Hello! We haven’t spoken for a while. How are you? I am fine.
Once again this year, we will take a weekly guided journey through the inner workings of Michigan's schedule. It's like "It's a Small World," but where making fun of the various characters doesn't seem quite as ethnocentric or jingoist.
About Last Year:
The Road Ahead:
Appalachian State (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Last year: 4-8 (4-4 Southern), no bowl game because FCS. And because record.
Recap: App State is far removed from the team that won several FCS championships and did… that. They lost their only FBS matchup to Georgia 45-6, and that was in November after Georgia’s entire roster tore, sprained, and/or broke its everything. Jerry Moore is gone, as is Armanti Edwards. I think. This is not the ideal time to try to move up to whatever we’re calling the FBS now. Can we call it Division 1A again? Please?
Anywho, App State doesn’t figure to be much better this year.
This team is as frightening as: The glass floor of the Sears Tower Skydeck. Sure, there’s almost no chance you’ll fall through. We live in a society based around certain principles that make it almost impossible to find yourself in a position where you could fall through. Objectively, you know this. But what if. Fear Level = 1. But also 11.
Michigan should worry about: What if.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Oh my god, what if. Shut up shut up shut up. Everyone SHUT UP. I’m trying to think here. I just need to get closer to the ground. I’m way too high. This isn’t safe. I need to lie down. Shut up. Shut up.
When they play Michigan: WHY IS IT SO LOUD IN HERE.
First game: At Michigan. Because that was an idea someone had. And someone else said “that idea is a good idea.” And they got a group of people together, and that group concluded that it was a good idea. And they made it happen. On purpose.
[AFTER THE JUMP: The opponents get better and less memory-stabby]
Notre Dame (0-0, 0-0 quasi-ACC)
Last year: 9-4, won Pinstripe Bowl over Rutgers 29-16
Recap: Notre Dame was a bit of a bizarre team last year. They beat Michigan State, Arizona State, and USC, but lost to Pitt and Michigan. However, since then, things have gotten… interesting. The production Notre Dame from last year’s roster that Michigan won’t bring to the table on September 6th is amazing: 100% of their passing yards, 70% of their catches, 73% of their receiving yards, 70% of their tackles, and 91% of their sacks. They lost five starters from their front seven, including Louis Nix, Prince Shembo, and Stefon Tuitt.
And if that weren’t enough, this latest academic scandal that has DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, and Kendell Moore likely out for AT LEAST the Michigan game, and likely knocks off the Black Knight’s other arm. They’re starting a converted wide receiver at one outside linebacker spot, a walk-on at the MIKE, and a true freshman at SDE. They may be okay offensively, but defensively… yeesh.
This team is as frightening as: A rich man's 2013 Indiana. An offense with serious potential, and a defense manned by two really good defenders and nine Muppets. And none of those quick, athletic Muppets like Animal. We’re talking Beaker and Gonzo. Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Sheldon Day. One of two reliable front seven defenders (along with Jaylon Smith), Day has the potential to cause real problems in the interior of Michigan’s offensive line, which, as you may have heard, is not renowned for its blockyness.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Everything that isn’t Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day. Plus, even with the chowder of chaos that was last year’s offensive line, Michigan was still able to run the ball for 166 yards at 4.3 YPC.
When they play Michigan: Farewell, Fig Things.
First game: vs. Rice, 3:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC)
Miami (NTM) (0-0, 0-0 MAC)
Last year: 0-12 (0-8 MAC), no bowl game because all the reasons
Recap: I don’t think I need to recap this. It was bad. They lost to everyone. They beat no one. They were 108th in defensive FEI+. They were dead last, 125th, in FEI+ offense. They racked up 3.7 yards per play. They gave up 6.4 yards per play. They are breaking in a new quarterback. *
They are terrible.
This team is as frightening as: 2013 Akron. Yes, this should both comfort you and COMPLETELY SCARE THE EVERLOVING HELL out of you. Fear Level = 2
Michigan should worry about: Michigan has nothing to worry about. That is the moment in every horror movie when something really worrying happens.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Huh. The lights just went out. Don’t worry, I’m sure it was just a circuit breaker. I’ll go down to the basement with this little flashlight and flip it back on. I’ll be right back.
When they play Michigan: Hello? Is someone there?
First game: vs. Marshall, 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3)
Utah (0-0, 0-0 PAC-12)
Last year: 5-7 (2-7 PAC 12), no bowl game because math
Recap: Utah was only 2-7 in conference last year, but they really didn’t take any bad losses. UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Arizona State were all pretty good, and Arizona, Oregon State and Washington State were solid bowl teams. Their only blowout loss was to Oregon, and they even managed to knock off Stanford. Still, 2-7 is 2-7. Utah certainly isn’t what they were ten years ago, but they also aren’t as bad as they were two years ago. They are a Power 5 conference team (we definitely need a new name for that, by the way), so a somewhat challenging game beckons.
Utah’s season relies a great deal on a guy coming off a brain problem, which is a terrible sentence to write and an even more terrible concept to consider. Quarterback Travis Wilson missed the second half of the season with a concussion, and the discovery that he had a problem with an intracranial artery, which as the name suggests is a thing that moves blood around in his brain. This is an important function. He’s been cleared to play, and we wish him nothing but good health even if it means an uncomfortably close afternoon in the Big House.
This team is as frightening as: A generic non-terrible team. Fear Level = 5
Michigan should worry about: The all-time series is 1-1, meaning this game is by definition a 50/50 toss-up.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan leads the all-time series point differential 33-32. They are therefore guaranteed to win. Besides, if the 2008 Michigan team that finished 3-9 can keep a game against a 13-0 Utah team to a two point win, Michigan should win this game by… /checks calculator… a lot.
When they play Michigan:
First game: vs. Idaho State, 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Pac-12 Network, like anyone has that)
Minnesota (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 8-5 (4-4 B1G), lost Texas Bowl to Syracuse 21-17
Recap: Minnesota was a bit of a throwback team last year, in that everyone who watched them felt compelled to throw back a couple of extra drinks. They played almost unbearably slow, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for television timeouts. They ran the ball 66% of the time as a pro-style team. That’s insane. Of course, you do what you have to do to win, and that’s what Minnesota had to do to win.
With Mitch Leidner running the offense, they basically ran the Denard-as-a-freshman offense; he threw the ball 78 times and ran the ball 102 times. Against FBS competition he completed 51.4% of his passes at 7.34 YPA. So this year, with Phillip Nelson gone (and I mean GONE), Minnesota will rest the entire offense on Leidner’s shoulders.
This team is as frightening as: A steamroller.
Powerful in certain narrow parameters, slow, extremely one-dimensional, and led by a small, kinda goofy-looking but rather endearing guy. Shouldn’t be hard to avoid, but for the love of all things holy, please pay the minimal attention and effort required to avoid getting splattered. Fear Level = 5.5
Michigan should worry about: Thieran Cochran. He’s a really good defensive end, and given Michigan’s youth at the tackle spot (and the guard spot… and the center spot…), he could potentially give Minnesota the couple of big plays they would need to have a chance to upset Michigan.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Ra’Shede Hageman is gone.
When they play Michigan: At least it’ll be over quickly.
First game: vs. Eastern Illinois, 7:00 p.m. Thursday (BTN)
Rutgers (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 6-7 (3-5 AAC), lost Pinstripe Bowl to Notre Dame 29-16
Recap: You know what’s coming.
This team is as frightening as: Miley Cyrus, circa the Hannah Montana era. Fear Level = 3
Michigan should worry about: Darius Hamilton, I guess? Rutgers’ run defense is actually kind of okay, and Hamilton is pretty good.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL…
When they play Michigan: Michigan will travel to Piscataway, New Jersey for a conference game. THANKS JIM DELANY.
First game: @ Washington State, 10:00 p.m. Thursday (Fox Sports 1)
Penn State (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 7-5 (4-4 B1G), no bowl game because… events
Recap: Penn State was surprisingly competent last year. They struggled to run the ball, but they were surprisingly non-terrible in the air. Most of that was due to Allen Robinson, who accounted for 46% of Penn State’s receiving yards last year. Of course, Jeremy Gallon accounted for nearly 43% of Michigan’s receiving yards last year, but Michigan brings back a guy who had 748 yards, whereas Penn State’s next THREE leading receivers (two of whom are TEs) totaled a combined 789 yards.
Penn State remains a bit of a team of chaos. They have some really talented players, but at the same time they have very little depth. They are starting two converted defensive tackles at the offensive guard spots, and other than tight end, if they suffer injuries at almost any position group, the drop-off will be steep. They could win six games in conference, or they could win two.
This team is as frightening as: getting stuck in an elevator with a conspiracy theorist that argues that the Trilateral Commission ordered the refs to put two seconds on the clock because JoePa had gotten too close to the treasure. Fear Level = 6.5
Michigan should worry about: Penn State’s defensive ends. Deion Barnes and CJ Olaniyan are both really good, especially off the edge, though Barnes is coming off a down year. However, they are undersized, so IF Michigan can get underneath them, there may be some plays to be had in the running game, particularly with Penn State’s lack of depth at DT.
(That’s three opponents in a row for whom the concern is the defensive line. Can you tell where my nervousness lies?)
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This guy is gone.
When they play Michigan: The goal is clear. #OnePointOneYardsPerCarryOrBust
First game: vs. UCF, 8:30 a.m. Saturday (ESPN2)... assuming they can avoid the GIANT VOLCANIC ERUPTION, which presumably is part of the conspiracy.
Michigan State (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 13-1 (9-0 B1G + BTCG), won Rose Bowl over Stanford 24-20
Recap: It was all so amusing. We got several weeks of mockery of the Spartans. And then Devin Gardner asploded into a million tiny pieces, Sparty went to the Rose Bowl, WON the Rose Bowl, and generally made a royal mess of things for people like myself who have been taking amused jabs at Sparty for most of my life.
So, now we turn to 2014, and it appears that Michigan State is the favorite to win the Big Ten once again, especially in light of the news surrounding Braxton Miller. The have to replace a number of pieces on the defense (particularly Max Bullough, Darqueze Dennard, Isaiah lewis, and Denicos Allen), so it isn’t clear whether State will feature a solid, above-average defense or another murderous smash-monster.
This team is as frightening as: The dentist. You’re going to his place, and you know well ahead of time what is going to happen. You try to prepare by flossing in the days leading up to the appointment, but you know full well you’re going to bleed anyway. Then you’re going to get a condescending lecture, and you’re like “I hate it here.” Fear Level = 9
Michigan should worry about: What had happened.
Melanie Maxwell, Ann Arbor News
Michigan can sleep soundly about: After getting mauled in East Lansing last year, it’ll be nice to return to the friendly confines of East Lansing for this one. THANKS, JIM.
When they play Michigan: Look at your quantity of available whiskey. It is insufficient. Acquire more whiskey.
First game: vs. Jacksonville State, 7:30 p.m. Friday (BTN)
Indiana (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 5-7 (3-5 B1G), no bowl game because defense.
Recap: In last year’s Week 1 Opponent Watch, we declared Indiana to be like 2009 Michigan, saying that “the offense is going to score some points, but they’ll be dragging the defense along with them.” Well, just like 2009 Michigan, Indiana finished 5-7. But we underestimated both how good the offense was, and how bad the defense was. In hindsight, Indiana was more like 2010 Michigan. The offense was great; 2013 Indiana was #17 in offensive FEI+, 2010 Michigan was #2. But the defense was abysmal; 2013 Indiana was #110 in defensive FEI, which was worse than 2010 Michigan’s #109.
Since then, Tre Roberson left, leaving Nate Sudfeld solely at the helm. Sudfeld threw for 21 TDs and 9 INTs and 7.8 YPA, and Indiana’s offense hummed along quite well with him behind center. The big difference with Roberson gone is that Indiana loses the possibility of a running threat from the quarterback; Sudfeld ended up with negative rushing yardage last year, and Roberson averaged 5 yards per carry even including sacks. Will it matter?
This team is as frightening as: A two-headed monster with only one head. Fear Level = 5
Michigan should worry about: Would you guys slow down for TWO DAMN SECONDS? Jeez, it's like trying to catch a chicken on meth.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Hey, Tim Bennett, look over there! A shiny object!
When they play Michigan: Points.
First game: vs. Indiana State, 12:00 p.m. Saturday (ESPNEWS)
Northwestern (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 5-7 (1-7 B1G), no bowl because Fat Guy Hail Mary and Dileo Power Slide
Recap: With under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, #16 Northwestern had a three point lead on #4 Ohio State, and was looking to move to 5-0 on the season. Then some stuff happened…
And Northwestern finished the year losing 7 of 8, with their sole victory being a three point win over Illinois (which, if we’re being honest, is probably worse than most of their losses).
And if that wasn’t enough, running back Venric Mark, wide receiver Christian Jones, and corner Daniel Jones (all starters) are done before Week One. This year is not shaping up much better than last year, and last year was painful.
This team is as frightening as: Northwestern, circa all the years that aren’t 2000. Fear Level = 6
Michigan should worry about: Zombie Venric Mark.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan is 55-15-2 all-time against Northwestern, including wins in 8 of the last 9 and 30 of the last 34. So, math.
When they play Michigan: Please score more than nine points in regulation.
First game: vs. Cal, 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
Maryland (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 7-6 (3-5 ACC), lost Military Bowl to Marshall 31-20
Recap: Had Maryland been a conference member last year, they would have competed with for Most Snakebitten Team in the B1G. Their corners, linebackers, and wide receivers exploded at a fantastic rate. At one point they lost their two leading receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, in the same half of the same game to the same injury (a broken leg). They were also down to a 5’7” true freshman at corner (who turned out to be really quite good). Still, even taking injuries into account, losing to Boston College, Marshall (by 11), Syracuse (by 17), and Wake Forest (by 24) doesn’t scream “juggernaut,” nor does a one-point wins over Virginia or a 63-0 loss to Florida State.
They are back healthy now, but they remain an incomplete team, with holes along the offensive line and the defensive back seven. If they STAY healthy, they’ll probably slot in around the Penn State level in the East; too incomplete to reach the top of the conference, but with enough pieces to make them interesting.
This team is as frightening as:Wait, why are we playing Maryland in November? Fear Level = 6.5
Michigan should worry about: Those wide receivers. They return five (!) guys with at least 30 catches, 450 yards, and 13.6 yards per catch. Diggs and Long were both five-stars. A team is going to need to be really, really deep at corner to slow these guys down.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan is really, really deep at corner.
When they play Michigan: If history is any indication, by the time mid-November rolls around, Maryland will be looking deeeeeep on the bench to replace wounded starters:
First game: vs. James Madison, 3:30 p.m. Saturday (BTN)
Ohio State (0-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last year: 12-2 (8-1 B1G + BTCG), lost Orange Bowl to Clemson hey come back here Sammy Watkins, 40-35
Recap: That grumbling sound you hear is a thousand writers, columnists, and bloggers angrily deleting their OSU previews. If you drew up a list of the most essential players in college football, Braxton Miller would have to be on a short list with Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and maybe Nick Marshall. A Heisman candidate quarterback on a national title contender running an unusually quarterback-reliant system with no clear-cut backup? Yeah, that changes things.
They remain quite good... but with a freshman QB, a suspect back seven, and a brand new offensive line, the outlook is suddenly a little hazier
This team is as frightening as: Showing up to play football and being told you have to play school too. Fear Level = 8
Michigan should worry about: JT Barrett is basically Braxton Miller and will clearly run the table and establish himself as a Heisman frontrunner, if not outright winner.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Ohio State is going to be in a really awkward spot next year when Braxton Miller comes back but J.T. Barrett has established himself as The Guy by running the table, and the resulting turmoil will open the door to Michigan sneaking in keeping it close in the first half of The Game next year.
When they play Michigan:
First game: @ Navy, 12:00 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Objects in the rearview mirror:
[UPDATE - Objects in the Nursery: