Opponent Watch 2016: Week 3

Submitted by BiSB on September 22nd, 2016 at 10:11 AM

About Last Week:

Life comes at you fast.

The Road Ahead:

Penn State (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Temple, 34-27

Recap: Everyone joked all off-season about Penn State getting a shot at a revenge game against Temple. Based on their reaction to beating a mediocre Temple team by a touchdown, Penn Staters didn’t seem to understand that we were doing so in a mocking sense. Then again, this shouldn’t be terribly surprising. After all, self-awareness has never been their strong suit.

From a football standpoint, Penn State had a mediocre day, largely because of the fact that the entire team exploded. Saquon Barkley missed much of the game with an ankle injury. Nyeem Wartman-White busted up his knee early, and will miss the rest of the season. This is on top of the fact that Jason Cabinba and Brandon Bell both missed the game with injuries, and their status going forward is unknown. The offensive line remains healthy, but continue to be not good (they were held to 3.1 yards per carry, though they did not surrender a sack).

This team is as frightening as: A team that has incurred the wrath of an angry Olmec deity by holding a ceremony to honor that deity’s nemesis, and the angry deity for some reason doesn’t buy the argument that “we weren’t honoring Xtapolapocetl, we were honoring all of the people who PLAYED for Xtapolapocetl.” Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: Getting too close to Penn State whilst said Olmec deity is exacting his revenge.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Penn State is 9 of 33 on third down, which is 117th in the country. Michigan’s defense has allowed conversions on 4 of 38 third downs, best in the country.

When they play Michigan: Burn it all.

This week: at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ABC (Michigan -19(!))

[AFTER THE JUMP: Several movie references that date me]

Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Georgia State, 23-17


Not Wisconsin’s finest performance, that’s for sure. The defense was just okay; they allowed only 17 points, but they gave up 5.59 yards per play against Georgia State, who had previously put up 4.18 YPP against Ball State (in a 10 point loss, mind you) and 4.12 against Air Force. Then again, 5.59 yards per play is a middle-of-the-pack number, and and 17 points allowed won’t lose you too many games by itself.

No, the real issue for Wisconsin is the offense. They were actually outgained by Georgia State on a per-play basis. Corey Clement was out with an ankle injury, and Dare Ogunbowale (who looked good the previous week against Akron) and Bradrick Shaw were held to a combined 127 yards on 35 carries (3.6 yards per carry). Georgia State allowed 325 yards at 6.25 yards per carry against Ball State (and 425 yards at 5.59 yards per carry against Air Force, but that’s Air Force).

Bart Houston was 10/18 for 91 yards before being yanked for Alex Hornibrook, who had much better success (8/12 for 122 yards, a TD, and a pick that was the receiver’s fault). Houston remains atop the depth chart this week against Michigan State, but who knows what Paul Chryst will do. East Lansing isn’t the idea place for a redshirt freshman to make his first start, but if Houston struggles again, Hornibrook may make an appearance.

[UPDATE: Yep, Hornibrook is starting in East Lansing]

This team is as frightening as: Generic Wisconsin Team, minus competent quarterback play. Fear Level = 7

Michigan should worry about: Wisconsin did beat LSU.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: LSU might not be good.

When they play Michigan: This will be Michigan's last good home game, so light 'em if you've got 'em.

This week: at Michigan State, noon, BTN (MSU -5.5)

Rutgers (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 37-28

Recap: This scrappy team never* says die. A week after overcoming a 14-0 deficit to Howard, Rutgers fell down 21-0 in the first quarter against New Mexico**. And did they say die? NO. They did not. They said “prolong this for some reason.” And prolong it they did, scoring the next 31 points en route to a nine point win. They covered the spread. Take that, Vegas. Y’all don’t believe in the #AshEra. But you will.

Chris Laviano demonstrated his arm strength and accuracy, heaving a 75-yard bomb to Jawuan Harris to get Rutgers on the board***. Robert Martin added 169 yards on 21 carries, and overall Rutgers hit 350 yards at 5.65 yards per play****.


*Except against Washington. They said die against Washington. A lot.

**In the interest of full disclosure, New Mexico may not be the juggernaut we expected pre-season. They lost the week before to New Mexico State. New Mexico State has an 18-point loss to UTEP and a 20-point loss to Kentucky on its resume. UTEP lost by 52 to Army.

*** I should probably mention that outside of that throw, Laviano was 10 of 26 for 77 yards (2.96 YPA), and remains dead last in the Big Ten at 5.1 yards per attempt on the year.

****Haters would point out that New Mexico gave up 615 yards at 9.04 yards per play against South Dakota

This team is as frightening as: A team that never gives up in the face of adversity.

Black Knight

Fear Level = 2

Michigan should worry about: Janarion Grant returned another punt for a touchdown. His is approaching Will Likely status. DO NOT PUNT TO JANARION GRANT.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: How many times do you really expect Michigan to punt to Rutgers?

When they play Michigan: Oh god that is going to be a fun week. One side is going to be giggling the whole week. The other side is going to be SO SERIOUS. It’ll be like arguing with a three-year-old about whether you REALLY have his nose. Then you go for the two point conversion because the kid talked back too much. Know your role and slow your roll, kid.

This week: vs. Iowa, noon, ESPN2 (Iowa -13.5)

Illinois (1-2, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Western Michigan, 34-10


Row The Boat

Boat: rowed.

This team is as frightening as: A team that lost by 24 to a MAC team. Fear Level = 3

Michigan should worry about: Illinois leads the Big Ten with 13 sacks.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Illinois’ cannot get ahead of the sticks. Their standard down line yards per carry and standard down success rate are among the worst in the country.

When they play Michigan: Michigan might get caught looking ahead to the Michigan State game. This will probably not hurt them in any way.

This week: Bye

Michigan State (2-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Notre Dame, 36-28

Recap: I was genuinely surprised by this outcome, but in hindsight, it makes sense:

  • Michigan State has some very large and difficult-to-tackle backs in LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes. Notre Dame sucks at tackling.
  • Michigan State loves testing the edge, especially with RJ Shelton, and getting the ball out quickly and allowing their receivers to break tackles. Notre Dame sucks on the edge, especially in the secondary.
  • Michigan State’s defense has issues, but they have a couple of strengths: Malik McDowell, and their linebackers in tight spaces and near the line of scrimmage. Notre Dame decided to dive into the line over and over.

Michigan State’s coaches won this one by being decidedly better than Notre Dame’s coaches; Brian Van Gorder, we’re looking at you, champ. But I’m still not 100% sure how good Michigan State is. They are better than we probably expected, but the holes we expected are still there. Tyler O’Connor can’t push the ball deeper downfield; he arm-punted his only two deep balls on the day (though Donny Corley turned one of them into a touchdown through some sort of magic). When Notre Dame decided to start throwing the ball downfield, they did so with ease. Way to wait until It was 36-7, genius. Wouldn’t have wanted to spring THAT trap any earlier.

This team is as frightening as: RESPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKT. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Michigan State’s offensive line looked pretty competent, if not overly athletic… though again, it is also possible that Notre Dame’s defense just sucks.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Brian Van Gorder is not on Michigan’s coaching staff.

When they play Michigan: The loins. They will be girded.

This week: vs. Wisconsin, noon, BTN (MSU -5.5)

Maryland (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat UCF (YTUCF), 30-24 (2OT)

Recap: The good news for Michigan’s resume is that the UCF win looks a little better after this. The bad news for Michigan’s resume is that the Maryland game proooooooobably won’t move the needle much. I suppose Michigan fans can take solace in the fact that if Maryland and UCF are comparably difficult games, November 4th probably won’t be terribly challenging.

This team is as frightening as: UCF. Fear Level = 2.5

Michigan should worry about: Dr. Perry Hills’ 100% Natural Good-Time Interception-Free Band Solution continues unabated.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Two overtimes.

When they play Michigan: The nice thing about having your toughest games on the road is that you get some really easy games at home.

This week: Bye

Iowa (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Lost to North Dakota State, 23-21

Recap: This one goes out to all the Athletic Directors in the club:

Do. Not. Schedule. North. Dakota. State.

Look, I get it. Your coach says, “hey, we’ve got two real non-conference games in 2019, so go find me a cupcake for the third game.” But the you say to yourself, “if we’re going to schedule a cupcake, let’s at least make this interesting.” And they see this quasi-midwestern team sitting here that has garnered a lot of attention of late, and has a pretty decent fan following. “We can get the best of both worlds!!!” you think aloud. “We get the easy W, but we get some attention anyway. What could go wrong?”

You can’t make FCS games interesting. NOTHING GOOD can happen to you against an FCS team. Remember when Dave Brandon schedule App State AGAIN? And they weren’t even an FCS team. Your two options are “lol they played an FCS team” or “unmitigated hilarity for the other 127 fan bases.”

In reality, NDSU didn’t slightly outplay Iowa as the score would have you believe. They SIGNIFICANTLY outplayed Iowa. They outrushed the Hawkeyes 239 to 34 (4.9 YPC vs. 1.4 YPC). They outgained Iowa 363 to 231 (5.34 YPP to 3.98 YPP). They picked up 21 first downs to Iowa’s 12. This was a sunny day on Iowa’s field. NDSU just outplayed them.

NDSU is not a bad team by any stretch. I would take them to beat probably fifteen Power Five teams on a neutral field tomorrow. But Iowa shouldn’t be one of those teams, especially not if they were the #13 team in the country. And across the country on Saturday afternoon, Bill Connelly and the other advanced stats guys sat back with a cold beer, and sipped it in the most Kermit way possible.

This team is as frightening as: What we kinda thought they were but couldn’t prove. Fear Level = 6.5

Michigan should worry about: George Kittle is a quality tight end, and recorded 5 catches for 110 yards in this one.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan has not scheduled North Dakota State. And if Warde Manuel is reading this, we won’t ever  schedule North Dakota State. Right, Warde? I’m willing to bet you can charge season ticketholders an extra $1.25 per year in “Didn’t Schedule North Dakota State Fees.” They will pay it without blinking.

When they play Michigan: Still gon’ be a night game at Kinnick.

This week: at Rutgers, noon, ESPN2 (Iowa -13.5)

Indiana (2-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye (7 OT)

Recap: CHAOSTEAM [/ˈkeɪˌos teem/] – noun – a football team with a chaotic status so inescapable that even a bye week sees your backup kicker arrested for public intoxication over a dog fight (not dogs fighting each other; literally humans fighting over a dog) on a Tuesday night.

This team is as frightening as:

50% chance of great success. 50% chance of certain death.


(If you haven’t seen it. But you really should have.)   Fear Level = depends on who you ask

Michigan should worry about: RIP David Bowie

Michigan can sleep soundly about: The true Goblin King coaches basketball in East Lansing.

When they play Michigan: How have you never seen that movie? It’s a classic. Kind of.

This week: vs. Wake Forest, 3:30, BTN (Indiana -7.5)

Ohio State

Last week: Won at Oklahoma, 45-24

Recap: Hey look we’re right out of time.

This team is as frightening as: We’ll try to do better next week. Fear Level = 9.5

Michigan should worry about: Curtis Samuel and MIke Weber have combined for 611 yards at 7.1 yards per carry

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Um…

When they play Michigan: Violence.

This week: Bye

Objects in the Rearview Mirror


Last week: Lost at Arizona, 47-28

Recap: Hawaii completed the last leg of its Ishtar-length first month of the season. In doing so, they surrendered 582 yards (at >8.3 YPP) to RichRod and company, despite the fact that Anu Solomon was out for Arizona. On the bright side, they put up 429 yards of their own. Dru Brown again came in for Akaika Woolsey, and again the more effective quarterback. However, this one was never close, as Arizona led 34-7 at the half.

This week: Bye. Sweet, merciful bye. Get some sleep, gentlemen.


Last week: Lost to Maryland, 30-24 (2OT)

Recap: It’s not a good sign when you have to caution against optimism because of “opponent caveats” when the opponent is in the Big Ten. And yet, here we are. Don’t get too excited, Knights fans. This was only Maryland.

This week: at FIU, 7:00 p.m., no TV (UCF -7)



September 22nd, 2016 at 10:52 AM ^

Not enough +1s for this...

The billboard would work with two changes:

  1. Replace the caption "Please return the statue" with "Never again"
  2. Replace the picture with something along these lines (with a large red circle and slash superimposed on the top):

Never Again


September 22nd, 2016 at 12:57 PM ^

I think if it happened to Bo, we as a fan base would admit that it was beyond wrong to allow this stuff to happen and not turn our backs to the victims. I also believe the university of Michigan would never do a tribute when all of this stuff is still so fresh and in doubt on who knew what and when. Bottom line is that Michigan football has a great history and tradition but the university was not built on it.


September 23rd, 2016 at 10:24 AM ^

We self-immolated as an institution when Rosenberg accused us of stretching too much.

We took down banners and dissociated ourselves from everyone involved when Chris Webber was found to have taken $280k from Ed Martin.

If Bo had covered up for a serial child rapist for 40 years, we might have burned the entire town down in shame.


September 22nd, 2016 at 1:16 PM ^

The thing with Michigan, is that there was Michigan before Bo, there is a Michigan after Bo. There is no Penn St without JoePa. He put him on the map and stayed for 40+ years after that. So, would there be people in our fanbase that will try to rationalize things and choose to ignore other things, yeah sure. But I can say with a lot of confidence there would be nowhere near the institutional push to continue to celebrate Bo as there is at Penn St to celebrate JoePa. 


September 22nd, 2016 at 1:24 PM ^

So, an Idol falls?  Happens every day, just ask Commissioner Goodel.  If he falls in a spectaculartly disgusting and reprehensible way, and refuses to even acknowledge it, let alone ask for forgiveness or understanding, then I would think the fanbase would be just as disgusted and unforgiving towards Bo, as they are towards Joe.

I can think of at least 3 professional athletes who have litterally killed people, beat the shit out of women, or whatever, asked for forgiveness (from their fans), and took responsibilty for what they did.  And the fans love them for it.

Its exactly like the steroid scandal in baseball.  Just fess up, and you'll be better off.


September 22nd, 2016 at 2:57 PM ^

I am stunned and bewildered by this billboard. Can the NCAA still go in and shut that program down? I say they should get the death penalty for as many years as it has been shown Paterno knew about Sandusky's... conduct. So 40 or so years should do it.


September 22nd, 2016 at 2:00 PM ^

UNLESS - you are from and are planning on making your life in Central PA. You would see no irony in that billboard, probably get dusty looking at it, HATE the whole rest of the world that doesn't see the cruelty unleashed on Saint JoePa that ultimately led to his tragic demise...

Under those specific circumstances, psu would be EXACTLY the place to get a marketing degree. The contacts you'd make...


September 22nd, 2016 at 10:23 AM ^

"We are proud of... the thousands of students who were impacted by him."  Hmmm, they should be ashamed.

I met my first JoPa apologist last weekend.  He was determined that he didn't do anything wrong because JoPa reported "something" to the athleteic department.  Then he justified it all because JoPa gave the school an identity, and put them on the map as a Blue Blood program.

I asked him how he felt about the identitiy he left the program in!



September 22nd, 2016 at 1:16 PM ^

They spent their entire lives with Paterno being an extremely central figure and one that implied a certain aura of moral certainty.

It seems inexplicable to all of us and one would certainly hope they would eventually realize that they need to back off on honoring him, but I see why there is so much cognitive dissonance and why it is taking so long for PSU fans to come to grips with it.

From what I understand, the current students don't seem to be suffering from this dissonance at all and don't want Paterno honored the way the older fans do, so the PSU culture will change, it's just going to take some time. 


September 22nd, 2016 at 10:57 AM ^

You read about their actions and it's already disgusting.  And even though I know they're doing this crap, seeing the pictures still makes me speechless...


Eric Adelson said this guy's name is actually Joe Paterna...


Hugh White

September 22nd, 2016 at 11:01 AM ^

In his Temple Post-Game, Franklin was asked about how he planned to prepare for B1G play in light of all of his team's injuries.  Franklin answered that he would consider holding open walk-on tryouts.  For linebacker.  Against Michigan.  Good luck with that.


September 22nd, 2016 at 11:12 AM ^

The billboard is incredible, full stop.  But what people on this board forget is that these people don't believe JoePa did anything wrong.  They believe he didn't know about the abuse. 

It's possible he didn't.  I don't believe that, but it is possible.  The evidence is overwhelming to me, but not to everyone, and especially not a large and biased portion of the PSU fan base. 

It's easier to understand with an example: do you believe Michael Jackson abused children in the same way that Sandusky did?  I do.  The evidence is overwhelming to me.  And he was the one who did it, rather than enable it.  On the scale of evil the former is magnitudes worse, even as both are incomprehensibly repulsive. 

This argument may have been made before on this topic, and there's probably a counter.  But I don't listen to Michael Jackson music, I won't celebrate him.  I despise him, just as I do Paterno.  Does everyone on this board trading invectives at PSU turn their back on Michael Jackson?  Do you want to set fire to anyone who believes Michael Jackson was innocent?  I don't believe the evidence is any stronger against Paterno than Jackson. 

Ghost of Hoke

September 22nd, 2016 at 11:13 AM ^

15 Power 5 schools? They'd beat Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers easily. Iowa lost, they'd give Maryland and Wisconsin everything they could handle and more. That's just the Big Ten. They're a top 40 FBS team. 


September 22nd, 2016 at 12:30 PM ^

That's not a crazy take.  Current CBS rankings for 26-40

26 - Western Michigan

27 - Iowa (welp)

28 - Notre Dame

29 - LSU

30 - Ole Miss

31 - TCU

32 - Toledo

33 - Oklahoma

34 - Air Force

35 - Oregon

36 - Oklahoma State

37 - North Carolina

38 - Central Michigan

39 - Arizona State

40 - Memphis

NDSU has already taken down one of the teams on this list (LOLHawkeyes) and it's easy to see that any of the MAC  teams on this list would be vulnerable to an upset at the Bison's hands.