Opponent Watch 2017: Week 5

Submitted by BiSB on October 5th, 2017 at 11:20 AM

About Last Week:

Three and a half million Americans struggled to rebuild their lives, and for their very lives themselves, in the aftermath of one of the most devastating storms in recent memory. They did so again this week. They will do so again next week.


(Gerald Herbert/AP)

Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a humorous departure from the realities of the world. We’re here to laugh in the midst of so much yelling. I get that. But this is one of those moments. As of yesterday, 34 people were dead (with that number expected to rise substantially) and 95% of the island remains without power. Only 14 hospitals have power. For all the talk in the last few weeks about what the American flag means, these are people who rise and sleep beneath that flag, and who are trying to rise again.

It takes about 90 seconds to donate money to any of these groups:

No guilt, no cajoling. No one will be called out. It’s is your call. But as a special one-time offer, if you donate money to these groups RIGHT NOW, I promise to make fun of Rutgers every week.

The Road Ahead:

Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Iowa, 17-10

Recap: Michigan State has matched their win total from last season. But their games aren’t much prettier.

Michigan State averaged less than 4.1 yards per play, and only 3.3 yards per play after their opening drive. On the bright side, they held Iowa to 3.8 yards per play. Neither team could run the ball for crap, with Akrum Wadley ay 1.8 YPC on 17 carries and Michigan State’s running backs at 1.7 YPC on 24 carries.

How dumb was this game? It featured a Full Tommy Rees:

(FWIW, if you ever find yourself wondering how far the Big Ten Network will limbo in the name of making the conference look as not-bad as possible, note that they labeled that video “Michigan State Forces the Turnover vs. Iowa,” as opposed to something more accurate like “Michigan State Stands Near Iowa While Iowa Re-enacts the Portion of Infomercial Where Regular Tasks Like Sitting in a Chair or Eating Soup Are Impossible”)

This team is as frightening as: A person who lives in your house and who has the same mother as you and the same father and you and who was born chronologically after you. I do not believe there is an exact English translation for this. Fear Level = 6

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan State’s traditional running game is still somewhat of a disaster. LJ Scott is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, and he’s lost three bad fumbles. Madre London is at 3.2 YPC, and Gerald Holmes is at 3.9. None have a Highlight Yards Per Opportunity over 4.0, which is fancy speak for “bad.”

Michigan should worry about: Brian Lewerke is still second in the Big Ten in yards per carry (sack-adjusted) at 8.5 yards per carry. BIG TENNNNNN.

When they play Michigan: Michigan needs to acknowledge the importance of this game. 

or not...



Next game: at Michigan, 7:30 p.m., ABC (MSU +11)

[AFTER THE JUMP: it's... it's hard to explain]

Indiana (2-2, 0-2 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Penn State, 45-14



According to Google Image Search, I’m pretty sure one of these three guys is Indiana’s new starting quarterback

This game was not actually not as lopsided as the score would suggest. Penn State jumped out to a 28-0 first quarter lead, but that included a kickoff return and a fumble return for touchdowns. Indiana cut the deficit to 28-14 at the half, but four turnovers doomed them. Still, the yardage numbers weren’t bad, and Indiana actually had some success in slowing Penn State’s offense for good chunks of the game.

The big takeaway from this game was that redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey has replaced Richard Lagow as the starting quarterback. He and Lagow had been splitting snaps, but the staff announced the change going forward. Ramsey’s 5.7 yards per dropback isn’t appreciably better than Lagow’s, but he does bring more mobility to the picture.

Ramsey’s entrance into the lineup may be the final nail in the coffin of #CHAOSTEAM. Ramsey doesn’t seem to have the ability to executed the Dink And Dunk Of Doom that Lagow, when the winds and the tides were just right and Mercury was in retrograde, could occasionally execute.

This team is as frightening as: Driving the length of the state of Indiana. About 3.5 hours without much of interest to look at. Just try not to crash into anything. Fear Level = 4

Michigan should worry about: The defense didn’t completely collapse against Penn State on the road.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: A freshman quarterback with a questionable offensive line against Don Brown.

When they play Michigan: 18,000 Michigan fans. 18,000 Indiana fans. 17,000 people dressed as bleachers.

Next game: vs. Charleston Southern, 3:30 p.m., BTN

Penn State (5-0, 2-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Indiana, 45-14

Recap: Your weekly Saquon and Acquaintances update is pretty standard… with one exception. Barkley ran back the opening kickoff, threw a touchdown pass, and caught 4 passes for 51 yards.

He also ran the ball 20 times… for 56 yards.

This is especially surprising given that Indiana’s defense is very banged up right now. Trace McSorley ran the ball 11 times for 15 yards (excluding sacks), so the ground game for Penn State averaged less than 2.3 yards per carry.

Still, this was a 31-point win in a non-Rutgers conference game, so it’s hard to criticize too much.

This team is as frightening as: The “here be dragons” section of ye olde maps. You’re pretty sure the promised monsters aren’t real, but there are probably some significant dangers and troubling creatures around you. Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Penn State finally got an actual wide receiver involved. Coming into the game, Saquon Barkley had 23 catches, and no receiver had more than 13. In this one, DaeSean Hamilton caught 9 passes for 122 yards and 3 scores.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: According to S&P+, Penn State’s last two games were their two worst since they played Michigan last year. Do you remember that game? I remember that game.

When they play Michigan: A GameDay appearance seems likely. So we get to see what kinds of signs Penn State fans find amusing.

Oh god.

Next game: Bye

Rutgers (1-4, 0-2 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 56-0

Recap: Heraclitius once said…


Wait… did y’all donate money to hurricane relief like I asked?


Okay. Cool. I shall now uphold my end of the bargain.


Heraclitius once said that “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” Two unfortunate caveats for Rutgers:(1) this maxim does not apply to latrines, and (2) the squishy feeling betwixt their toes is most certainly not sand.

And Rutgers didn't just step back in. They cannonballed (which is ironic, as the Rutgers cannon itself remained silent). After getting blown the hell out four times in conference play last year (by Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State) by an average score of 56-0, Rutgers lost their conference home opener by a score of… yep, 56-0. Ohio State nearly tripled Rutgers in total yards and yards per play. If we had any illusions of Rutgers not being Rutgers once again, those illusions have been swept aside like a Rutgers lineman.

Still, they had a shot at points with one final desperation fourth quarter drive. And then it happened:

No sad field goal has ever been sadder.

This team is as frightening as: There is a fish in the Amazon river called the candiru (also known as a “toothpick fish” or a “vampire fish”). It has, according to local legend, been known to swim up and lodge itself in a host’s urethra.

In terms of frightfulness, Rutgers is the opposite of that. Fear Level = 1.5

Michigan should worry about: Maybe Janarion Grant gets healthy? And grows 6 inches? And develops some sort of superpower?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Rutgers is #125 in the country in yards per pass at 5.0 YPA, and #129 in yards per completion at 9.3 YPC.

When they play Michigan: Rutgers will continue to violate the principle of Chechov’s Gun.


Next game: Bye (Rutgers +3.5)

Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Maryland, 31-24

Recap: This was Minnesota’s first game under PJ Fleck against a team ranked higher than 99th in S&P+ rankings. This “test” was against the #58 team that was essentially down to its fourth-string QB. And it did not go particularly well.

Despite two solid running backs, Minnesota just cannot run the dang ball. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks combined for 74 yards on 30 carries. On the year, they are averaging less than 3.8 per carry, and despite the crappy slate they’ve played so far, Minnesota hasn’t cracked 5 yards per carry in any game.

This team is as frightening as: Today’s football ain’t got the same soul. I like that old time...

(no roll).

Michigan should worry about: Minnesota is actually surprisingly dynamic with big plays in the passing game. They’re #19 in the country in passing IsoPPP (a measure of passing game explosiveness)

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Almost all of that dynamic-ness is based on Tyler Johnson (who is averaging 23.4 yards per catch and 14.6 yards per target), and Johnson has been quieter in the last couple of weeks. We’ll see if he can sustain the load of a top-end receiver this deep into the season.

When they play Michigan: Minnesota is using the hashtag #RhodaBoat. I just thought I would mention that.

Next game: at Purdue, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2 (MINN +3.5)

Maryland (3-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Minnesota, 31-24

Recap: The formula for the Max Bortenschlager era is pretty straightforward: give the ball to Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison, throw the ball in the (very) general direction of DJ Moore, question mark question mark question mark, profit.

Of Maryland’s 77 plays, 18 were carries by Johnson, 17 were carries by Harrison, 13 were passes targeted at Moore. That’s 62% of Maryland’s plays, which is a much higher percentage than in the three previous games (44% on average). The only thing that really worked well was Ty Johnson, who finished with 130 yards on 18 carries. The throws to Moore weren’t particularly efficient (11.3 yards per catch, 6.9 yards per target), but at this point the Terps will take that as a win.

The goal now is bowl eligibility. They needed this one, and they got it. They have one likely win (Rutgers), two coin flip games (Northwestern and Indiana), one somewhat-worse-than-a-coin-flip game (at Michigan State), and four tough games (at OSU, at Wisconsin, vs. Michigan, and vs. Penn State). They need three wins out of that pile. It’s doable, but S&P estimates them at 5.63 wins.

This team is as frightening as: Realizing you’re going to have to spell “Bortenschlager” for the foreseeable future. Fear Level = 4.5

Michigan should worry about: Ty Johnson’s big issue last year was the disproportionate lack of production against good defenses. Minnesota was statistically pretty good on the ground, and Johnson still went moderately off.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan is not “pretty good” on defense.

When they play Michigan: Keep contain on the edge, and this will be a slaughter.

Next game: at Ohio State, 4:00 p.m., FOX (MD +31.5)

Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Northwestern, 33-24

Recap: Twitter observers declared this game to be “so damned Wisconsin/Northwestern.” And I cannot disagree.

Wisconsin outplayed Northwestern in the first half, but turned the ball over three times (and it could have been worse), and actually trailed 10-7 at halftime. Wisconsin then built a 31-10 lead, and refused to try to add to it, to the point where Northwestern ended up with the ball back down by only 7 with a minute left. Clayton Thorson then took an inexplicable safety. Because Wisconsin/Northwestern.

Wisconsin smothered Northwestern for most of the day; the Wildcats only gained 244 yards at 3.1 yards per play. Other than the turnovers, the Badger offense was solid but uninspiring. Truth be told, Wisconsin is settling into the upper end of “solid but uninspiring.”

This team is as frightening as: Wearing a Speedo. Not something anyone really wants to watch, but they can creep up on you unexpectedly. Also a very uncomfortable experience outdoors in November. Fear Level = 8.5

Michigan should worry about: Alex Hornibrook still leads the conference at 10.0 yards per pass, and has completed 9 TDs to 3 INTs.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Hornibrook’s arm is… well…


When they play Michigan: A gentlemanly duel. With bricks. At three paces.

Next game: at Nebraska, 8:00 p.m., BTN (WIS -11.5)

Ohio State (4-1, 2-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Rutgers, 56-0

Recap: The important takeaways from this game from an Ohio State perspective are as follows:

  • Dammit Jim Delany.

This team is as frightening as: The prospect of trying to find interesting things to say about Rutgers every week from now until the end of time if they keep pooping in the house like this. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: JT Barrett is averaging 10.5 yards per pass over the last three games…

Michigan can sleep soundly about: …against Army, UNLV, and Rutgers

When they play Michigan: I genuinely have no clue what either of these teams is going to looks like, but odds are both will be somewhere between “very good” and “ungodly wrecking ball.”

Next game: vs. Maryland, 4:00 p.m., FOX (OSU -31.5)

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Florida (3-1, 3-0 SEC)

Last week: Beat Vanderbilt, 38-24

Image result for endless cycle

Not sure if this is Florida’s QB depth chart or their favorite route combination

Recap: Florida’s offense is... something? Man, I don’t know what to say. You watch them, and your overriding thought is “I need to make better decisions with my life.” And then you look at the box score, they put up their third consecutive game of more than 6 yards per play (after a 3.6 YPP opener against Michigan). Against Vandy, they put up 38 points, which is the most the offense has put up in the last 16 games.

The bad news for Florida is that Luke Del Rio, who replaced Feleipe Franks who replaced Luke Del Rio who replaced Feleipe Franks who replaced Malik Zaire who replaced Feleipe Franks, broke his shoulder and is out for the year. Presumably he will be replaced by Feleipe Franks. Franks has been Florida’s best passer from a statistical standpoint, though much of that has come in the style of former Gator Rex Grossman.

The Gators play LSU this Saturday, which… boy I wouldn’t touch either side of that betting line with a 39 ½ foot pole.

Next game: vs. LSU, 3:30 p.m., CBS (UF -3.5)

Cincinnati (2-3, 0-1 AAC)

Last week: Lost to Marshall, 38-21

Recap: Woof.

Next game: vs. UCF, 8:00 p.m., ESPNU

Air Force (1-3, 0-2 MWC)

Last week: Lost to New Mexico 56-38

Recap: Wooooooooof.

Next game: at Navy, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN (Navy -7.5)

Purdue (2-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

Next game: vs. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2 (Purdue -3.5)


yossarians tree

October 5th, 2017 at 1:42 PM ^

What I saw of Iowa in that game was vintage vanilla Iowa with a dreadful hangover. And wasn't Wadley banged up and not supposed to play at one point? The whole thing was an ugly spectacle, and helps me to believe--and I really, really want to believe--that we will hang a big number on State and turn that shaky lockerroom upon itself.


October 5th, 2017 at 11:33 AM ^

For the Michigan State Sleep Soundly/Worry About sections, based on the YPC should those be swapped? 


Also candiru are fucking terrifying, but I guess I likely will never swim in the Amazon

Chitown Kev

October 5th, 2017 at 11:36 AM ^

always playing bridesmaid in these rivalries...

they could never be ND's #1 rival...that's USC...

can't be UM's or OSU's top rival...

well...there's always Rutgers...


October 5th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

This team is as frightening as: A person who lives in your house and who has the same mother as you and the same father and you and who was born chronologically after you. I do not believe there is an exact English translation for this.


October 5th, 2017 at 1:08 PM ^


Rutgers: First things first!  To the death.
BiSB: No. To the pain.
Rutgers: I don't think I'm quite familiar with that phrase.
BiSB: I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.
Rutgers: That may be the first time in my life the Internet has dared insult me.
BiSB: It won't be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your run offense up the middle. Then your edge plays.  Next your passing.
Rutgers: And then my special teams, I suppose, I killed you too quickly back in 2014, a mistake I don't mean to duplicate tonight.
BiSB: I wasn't finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left tackle followed by your right.
Rutgers: And then my cannon, I understand, let's get on with it!
BiSB: WRONG! Your cannon you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideous defense will go uninterrupted.  Every babe that weeps at your 3-and-outs, every woman who cries out, "Dear God! What is that thing," will be heard above that silent cannon. That is what "to the pain" means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.
Rutgers: I think you're bluffing.
BiSB: It's possible, pig. I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I'm only doing Opponent Watch because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again. . . Don Brown's our DC, not me.


October 5th, 2017 at 2:26 PM ^

More like a symptom of a terrible ailment that badly deviated my developing childhood brain toward time-wasting nonsense like turning anything into a "Princess Bride" reference instead of things a nice corporate productive America economy would like me to do.  I mean, who wouldn't want to write TPS reports all day?  Yet my brain is instead trying to come up with ways to rhyme with your reply in the manner of Fezzik.

Yes, I have been advised that I am a terrible citizen.  Nay, do not try to save me; for I am already lost.


October 5th, 2017 at 11:41 AM ^

Those MSU articles.. Jesus man. Pitiful. If you have to tell someone you are their biggest rival, you are not their biggest rival lol. You can't just declare things and have them then be that way. 




October 5th, 2017 at 11:42 AM ^

Everybody should donate if they can (Michigan fans have always been amazing at opening their checkbooks for good causes and let's not stop now) but can we not plug the Red Cross as one of the options?

Stick with the organizations that actually have a proven track record of getting donations where they're supposed to go - the Red Cross failed the people of Haiti a few years ago and can't answer questions about what portion of your donations might actually go to Americans in need of help today. Unidos is a far, far better choice.

I'll hope off my soap box now. Beat Sparty.


October 6th, 2017 at 1:27 AM ^

Greetings from San Juan!

Red Cross just got here and their first move was kicking UPR students out of their dorms (which they had already paid for). Big surprise... *rolleyes* Many of these students live hours away and have lost everything back home.

Perkis-Size Me

October 5th, 2017 at 11:56 AM ^

Poor damn Sparty. They can't be anyone's biggest rival. 

Tywin said it best: "Any man who has to say I am the king is no true king." In this case, if you have to physically go out and proclaim that you are someone's biggest rival, then you're not that person's biggest rival. It should be understood. 

No matter what they do, they will always be #2 in Michigan's eyes. Or depending on who you talk to, #3 behind ND. Hell, maybe even #4 behind Rutgers. 


October 5th, 2017 at 9:24 PM ^

Bob Davie has their number and it's something that has been happening even last year(when they won ten games) and the year before(when they won their division of the Mountain West).  In both those years they had generational talents on the defense and yet still couldn't stop New Mexico.  

I SAY THIS AS AN AIR FORCE FAN NOT A MICHIGAN ONE(who is really fucking pissed off about this trend), New Mexico just has their number and it's had their number even when Air Force's defense had some great players such as Steelhammer.  Don't overvalue their performance against New Mexico, it's just something that happens regardless of how good Air Force is relative to everyone else.  

Their other loss was to a top-25 San Diego State outfit that had beaten Stanford the week before.

All I'm saying is break out the hair shirts all you want, using Air Force's current record as a reason to do so is currently premature.