Opponent Watch 2017: Week 10

Submitted by BiSB on November 9th, 2017 at 10:25 AM

About Last Week:


Karan Higdon looked around. Was he supposed to keep going? He thought so, but he hadn’t seen anyone for a while. Had they forgotten about him? And was he going the right way? He felt like he had already been by this spot. How would he know when his journey was supposed to end? This was all very disconcerting.

Nevertheless, he continued forward. He hoped to reach civilization by daybreak.

The Road Ahead:

Maryland (4-5, 2-4 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Rutgers 31-24

Recap: We’re going to conduct a little test. Take your index finger and middle finger on your right hand. Put the fingertips together, side-by-side. Press them on your left arm just below the wrist, midway between the middle of the wrist and the top of the arm (the left thumb extended). Apply light pressure. Good. Now, do you feel that rhythmic "bum-bump"?

Congratulations, dear reader. You are now on the Maryland quarterback depth chart.

Piggy is out with an injury. Kasim Hill is out with an injury. Caleb Henderson is either injured or bad. Max Bortegschlager is bad, and may or may not be out with an injury. This may leave Ryan Brand as Maryland’s starting quarterback. Yes, THAT Ryan Brand. The [/comically exaggeraged airquotes] 5’11”, 182-pound dual threat quarterback from Detroit.

And it’s not like things were going well for Maryland to begin with. They were already losing to Rutgers in the fourth quarter when Bortenschlager went out with an injury. Rutgers played them evenly in yards per play and yards per pass, and outpaced them in yards per carry.

So, yeah. Not Great Bob Dot Gif.

This team is as frightening as: Geez, I was already so mean, and this crap isn’t their fault. So let’s just say “a thing which is not especially frightening given the totality of the circumstances.” Fear Level = tries hard

Michigan should worry about: Maryland has only allowed one play of 40+ yards in conference play.

YES YES I KNOW they have allowed the most plays of 10+ yards and 20+ yards.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Look man, if you can’t take at least some refuge in the term “5th-string quarterback,” I don’t know what to tell you.

When they play Michigan: Maybe the real Maryland quarterback was the friends we met along the way. No, seriously. Those random people we met along the way may be taking snaps on Saturday.

Next game: vs. Michigan, 3:30 p.m., BTN (Maryland +16.5)

Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Indiana, 45-17

Recap: And just like that, Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s last great hope to make the College Football Playoff. Although, at this point, it is almost more accurateto analyze them in the “should we consider this mid-major” framework. This is from Bill C’s Wisconsin page:


If you don’t obsessively review Bill C’s team profile pages every week, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore

Wisconsin has run roughshod over their opponents who have been almost uniformly bad. Their best opponent thus far was FAU. Their second-best opponent was Purdue. They close with Iowa (but you only get like 60% credit for beating Iowa at Not Kinnick) and Michigan, but unfortunately Michigan has fallen from potential “marquee win” to a “solid win.” And to make matters worse, they will be facing a team with at LEAST two losses in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Oh yeah they played Indiana this weekend and beat Indiana because Indiana doesn’t win anymore.

This team is as frightening as: The prospect of seeing the thousands of articles this offseason where some Jabroni declares 2018 to be a "make or break year," and unironically using the term "hot seat." Fear Level = 8.5

Michigan should worry about: Alex Hornibrook leads the Big Ten at 9.2 yards per attempt, and he has the second best passer rating of any QB in the conference.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Hornibrook has thrown at least one interception in every conference game. His percentage of passes picked off in Big Ten play is 6.8%, which is by far the worst in the conference. It’s worse than Jeff George Jr. (4.5%), John O’Korn (4.3%), Clayton Thorson (3.2%), the two-headed monster at Purdue (2.6%), and the two-headed esquilax at Minnesota (5.0%). Hell, his conference interception rate is more than double the conference interception rate of Tanner Lee.

When they play Michigan: I think Michigan can stop Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin can stop Michigan. So... tie?

Next game: vs. Iowa, 3:30 p.m., ABC (UW -12.5)

[AFTER THE JUMP: wait what]

Ohio State (7-2, 5-1 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Iowa, 55-24


Recap: Wait.

Waaaaait wait wait.

Hold on.


You say WHAT happened?

Well then.

Ohio State allowed 55 points to Iowa. Fifty-five points. They hadn’t surrendered that many points since Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter put up 63 on them in 1994. Hell, they hadn’t given up forty points in a game since Devin Gardner found Devin Funchess in 2013. And they hadn’t lost a game by 31 points since… okay good point but still.

The biggest surprise coming out of this game, other than FIFTY-FIVE POINTS was that JT Barrett had an awful game. He cut his shiny 25 to 1 TD-to-INT ratio in half on Ohio State’s first offensive play with an ugly pick-six, one of his four INTs on the day. Barrett hadn’t thrown more than two picks in a game since his second start of his career in 2014 against Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, Ohio State folks are (rightly, in my opinion) up in arms about Ohio State’s refusal to involve JK Dobbins or Mike Weber in the game. As noted by notably non-insane Ohio State writer and fan Ramzy, OSU has a history of just kind of forgetting about their megastudbacks.

Defensively… Fifty. Five. Points. Hell, RichRod never gave up 55 points (in regulation) at Michigan.

This team is as frightening as: Yeah like that all means anything when they play Michigan. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Ohio State has laid two eggs this year… and utterly dominated their other seven opponents. I don’t like those odds.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Fifty. Five.

When they play Michigan: Maybe we can have Stephen M. Ross donate like a billion dollars to the athletic department in the name of Nile Kinnick and Michigan can rename it Kinnick Field at Michigan Stadium or something. Michigan by 70.

Next game: vs. Michigan State, noon, FOX (OSU -15.5)

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Florida (3-5, 3-4 SEC)

Last week: Lost to Missouri, 45-16

Recap: Every year, sports reminds us of the (possibly apocryphal) advice of Socrates, who said that true wisdom is knowing that we know nothing. 2017’s case-in-point: Florida/Tennessee was a matchup of ranked teams in Week 3. But, uh... a lot has happened since then.

Florida is no longer Michigan’s best non-conference win. Air Force (#99) is now ahead of the Gators (#103) in S&P+, with Cincinnati (#106) nipping at their heels.

Did I mention that Missouri got routed 31-3 by Purdue?

Next game: at South Carolina, noon, CBS (USC(NTUSC) -7)

Cincinnati (3-6, 1-4 AAC)

Last week: Won at Tulane, 17-16

Image result for tulane mascot

Any excuse to post this mascot

Recap: Heeeeeeeeey would you look at that. Cincinnati won a conference game.

In fact, I’ll do you one better: Cincinnati has a realistic shot at making a bowl game. They close at home against Temple, at East Carolina, and at home against UConn. S&P+ has the Temple game as a coin toss, and Cincinnati as about a 2-to-1 favorite in the latter two.

On a completely unrelated topic, we may have too many bowl games.

Next game: vs. Temple, 7:00 p.m. Friday, ESPN2 (UC +3)

Air Force (4-5, 3-2 MWC)

Last week: Lost to Army, 21-0


They used to be so close

Recap: Air Force lost to Army for only the 4th time in first time in the last 29 matchups, although Army is actually good this year, so there isn’t too much shame in this one. Maybe it was because they wanted to stick it to the more aerial-focused service branch, or maybe it was because they ran for 6.37 yards per carry, but Army did not throw a single pass in this game. Ahmad Bradshaw, who is over 1,100 yards on almost 8 yards per carry this season, outgained Air Force by himself, shredding the Falcons for 265 yards on 23 carries. Army was also the first team to hold Air Force under 200 total yards since 2008.

Next game: vs. Wyoming, 10:15 p.m., ESPNU (AFA -3)

Purdue (4-5, 2-4 B1G)

Last week: Beat Illinois, 29-10

Recap: After narrow losses to bad teams Rutgers and Nebraska, Purdue got a win over a REALLY bad Illinois team. Despite outgaining the Illini 435 to 250, this was actually a competitive game fairly late; Illinois had the ball at the Purdue 35-yard line late in the third quarter down 16-10. But a punt-touchdown-pick-touchdown sequence doomed Lovie and company.

Purdue has now won four games for the first time since 2012, and they may not be done. With the easy one out of the way, Purdue now needs two wins from games at Northwestern, at Iowa, and at home against Indiana to make a bowl game. Where they would presumably play Cincinnati.

Next game: at Northwestern, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2 (Purdue +4.5)

Michigan State (7-2, 5-1 B1G)

Last week: Beat Penn State 27-24


Recap: Imagine if, before the season, NCAA and Big Ten officials approached Michigan State with a slight rule change for 2017. Instead of a usual leather football, MSU would be required to play all of their games with a papaya. And, despite being confused by this request, they agreed… and it turned out that Michigan State was surprisingly good at papayaball.

Now, was it Michigan State’s *fault* that they had to play all of their games with a ripened tropical fruit instead of a football? Of course not. They just played the game they were told to play. And maybe the papaya had nothing to do with their success. Maybe they would be even BETTER with a regular football. And no one could argue that Michigan State and their opponents weren’t playing under the same unique circumstances.

But don’t bring up the papaya in the presence of Michigan State fans, lest you be accused you of #DISRESPEKT.

In yet another of a series of aquatic adventures, Sparty outlasted Penn State after a Titanic weather delay (in that it was literally longer than the similarly-themed movie Titanic) of 3 hours and 23 minutes. Penn State actually won the opener, 14-7, but MSU won on aggregate after winning the second leg 20-10. Strangely enough for a Big Ten game played in a mud pit, both teams held a 70/30 split of passing plays to running plays, with both teams throwing for over 400 yards. Offensively, Michigan State has all but surrendered on the concept of running the ball; LJ Scott and Gerland Holmes averaged 2.9 yards per carry on 17 attempts. Meanwhile, Felton Davis has emerged into a standout, catching 12 passes for 181 yards and a score. He’s #4 in the conference in receptions and tied for #1 with 8 TDs.

Defensively, MSU’s secondary couldn’t stay within shouting distance of Penn State’s receivers, but Penn State is apparently not used to papayaball, as they dropped a number of critical passes.

With Maryland and Rutgers waiting in the last two weeks, Michigan State now goes into the Ohio State game with – and I can’t believe I’m typing this – a chance to all but lock up the Big Ten East.

Next game: at Ohio State, noon, FOX (MSU +15.5)

Indiana (3-6, 0-6 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Wisconsin, 45-17

Feels about right (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Recap: On the bright side for Indiana, despite an early 10-0 lead that would normally portend such a fate, they avoided another heartbreaking defeat. They instead let Wisconsin turn a statistically-comfortable-but-scoreboard-close game into a blowout early in the fourth quarter, rather than late in the fourth quarter.

Indiana had the ball down only seven points late in the third quarter, but Richard Lagow threw ugly picks on back-to-back pass attempts, setting up Wisconsin with short fields. In all, thanks to three turnovers and a turnover on downs, four of Wisconsin’s touchdown drives totaled 16, 21, 27, and 33 yards.

This is the third time in four years that Indiana has opened the conference schedule 0-6. That is bad. Fortunately, they have the third-worst Power-5 team in the country, Illinois, this weekend. I don’t know how they can possibly blow this one. But I’m excited to find out.

Next game: at Illinois, noon, BTN (IU -9.5)

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

Last week: Lost at Michigan State, 27-24

Recap: Penn State sucks at papayaball.

Penn State is also having some Saquon Barkley troubles. After averaging 213 yards from scrimmage in his first four games with an average of 9.6 yards per touch, Barkley has averaged only 103 yards in his last five games with an average of 5.0 yards per touch. 

Next game: vs. Rutgers, noon, BTN (PSU -31.5)

Rutgers (4-5, 3-3 B1G)

Last week: Beat Maryland, 24-17

Recap: Wait.

Waaaaait wait wait.

Sorry man, we already did that bit

We did?



Ohio State section

Oh. Right. My bad...

… hey, can you believe that Ohio State/Iowa game?

I cannot. But you’re losing focus.

True. Once again, my bad.


This is why I hang out at the UFR and stopped coming here.

Yeah, I get that.

Anyway, Rutgers won their third Big Ten conference game in four weeks, exceeding their total in the infinity time before that. Rutgers currently has a better conference record than 26 Power-5 teams, including Florida State, Louisville, Pitt, Oregon, Utah, UCLA, Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Arkansas.

Yes, their three wins were over an abominable team, a bad team on its threevety-eleventh quarterback, and a mediocre team in which they got blown out in all aspects except the score. Who cares. This is a team that, barely twelve months ago, lost a game 78-0 in which they threw for 5 yards on 22 dropbacks. This is undeniable progress.

So you’re going to stop making fun of them so much?

If you hung out here more often you would know that answer to that question.

Next game: at Penn State, noon, BTN (Rutgers +31.5)



November 9th, 2017 at 11:38 AM ^

But I don't want to, because Mo and Chase and Rashan are scary. If I were Ryan Brand, I'd hop that there Amtrak right out of College Park and not stop until I'm in the Rockies.

Also, Duel Threat.  :)  You all Aaron Burr up in here.


November 9th, 2017 at 11:56 AM ^

When they play Michigan: Maybe the real Maryland quarterback was the friends we met along the way. No, seriously. Those random people we met along the way may be taking snaps on Saturday.


This is some good stuff.  Just wanted to say that.


November 9th, 2017 at 8:30 PM ^

iowa faked a punt and made, iowa went for it on 4th down in their own territory, it was the Ferentz knows how to coach game. Also everything they tried went very well with all players playing at their ceiling and everything osu tried exploded in their face with all their players playing at their floor. I audibly exclaimed in happy shock about 10 times while watching that game.


November 9th, 2017 at 12:44 PM ^

I don't think OSU goes into games planning to de-emphasize the tailback.  It's just that when the offense is struggling, Meyer's lizard brain kicks in: "RUN THE QB.  RUN THE QB.  RUN THE QB."

You have to get them to that point.  We did last year - Barrett carried it 30 times to Weber's 11, and they scored 10 offensive points in regulation.  (Ugh, we should not have lost...)



CRISPed in the DIAG

November 9th, 2017 at 1:51 PM ^

And Weber probably sees the ball fewer than 11 times against us this year. 

Sanders (not a RB, per se, I know) was my fear last year. I pictured him sprinting all over the field in gaping space. That didn't happen often. But then they only really needed him for one play.

I think Dobbins is more useful than Sanders. He's been my nightmare since their IU game.


November 9th, 2017 at 3:45 PM ^

When we struggled to put them both away, people were saying "it's ok. These are both likely 9-10 win teams". Turns out they both suck and that's not a good look for us - granted the run game has come a looonnng way since then


November 9th, 2017 at 12:55 PM ^

FYI, regarding the S&P "win expectancy," that number is not the team's chance of winning going into the game. It's their win expectancy after the fact if the game were to be replayed 100 times (i.e., a 99% win expectancy means if the game were replayed, Wisconsin would be expected to win 99 out of 100 times). The team's chance of winning going into the game is a different number that the site replaces with "win expectancy" after the game, and is usually much lower than the 99% and 100% values you see in the chart above. For example, Michigan had an 80% chance of beating Florida going into the game, but their win expectancy after the game is 100%. Michigan also had an 87% chance of beating MSU going into the game, but their win expectancy after the game is 41%. 


November 9th, 2017 at 1:46 PM ^

I get what you're saying, but the stats don't care if a program is a blue blood. We crushed them 33-17 even with Speight throwing two pick sixes (which is unlikely to repeat in hypothetical rematches) and we held their offense to just three points. Also, Flordia is 3-5 this year. Those are the kinds of things the stats take into account. 


November 9th, 2017 at 2:46 PM ^

One weakness - I'm pretty sure win expectancy only includes offensive and defensive metrics and does NOT include special teams. 

PSU, I know, had lower than I expected (from watching the games) win expectancy metrics for their games vs. OSU and Indiana.  PSU, of course, had a KO return for TD in each game. 

Special teams points do count, of course.  And KO/Punt returns for TD are not completely random events.  So they should factor in somewhere, IMO.