Opponent Watch 2016: Week 12 Comment Count

BiSB November 23rd, 2016 at 9:23 AM

About Last Week:



The Road Ahead:

Ohio State

When they play Michigan: This is a pretty simple week.

We can discard with the usual trappings of this column. Every other week of the season we recap the opponents’ previous games, and we analyze how frightening they are, and we look at what should worry you about those teams and what shouldn’t. Those are necessary artifices when we are trying to add some color to a game three weeks out against Maryland, or to put a win over Illinois in greater context. The Game needs no added color. It needs no greater context. It brings its own.


You don’t need me to tell you what can make you feel better about this game. Nothing can, and you know that. You don’t need me to tell you why you should worry about this game, assuming you have the power of memory. And we don’t need to recap Ohio State’s previous games, nor Michigan’s for that matter. They don’t particularly matter, nor do they tell us much of note. The Game is an entity untethered from the rest of the season. Last year, Michigan came in as a top-10 team, and got their doors blown off at home. In 2013, 6-5 Michigan was a two-point conversion away from beating 11-0 Ohio State. In 2011, it was Luke Fickell’s 6-5 Ohio State team was one overthrown bomb away from beating Brady Hoke’s Sugar Bowl team. And the John Cooper era was one long video game where the player breezes through the level but can’t get past the boss.

The rest of the season has to be played, of course. Each week the two teams dutifully clash with their respective opponents. But each does so with one eye on the other, like two Homeric heroes cutting their way towards each other on an ancient battlefield. And sometimes, when things line up just so, the teams arrive as they do this year; with each having something extra weighing on the outcome. Not since 2006 have both teams had so much relying on the final score. But that simply affects the week leading up to The Game, and the days, weeks, and months afterward.

The hatred and familiar loathing take on a different hue in light of the conference and playoff implications, but the underlying artwork is unchanged. The first time the ghastly tones of that abhorrent fight song hit your ears, or the first time some Buckeye player throws up an O-H, or (god forbid) the first time the broadcast shows that vapid, poorly-cased narcissism sausage, Big Nut, you will be transported back to the place where the context is irrelevant, and the hatred is all-encompassing. Is this 1970? 1986? 2016? Who knows. Who cares. It’s these guys. I *hate* these guys. Get ‘em. F***ing get ‘em.

For those who demand greater context? Fine. Win, and there is a fooball game next weekend. Michigan goes to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time. You see Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis and Jake Butt and the rest of the seniors play to hoist a trophy. You will get to see more Jabrill Peppers. Michigan will be the favorite to earn a playoff berth. A win sends Ohio State, who entered this week as the #2 team in the playoff rankings, home as the #3 team… in their division. Lose, and none of these things happens, and the one-sided nature of the rivalry continues unabated for another year.

But that’s Saturday morning stuff. That’s just what they’ll talk about on College Gameday outside the Horseshoe. Noon on Saturday is about Maize and Blue and Scarlet and Gray and a hundred urgent, violent moments. Let God and the committee sort the rest out.

This week: Everything. Noon. ABC.

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Hawaii (5-7, 4-4 MWC)

Last week: Won at Fresno State, 14-13

Recap: Hawaii took down Fresno State, and is now one win away from Bowl eligibility (they get 13 games because they’re in the middle of the ocean and that’s how things work). To get there, they will have to win a rivalry game for the Voyages That Would Have Killed Anyone In The First 95% of Recorded History Trophy, as Umass will travel more than 5,000 miles to play the Rainbow Warriors. It would be quite something, after the entire offseason of laughter about Michigan’s no-conference schedule, if all three teams made a bowl game.

This week: vs. UMass, Midnight (Hawaii -7.5)

[AFTER THE JUMP: I told y’all about the Buffs…]

UCF (6-5, 4-3 AAC)

Last week: Lost to Tulsa, 35-20

Recap: Got whooped by Tulsa. Don’t care. Bowl eligible.

Gonna get throttled by Willie Taggart and USF this week. Still don’t care. Still bowl eligible.

This week: at South Florida, Noon, CBSSN (USF -10)

Colorado (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12)

Last week: Beat Washington State, 38-24

Recap: I told y’all in Week 6* that Colorado was going 10-2. They were 4-2 at the time, and still had Stanford, UCLA, and Washington State in front of them. Their odds, according to Bill C?


Let’s check back in with them today:



And as we discussed last week, Colorado has a real shot to make the playoff. Last weekend played out as well as possible for their chances; they beat Wazoo, Michigan won, and Louisville lost. They still probably need Michigan to win out, and they probably need something bad to happen to Clemson, but they’re a win over Utah and a conference championship game win over the Apple Cup winner away from making things really interesting.

*Okay, so maybe I also declared “Colorado is definitely going 11-1” after week 5. But, in my defense, shut up.

This week: vs. Utah, 7:30 p.m., FOX (Colorado -10)

Penn State (9-2, 7-1 B1G)

Last week: Won at Rutgers, 39-0

Recap: Penn State lost to Michigan by 39 points. Penn State outscored Rutgers by 39 fewer points than did Michigan. Coincidence, or confirmation? Facts only.

Penn State’s shocking inability to hang more than 39 points in a freezing rainstorm aside, this was another throttling on par with those laid down by Michigan, Ohio State, and even Michigan State. They outgained Rutgers 549-87, and held the Knights to 48 yards passing and 39 yards rushing. Penn State had four guys with more rushing yards than Rutgers had as a team.

Penn State now has to beat Michigan State to probably lock up either a New Year’s Six bid or a trip to the Big Ten Title game (there’s a chance that if they lose in the title game, they would be knocked out of the big bowls).

This week: vs. Michigan State, 3:30, ESPN (Penn State -13)

Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 B1G)

Last week: Won at Purdue, 49-20

Recap: Wisconsin trailed this game 3-0, and Purdue was driving. Approximately 17 milliseconds later, the game was 14-3, Wisconsin. Such is the nature of Purdue; under ideal laboratory conditions, Purdue can have good things. However, those football isotopes are unstable, and rapidly break down, not unlike Purdue pass protection. And oh yeah, that sumbitch broke down in a hurry.

Wisconsin now just needs a home win over Minnesota to win the B1G West.

Oh, but there is one little thing to keep an eye on: if Wisconsin loses to Minnesota, and Iowa beats Nebraska, all four of those teams will finish with 6-3 records in conference. According to the tiebreakers set up by the Big Ten, that means that somehow Western Michigan wins the West.

Tell me you’d complain.

This week: vs. Minnesota, 3:30, BTN (Wisconsin -14)

Rutgers (2-9, 0-8 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Penn State, 39-0

Recap: I don’t know where to begin. I stare at this box score, and I read the Hague Treaties, and I just don’t know where to go with this. Rutgers faced four beatdowns in conference this year that would be remarkable for any team to experience once in a season. In games against Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State, Rutgers:

  • Was outscored 224-0;
  • Was outgained 2258-382;
  • Averaged 31.5 passing yards per game at 1.8 yards per attempt;
  • Completed 26% of their passes;
  • Gave up 100 first downs and earned 24;
  • Converted 8 of 57 (14%) 3rd and 4th downs;
  • Surrendered 39 of 67 (58%) 3rd and 4th downs

You could have made an argument for it before this weekend, but with Kansas’s win over Texas, Rutgers has formally taken over the title of Worst Major Conference Team.

At least the basketball team is 4-0…

This week: at Maryland, noon, ESPNNEWS but if you flip over to this game at any point, even during commercials, I have instructed Comcast to revoke your cable privileges. (Maryland -13.5)

Illinois (3-8, 2-6 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Iowa, 28-0

Recap: This is only going to look good by comparison, but Illinois was hamblasted by Iowa despite Iowa doing its best to win this game 6-0. The Illini were outgained 342-198. They were outgained by 2.13 yards per play. They threw for 3.3 yards per pass. They rushed for 2.5 yards per carry. THey have lost six games by more than 23 points.

And they need to quit doing card stuff in the student section.

This week: at Northwestern, noon, BTN (Northwestern -15.5)

Michigan State (3-8, 1-7 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 17-16

Recap: Coming into the Michigan game, there was a half-joking theory that State’s entire season was Mark Dantonio sandbagging for the Wolverines. As it turns out, they were really sandbagging for Urban Meyer and company. State scored a touchdown to pull within a point at 17-16 with about four minutes left. He did so by handing the ball to LJ Scott a bunch of times and letting the rest of the team jump around hype-man style while Scott did the damn thing by himself. Michigan State then gave the ball to Scott on the two point conversion, who proceeded to... nah I'm just kidding they let Tyler O'Connor throw the ball. It did not go well.

Michigan State closes against Penn State with a chance to...


...be on TV for a while.

This week: at Penn State, 3:30, ESPN (Penn State -12)

Maryland (5-6, 2-6 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Nebraska, 28-7

Recap: Not today, Satan. I already wrote a couple hundred words on Rutgers. I’ve paid my dues.

This week: vs. Rutgers, noon, ESPNNEWS (Maryland -13.5)

Iowa (7-4, 5-3 B1G)

Last week: Beat Illinois 28-0

Recap: Rather than receive the second half kickoff, Kirk Ferentz took the wind. That’s right: In a situation where each team was going to have the wind for 15 minutes, so Kirk Ferentz chose to give the opponent the ball at the 25, rather than take the ball on his own 25.

So, if you’re keeping tabs at home, the going rate for coaching one good game per year is ten years at $4.5 million per.

This week: vs. Nebraska, 3:30, ABC (Iowa -3)

Notre Dame (4-7)

Last week: lost to Virginia Tech, 34-31

Recap: While they technically aren’t on the schedule for this year, they are on the schedule for future years, so I think it’s important to note that, contrary to what people may believe, Notre Dame is 4-7.

This week: at USC, 3:30, ABC (USC -17)



November 23rd, 2016 at 11:05 AM ^

If Indiana, Hawaii, and Maryland all win, which is a good possibility seeing as competition is UMass, Purdue and Rutgers, then 9 of the 12 teams they have played will be bowl eligible.  There are three tiers of teams they've played;

Horribles: MSU, Rutgres, and Illinois No bowls for you

Averages: Hawaii, UCF, Indiana, Maryland, Iowa

Top 10: Colorado, Wisconsin, PSU, OSU

When you play more top 10 teams than teams that won't qualify for a bowl, that seems like a more than decent schedule. 


November 23rd, 2016 at 11:17 AM ^

But each does so with one eye on the other, like two Homeric heroes cutting their way towards each other on an ancient battlefield.

(Motion of italian chef kissing his fingers)

Perkis-Size Me

November 23rd, 2016 at 12:35 PM ^

Well written piece as always.

I don't care how it happens, I don't care if its the ugliest game of all time where the teams combine for 10 turnovers and the final score is 3-2, I just want to beat those guys. I don't care about style points, running up the score, or any of that nonsense. 

Just please, sweet lord baby Jesus, we have to win this one. It's been too damn long, and the football gods have bestowed enough fame and fortune on OSU for the last 16 years. They've gotten all the breaks, all the wins, all the god damn everything. The pendulum is bound to swing back the other way, so we might as well make it happen this week. 

It's going to take everyone's best game. Absolutely everyone. From the quarterback to the long snapper to the waterboy. But so help me god we can beat these guys. Northwestern and Indiana came close on OSU's own field. MSU and Wisconsin almost did it. Not saying we're going to beat them. No idea what's going to happen that day. But we can beat them.  



November 23rd, 2016 at 12:44 PM ^

has an easier path than this.  If Michigan wins out and CU beats Washington in the PAC12 championship, they'd be in the playoff, IMO.  With a win over a ranked Utah team and a top 5 Wash team, they'd jump Oklahoma (and our Big Ten wreckage) for the #4 seed.  

IF we don't win out, they still have a chance if Clemson trips up.  They probably need only one of those things to happen (plus winning the PAC12 of course), not both.


November 23rd, 2016 at 1:21 PM ^

Yes, it's well written.  Yes, it's clever.  Yes, it's often hilarious.  But the best thing about Opponent Watch is that it's posted on Saturday morning right before the game.

It is Saturday morning, right?  RIGHT??!?!?!!??

Blue Knight

November 23rd, 2016 at 1:27 PM ^

exceed my expectations each and every week.  The only thing that could have made today's entry better would have been more Simpsons references!


Happy Thanksgiving to all!

The Man Down T…

November 24th, 2016 at 2:39 AM ^

is 4-7.  If they somehow win against USC and go 5-7, they'll get to go to a bowl game as they'll be the first 5-7 team taken due to their name.  FFS that's crap.  USC needs to beat them down with prejudice...