Opponent Watch: Week 8

Submitted by Heiko on October 27th, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Sometimes I post on Wednesday, sometimes I post on Thursday. Ideally I should post on Tuesday, but ideally Michigan should be undefeated.

Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace.

The Road Ahead:

Purdue (4-3, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: No. 23 Illinois 14, Purdue 21 (W)

Recap: If you want something more than handwaving, see Ace’s FFFF.

In a nutshell, Purdue managed two real drives in the first half while stymieing Illinois’ offense for a good 50 minutes before the Illini finally came to. As Ace indicates, the Boilermakers didn’t so much win this game as Illinois lost it: Purdue is a not very good team that happened to play well. The Illini were a better team that made enough mistakes to beat themselves. Sometimes you can bring a knife to a gunfight and prevail because the guys with the guns shoot at each other first. That’s not the best analogy but you get the point.

Right now they are as frightening as: After losing to Rice and narrowly escaping Middle Tennessee State at the beginning of the season, Purdue has improved enough to play Penn State close and beat a ranked Illinois team. What does this mean?

It means that the Big Ten isn’t very good. Fear level = 4.

Michigan should worry about: Underestimating Purdue’s defense. While not stellar as a unit, they’re fairly opportunistic, led by a secondary that is competent to good. CB Ricardo Allen, the guy who intercepted Denard last year and hurdled him for a 94-yard touchdown, is still on the team. He’s a sophomore, so we’ll be seeing him for a while.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Saturday’s weather forecast says 52 degrees and partly cloudy with 0 percent chance of trash. Roy Roundtree's Donald Duck voice.

When Michigan plays them: Is Michigan good enough to not beat itself? Most signs point to yes. This game may not be pretty--you should avert your eyes every time a Purdue running back makes for the sideline or when Denard throws a duck into coverage--but a barring a complete collapse on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines should at least be able to grind out a win.

Next game: at No. 17 Snake Oil Emporium

Iowa (5-2, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: Indiana 24, Iowa 45 (W)

Recap: Iowa looked pretty good … against the second worst team in the conference playing a true freshman quarterback in his first start. Hawkeyes QB James Vandenberg threw the ball just 16 times, a quarter of which went for touchdowns. That’s what happens, I guess, when the other team is ranked 103 in scoring defense.

Not like Michigan’s defense was ever that bad, right? Right. Moving on.

WR Marvin McNutt caught three of those TD passes to become Iowa’s all-time leader with 24. Braylon Edwards gives McNutt a patronizing pat on the back and says, “Try 39.”

Indiana didn’t put up much resistance, but did manage to keep pace with the Hawkeyes until the second quarter tied 14-14 before Iowa pulled away. You sort of knew things were going to go downhill fast and soon for the Hoosiers when after their first touchdown, they got flagged for a hold and then a false start on the PAT, causing it to turn into a legit 35-yard field goal attempt.

In short, this would have been this week’s Non-Game-Of-The-Week, but Nebraska played Minnesota, so competition was stiff.

Right now they are as frightening as: High fructose corn syrup – pretty sweet, not that good, endorsed by farmers. 5.

Michigan should worry about: Against soft defenses, the Vandenberg/Coker/McNutt trio can really light up a scoreboard.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Against soft defenses, so can Denard.

When Michigan plays them: Shootout.

Next game: at Minnesota


No. 23 Illinois (6-2, 2-2 B1G)

Last game: Illinois 14, Purdue 21 (L)

Recap: Illinois fumbled, muffed, false-started, and did everything else in its power to throw away the first half, allowing Purdue to go up three touchdowns. The Illini finally found an effective offense -- their two-minute drill -- late in the fourth quarter, but with so little time, the deficit and coach Ron Zook’s in-game incompetence were insurmountable.

Both QB Nathan Scheelhaase (22/35, 217 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) and WR A.J. Jenkins (8 catches, 92 yards) still had respectable numbers, but most of those were racked up during fourth quarter futility.

RB Jason Ford was another player of interest in this game. He’s the Illinois beefcake running back, and he carried the ball 10 times for 83 yards and a touchdown. Ford also had five receptions for 69 yards because the Boilermakers defenders kept losing him, probably thinking there’s no way Scheelhaase was going to throw it to an offensive guard.

Right now they are as frightening as: A large rock.

It’s coming at you – slowly – but you get a 50-minute head start. 5.

Michigan should worry about: At some point Ron Zook is going to realize that they should start running the two-minute drill more often before the last two minutes of the game.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Haha no he won’t.

When Michigan plays them: Illinois is currently a team with a lot of good athletes who have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing. That bodes well for Michigan’s chances, but the last three years have generated enough Wolverine PTSD that the default assumption is that teams will be suddenly well coached and disciplined when they play Michigan [Ed-M: or badly coached and badly disciplined but beat us anyway]. The Illini certainly have enough firepower on both sides of the ball that a good day for them will be a bad day for the Wolverines, and if they’re going to get their season back on track against anyone, it’s probably going to be against Michigan.

(This is a jinx.)

Next game: at No. 21 Penn State

No. 13 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: Nebraska 41, Minnesota 14 (W)

Recap: In this week’s Non-Game-Of-The-Week, we learned that Nebraska’s second string is not as good as Michigan’s second string at keeping Minnesota scoreless.

Next game: No. 9 Michigan State

Ohio State (4-3, 1-2 B1G)

Last game: Bye

Next game: No. 12 Wisconsin

Objects in Mirror:

Western Michigan (4-4, 2-2 MAC)

Last game: Western Michigan 10, Eastern Michigan 14 (L)

Recap: The same Western Michigan team that beat UConn a few weeks ago lost to Eastern Michigan, which kind of gives you an idea of how bad the Big East is.

Also, how’s this for juxtaposition:

Alex Carder -- 24/34, 181 yards

Alex Gillett -- 6/9, 144 yards, 1 TD

Efficiency, man.

Next game: at Toledo

Notre Dame (4-3)

Last game: Southern California 31, Notre Dame 17 (L)

Recap: After trailing 17 early, Notre Dame slowly climbed its way out of the hole and was seven points -- one yard -- from tying the game when QB Dayne Crist, subbing in for an injured Tommy Rees, fumbled for a 99-yard USC touchdown.

Tommy Rees returned to the game and threw an interception. Then Brian Kelly failed to use his timeouts, and the rest of the drippy mess can be found all over their message boards.

Next game: Navy

Eastern Michigan (5-3, 3-1 MAC)

Last game: Western Michigan 10, Eastern Michigan 14 (W)

Recap: Last night I went to a haunted house, and in it was a room where every surface was covered in a dark bloody scrawl that read, “Eastern Michigan is almost bowl eligible … ”

Next game: Bye

San Diego State (4-2, 1-1 MWC)

Last game: Bye #2

Next game: Wyoming

Minnesota (1-6, 0-3 B1G)

Last game: Nebraska 41, Minnesota 14

Recap: Minnesota notched another multi-score loss, and coach Jerry Kill received a multi-year contract extension.

Jerry Kill is the smartest man in the world.

Next game: Iowa

Northwestern (2-5, 0-4 B1G)

Last game: Penn State 34, Northwestern 24 (L)

Recap: If you miss watching Rich Rod-era Michigan games, watch Northwestern. It’s kind of the same idea, except everything’s purple.

Next game: at Indiana

No. 16 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 B1G)

Last game: No. 6 Wisconsin 36, Michigan State 31 (W)

Recap: Sparty, you did good. As hard as it is to root for you, you make it equally painful to root against you. We concede that you are a legit team.

Now can you please go back to being mediocre? That would be super. Thanks.

Next game: at No. 13 Nebraska



October 27th, 2011 at 11:50 AM ^

With all the talk about Minnsota being the worst Big Ten team ever, what would happen if they played NW? I mean NW has some talent, but it hasn't clicked yet. Would NW win in a blowout?


October 27th, 2011 at 12:50 PM ^

As the stats have shown, teams coming off a bye don't necessarily play well, and given that we're still inexperienced at various positions on both sides of the ball—especially insofar as they're still learning the new systems—I'll be surprised if we don't turn the ball over multiple times, incur damaging penalties, drop critical passes, and generally play unimpressively en route to a much-closer-than-expected win.


October 27th, 2011 at 2:14 PM ^

Everything was extra purple last week with their special unis with numbers on the helmet. Pat Fitzgerald is even starting to sound like Rich when talking to the press, too. Swapped out half the secondary and sprung a leak elsewhere in the defense.


October 27th, 2011 at 11:45 PM ^

We have three very winnable games left on the schedule... Purdue, Illinois, and Iowa could very well be wins. If we can pull out just two of these and split Neb/OSU we will have a very impressive kickoff to the Hoke Era.


October 28th, 2011 at 3:49 PM ^

Why would you not include Nebraska as one of our very winnable games? Nebraska is basically Michigan on offense (good run, no pass) with a worse defense and the game will be in Ann Arbor. Sounds like a good chance for a win to me. I actually like UM's chances in the two final home games better than the two road games.