Opponent Watch 2017: Week 11 Comment Count

BiSB November 16th, 2017 at 10:02 AM

About Last Week:

Sometimes it feels like all of your goals are ahead of you, then all of a sudden they’re above you, then they’re behind you, and you’re like, “the hell, goals?”

The Road Ahead:

Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Iowa, 38-14

Recap: Look, we could use this space to talk about Wisconsin. But Brian and Ace and Seth are more qualified than I to do such things, and my analysis would be superfluous at best, and objectively wrong at worst. No, instead, we’re going to use this space to talk about Iowa.


the Hawkeyes beat Iowa State (who actually turned out to be good, because 2017 has gone full Honey Badger), and came within a fingertip of beating Penn State. Then they lost to Michigan State and Northwestern and beat Minnesota by a touchdown, all in awful, unwatchable games. Then they laid an unholy murderstomping on Ohio State where they put up FIFTY-FIVE POINTS and more than 500 yards at over 7 yards per play. Cool.

Then they put up 56 YARDS against Wisconsin. Fifty-six. With sacks included, their 28 pass attempts netted a total of 144 inches. Josh Jackson’s two pick-sixes covered about 40 yards more than Iowa’s offense for the game.

Iowa is that guy you know who is just awful with money. Like, he has a decent job, but he’s always broke. He gets his cable shut off pretty regularly, his credit is awful, and his diet consists primarily of off-brand ramen noodles purchased in bulk. But once per year he shows up with a new car, and when you’re like, “Kirk, how the HELL did you afford that,” and he’s like, “eh, I’ve been setting a little bit aside here and there.” 

This team is as frightening as: A black diamond ski hill after you've managed to get your feet under you on the bunny hill. It's the same principles, but there's no way to know how your French Fry/Pizza skills will translate. Also, it's really cold. And reeeeeally white. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Wisconsin is riding in with a 55-point transitive win over Ohio State over the last two weeks. That is many.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Alex Hornibrook threw 3 more interceptions on only 18 passes against Iowa, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. Of QBs nationwide with 125+ pass attempts in conference play, Hornibrook’s 8.1% INT rate is way worse than any other QB, with second place at 5.7% (Temple’s Logan Marchi), and is more than 3% worse than the second-worst Power Five QB (Jeff George Jr. is at 5.0%). Only six QBs have a conference INT rate even half as bad as Hornibrook's. And now he gets David Long and (hopefully) Lavert Hill.

When they play Michigan: Just large humans crashing into large humans. They may forget that there is a football involved for stretches of the game.

Next game: vs. Michigan, noon, FOX (UW -7.5)

Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 B1G)

Last week: Beat Michigan State, 48-3


Recap: That was… comprehensive.

This is like one of those Rutgers games from last year where you can fold the box score however you want and it remains astonishing. Like, you could just crumple the box score up with your hands and it would still turn out looking like a perfectly formed crane wearing an Ohio State jersey peeing Calvin-style on a Block S.

  • MSU averaged 2.8 yards per play. OSU averaged 8.1.
  • MSU averaged 2.1 yards per dropback. OSU averaged 8.2
  • MSU’s running backs ran 18 times for 57 yards. Mike Weber and JK Dobbins ran 27 times for 286 yards
  • MSU took the opening kick and moved the ball 27 yards. The score was 28-0 before MSU had another drive that moved forward.
  • OSU had scoring drives of 86, 73, 68, 25, 82, 72, 56, and 79 yards. MSU’s scoring drive covered 24 yards, and resulted in a sad field goal to cut the deficit to 32.
  • Through 31 minutes, Ohio State had 7 touchdowns. MSU had 8 first downs.

I could go on. The stats lend themselves to rubbernecking. But we have other business to attend to.

What this means for Ohio State going forward is anyone's guess. Maybe they've figured it out. Maybe they will continue to yo-yo between pigeon and statue. But it's disconcerting to know that they still have this club in their bag, even if they have to wipe some Michigan State remnants off of it before they try to use it again.

This team is as frightening as: A team that has outscored their common opponents with Michigan (Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, Nebraska) by an average of 35.6 points, whereas Michigan has outscored those opponents by an average of… 4 points. Fear Level = 9.5

Michigan can sleep soundly about: JT Barrett threw two more picks in this one, including one in the end zone, and one that led to MSU’s only points.

Michigan should worry about: …whiiiiich means Ohio State probably should have won this game at least 55-0.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will not lose by 45. But Michigan will also probably not put up 55 like powerhouse Iowa. So, there is at least a limited range of outcomes.

Next game: vs. oh god they’re going to do unspeakable things to Illinois, 3:30 p.m., ABC (OSU -all the points)

[AFTER THE JUMP: The rearview mirror had themselves some struggles this week]

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Florida (3-6, 3-5 SEC)

Last week: Lost at South Carolina, 28-20


Recap: Have you ever bumped into an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend at the absolute wrong time? Like, you’re in the supermarket, you haven’t showered, and all you have in your cart is toilet paper, Doritos, and canned soup? The cruel irony is that *you* dumped *her* because she needed to get her shit together, and now here you are in a decade-old Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt and sweatpants obviously stressed about the choice between taquitos and Hot Pockets.*

Florida lost to Will Muschamp on Saturday.

The loss extended the Gators’ losing streak to five games. South Carolina jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, and stayed comfortably ahead for most of the game. This was the first time under Will Muschamp that South Carolina put up 450+ yards against a Power 5 team. I mean, it’s good to see you, Stacy, but I’m late for… uh… something. Gotta go.

Unsurprisingly, Scott Frost is the current favorite for the vacant head coaching position, but there is no real word on whether that is a “both sides have interest” thing or a “Jim Harbaugh to the Roughriders is likely because the Roughriders would love to have him and Harbaugh’s plane once had to land in Regina due to engine troubles” thing. Also they're going to have to fend off teams like Tennessee and Nebraska (as soon as they fire MIke Riley, which... more about that shortly).

*Taquitos, obviously.

Next game: vs. UAB, 4:00 p.m., SEC Network (UF -11)

Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5 AAC)

Last week: Lost to Temple, 35-24


It was either this or a picture of Harambe. I chose the more shameful cultural touchstone.

Recap: Alas, it appears the world will be deprived of the Queen City’s presence in a bowl game this year. Which is probably for the best, because when we let Cincinnati put things into bowls, everyone gets disappointed

Next game: at East Carolina, noon, CBSSN (UC -3.5)

Air Force (4-6, 3-3 MWC)

Last week: Lost to Wyoming, 28-14

Recap: Air Force came off of their Army loss slowly, going down 21-0 to Wyoming early. They fought back to 21-14, and drove into Wyoming territory twice with a chance to tie, but one drive stalled and the other ended in a fumble at the Wyoming 30.

Air Force outgained the Cowboys 378-229, and had the per-play advantage, but three turnovers doomed them; two resulted in short field Wyoming touchdowns, and the third was the above-mentioned drive-killer.

Things do not get any easier for the Falcons, as they travel to Boise State to play on the blue turf on Saturday night.

Next game: at Boise State, 10:15 p.m., ESPN2 (AFA +17.5)

Purdue (4-6, 2-5 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Northwestern, 23-13

Recap: Not unlike the Michigan/Maryland game, this contest was pretty even from a yardage standpoint, but was never really a game. Northwestern took a 20-0 lead late in the 3rd quarter, and Purdue only cut it to 10 with about five minutes left. That’s enough of a lead that not even Pat Fitzgerald could turtle it away.

Elijah Sindelar and Clayton Thorson combined to throw for 672 yards, which seems like a lot until you see that it took them 104 combined pass attempts to get there. Sindelar alone threw the ball 60 times. If you were wondering, this wasn’t even close to a Purdue record: Drew Brees threw the ball 83 times in a game in 1998, which I believe* is still a Big Ten record.

Purdue now travels to Kinnick, where Iowa beat Ohio State by 31… and Minnesota by 7. 


*You should read this as “Google didn’t tell me otherwise.”

Next game: at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. (Purdue +8)

Michigan State (7-3, 5-2 B1G)

Last week: lost at Ohio State, 48-3


Recap: I’m not going to bag on Michigan State too much this week, for several reasons. First, Ohio State liquefied Michigan State, which makes “bagging” physically difficult. It would be more of a mopping, or perhaps a sponging. But I’m not going to sponge on Michigan State too much either. Because these things happen. They’ve probably been playing above their heads this year, so the combination of a reversion to the mean and a pissed off Ohio State team was bound to lead to something like this. Maybe they were also confused by the footballs being so dry. Who knows. 

Still, getting outgained by 350 yards was an odd choice by Dantonio. I’m not knocking it, necessarily; I’m sure it’s part of the grand plan, and somehow has something to do with #disrespekt and will pay dividends down the road. But regardless, long-term benefits aside, it seemed to put Michigan State at a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis this particular game.

Next game: vs. Maryland, 4:00 p.m., FOX but probably starting on that Fox Business Channel because they don’t understand how to space games (MSU -16)

Indiana (4-6, 1-6 B1G)

Last week: Won at Illinois, 24-14

Recap: Indiana didn’t play well enough to beat a Big Ten team on Saturday. Fortunately, they didn’t play one.


The “O” stands for “offside”

Grading on the Lovie Curve, this was not Indiana’s finest afternoon. Getting outgained on a per-play basis by Illinois in 2017 is damn near unforgivable. Indiana’s offensive output was the worst by a Power Five team this year on a per-play basis. Indiana’s 139 rushing yards were the lowest allowed by Illinois against a Power Five team this year. No Power Five team has scored fewer than 24 points on the Illini. And this wasn’t an “Indiana runs out to a 21-0 lead and farts around for 45 minutes” thing, either; This was a 17-14 game midway through the 4th quarter.

This might be a good time to point out that the last three people to hire Mike DeBord prior to his participation in this moribund squad were Lovie Smith, Dave Brandon, and Butch Jones.

Mike DeBord: Not. Even. Once.

Next game: vs. Rutgers, noon (IU -11)

Penn State (8-2, 5-2 B1G)

Last week: Beat Rutgers, 35-6


(Adriana Lacy/RLR)

Recap: For a brief moment, this looked like it could join or surpass the other I DON’T UNDERSTAND FOOTBALL ANYMORE performances of Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan State. Rutgers led 6-0 late into the 2nd quarter, before Rutgers Rutgers’d and gave up the next 35 points.

Offensively, this was an uninspiring performance by Penn State. Their 2.9 yards per carry average was the worst of any of Rutgers’ FBS opponents in the last two years. Saquon Barkley also continued to struggle; he gained a season-low 35 yards on 14 carries. His issues were understandable when he was playing Ohio State and Michigan State, but Rutgers is not in the same league as those defenses.

Wait… they are?


Next game: vs. Nebraska, 4:00 p.m., FS1 (PSU -26)

Rutgers (4-6, 3-4 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Penn State, 35-6


Photoshopped, I'm assuming

Recap: I wasn’t in Rutgers’ team meetings this offseason, so I don’t know if Rutgers’ explicit goal this season was “find something to not completely suck at.” But if it was… Mission Accomplished-ish?

Rutgers won three conference games (thus far!) this season. But they still absolutely blow at almost all of the individual components of football. They are 2nd-to-last in the Big Ten in points per game, dead last in offensive yards per play, 2nd-to-last in yards per play allowed, 2nd-to-last in yards per passing attempt allowed, 2nd-to-last in rushing yards per carry allowed, and dead last (by a mile) in passing yards per attempt.

But Rutgers can kinda sorta run the ball. They are 5th in Big Ten play in rushing yards per game, and 6th in yards per carry. Rutgers is averaging over 4 yards per carry in conference play for the first time in over a decade, which is made even more impressive when you consider that Rutgers is the only Big Ten East team that doesn’t get to face Rutgers’ run defense. The fact that they outgained Penn State on the ground is not a fluke; Rutgers averages more yards per game and more yards per carry in Big Ten games than Penn State does.

Next year’s goal: use the run to set up something other than getting sacked on play action.

Next game: at Indiana, noon (RU +11)

Minnesota (5-5, 2-5 B1G)

Last week: Beat Nebraska, 54-21

Recap: Remember Minnesota? You know, these guys? Yeah, Minnesota ran for over 424 yards at nearly 10 yards per carry against Nebraska. Demry Croft had 9 non-sack carries for 197 yards. This included a 73 yard keeper on a simple read option play that saw Nebraska’s entire defense get pancaked. Seriously, I count four defenders on their feet. None are in what you would call “textbook tackling position.”


How the tapdancing hell is Mike Riley still employed?

Next game: at Northwestern, noon (Minn +7)


Ali G Bomaye

November 16th, 2017 at 2:06 PM ^

If he does, it'll be a mistake. I don't think Nebraska can recruit at a championship level any more. Success there would look like Dantonio's success at MSU - Nebraska could challenge for the B1G championship more years than not, while at the same time never being seriously considered as a national title contender.


November 16th, 2017 at 3:50 PM ^

To be honest, I disagree.

At Florida and Tennessee he'd have to get through Saban to get to the playoff almost every year, and Georgia is also very much a contender. Florida and Tennessee have respective annual West crossovers with LSU and Bama every year too. 


At Nebraska, he'd have a wide open division in most years, and could hope the East canibilizes its best team (which it now will have done 3 years in a row; OSU being the best team in 2015, Michigan in 2016, in my opinion, PSU in 2017). 


November 16th, 2017 at 10:24 AM ^


Michigan can sleep soundly about: Alex Hornibrook threw 3 more interceptions on only 18 passes against Iowa, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. Of QBs nationwide with 125+ pass attempts in conference play, Hornibrook’s 8.1% INT rate is way worse than any other QB, with second place at 5.7% (Temple’s Logan Marchi), and is more than 3% worse than the second-worst Power Five QB (Jeff George Jr. is at 5.0%). Only six QBs have a conference INT rate even half as bad as Hornibrook's. And now he gets David Long and (hopefully) Lavert Hill.

This is why the game could be really interesting on Saturday. Wisconsin hasn't played a competent opponent yet that has comparable talent to them. Michigan might be the first team that is equipped to slow down their power running game. Does that mean Hornibrook will have to pass more? I sure hope so. 


November 16th, 2017 at 10:58 AM ^

but I think both teams are salivating at the thought of shutting down the others run game and forcing the other team's QB to pass. Wisconsin is probably saying the same thing to themselves since Wisconsin has a great D and hopes to force us to rely on Peters

Watching From Afar

November 16th, 2017 at 11:21 AM ^

My major concern in the run game is that Michigan is now faster on defense, but smaller.

McCray and Gedeon were traditional LBs and bigger than McCray and Bush.

Glasgow and Hurst/Godin were a better DT combo than Hurst and Solomon/Mone (if only for experience and style of play).

Even at DE, Taco and Wormley were anchors. Having Wormley at DE was like having a 3rd DT in some cases. Winovich gives up 50+ pounds that Wormley had.

Peppers got worked last year in the Wisconsin game because he was a 205 pound safety taking on OGs hunting him. Hudson isn't much bigger or capable of taking on 310 pound road graders.

So while Michigan is the most athletic team Wisconsin has faced, my concern in they are also a defense built to take on the OSUs of the world (and the evolution of college football offenses) and taking on five, 310 pound plus OL running at them 40 times will wear them down.

Watching From Afar

November 16th, 2017 at 4:20 PM ^

Maybe not the best term to use, but he was ineffective(?), which isn't his fault. You can't expect a 210 pound S/LB to take on 6'6" 310 pound OG, OT, and FBs (who outweigh him by 30 pounds) hunting him down.

+/- was even, but he had a total of +4 so like you said, he didn't have much of a chance (and couldn't) really make plays. Wisconsin's offense makes the Viper position... not necessarily a weak spot, but it keeps it from being a danger spot.

Hudson is good, but if that position is quiet and not making plays, then it's not as advantageous against manball teams that don't need to worry all that much about committing guys to blocking him outside of 1-1.


November 16th, 2017 at 10:30 AM ^

njury report

MichiganOut: WR Tarik Black (foot); DL Donovan Jeter (lower body). Questionable: CB Lavert Hill (head), QB Wilton Speight (neck), TE Nick Eubanks (head); DL Luiji Vilain (lower body), RB Karan Higdon (ankle),  RB Ty Isaac (undisclosed), WR Nico Collins (leg). Probable: DE Rashan Gary (shoulder), CB David Long (knee), OL Michael Onwenu (ankle/foot). 

Goggles Paisano

November 16th, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

Not sure what day Zordich's presser was on, but he said Lavert was still in the protocol.  He then said, Watson, BSJ and Ambry are all playing really well and isn't worried about a drop off.  I would rather have Hill play, but this is probably a game where he won't be missed as much as other games.  Need him for OSU for sure.    


November 16th, 2017 at 10:49 AM ^

This has been a bizarre season. We kind of know who the best teams are but they've all been inconsistent (outside of Alabama) as hell. Oh, and PSU was a paper tiger that was lucky to catch us in a white out with O'Korn playing QB. Barkley is a good athlete but he's certainly not the best RB in the country, he's not even the best back in the B1G. I would take Taylor, Dobbins and Higdon over Barkley (as a pure RB) every day of the week.


November 16th, 2017 at 2:57 PM ^

You don't get to call PSU a paper tiger after getting walloped  by them 42-13 dude. Take your medicine. They lost to Ohio St. in what would be called a classic if the following week had not occured. If anything the MSUvPSU and IOWAvOSU games were the anamolies. 


November 16th, 2017 at 11:36 AM ^

Like that old saying in real estate:location, location, location. Mike DeBord popping here and there shows the value of networking. Networking, networking. Everyone of those hires were with people DeBord either hired when he was a head coach or major assistant and gave someone their first real job or someone he worked with. Networking. That is the lesson here.


November 16th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

"Rutgers is the only Big Ten East team that doesn’t get to face Rutgers’ run defense." That actually made me chuckle out loud and also think about what a zen-ly profound statement that is.  If anybody could benefit from playing Rutgers' defense, it would definitely be Rutgers.  Well done sir, as always.


November 16th, 2017 at 11:45 AM ^

I read out the Skyline Chili blurb to folks in my office and a full on battle has begun, While I am having fun it is amazing how much time is being wasted in a debate between Skyline and Texas-style chili.  Especially when the answer is obvious that Texas style chili is far superior.