Opponent Watch 2016: Week 7 Comment Count

BiSB October 20th, 2016 at 10:04 AM

About Last Week:


The destruction was on hold for a week.

Soon, Spongebob. Soon.

The Road Ahead:

Illinois (2-4, 1-2 B1G)

Last week: Won at Rutgers, 24-7

Recap: One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Snarky Bloggers is the art of cushioning bad news with what they call the “criticism sandwich.” What you do is you provide some positive feedback, then you level your withering criticism, then you cap it off with some more positive feedback. Unfortunately for Illinois, there isn’t a lot of positive feedback I can provide. There isn’t a brioche bun of good news here. Or even a nice thick piece of silver-lining-marbled rye. The best I can construct is a criticism flatbread sandwich. A criticism chipati, if you will.

The good news: you won your first Big Ten game of the Lovie Smith era.

The bad news: You were outgained by Rutgers. You allowed Rutgers to gain 387 yards, which is a few yards short of ten times the amount they put up the week before. You surrendered 182 passing yards, which is thirty-six times as many as they allowed the previous week, and nearly five times the amount they put up over the last two weeks combined. You allowed Rutgers to drive inside your 25 yard line SEVEN TIMES. You allowed Rutgers to score points, their first since the Hoover Administration. You only forced Rutgers to punt four times. You only put up 17 offensive points against Rutgers. Rutgers was driving midway through fourth quarter down 10 before a pick-six sealed the game.

The good news: ...uh…

Okay, we’ll call it an open-faced criticism chipati.

This team is as frightening as: A team that can grit their way to a win over Rutgers. Fear Level = 2

Michigan should worry about: Global warming is still pretty serious.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Both Wes Lunt (back) and Chayce Crouch (shoulder) are questionable. If they can’t go, redshirt freshman Jeff George Jr. is the third string quarterback. George was a two-star greyshirt who has yet to record a stat in college. Basically, this is like the scene in The Perfect Storm where the weatherman (played by Shooter McGavin) points to the various storms and basically announces, “yeah, shit is about to get real.”

When they play Michigan: And they don’t even have Clooney or Wahlberg

This week: at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., BTN (Michigan -many)

[AFTER THE JUMP: The return of Sparty No is nigh]

Michigan State (2-4, 0-3 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Northwestern, 54-40

Recap: Northwestern hadn’t scored 54 points in a conference game since 2012. They hadn’t put up this many yards since 2013. They have put up 200 rushing and 200 receiving yards in a game since 2012. They hadn’t thrown for 8 yards per pass in a conference game since 2013.

And then they met the 2016 Michigan State defense.

Michigan State jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a Brian Lewerke touchdown and a Justin Layne pick-six. And then, things started to go haywire. Lewerke was… well… is “origami’d” a verb?

One thing led to another, and Michigan State didn’t have a possession with a chance to tie or take the lead at any point in the second half. They cut Northwestern’s lead to 2 at one point, and Northwestern returned the ensuing kickoff to the house.

Offensively, Lewerke only threw for 5.2 yards per attempt, and was replaced by Tyler O’Connor. Michigan State simply could not run the ball, and/or didn’t care to; LJ Scott, Madre London, and Gerald Holmes combined for 11 carries for 36 yards.

It's worth noting at this point that Michigan State has as many losses as the othe four FBS teams in the state of Michigan *combined*. They're 2.5 games behind Eastern Michigan in the Hilarious Hypothetical State of Michigan Standings. 

This team is as frightening as: Michigan State, circa John L. Smith. Fear Level = 7? I can’t say lower than 7, right?

Michigan should worry about: With this many quarterbacks in the mix, they’ve GOTTA have a good one in there somewhere, right?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Clayton Thorson threw for 281 yards.

When they play Michigan: The word “reckoning” comes to mind. Or maybe that should be spelled "wreckening?" I know "burninating" is already taken.

This week: at Maryland, 7:30 p.m., BTN (MSU-3)

Maryland (4-2, 1-2 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Minnesota, 31-10

Recap: We may have announced the glorious emergence of Maryland a hair early. After a 4-0 start, Maryland has lost back-to-back games to Penn State and Minnesota by a combined 69-24. Not nice for Maryland.

This game was statistically closer than the score appears, but Maryland suffered a relapse to 2015-vintage Maryland and lost the turnover battle 4-0. Quarterback Tyrrell “Piggy” Pigrome threw two picks and lost a fumble in his first start. Maryland averaged less than 4 yards per play, which is bad.

This team is as frightening as: The Generic mid-season opponent in a football movie where the protagonist's team's season is building towards a later game. None of the players or coaches get names in the credits. Fear Level = 3.5

Michigan should worry about: Being beaten by a quarterback named Piggy seems like it would be embarrassing.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Despite claims to the contrary, Turtles are not scary.

When they play Michigan:

This week: vs. Michigan State, 7:30 p.m., BTN (MSU -3)

Iowa (5-2, 3-1 B1G)

Last week: Beat Purdue, 49-35

Recap: Despite the score, Iowa beat Purdue so bad they got Darrell Hazell fired. And given the baseline against which Purdue Football is compared, that is a HELL of a beating. Iowa was up 35-7 at halftime, and the game only got close-ish thanks to a quality effort at a backdoor cover in garbage time. From the first snap, Iowa made an obvious and concerted effort to cram the ball the hell down Purdue’s throat, and they did so with ease. Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels both cracked 150 yards rushing, and Iowa averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the day.

That said, allowing 458 yards passing and five touchdowns to David Blough, under ANY circumstances, is a bit of a red flag.

This team is as frightening as:


Fear Level = 7

Michigan should worry about: Iowa is the only pre-Game game that S&P has Michigan favored by fewer than 30 points. Michigan is only a 24-point favorite.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: George Kittle sprained his foot this weekend, and his timeline to return is unclear. Kittle has arguably been the best tight end in the Big Ten this year. Right now, that title would go to Kittle, Jake Butt or Troy Fumagalli.

When they play Michigan: Not gonna lie, I’m still a liiiiiittle nervous about this one.

This week: vs. Wisconsin, noon, ESPN (Wisconsin -3)

Indiana (3-3, 1-2 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Nebraska, 27-22

Recap: Indiana is such a #CHAOSTEAM that they will occasionally confound your every expectation by becoming a defensive juggernaut with offensive struggles. Indiana held Nebraska to 10 offensive points through three quarters, but the Hoosiers’ offense couldn’t get anything going. Zander Diamont even relieved Richard Lagow in an effort to move the ball by any means necessary. Indiana’s offense is down by about a yard per play in conference play, and that includes a game against the very generous Michigan State defense (love you, 2016…).

This team is as frightening as:


Wounded, but still #CHAOS. Fear Level = Butters or Professor Chaos.

Michigan should worry about: Indiana’s defense is legitimately decent. They are ranked #30 in the country in S&P+, including the #21 passing defense. Considering last year’s… events… the Hoosiers will take that.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: This is not the style of #CHAOS that looks particularly dangerous to a team like Michigan.

When they play Michigan: The players and coaches will talk all week about not looking ahead. The fans will already be looking ahead to the next week.

This week: at Northwestern, noon, BTN (Northwestern -1.5)

Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Wisconsin, 30-23 (OT)


They’re not a machine.

Wisconsin managed to move the ball very efficiently against Ohio State, especially in the first half. This is especially encouraging because Wisconsin runs a similar offense as Michigan does, and really hurt Ohio State with the same types of stuff Michigan would look to use; jet sweeps to test the edge, motions and formations to mess with run fits, and a general smashiness in the middle of the line.

This team is as frightening as: Oh this game is still the scariest. Goddang. Thing. Ever. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Getting fired from your jobs the week before The Game because you turned in a quarterly report that just says “LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” for 27 pages.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: I’m open to suggestions.

When they play Michigan: dammit I wasted the spinning panic guy emoji above.

This week: at Penn State, 8:00 p.m., ABC (Ohio State -20)

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Hawaii (3-4, 2-1 MWC)

Last week: Lost to UNLV, 41-38

Recap: I didn’t watch UNLV/Hawaii. You didn’t watch UNLV/Hawaii. No one should watch UNLV/Hawaii. My best guess is that this was a contrast in styles; Hawaii was more consistent, whereas UNLV was actually hotter but with lower humidity.

This week: at Air Force, 2:00 p.m. (Air Force -16)

UCF (3-3, 1-1 AAC)

Last week: Lost to Temple, 26-25

Recap: UCF jumped out to a 25-7 lead in the first half, and held that lead for 29 minutes and 59 seconds of the second half. But Temple completed an 8-yard touchdown pass with 1 second on the clock, and the Knights fell 26-25.

At this point, a bowl game is the realistic goal, and assuming they lose to Houston and USF, the Knights need three wins out of games against UConn, Tulane, Cincinnati, and Tulsa.

This week: at UConn, noon, ESPNNEWS (UCF -3.5)

Colorado (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

Last week: Beat Arizona State, 40-16

Recap: Don’t be misled by the score; Colorado absolutely throttled Arizona State. They outgained the Sun Devils 580 to 199, including 315 rushing yards at 6.1 yards per carry. Sefo Liufau is back under center, and accumulated over 300 yards of total offense. Colorado held ASU to 50 yards rushing on 28 carries.

At this point, Colorado is prooooobably the favorite in the Pac-12 South? I mean, S&P+ has them as a slight-to-moderate favorite in all five remaining games (@ Stanford, UCLA, @ Arizona, Washington State, and Utah), each with a win percentage of between 66% and 80% (i.e. a point spread of between 7 and 14.5 points). So, I guess what we’re saying is…



This week: at Stanford, 3:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network (Stanford -2.5)

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

Last week: Bye

Recap: Penn State is 4-2, and they have shown some signs of… yeah never mind they gon’ die.

This week: vs. Ohio State, 8:00 p.m., ABC (Ohio State -20)

Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 30-23 (OT)

Recap: Arguably Wisconsin’s best effort of the year, despite the final score. It seems fairly likely at this point that Wisconsin is the best team in the Big Ten West, but their cross-division schedule put them behind the 8-ball. Nebraska still has to play Ohio State, though, so if Wisconsin wins out (including a win over Nebraska), they could very much reach the Big Ten Title game.

This week: at Iowa, noon, ESPN (Wisconsin -3)

Rutgers (2-5, 0-4 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Illinois, 24-7

Recap: As mentioned above, there is a not-too-distant alternate reality where Rutgers actually wins this game. But after being shut out for nearly 180 consecutive minutes, the important thing was that Rutgers scored. A touchdown. On purpose. Or at least I think this was on purpose. It could have been an RPO. He could have been trying to shoo away a wasp with the football. Who knows.

In the strength of whatever the hell that was, Rutgers has announced that Giovanni Rescigno will be their starting quarterback for the moment.

This week: at Minnesota, noon, ESPNU (Minnesota -17.5)



October 20th, 2016 at 10:30 AM ^

Yeah you've got to figure that this is a 10, and that any game with more fear involved than this -- which has the perfect storm of scary opponent that is quite good PLUS very high expectations for our team PLUS that opponent appears vulnerable BUT they are our biggest rival and will bring it against us as they always do -- could get the proverbial 11. I'm not even sure what that would be, maybe a National Championship game against undefeated Alabama?* Seems like that would deserve an 11.




October 20th, 2016 at 11:32 AM ^

If you're in the NC game you shouldn't be afraid.  Nervous, maybe, but if Michigan makes it that far it will be because they legitimately belong there; this is no flukey ND team.

The Game is scary because there's still plenty to lose beyond the game itself, and OSU looked terrifying.  Got taken down a notch when Wisconsin gave us a "the Russian is cut!" moment.


October 22nd, 2016 at 7:05 AM ^

Sure, but the Fear Level in this column is more about nervousness than fear so I was taking it in that sense. I'm not afraid of Illinois at all, but until we're up three touchdowns I'll be nervous. 


October 20th, 2016 at 10:23 AM ^

I somehow totally missed that Illinois starter and backup qb may be out. Wow...in that event I don't think I predict a shutout but only because we are at home we will go into the 4th string that couldn't make the travel team to Rutgers.

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October 20th, 2016 at 10:41 AM ^

That's actually called a compliment sandwich. Compliments are on the outside with the meat (criticism) in the middle. It also sounds better which is the entire point of the compliment sandwich.

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October 20th, 2016 at 10:46 AM ^

Based on dantonios comments yesterday, is that they're going to be playing is especially dirty, trying to hurt as many of our players as they can. I never hated state before damtino, but I do now because he coaches dirty play. I have no doubt of a victory. I don't want it to be pyrrhic.


October 20th, 2016 at 1:03 PM ^

That game looks less and less scary every week...but it still scares me.

Although I was surprised over them giving up 35 points to Purdue. They were playing Greg Robinson type defense on those Purdue receivers, not even being in the same time zone.

And yet I get the feeling they WILL be in the same time zone as Chesson, Darboh, Perry and Butt.

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