About Last Week:
Minus the golf. We get no respect, I tells ya. No respect at all…
Penn State (3-2, 0-1 B1G)
We’re not worthy… We’re not worthy… (Patriot-News)
Last game: Indiana 44, Penn State 24 (L)
Recap: Penn State came into this game 16-0 all-time against Indiana, and midway through the 3rd quarter they held a 14-13 lead. Then the wheels fell off. Indiana went on a 28-3 spurt, including three touchdowns in a span of 3:40 in the beginning of the 4thquarter. That, as they say, was that.
Penn State had a chance to grab control of this game early, and failed to capitalize. In their first first five drives they turned it over on downs at the Indiana 26, botched a snap on a 30 yard field goal for a loss of 31(!) yards, and had two other drives reach Indiana territory before stalling. For the game, Penn State racked up the yardage (which is unsurprising against Indiana), but couldn’t take advantage of generally good field position and sustain much of anything to the end zone when the game was still in doubt.
Hackenberg (30/55, 340, 3, 0) spread the yardage evenly between Allen Robinson (173 yards) and Not Allen Robinson (167 yards), which is pretty consistent with the rest of the season. Robinson currently has over 44% of PSU’s receiving yardage. The guy is legitimately frightening. Penn State isn’t doing anything fancy to isolate him. His two scores were on a quick slant in which he was immediately forced back outside and a hitch-and-go with a safety directly over top of him. Because he’s been lining up outside, my guess is that Countess draws Robinson with bracket help to the extent possible. I don’t know if it’ll help. For what it’s worth, Robinson did land on his back hard last week, but Penn State has indicated that he will be good to go for Saturday.
This team is as frightening as: MacGyver. He’s resourceful but under-resourced. It’s impressive that he’s able to be so productive in spite of his disadvantages. The remaining question is whether he can diffuse the bomb and take out the seven armed guards using nothing but his Allen Robinson. Fear level = 6
Michigan should worry about: The obvious answer is Allen Robinson. It is also the correct answer. But because that’s boring, I’ll say Zach Zwinak. This game will probably come down to Penn State’s passing game, but that passing game might depend on whether PSU can establish a plausible threat on the ground. If they can get ZZ Carrot Top going up the middle for 6 yards a pop early, it might loosen things up for Hackenberg and keep the DL from pinning its ears back.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Non-RR Michigan teams are 5-1 all-time in Happy Valley. We aren’t THAT far removed from the days in which We Own Penn State was a thing.
When they play Michigan: Penn State has lost both games they have played against teams carrying a pulse. Michigan has a pulse. Ergo, Michigan will certainly win. SCIENCE.
Next game: vs. #16/18 Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: More teams and things]
Indiana (3-2, 1-0 B1G)
Last game: Indiana 44, Penn State 24 (W)
Recap: I think Brian summed it up pretty well on the MGoPodcast this week:
From the late 3rd quarter on, this game screamed ‘catharsis.’ It was as if the football Gods looked down on Indiana and said, “if I give you this day, will you please stop heading down the dark and chromy path you’re on with these uniforms?” Indiana turned a 21-17 squeaker into a 42-17 laugher in about five minutes, aided by a stop on 4th and 2 at the PSU 33 and a fumbled kickoff that set IU up at the PSU 9.
In addition to Nate Sudfeld’s typically impressive stats (23/38, 321, 2, 1), Tevin Coleman had a nice day with 92 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving. Indiana also unveiled a Tre Roberson quasi-wildcat short yardage package in which Roberson ran 5 times for 12 yards and 2 touchdowns (and one 2 point conversion) and threw one pass for 15 yards. I was wondering if they would figure out a way to use his athleticism, and it appears that they’ve done so (and just in time for Michigan. Oh good.).
This team is as frightening as: Wile E. Coyote. Every year starts out with the hope that this time the rocket sling-shot roller skate maneuver will finally pay off. And things start out okay, an and you can see a sly smile and a look of determination on his face, as if this time, JUST THIS ONCE, all will go according to plan. Your inner skepticism must be balanced against the realization that eventually, the roadrunner will be caught. Right? Fear level = 4.5
Michigan should worry about: Playing a soft bend-but-don’t-break against Indiana is not a recipe for a fun afternoon.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan has won 32 of the 33 over Indiana since Bo was hired.
When they play Michigan: Points.
Next game: @ Michigan State
Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 B1G)
Michigan State’s most effective weapon. BIG TENNNN (Detroit News)
Last game: Michigan State 26, Iowa 14 (W)
Recap: Off-fence? Is this real life?
After a game that started off exactly how you would expect (with for punts, a turnover on downs, a missed field goal, and an INT in the first quarter against exactly zero points scored), Sparty put up 26 points and over 400 yards of honest-to-goodness offense against a defense we thought had an actual pulse. Connor Cook finished 25/44 for 277 yards, setting a new Michigan State single-game record* of 6.3 yards per pass. They generated two touchdown drives of 75 yards each. They even broke a play of 40+ yards, joining the exclusive club of “all FBS teams.”
The ground game was led by Mike Sadler, who rumbled 25 yards on a well-timed fake punt in the 3rd quarter. Outside of that, State managed less than 3.1 YPC on 36 attempts. True freshman Delton Williams burned his redshirt, and looked good but not assumption-altering. State is still bad offensively, but they aren’t as comically bad as they were for the first few weeks. Alas.
Defensively, other than a couple of late first-half drives, one of which was basically one big play, the Spartans were their usual terrifying selves. Mark Weisman was hurt, and managed only 9 yards on 7 carries. For the game Iowa only attempted 23 rushes against 46 passes, which is not a recipe for success for Iowa. Although most recipes for success involves combining one part “not Iowa” with zero parts “Iowa.”
This team is as frightening as: Living in a city that won’t shut the hell up for an entire year if you lose this game. Fear level = 8
Michigan should worry about: At some point, Sparty will have a game in which their offense will break through and play like unstoppable warrior-poets. Even ’08 Michigan had their Minnesota game. If that game happens to fall against Michigan, bad times could be had.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: There’s, like, a 60% chance that THIS was that game.
When they play Michigan: WATCH THE FAKE PUNT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
Next game: vs. Indiana
#24 Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 B1G)
Picture is unrelated, but seriously… WTF is that?
Last game: Nebraska 39, Illinois 19 (W)
Recap: This whole “let’s backload every schedule in the Legends” thing is really annoying for figuring out who the hell is worth their salt in the division. Index Patient: Nebraska. Their conference schedule before November is Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota. Combine that with a moribund non-conference schedule (other than UCLA, who blew Nebraska’s doors off), and there really isn’t much to glean from watching these guys play.
Michigan is hard to figure out because their level of play doesn’t seem to correlate to the quality of their opponent in any meaningful way. They outplayed a good team (ND) and crushed two bad teams (CMU and Minnesota), but struggled with two abysmal teams (UConn and Akron). Nebraska is hard to figure out because they were obviously better than the parade of crappy teams they’ve played, and obviously worse than the one good team they’ve played. Michigan has conflicting data. Nebraska has an absence of data.
Taylor Martinez remains out with turf toe, and reportedly won’t play this week either. Not that it matters against Purdue, but whatever.
This team is as frightening as: An NBA All-Star game. Lots of offense. No defense. People occasionally taking shots that make everyone go “oooooohhhhhh.” But at the end of the day, you get the feeling that none of it is real. Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Being sandwiched between Sparty and presumed Biggest Threat in the Legends Northwestern sets up Nebraska as a bit of a trap game.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Nebraska will ALSO be playing this game sandwiched between matchups with Northwestern and Michigan State. Plus, it’s at Michigan.
When they play Michigan: Just a gut feeling: get the ball rolling on these guys, and they fold.
Next game: @ Purdue
#18/19 Northwestern (4-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last game: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30 (L)
Recap: We could’ve had ‘em, man…
Could’ve had ‘em.
Northwestern had a 23-13 lead on Ohio State late in the 3rd quarter, but couldn’t make it stick. Their doom was set up by their inability to finish drives in the red zone; they kicked field goals of 23, 29, and 32 yards in a 3 possession span between the late 2ndand early 3rd quarters when they really had a chance to open the game up. Throw in a blocked punt touchdown and a turnover on downs on a bad center exchange at the OSU 34 with 5 minutes left, and there’s your problem.
The final score is somewhat misleading (OSU scored on a fumbled lateral on the last play of the game), as the yardage was almost dead even and the score was back and forth all game. Northwestern picked up most of their yardage in the air, as Colter and Siemian combined to complete 81% of their passes for 343 yards and 11.1 YPA. Venric Mark returned, but had limited success save for a 41 yard catch and run.
For the game, Northwestern averaged 11.1 yards per pass and 2.2 yards per run. Yet they only threw the ball 42% of the time. I’ve consulted math, and that’s not logical. Balance is one thing. Smashing your head into a wall when the wall is really short and easy to get over top of is another. YES, YES I know I’ve been extolling the virtues of Michigan’s MANBALLSMASH approach to Minnesota even though they went for almost 14 yards per pass. Shut up.
This team is as frightening as: Reaching into a garbage disposal to fish out the plastic thing you dropped down there. The actual risk might not match up with the risk you build up in your mind, and you know this, but that doesn’t mean you won’t try to get yourself out of there as fast as possible. The only goal is to get out of there unscathed. Fear level = 8
Michigan should worry about: Despite his mediocre production, Venric Mark looked healthy. A healthy Venric Mark is problematic for Michigan.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: You know what works well against teams that struggles to finish drives? A bend-but-don’t-break style of defense. Any idea who runs one of those?
When they play Michigan: I’m going to be sad that the whole “Dymonte Thomas will be the destroyer of spreads” thing hasn’t materialized.
Next game: @ Wisconsin
Iowa (4-2, 1-1 B1G)
Last game: Michigan State 26, Iowa 14 (L)
Recap: Iowa actually led MSU at the half 14-10. They followed that up by moving the ball 31 total yards on their first 6 drives of the second half. Jake Ruddock threw for 241 yards, but only 5.2 YPA and threw two bad picks. The real disappointment was that the defense couldn’t stop Michigan State. And EVERYONE stops Michigan State. Half the time it’s like stopping a VCR from climbing a tree. You’ve really gotta try to eff that up.
This team is as frightening as: No hockey mask. No sinister moustache. Regular ol’ giant noodle.
Fear Level = 4
Michigan should worry about: There was hope that Iowa would turn in their annual Hey How Did Iowa Beat Them home game performance. The only remaining options are Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan. One out of three are not great odds.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan State put up 412 yards. In one game. Let that sumbitch sink in for a second.
When they play Michigan: Pray to the god of corn and white people that Iowa has knocked off Northwestern or Wisconsin by the time Michigan rolls into Kinnick.
Next game: @ #3/4 Ohio State
#3/4 The Team That We Derisively Call "Ohio" and it Pisses Them Off Even Though Their Band Spells Out “Ohio” and Their Alma Mater is “Carmen Ohio” and Their Fight Song Says “Come On Ohio” and Their Favorite Chant is "O-H-I-O" and They Play In Ohio Stadium (6-0, 2-0 B1G)
Last game: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30 (W)
Recap: Ohio State probably cleared their last pre-The Game hurdle despite a somewhat uneven performance against Northwestern. The offense wasn’t its usual explosive self (amazing what happens when you aren’t playing Florida A&M), resorting to an old-school battering ground game with Carlos Hyde. Hyde finished with 168 yards and 3 TDs on 6.5 YPC. Braxton Miller was good but not great, but made enough plays to keep Ohio State moving when he needed to.
The Buckeye defense, on the other hand… blorp. The line was dynamic, but the back seven was downright bad. I have no idea what happened to Bradley Roby. Getting torched by Jared Abbrederis is one thing, but giving up 8 catches and 149 yards to Rashad Lawrence? Plus he was responsible for losing Venric Mark on a 41 yard catch-and-run. He just looks lost. He remains athletic as hell, but I don’t care how athletically you stare at the sky and spin in circles, you aren’t gonna stop anyone.
This team is as frightening as: Yep they’re still good. Fear level = 9
-Michigan should worry about: Ohio State’s front four. Given Michigan’s troubles moving people off the ball, these guys will be a nightmare.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Bradley Roby is like two games from just sitting on the field and picking cloverleaves mid-play.
When they play Michigan: Throw the records out the window and other clichés.
Next game: BYE
Objects in the Rearview Mirror:
Central Michigan (2-4 overall, 1-1 MAC)
Last game: Central Michigan 21, Miami (NTM) 9
Recap: Michigan destroyed a MAC powerhouse! WOO HOO!!! IT’S HAPPENING!!!
Next game: @ Ohio (YTO)
Notre Dame (4-2 overall)
I think I saw these jerseys in Any Given Sunday (South Bend Tribune)
Last game: Notre Dame 37, Arizona St. 34
Recap: Notre Dame bounced back from their boomin’ by the Sooners with a solid win over an Arizona State that beat USC and Wisconsin (albeit on a crap call) and outgained Stanford. Tommy Rees threw another pick six, but that’s just the price of doin’ business.
On a shocking side note, Notre Dame was not called for holding in this game. That’s the fifth straight game in which they didn’t hold anyone for the entire game. This is in no way ridiculous.
Next game: BYE
Akron (1-5, 0-2 MAC)
Last game: Ohio (YTO) 43, Akron 3 (L)
Recap: Okay, Michigan fans, we need to have a pow wow about Akron and UConn. We all get it. Akron got absolutely demolished by a bad team. There is no hope of us looking at Akron at the end of the year and saying “gee, they weren’t as bad as we feared.” They are terrible.
The scenario where Michigan is good and Akron and UConn are sneaky-good is a pipe dream. There are only two scenarios here. Either (a) Michigan is a bad team, and Akron and UConn are great big red flags, or (b) Michigan is a good team, and Akron and UConn were Super Mario Bros.-sized bullets that Michigan dodged. If it’s (a), then we’ll know soon enough because every team they play from here on out is better than Akron and UConn. If it’s (b), then Akron’s subsequent struggles only clarify the Houdini-ness of Michigan’s escape. Either way, we learn nothing new about Michigan by dwelling on Akron’s abysmal nature.
Bottom line: we will learn about Michigan soon enough, and we will do so independent of how Akron rolls (over).
Next game: @ Northern Illinois
UConn (0-4, 0-0 AAC)
Last game: BYE
Next game: vs. South Florida