Opponent Watch 2016: Week 2

Submitted by BiSB on September 15th, 2016 at 12:32 PM

Author’s note: Last week featured some BAD football in the Big Ten. Michigan’s opponents played Pitt, North Carolina, and a pile of broken pottery and assorted dishwasher parts. We get paid off this week, though; Michigan State plays Notre Dame, Ohio State plays Oklahoma, Iowa plays North Dakota State, and (for fans of the Saw movie franchise) Rutgers plays New Mexico.

About Last Week:

Physics: fun for the whole family.

The Road Ahead:


Last week: Beat Idaho State, 56-7

Recap: Colorado did unspeakable things to Idaho State on Saturday. Really grizzly stuff. They held the Bengals to 96 total yards, including 61 yards passing on 41 attempts. That’s less than 1.5 yards per pass. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen a number that bad, and then I remembered that Eastern Michigan once threw 18 times for 4 yards against a MAC school. So, I guess it COULD be worse. But barely.

Offensively, Colorado scored touchdowns on seven of its eight first half drives. Quarterback Sefo Liufau racked up 384 total yards despite only playing one half.

Idaho State is bad. It’s as if beating Simon Fraser University in their opener 47-3 wasn’t worth anything. On the other hand, Colorado might be good.

This team is as frightening as:

A team that is moderately creative, but lacks the execution to spell “Axel Foley,” Olive Oyl,” or “Willy Wonka” correctly. Fear Level = 5.5

Michigan should worry about: There’s a chance Colorado can sneak in under Michigan’s radar.

Michigan can sleep soundly about:

Neeeeeeever mind.

When they play Michigan: No tip up. Down. Knock down.

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

[AFTER THE JUMP: Into the Pitt]

Penn State

Last week: Lost run-of-the-mill, unremarkable, totally non-rivalry game to Pitt, 42-39

Recap: If you take the names off this box score, this isn’t a terrible result. Penn State beat the spread, and despite losing the turnover battle by two, they only lost by three.

But then you add the M. Night Shyamalan* twist at ending, and OH MY GOD THAT WAS PITT ALL ALONG NOOOOOOOOO.

The bad news in a football sense is that Penn State’s offensive and defensive lines both looked pretty bad. Pitt ran the ball down Penn State’s throat all day; they rushed 56 times for 6.1 yards per carry. They had 11 runs that went more than ten yards, and several of them went significantly more than ten yards; they had runs of 24, 38, 23, 13, 28, 13, 11, 20, 18, 20, and 30 yards.

Offensively, Penn State was only 2 of 10 on 3rd down. Of those, three ended in sacks, one in a QB-tackle-for-no-gain which may as well have been a sack, and one in a fumble. Penn State gave up regular edge pressure, and the spread elements they are looking to add to the offense could use some work.

So, if you’re inclined, you may want to go back and read about how Pitt is not a worthy rival, or about all of the things that are harder to do than to beat Pitt.

*For those unfamiliar with the movies of M. Night Shyamalan, his productions screw themselves up at the end in unforeseen but increasingly stupid ways, feature a bunch of bad lines, and make you look at both the participants and the audience and wonder “how does he keep convincing people to take part in this?” In other words, he is James Franklin.

This team is as frightening as: 2015 Penn State without a defensive line. Fear Level = 6

Michigan should worry about: Still Saquon Barkley. Dude had five total touchdowns this week.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Barkley is only one guy. And he doesn’t play on the defensive line. And if he did, that wouldn’t help. Because he is small.

When they play Michigan: We get to remind them about 2005. They get SO MAD when you talk about 2005. And it only takes 2 seconds to do it!

This week: vs. Temple, noon, BTN


Last week: Beat Akron, 54-10

Recap: Pretty much a throttling. Wisconsin threw for 294 yards and ran for 292 yards. The only touchdown they game up was on a punt return. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Let’s talk more about Penn State.

This team is as frightening as: Wisconsin, circa most years. This is actually more frightening than we would have expected this year. Fear Level = 7.5

Michigan should worry about: Wisconsin already has 40 plays of 10+ yards, which is among the tops in the country.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: None of those plays have been quarterback scrambles or designed QB runs, which have obviously been more problematic for Michigan. Bart Houston is very low on the Dilithium scale.

When they play Michigan: Yo, Gameday… you up?

This week: vs. Georgia State, noon, BTN


Last week: Beat Howard, 52-14

Recap: This game is a lesson in “numbers are not 100% indicative of performance and therefore bad.” The stats on this one were almost identical to Maryland’s stats against Howard in Week 1.

  • Maryland won 52-13 (with a missed PAT). Rutgers won 52-14
  • Maryland totaled 519 yards at 7.1 yards per play. Rutgers totaled 512 yards at 6.7 yards per play.
  • Maryland surrendered 269 yards at 4.2 yards per play. Rutgers surrendered 253 yards at 4.0 yards per play.
  • Maryland is bad. Rutgers is bad.

The difference? Maryland was up 35-0 at the half. Rutgers was tied 14-14 at the half (after trailing 14-0), after having been outplayed by Howard. Rutgers pulled away, but even in doing so, they relied on Janarion Grant just being way too athletic for a team like Howard. All three of his touchdowns were the result of plays that weren’t blocked particularly well, but turned into touchdowns because Grant is a damned wizard.

Rutgers is a small favorite this week when they take on New Mexico. However, if you believe advanced statistics, unless something changes this will be the last time this year we can say that.

This team is as frightening as: Hoboken: Birthplace of Sinatra and home to Cake Boss!

Fear Level = 2

Michigan should worry about: Janarion Grant. See above.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Chris Laviano is cruising at “disinterested pigeon” altitude thus far this year, throwing for a mere 4.9 YPA. That’s dead last in the Big Ten, a full 1.2 yards per attempt behind Very Stoppable Throw Mortal Clayton Thorson’s 6.1 YPA.

When they play Michigan: This is a serious rivalry. We are very serious. No mercy.

This week: vs. New Mexico, noon, ESPNU


Last week: Lost to North Carolina, 48-23

Recap: Unironically the biggest Illinois game since probably the Zook Era, and it went somewhere between “meh” and “poorly.” Illinois was outgained by more than 3 yards per play

On the bright side, people showed up to a dang Illinois game to watch Illinois play football. Illinois sold out Middle of Nowhere Memorial Stadium for the first time since Michigan came to town in 2011 (Ron Zook’s last year).

Wes Lunt managed only 127 yards on 35 throws, and didn’t complete a single pass over 20 yards. The defense surrendered 11 yards per pass to Mitch Trubisky, who averaged less than 4 yards per pass in UNC’s opener against Georgia. To Illinois’s credit, they did hold Elijah Hood largely in check; other than a 62-yard run, Hood finished with 16 yards on 14 carries.

This team is as frightening as: A moderately less bumbling version of the last dozen or so Illinois teams. Fear Level = 3.5

Michigan should worry about: Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Kendrick Foster give Illinois a nice 1-2 punch at running back.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: As Illini fans probably suspected, attrition in the back seven has led Illinois’s pass defense to look rather poopy.

When they play Michigan: Speight will throw for many many yards.

This week: vs. Western Michigan, 4:00, ESPNNews. ESPNews? ESPN News? None of those look right.

Michigan State

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: An improper quantity of Respekt. Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Michigan State got Ed Davis back, and he used to be good at football.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Ed Davis is only one linebacker. Even if he returns at 100%, MSU is still looking for two good linebackers and a few good defensive linemen.

When they play Michigan: SORRY THAT WAS DISRESPEKTFUL TO MICHIGAN STATE’S FRONT SEVEN. By the time Michigan plays Michigan State, I will replenish my #respekt mana.

This week: at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC


Last week: Won at FIU, 41-14

Recap: Maryland’s strength of schedule is right up there with Michigan’s thus far. And to Maryland’s credit, they haven’t yakked anything up yet. So they’ve got that going for them.

This team is as frightening as: Random noun. Fear Level = 3

Michigan should worry about: DJ Moore looks like a very viable #1 receiver.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Perry Hills has thrown 37 passes. None of them have been intercepted. So to hit his quota of 25 for the year, he’s due for a bunch.

When they play Michigan: DJ Durkin gets confused, heads to the wrong sideline, remembers, gets sad, looks at bank account, gets less sad.

This week: at UCF, 7:00 p.m., CBSSN


Last week: Won ¡El Assico! over Iowa State, 42-3

Recap: In a week of just ass football, nothing can top the ass-ness of El Assico. Unfortunately, only one side showed up in proper form; Iowa looked like a competent, if not downright good, football team. Iowa State showed up as a tire fire LIKE THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO. C’mon, Iowa. Know your role.

Iowa State is now officially the worst team in the state of Iowa, after dropping their first two games to Northern Iowa and the Hawkeyes.

Other than that, we don’t really know much of anything about Iowa yet. We know CJ Beathard has made some impressive throws. We know Matt VandeBerg looks like an all-B1G-caliber receiver. We know Akrum Wadley is Iowa’s most dynamic back in a while. We know Iowa State sucks.

This team is as frightening as:

Googly Eye Rock

Dominating a vast expanse of stuff randomness. People still don’t know exactly how to attack you. You remain kinda goofy. Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Akrum Wadley didn’t have a great game statistically, but he remains quite impressive.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Iowa’s defense is towards the bottom of the Big Ten in defensive yards per play allowed. These numbers are subject to a lot of noise at this point in the year, but Iowa hasn’t exactly played an offensive Murderer’s Row.

When they play Michigan: BOLD PREDICTION: this will be an important game.

This week: vs. North Dakota State, noon, ESPN2


Last week: Beat Ball State, 30-20

Recap: Indiana ran out to a 30-0 lead before the CHAOS hit the bloodstream. After that, Ball State was only able to crawl back to 30-20. A 10-point victory after winning the turnover margin 3-0 may not sound very impressive, but according to Bill Connelly’s numbers, it was a much better performance than they put up in week one against FIU.

Those numbers also tell us something we already knew intuitively: Indiana has a bunch of toss-up games on their schedule. Only two three games on their schedule have one team as than a 2-to-1 favorite either way; @Ohio State (15%), @Michigan (12%) and vs. Purdue (75%). The other seven games have Indiana with between a 37% and 64% chance to win. They could be 4-8. They could be 9-3.



This team is as frightening as: When your significant other tells you, “So, I got some very interesting news today…” Fear Level = what kind of news.

Michigan should worry about: Richard Lagow looked more comfortable in his second start, possibly because he was at home, possibly because he’s settling into the offense, or possibly because Ball State is bad.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan hasn’t lost to Indiana since Bo. They haven’t lost to Indiana in Ann Arbor since Bump.

When they play Michigan: This might be the AggroCrag. It might be Everest. You won't know until you are three quarters of the way up. Is someone throwing glitter and foam blocks at you? Is a sinewy Nepalese man guiding you? You might think these would tip you off, but no. This climb does not care about such conventions. Just keep your head down and keep moving.

This week:

Ohio State

Last week: Beat Tulsa, 48-3

Recap: Another mixed bag. Ohio State’s offense struggled compared to week one, putting up 417 yards at less than 6 yards per play, instead of 776 yards at nearly 8.3 yards per play. On the other hand, the Ohio State defense gave up only 188 yards at 2.7 yards per play. And the game was played in a typhoon. So, who the hell knows.

FWIW, Bowling Green struggled with North Dakota (Not NDSU. The bad North Dakota team) this week, winning 27-26 after the Fighting Nicknameless Hockey School dropped a two point conversion for the win. So there’s a good chance week one’s results say more about BG being utterly terrible.

This team is as frightening as: When your significant other says “So, I got some very interesting news today. And it is bad news. And it is entirely your fault. And we’re gonna address this right now.” Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Urban Meyer continues to coach Ohio State.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Early season OSU and late season OSU are in no way related, so what we see not doesn’t matter.

When they play Michigan: Look we’re just taking this one week at a time. We’ve got Colorado this week. No need to look ahead.

This week: at #14 Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m., FOX

Objects in the Rearview Mirror


Last week: Beat Tennessee-Martin, 41-36

Recap: In a similar Transitive Property of Football judgment to the “Bowling Green is probably just utterly terrible” pronouncement above Hawaii is probably just utterly terrible. UT Martin is a mediocre FCS team, and despite flying all the way out to Hawaii, they held a lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. They outgained Hawaii.

For what it’s worth, Akaika Woolsey remains the QB. He threw for 205 yards and four TDs, along with three interceptions.

This week: at Arizona, 10:45 p.m., PAC-12 Network. Or you could go to sleep.



September 15th, 2016 at 12:59 PM ^

On Wisconsin - "None of those plays have been quarterback scrambles or designed QB runs, which have obviously been more problematic for Michigan."

Of all the things you could've fixed in the past 15 years, Michigan football, this is the #1 thing that you should've fixed.  Here we are, 15 years later, and STILL Michigan has a problem against mobile QBs.

Yes, I know, most teams do have a problem against mobile QBs.  But if it's such a systematic advantage, why don't we do it?.  All these years, all these blog discussions, and I still don't get why we don't.  QB mobility should be just as important an attribute as arm strength, vision, etc.  Even at Michigan.

Stringer Bell

September 15th, 2016 at 1:10 PM ^

Its not like Harbaugh doesn't like mobile QBs. Peters and McCaffery are both able to create with their legs just like Andrew Luck is. So to say that "we don't do it" is more because Harbaugh just hasn't gotten one of his guys in there yet.


September 15th, 2016 at 1:18 PM ^

15 years? Where did you come up with 15? Random ass grab a number from the air?

Donovan McNabb in '98 was the first time I recall a mobile QB running around, over and sometimes through us, although there may have been others before that I'm forgetting. In line with this week's opponent, I don't even recall "Slash" gouging us too badly on the ground in that '94 game.

But since that day, probably around 18 years to the day ago, it has been a seriously frequent problem that 4 HC and at least double that number DC have never adequately dealt with.

I know, I know, mobile QB creates numbers mismatch, but I can recall Denard getting pretty much completely bottled up by Bama, by msu & osu on occasion, and that's just about the best running QB ever!

So, it IS possible...


September 15th, 2016 at 2:16 PM ^

That's mostly due to the fact that Denard wasn't very good at passing the ball and the Borges/Nussmeier offenses didn't showcase what little passing ability Denard did have.

So with Denard essentially being a running back who could throw the ball within the realm of receivers, opponents were easily able to key in on Denard in the run game in most cases. It worked for teams like OSU, MSU, and Bama who had the defensive playmakers athletic enough to at least contain Denard until help arrived.

Michigan's issue with mobile QBs hasn't really seemed to be with designed runs. It's more when the defense has everyone covered and pressure on the QB and he escapes to find a large amount of open grass. Part of that, I think at least, has to do with playing man coverage instead of zone.

Most of the time in man coverage you're focused solely on the receiver and your back is to the QB. While in zone, you cover your area of the field and you watch the QB the entire time.

That aspect is a simple schematic issue. While teaching the DLine and Linebackers how to contain the QB and collapse the pocket instead of speed rush the outside is a coaching thing. Fairly easy to shore up in the film room one would think.


September 15th, 2016 at 1:11 PM ^

Colorado scares me more than penn state.  It is both the first real team we play and they have looked more cohesive as a team and seem to have a better secondary.


September 15th, 2016 at 3:34 PM ^

These crappy Big Ten teams that rely on the run and couple that with a pedestrian passing game are going to die against our D. It's the spread teams that always give me the heebie jeebies.

I am certain that Saquon Barkley and Penn State are going to eaten alive by us. I'd bet a lot Colorado scores more than them


September 15th, 2016 at 1:16 PM ^

Excellent stuff.

Gotta say, if Wiscy is 7.5 and PSU is 5.5, my Fear Level for Colorado is more like 7.0. I think they're quite good. Then again, I was awfully worried about BYU last year, too.

The Mad Hatter

September 15th, 2016 at 1:23 PM ^

"Michigan hasn’t lost to Indiana since Bo. They haven’t lost to Indiana in Ann Arbor since Bump."


Good job tempting fate with a team it took us 11 overtimes to beat last season.


September 15th, 2016 at 1:33 PM ^

"This team is as frightening as: When your significant other says “So, I got some very interesting news today. And it is bad news. And it is entirely your fault. And we’re gonna address this right now.” Fear Level = 9"

Reading that made me sweat. So true, and equally terrifying.


September 15th, 2016 at 1:46 PM ^

We get to remind them about 2005. They get SO MAD when you talk about 2005. And it only takes 2 seconds to do it!

I love this! Thanks for the great read, as always!


September 15th, 2016 at 2:13 PM ^

Man does Peppers do an excellent job reading the play and flying through the hole to the QB.

My one gripe: If that's JT Barrett, and it's a 1v1 tackle (in the gif, everybody was there to hit the QB; against OSU... probably not so much), I would like to see Peppers actually tackle the guy. Like drive the head across the body through the ball, shoulder into the mid-section and arms take out the legs. Hitting JT that high, with no intent on wrapping up, will be a missed tackle 10/10 times.  


September 15th, 2016 at 2:25 PM ^

Could we get the lines of the current week's game when posted?  Helps give us a decent idea of what games to watch.

I do realize however we sometimes have a "games to watch" thread or posting, but it would be nice to see who is favored in our opponents games this week.