time Michigan visited Happy Valley? Here’s a hint: twenty-seven divided by twenty-seven equals one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Saquon Barkley has come back down to earth. After averaging 8.45 yards per carry in the previous four games, Barkley has averaged just 3.72 in his last two games against Maryland and Illinois.

When they play Michigan: So much Sandstorm.

This week: at Northwestern, noon, ESPNU

Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: Ohio State had a bye, and still underperformed expectations by approximately 0.099. The Buckeyes lost their starting quarterback for at least one game to a garden-variety DUI (technically an OVI). The prospect of a one-game suspension is only remarkable because technically Ohio State’s policies seem to call for a two game suspension, but Gene Smith declared that the policy didn’t apply because of an exception that isn’t in the policy.

The other sketchy thing about Barrett’s arrest is that Ohio State stripped him of his scholarship for a semester. This is the same thing Michigan State did with Delton Williams, and gets into some very dicey territory. Remember when we were all laughing at Virginia Tech’s system of fining players? This is a more extreme example of that. And in a realm that’s relevant for the many lawsuits facing the NCAA, it’s tough to argue that scholarships aren’t compensation when the payment (or refusal to pay) is tied explicitly to performance; Urban Mayer has made it clear that he can “earn” that scholarship back.

So now, Ohio State has to go with the new starting quarterback who was the old starter before the old starter was the new starter who was the starter before the new starter was the starter after the old starter got hurt after the really old starter (who is now a starter at wide receiver) got hurt. Just like the old gypsy woman said.

This team is as frightening as: Outlook hazy, ask again later. Fear Level = 9-ish

Michigan should worry about: Running out of steak and whole milk.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: There are still many, many cows. Like, dozens of them.

When they play Michigan: The Game will kick off at noon. AS IT SHOULD BE.

This week: vs. Minnesota, 8:00 p.m., ABC

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Utah (7-1, 4-1 PAC-12)

Last week: Beat Oregon State, 27-12

Recap: Utah jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, and then sleepwalked their way to a comfortable but not altogether impressive victory in the first annual Completely Neutral Effect On Michigan’s Non-Conference Strength of Schedule Bowl (sponsored by FanDuel).

Speaking of bowl games, while it may sound strange, this weekend’s game at Washington might be the toughest hurdle between Utah and a potential Whatever-we’re-calling-the-big-six bowl-games bowl game, at least if you believe the advanced statistics guys. The Huskies are coming of an absolute demolition of RichRod’s fellas, and they took down USC at the Coliseum a few weeks ago. After that< Utah only has the aforementioned Wildcats, Colorado, and a home game against a UCLA team that has been trending in a bad direction recently.

This week: at Washington, 7:30 p.m., Fox

Oregon State (2-6, 0-5 PAC-12)

Last week: Lost at Utah, 27-12


This week: vs. UCLA, 4:30 p.m., PAC-12 Network

UNLV (2-6, 1-3 MWC)

Last week: Lost to Boise State, 55-27

Recap: UNLV put up 487 yards against Boise State, and was still outgained by more than 200 yards. On the bright side, they did manage to keep the game competitive; they cut the Broncos’ lead to seven with 11 minutes left in the game before giving up three straight touchdowns.

This week: vs. Hawaii, 6:00 p.m., no TV no beer make Homer something something.

BYU (6-2)

Last week: Bye

Recap: The scheduling quirks of an independent team like BYU leads to situations where you will face a three week stretch of Wagner, a bye, and San Jose State. They will basically go a month between competitive football games.

This week: at San Jose State, 11:30 p.m., CBSSN but go to bed instead.

Maryland (2-6, 0-4 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Iowa 31-15

Recap: Don’t let the score fool you; this was never really a game. It was 21-0 at the half and the outcome was never realistically in doubt. Maryland turned the ball over four times, though they did have one lone bright spot when Will Likely returned a kickoff 100 yards to cut the lead to 16 in the fourth quarter. It appears “don’t punt to Will Likely” needed to be expanded to “don’t kick the ball in any fashion to Will Likely”

Also, Maryland’s genius plan to get a head-start on the coaching search is starting to look pretty dumb. There are already ten (!) openings at the FBS level, including three jobs (USC, the other USC, and Miami) that are unquestionably ahead of Maryland on the attractiveness scale. Those ranks will probably expand, too, with jobs like Georgia, Texas, and Michigan State possibly coming open. So now Maryland is probably going to be left with a Randy Edsall-level hire to replace Randy Edsall.

Randy Edsall

Meet the new boss. As inspiring as the old boss.

This week: vs. Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m., BTN

Northwestern (6-2, 2-2 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: Northwestern is.

This week: vs. Penn State, noon, ESPNU

Michigan State (8-0, 4-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: The Big Ten didn’t even remember to give Michigan State an opponent this week. THIS DISRESPEKT SHALL NOT STAND. The Spartans will use this slight as motivation to demolish Nebraska, which totally wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It definitely won’t be because hiring a coach whose primary qualification is that he’s never stabbed a booster with the little decorative butter knife at an Athletic Department fundraiser is a poor strategy.

This week: at Nebraska , 7:00 p.m., ESPN



November 5th, 2015 at 2:08 PM ^

"That’s approximately two Subway sandwiches per pass attempt."

And just as flat.  But expect Rettig to explode, like Cook and Leidner and Siemian and (eventually) Hackenberg.  Whether or not Michigan is actually Back, sooner or later Michigan will be Back in the minds of opponents, at which point we will get to see this every week.  Now, OK, Michigan State (and B1G refs, apparently) hates Michigan with the fury of a thousand jealous blood gods and Minnesota was in Win One for Kill mode, so despite consecutive games of opponents coming at us practically wearing war paint and sacrificial rooster blood, we don't actually know if teams yet think Michigan is Back.  But my point is. . . get used to it, because if Harbaugh is all we think he is, this is going to happen sooner or later.

The upside is that if Rettig goes supernova on us, it'll be because yet another inspired QB is hitting NFL windows against Jourdan Lewis.  I know that's not any easier to watch than Countess getting burned while trying to play press man, but us having to overcome every damn team's career-best games is a better sign for the program than turning pedestrian efforts into gaudy stats.


November 5th, 2015 at 1:28 PM ^


SI forecasts that Rutgers (288) will be the worst team from a BCS conference by a huge margin: The Scarlet Knights are the only BCS-conference team outside our top 200, and we project them to go 1-17 in the Big Ten. Rutgers' projections are so bleak that we would still have them finishing last if they were in the CAA.

hahahahahahaha. So at this point calling Rutgers a mid-major is actually insulting to mid-majors


November 6th, 2015 at 12:02 AM ^


Let's look at the scorecard, shall we.

Football:  Sucks.

Basketball:  Sucks.

Non-revenue sports:  Suck suck suck suck etc. etc. etc.

Pride of our conference from being affiliated with their athletic department leadership:  Uh... not.

Campus:  Bleh.

Babes on campus:  Bleh.

Academic reputation:  Bleh.

General reputation of the State it's in (that being NJ):  Not a favorable factor either.

Actual added number of TV viewers in NYC:  Fewer than the number of NYC TV viewers who are tuning in b/c we got Harbaugh.  Yes, us hiring Harbaugh gave the BTN a bigger bump than bringing in Rutgers.  (I am completely guessing at this, but given the number of UM fans and UM's general popularity, esp. in Northeast, and JMFH being JMFH, I am 100% certain I'm right.)

Football helmet:  Well, now, here we go.  I happen to love the "battle-scarred chrome" helmets with the bright-red double-sword stripe.  Not kidding, they are awesome helmets.  Totally a good reason to add them to our conference.  Clemson (pronounced ClemPson cuz, you know, it's in South Carolina), and Army when they wear those digital-green camoflague helmets (Best.  Helmet.  Ever. ... well that doesn't have wings), you're so next.


November 5th, 2015 at 1:32 PM ^

Laviano was actually decent going into 2 weeks ago before he played OSU and Wisconsin,  And that included some games without Carroo.  I think the ghost of Gary Nova will only live in New Jersey and not in Ann Arbor however.

Opening at MSU?  Are you trolling RCMB again.  Nice.


November 5th, 2015 at 2:13 PM ^

I and others said that about Minnesota, then the ball kept bouncing into Minnesota receivers' hands.

I expect us to outplay Rutgers, but it's been two games in a row now where outside factors largely contributed to our inability to keep opponents off the scoreboard.  I ain't saying never anymore.


November 6th, 2015 at 12:06 AM ^

You might be missing another factor that would push Mike D'antoni out of EL... hmmm... what could that be, what could that be.... could it be...maybe... oh I don't know... Jim Harbaugh taking over ever 5* recruit in the nation?  Yes, yes, we might be onto something here.

That, plus, Texas or Miami or USC (or Georgia or the other USC which is actually his alma mater) is going to throw $6M/yearr at him.  That, too, might be a factor.


November 5th, 2015 at 3:21 PM ^

I think IU is more like late-season 2010 Michigan - able to put up points, but a complete tire fire on defense.  '09 Michigan was bad on both sides of the ball by this time of the year.



November 5th, 2015 at 4:13 PM ^

I always look forward to this segment each week and it never fails to give me a laugh. Love the Seinfeld reset - "I think it moved." Classic stuff!