Opponent Watch 2017: Week 4

Submitted by BiSB on September 28th, 2017 at 10:03 AM

About Last Week:

Maybe he’s not… okay yeah NOW he’s dead.

The Road Ahead:

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

Last week: Lost to Notre Dame 38-18

Recap: The good news for Michigan State is that the stats weren’t awful. They outgained Notre Dame overall, and were roughly equal in yards per play. S&P+ has them with a 17% win probability, which means that there are parallel universes not too far removed from this one in which Michigan State is 3-0 today.

The bad news is that despite playing a moderately even (or at least not terribly lopsided) game, they still got blown the hell out. The score was 28-7 at the half, and State never got it back within two scores. The primary reason things got away from State was an homage to Michigan State seasons past: the Grand F*ck-Up. A fumble near midfield is a mistake. A fumble on your own 20? That's a pretty big goof. A fumble on the one-yard line while literally falling into the end zone? That, my friends is the Grand F*ck-Up. 

LJ Scott Fumble

Forgot something, dude (MLive.com)

These Grand F*ck-ups used to be known collectively by a name. They have re-emerged this year. We’re getting awfully close to being able to actually use the name again. Brian Lewerke also threw a pick-6 and fumbled on his own 20 yard line.

The other bad news for MSU was that nearly 50% of their yardage, and 8 of their 18 points, came on three late face-saving drives after the score was already 35-10 or worse. You know the kind. One of those drives almost got Lewerke killed with a low, dangerous shot to the knee.

This team is as frightening as: Something really really frightening. Definitely frightening. Yep. That's the ticket. Respekt. Much respekt. Fear Level = 5

Michigan should worry about: Somehow, through four weeks, and even including sacks, Brian Lewerke has the 3rd best yards-per-carry average in the conference at 7.9 YPC. If you take out sacks, he’s at 10.2, which is better than current leader Ty Johnson’s 10.2 YPC.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: If this game comes down to “can Brian Lewerke beat Michigan with his legs,” we’re in good shape.

When they play Michigan: At night. For reasons that remain obvious to people at the league offices and a goddang bizarre mystery for people who live in the state of Michigan.

Next game: vs. Iowa, 4:00 p.m., FOX (MSU -3)

[AFTER THE JUMP: hey did you see what happened with Rick Pitino]

Indiana (2-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last week: Beat Georgia Southern 52-17

Recap: This one was over pretty quickly. It was 21-0 before Georgia State picked up a first down, and 31-0 less than 20 minutes into the game. The most encouraging sign for Indiana was that their running game, which had been AWFUL in the first two games (1.88 YPC), picked up nearly 250 yards at 6 yards a pop. Freshman Morgan Ellison may have staked his claim to the top of the depth chart after a 25 carry, 186 yard outing.

Then again, Georgia Southern was coming off a loss to New Hampshire, so maybe we shouldn't try to pull any STRONG TAKES from this one.

The bad news for Indiana is that they lost three defensive starters to injury; DT Nate Hoff, CB A’Shon Riggins, and HSP Marcelino Ball all left with boo-boos of unknown severity. Rashard Fant missed this game with an injury as well, and his status is unknown. They also lost freshman planetoid Juan Harris for at least a while. And they have Penn State this weekend, which… good luck.

This team is as frightening as: Generic store-brand Michigan. Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: Tegray Scales remains the most athletic, mobile source of bad intentions in the Big Ten not named Devin Bush.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Indiana’s offensive advanced statistics are getting ugly. They are in the 80’s in the country in both rushing and passing success rate, and they are getting no big plays out of the passing game. All-everything wide receiver Simmie Cobbs is only averaging 12.7 yards per catch and 7.9 yards per target.

When they play Michigan: Despite all the reasons to think otherwise, this is still going to be a stupid, stupid game.

Next game: at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., BTN (IU +17)

#4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Iowa, 21-19


Penn State wandered into Kinnick, screwed around, and then hauled ass for one frantic minute to avoid getting bitten in the ass.

This was a weird game. Penn State outgained Iowa by over 240 yards, but mostly because they ran 103 plays to Iowa’s 48. That’s an insane number. I don’t recall ever seeing a disparity that significant in a close game. For comparison’s sake, in the worst throttling in recent memory, Michigan ran 73 plays to Rutgers’ 54. Running 55 extra plays is unfathomable. Yet somehow, Iowa actually outgained Penn State on a per-play basis by almost a yard.

I think the lesson here is: don’t play at Kinnick at night.

This team is as frightening as: Being chased by Inspector Gadget. He’s theoretically a huge threat, and he’s got a lot of tools at his disposal, but there remains a bumbling quality that makes one less afraid than one should be. Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Here’s a better angle of the lizard escape video:

He had 306 total yards on the game. Barkley is averaging over 210 per game. He will almost certainly be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. Then he will be drafted by the Jets. And average 2.7 yards per carry. Because the Jets can even screw *this* up.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: James Franklin’s game management decisions. Penn State kicked field goals from the Iowa 1 and 3 yard lines. The latter is reasonable (it put them up 8-7 in the second half), but kicking a field goal on 4th and goal from the 1 is very James Franklin.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will surely seek to avenge long-time ally Georgia State after James Franklin iced the kicker in a 56-0 game two weeks ago.

Next game: vs. Indiana, 3:30 p.m., BTN (PSU -17)

Rutgers (1-3, 0-1 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Nebraska 27-17

Recap: We could talk about this game. About how Nebraska, fresh off canning their athletic director, were in a one-score game with Rutgers – AT HOME – through three and a half quarters. We could talk about how the two teams did not crack 500 yards combined, and combined to move the ball less than 4 yards per play. We could talk about how Kyle Bolin averaged 4.3 yards per pass with two terrible interceptions… which was somehow BETTER than Tanner Lee’s 4.2 YPA and two terrible interceptions (giving him 9 on the year):


But let’s not talk about this terrible-ass game. Let’s talk about this good ass catch.

The ass catch: it is good. 

This team is as frightening as: Swimming only 29 minutes after eating. Fear Level = 2

Michigan should worry about: /reaches into bag of actual answers
/bag is empty
/reaches into bag of obscure stats and trivia
/bag is empty
/reaches into bag of sarcastic backhanded compliments
/bag is empty
/shakes bag upside down
/bag remains empty


We’ll be right back after these messages.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Against FBS teams, Rutgers is last in the conference in points per game, yards per play, yards per rush, yards per pass, first downs per game, and gains from scrimmage of 10+ yards, 20+ yards, 30+ yards, etc. per game.

They aren’t very good.

When they play Michigan: They won’t be very good.

Next game: vs Ohio State, 7:30 p.m., BTN (OSU -28.5)

Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: No Recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: Same as it ever was.

Fear Level = 5

Michigan should worry about: Conor Rhoda has the third best passer rating in the Big Ten right now, and the second-best yards-per-attempt average.

Did I mention that Conor Rhoda is Minnesota’s quarterback? I feel like there’s a good chance that even reasonably informed Big Ten fans might not know that. Like, if you had to name a quarterback for every Big Ten team, Minnesota and Illinois would be the last two teams.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Minnesota has the 2nd-lowest number of passing attempts per game for Power-5 teams at 19.3 attempts/game.

When they play Michigan: Thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump.

Next game: vs. Maryland, noon, FS1 (Minn -11)

Maryland (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Lost to UCF 38-10

Recap: A couple of weeks ago we discussed King Pyrrhus of Epirus’s victory over the Romans at the Battle of Asculum. Yes, we did. I know I didn’t explicitly say it would be on the exam, but that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for knowing it. Take some ownership of your education here, people. ANYWAY, it seems relevant again this week, so we have to revisit it.

After Maryland lost Piggy to an ACL injury in a shocking win over Texas, we worried that the win over the Longhorns might be Pyrrhic, leaving them worse off than if they had never fought the battle to begin with. Well, this week, the Terps launched back into contact with the Romans, and this time, Roma Victor. Roma Victor mucho. Maryland lost their last remaining good healthy quarterback, Kasim Hill, to another ACL injury, and (largely as a result) Maryland got bludgeoned by UCF.

Max Bortenschlager finished 15 of 26 for 132 yards for 5.07 YPA, which drops to 3.5 yards per dropback once you factor in two picks and five sacks. Bortenschlager was presumed to be 4th on the depth chart to begin the season behind Pigrome, Hill, and UNC transfer Caleb Henderson, but with the Pigrome and Hill down and Henderson nursing a foot injury, Maryland is in deep, deep trouble. And they don’t exactly have the defense to carry them while they figure things out.

This team is as frightening as: Ron Swanson entering a burger cooking contest with Chris Traeger.

Maryland has some interesting ingredients; Ty Johnson, DJ Moore, Lorenzo Harrison are excellent and intriguing pieces that can create a complex flavor profile. But Max Bortenschlager is ground turkey. And turkey can never beat cow. Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: Maryland may struggle to throw the ball, but they do have at least one pass-catcher worth a damn:

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Maryland has only converted seven 3rd downs all season. That’s 23.3%, which is last in the Big Ten and 3rd-to-last in the country. And that was largely with good quarterbacks.

When they play Michigan: You are the starting quarterback. Yes, you. Congratulations and/or condolences.

Next game: at Minnesota, noon, FS1 (MD +11)

#10 Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: Being an athletic director in any one of like a hundred basketball schools right now. Fear Level = 8.5

Michigan should worry about: Wisconsin currently has the #4 S&P+ defense in the country.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: #4 Defense, eh? That’s cute. No, I mean, good for you. I suppose that’s pretty good. Almost any school would love to have the #4 defense.

When they play Michigan: First to 17 points wins.

Next game: vs. Northwestern, noon, ABC (UW -15)

#11 Ohio State (3-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat UNLV 54-21

Recap: Ohio State may not have covered, but make no mistake: this was an ass-whooping. The score was 37-0 less than halfway through the second quarter. JT Barrett threw for 209 yards at 12.3 yards a pop, which would have been even higher if the end zone hadn’t gotten in the way five times. He and Dwayne Haskins combined for 474 yards at better than 10.8 per. In all, 13 Buckeyes caught passes, and seven different receivers caught touchdown passes (only eight Buckeyes caught touchdown passes all last year, and only four (!) caught touchdown passes in 2015). OSU was more than 3 yards per play better than UNLV during non-garbage time.

This team is as frightening as: Somewhere in that little sliver of space between UNLV and Oklahoma. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Ohio State getting its passing game together would be extremely worrysome.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: If you really drill down into the numbers, you can make a case that Michigan’s defense is more reliable than UNLV’s

When they play Michigan: Be prepared to vomit up Thanksgiving dinner. Just hope it’s celebration vomit.

Next game: at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m., BTN (OSU -28.5)

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

#21 Florida (2-1, 2-0 SEC)

Last week: Won at Kentucky 28-27

Recap: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

A week after their blindfolded rock fight with Tennessee, Florida once again played a dumbass game against a mediocre opponent that turned on all kinds of stupidity. And once again, it was somehow the opponent who was stupider than Jim McElwain and company.

Yep. Kentucky left wide receivers wide open and undefended TWICE, both of which Florida (miraculously?) managed to turn into touchdowns. This is how you lose 31 straight games to a team.

Florida has also made a change at the quarterback position. Luke Del Rio, on the strength of a 5.3 YPA/1 touchdown that probably 30% of humans could complete/1 INT outing, will be starting against Vanderbilt. Literally no one wants to see Luke Del Rio play quarterback. Not the fans. Not the coaches. Probably not his friends or family. But we’re going to see Luke Del Rio play quarterback. Because we’re on this train now. Too late to get off. Oh, and Florida’s players may be facing up to 62 felony charges in the whole credit card thing. It’s fine. Everything is fine.

Did I mention that Florida is currently ranked #21 in the country?

Next game: vs. Vanderbilt, noon, ESPN (UF -10)

Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 AAC)

Last week: Lost at Navy, 42-32

Recap: Cincinnati had an encouraging outing on one side of the ball. The Bearcats put up 439 yards at 6.36 yards per play against Navy, including 381 yards passing at 8.3 YPA. And they kept the game competitive through most of the 3rd quarter.

Aaaaand they also gave up 622 yards at 8.29 yards per play, including 569 yards rushing. But… baby steps.

Next game: vs. Marshall, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3 (UC -5)

Air Force (1-2, 0-1 MWC)

Last week: Lost to #22 San Diego State 28-24

Recap: Air Force’s schedule-makers didn’t do them any favors, lining up SDSU on the heels of Michigan. The Aztecs, who beat Stanford last week and held them to 254 yards of offense, largely shut down Air Force’s running game, which is, like, Air Force’s entire game. Still, the Falcons held a 24-21 lead with six minutes left. They then had a couple of drives with a chance to retake the lead, but they failed to do so.

Air Force gets New Mexico this week before their annual tilt with Navy.

Next game: at New Mexico, 7:00 p.m., CBSSN



September 28th, 2017 at 12:58 PM ^

Believe it or not, I googled it, and there is some uncertainty. This is what I found:

The grammar is correct. "Victor" should not be understood as a noun here, but as an adjective. Not "Rome [is] the victor", but "Rome [is] victorious." The adjective "victor" is not inflected for gender in the nominative singular.

I speak absolutely zero Latin, so I have no idea which is true.


September 28th, 2017 at 10:27 AM ^

There was one Indiana game in the Denard-era where they ran ~100 plays to our 48, but we won that game. Perhaps you purposely struck that game from your memory. No one would blame you if you did.


September 28th, 2017 at 10:27 AM ^

We win against Penn State and squeak by OSU, but lose to Wisconsin in Camp Randall at night. 

Why will we win against Penn State? Our defense. Once Don Brown downloads your offense, good luck. Also, Penn State seems like a second-half heavy team as well, so I'm not worried because Don Brown has already downloaded your offense. I think we will test our offense at Happy Valley.

Why will we win against OSU? Karma is smiling at c*ck**cker with a pair of sharp knives.


September 28th, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^


In the final three weeks of the season, teams can veto a potential night game with notice.

“If both institutions agree to allow that game to be played in prime time, they can be chosen in the 12-day selection process for prime time,” Rudner said. “But at any time up until that 12-day process, either one of those two institutions, for whatever reason, can take themselves off the watch list and that game is no longer available for prime time.”

So yes, Michigan will more than likely veto a night game at Wisconsin making that game a probable 3:30 kick.


September 28th, 2017 at 11:41 AM ^

And UW's offense has to be much easier to download, doesn't mean easy to stop.  More scared of PSU than UW or OSU at home.

BiSB, great article again as usual.

Still laughing about/at Florida, this line helped as well: "A week after their blindfolded rock fight with Tennessee"


September 28th, 2017 at 12:21 PM ^

This may be my favorite feature on the entire blog.

BISB, they should have you write more stuff.

I'd even read Punt / Counterpunt if you wrote it.



September 28th, 2017 at 11:24 AM ^

I watched just about that entire game and I know I'm not out on a limb with this, but...

I don't think Barkley is going to be able to single-handedly beat M they way he did Iowa. We just have much more athletic guys across the board. He was getting away with YAC that just won't be there.

I agree with the O'Korn/QB concern, but I think PSU is very over-rated.