Opponent Watch: Week 8

Submitted by Heiko on October 25th, 2012 at 7:17 PM

About Last Weekend:

Michigan State 10, Michigan 12

Apologies -- Spartyfreude is a little blurry. In any case, what are these people looking at? Oh I know. Anything but the scoreboard.

"You're good looking, and I'm good looking. We should be good looking together."

What TheOnlyColors and MaizeNBrew should do if they haven't done so already.

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The Road Ahead:

Nebraska (5-2 overall, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28 (W)

Recap: When a team plays Northwestern, no deficit is too great to overcome. This is a fundamental law of football. With his team down 12 points in the fourth quarter, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (27/39, 342 yards, 3 TD) led the Huskers offense on two 80-yard touchdown drives to eke out a win. The Wildcats had an opportunity near the end to regain the lead but, as they are wont to do, they missed a long field goal.

For Michigan, this wasn’t the ideal outcome. While Northwestern had a nice streak going and remains one of the B1G’s two bowl-eligible teams, it would have been preferable to contend at home with a hypothetical one-conference-loss Northwestern team for the division rather than go to Lincoln to play a critical tie-breaker (sort of) game against a one-conference-loss Nebraska. If Michigan loses this weekend it no longer controls its own destiny. But you knew that.

So let’s focus on why the Huskers were down 12 to the Wildcats in the first place. For one, they didn’t have much rhythm on offense until Martinez went pass-happy against Northwestern’s defense, which plays a 4-3-Gibson scheme. The run game never broke anything big with the longest run being 15 yards. Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah both got nearly 20 carries a piece and averaged 4.5 ypc, though the Wildcats have a decent run defense, so that’s not a total surprise.

Defensively they did a good job against most aspects of Northwestern’s attack – they kept Trevor Siemian (15/35, 116 yards, 2 TD) to 3.3 ypa and almost limited the Wildcats otherwise effective run game to less than three yards per carry … had it not been for one spectacular bust that allowed an 80-yard TD run by Venric Mark (16 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD) from a triple-option handoff up the middle. That the Blackshirts linebackers busted an assignment is an understatement.

As a final note, Nebraska turned the ball over three times over the course of the game. They fumbled twice (the one at the end was maybe meaningless) on offense and had one epic puntmuffin, which led immediately to a Northwestern touchdown.

Huskers fans prefer to downplay these mistakes, particularly the ones on special teams, when projecting how their team will do against upcoming opponents. Against Michigan, though, they won't be able to afford to play sloppy no matter how many yards they end up racking up on offense.

This team is as frightening as: The Detroit Tigers. Brilliant when in a groove but somewhat subject to horrifying derailment. Fear level = 6 +/-2.

Michigan should worry about: Limiting mistakes on the road at night. I think Brady Hoke and Al Borges have that down at the infuriating expense of offensive play calls that adjust intelligently to defensive scheme. This means that Michigan is just going to have to wait for the opponent to make mistakes on defense. I’m actually kind of okay with that in this case, because …

Michigan can sleep soundly about: I do not believe in Nebraska’s defense. Their most impressive performance to date has been against nobody. Serious. They’ve failed to hold any of their BCS opponents under 27 points. Maybe they did well against Wisconsin by holding Montee Ball to 90 yards rushing on 32 carries, but that was when the Badgers were going through an offensive crisis that resulted in the defenestration of their offensive line coach.

Maybe the Huskers have an okay secondary and a couple playmakers in the front seven, but that does not an Al Borges Denard Fusion Cuisine-busting defense make.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will try to win on the ground; Nebraska will try to win through the air. The Huskers have at least four viable receiving options in their receivers and tight ends, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the secondary to stick to their assignments, particularly if Raymon Taylor isn’t 100%. Plus, Michigan is overdue for giving up a big WTF play or two on defense. On the bright side, if the Huskers can’t do it, no one left on the schedule save Ohio State will be able to.

Next game: vs. No. 22 Michigan.

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Minnesota (4-3 overall, 0-3 B1G)

Last game: Minnesota 13, Wisconsin 38 (L)

Recap: Basically a redux of Michigan vs. Purdue. Wisconsin ran and ran and ran while Minnesota fell down and played dead.

Things relevant to Michigan: The Gophers broke in a new quarterback after moving MarQueis Gray permanently to receiver and relegating Max Shortell to the bench. The new guy’s name is Philip Nelson, he’s a freshman, and he managed to complete just over half his passes (13/24) for 149 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INT. Not great, but not bad. He’s also … dual threat? In a bizarre turn of events, Nelson was also Minnesota’s leading rusher (by a lot!) with 16 carries for 67 yards. Their next leading rusher? Some rando with six carries for 20 yards. Their usual go-to guy Donnell Kirkwood had only five carries for eight yards. Not sure what the deal is. Maybe having a hard time recovering from a hit during the Northwestern game that knocked the decal off his helmet?

This team is as frightening as: The person who thinks it’s a great idea to sprint the first three miles of a half marathon and therefore has to walk the rest of it. Fear level = 2.

Michigan should worry about: I can’t finish this with a straight face.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan gets to play them every year.

When they play Michigan: A laugh track would be suitable.

Next game: vs. Purdue

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That's a very red shade of purple out there.

Northwestern (6-2 overall, 2-2 B1G)

Last game: Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28 (L)

Recap: How bad is Northwestern’s secondary? Well. The two game-swinging Nebraska drives in the fourth quarter consisted of Taylor Martinez passing or Taylor Martinez scrambling. On these two drives, Martinez was 10/12 for 137 yards and 2 TDs with three rushes for 16 yards. Tony Gibson could not be prouder.

Offensively the Wildcats benefitted greatly from a turnover for field position and a huge linebacker bust on Venric Mark’s 80-yard run, but otherwise they were erratic. QB Trevor Siemian (15/35, 116 yards, 2 TDs) did little worth writing home about. It was a little surprising that Northwestern kept him in the game for so long. Kain Colter, who spent most of the game in the slot, probably wouldn’t have completed more passes, but he would have been able to effectively run the option with Mark, which may have gotten the running game going, particularly late in the game when they needed to burn some clock.

Apparently Colter also had some doubts about the playcalling after the game when he told the media that the Wildcats were having some identity issues on offense. I think the main problem is that there’s no ideal way to utilize both Siemian and Colter when both of them are most effective at the same position.

Also, in case you missed it: Northwestern had to use a silent snap count at the end of the game because it was too noisy. On their own field.

This team is as frightening as: The V-22 Osprey. Cool concept, dubious utility … glaring technical flaws that result in self-destruction. Fear level = 4.

Michigan should worry about: They may have a lead at some point during the game.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: They will still lose.

When they play Michigan: I will gaze longingly at Kyle Prater while he sits on the bench.  

Next game: vs. Iowa

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Iowa (4-3 overall, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: Penn State 38, Iowa 14 (L)

Recap: Some days you drink Sparty tears, and some days you drink gasoline after your entire team (23 carries, 20 yards) gets outrushed by Matt McGloin (5 carries, 26 yards).

Injury update: LT Brandon Scherff and RG Andrew Donnal both went down during the game, and Ferentz has recently revealed that both will miss the rest of the season. Scherff has a broken leg and Donnal has an unspecified knee injury. Deus ex machina: AIOLHG.

This team is as frightening as: The Black Knight circa the 3:51 mark of the below clip.

Fear level = 3.5.

BONUS UPDATE from an email a guy named Jeremy Kloubec sent to Brian [update update: it is via Home Run Jack from EDSBS]: 

Please don't go look at the box score of Iowa-Penn State. You're thinking "hey, it will make me feel better about the state of my own team," but you have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Matt McGloin is out-rushing Iowa by himself. MATT MCGLOIN. This isn't a train wreck. This is a train full of apple-cheeked children hitting a bus full of puppies.

NO YOU WENT AT LOOKED AT IT I KNOW YOU DID WHY WHY DID YOU DO THAT

This is your late thread. Somebody please help us drive Iowa to the vet. We can't put her down by ourselves.

Fear level incremented to 4.

Michigan should worry about: I feel like we said similar things about Iowa last year only for Michigan to lose to them for the third consecutive year. Let’s not make it four, yeah?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: There now exist not one but two angry deities working toward this common goal.

When they play Michigan: Iowa will be forced to use a formation composed exclusively of a quarterback, four tight ends, and six receivers. [Ed-S: We call this the "Heiko Fritz Offense."]

Next game: @ Northwestern

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Just got the wind knocked out of him. 

No. 1 Ohio State (8-0 overall, 4-0 B1G)

Last game: vs. Torn ACLs (W)

Recap: Phew. Good thing there are no ACLs in your head and neck region. Braxton Miller is fine, in case you were wondering.

Next game: vs. Zombies

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Objects in Mirror:

No. 1 Alabama (7-0 overall, 3-0 SEC)

Last game: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 (W)

Recap: Yawn.

Next game: vs. No. 11 Mississippi State

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Air Force (4-3 overall, 3-1 MWC)

Last game: New Mexico 23, Air Force 28 (W)

Recap: New Mexico RB Kasey Carrier carried the ball 39 times for 338 yards and 3 TDs.

Next game: vs. Nevada

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UMass (0-7 overall, 0-4 MAC)

Last game: Bowling Green 24, UMass 0 (L)

Mike Cox: 10 carries, 37 yards

Next game: @ Vanderbilt

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No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0 overall)

Last game: Notre Dame 17, BYU 14 (W)

Recap: Why won't it die.

Next game: @ No. 8 Ooooooklahoma where the wind comes sweepin down the plain.

 

Purdue (3-4 overall, 0-3 B1G)

Last game: Purdue 22, Ohio State 29 OT (L)

Recap: Dead to me.

Next game: @ Minnesota

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Illinois (2-5 overall, 0-3 B1G)

Last game: BYE

Next game: vs. Indiana

Comments

Brhino

October 25th, 2012 at 7:38 PM ^

Watch out, this week you've angered the good folks at Bell Helicopter and Boeing Rotocraft Systems who have worked so hard ironing out the technical flaws of the V-22 Osprey and turning it into a combat-capable aircraft. 

Heiko

October 26th, 2012 at 12:46 AM ^

Sorry about that. It's a half-assed attempt to carry over a joke from last season, when I put goats in the banner to denote losses to Michigan State and Iowa. That came about because my favorite description of a Rich Rod tantrum following a loss is "beating a bleating ungulate against the wall of the Notre Dame locker room until it bursts into a kaleidoscope of viscera." Goat = ungulate.

As we all know, every mgocomment represents 5 million readers, so if you guys don't get the reference, nobody does. I'll try to come up with something new next week.

 

 

snarling wolverine

October 25th, 2012 at 10:40 PM ^

 

Maybe they did well against Wisconsin by holding Montee Ball to 90 yards rushing on 32 carries, but that was when the Badgers were going through an offensive crisis that resulted in the defenestration of their offensive line coach.

 

This is what I love about this blog.  

WolverBean

October 26th, 2012 at 11:35 AM ^

The rule is, whoever wins the Nebraska-Northwestern game gets to refer to themselves as 'NU' for the next year. If Northwestern loses, they revert to 'NW;' if Nebraska loses they revert to 'UNL.' So per last week, Nebraska gets to be 'NU' for the immediate future.

dragonchild

October 26th, 2012 at 7:57 AM ^

Last time on TWPTIBD, not much to say in the "boom" stat count (forced fumbles, TFL, INT, sack, etc.), but Manti Te'O and Christian Birt had busy games headhunting ball carriers.  How'd they do this week?

Christian Birt, UMass - Had a relatively quiet game.  7 tackles, 2 solo.  Now, UMass, I did say if your safety is very busy your defense is probably bad (see: Michigan 2010), but I didn't mean make him irrelevant before the rest of your defense gets good.  Or maybe BG went out of their way to avoid him; it's not like UMass doesn't give you options.  I dunno, I didn't watch.  Why would I want to.

Manti Te'O, Notre Dame - 10 tackles (1 solo), 1 INT.  Once again, ND's leader on D.  This guy is a beast.  I know linebackers tend to rack up stats but it's no secret you should try to avoid this guy.  Then again, avoiding Manti might be about as easy as a batter avoiding a starting pitcher; the only guys who don't look bad against him are on the bench.

Newest entry is. . . Max Bullough, Michigan State.  Denicos Allen got the most TFL, but I daresay that's a result of the RPS battle.  Max, however, did his thug job and more -- 10 tackles (5 solo, 1 TFL), one INT (the meaningless one), and here's the big one. . . 3PBU.  His damage to the passing game is what probably left Borges thinking he was out of options.  Gonna see what this guy does to other teams going forward.

MikeCohodes

October 26th, 2012 at 10:41 AM ^

are why I come to this blog.  Very funny and entertaining, while still being informative.  In one day we get a Monty Python reference from Heiko here and a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference from Brian in the UFR.  Not something you'd see on ESPN or SI.

EGD

October 26th, 2012 at 12:44 PM ^

"Death and drek!" you curse, as enemies confront you.  You face [2] Zombies, [7] Zombies, [1] Zombies, and [1] Zombie Mage.  Will your stalwart band choose to (F)ight, (R)un, or (P)arley?

F

A zombie kicks at SIMON and misses.

A zombie claws at SHAZIER and hits for 1 point of damage.

MEYER casts PROTEVL on MILLER.

A zombie kicks at MILLER and misses.

SIMON bashes a zombie for 18 points of damage.  A zombie goes down!

HYDE strikes at a zombie for 9 points of damage.  A zombie goes down!

A zombie mage casts MAGMISL at MEYER  . . . and  MEYER is fried for 6 points of damage!

MILLER whirlwind attack . . . a zombie is hit for 4 points of damage, a zombie is hit for 5 points of damage.  A zombie goes down!  A zombie is hit for 2 points of damage.  A zombie is hit for 4 points of damage. A zombie goes down!

A zombie kicks at MILLER and misses.

A zombie kicks at MILLER and misses.

A party member defects!

. . .

You still face [1] Zombies, [5] Zombies, [1] Zombie Mage, and [1] BOREN.  Will your stalwart band choose to (F)ight, (R)un, or (P)arley?

F

A zombie kicks at HYDE and hits for 1 point of damage.

SHAZIER hides in the shadows!

A zombie claws at SIMON and hits for 2 points of damage.

HYDE slams a zombie for 1 point of damage.  A zombie goes down!

A zombie mage casts SMNCHRLSWDSN.  A spell fizzled!

MILLER whirlwind attack . . .a zombie is hit for 3 points of damage.  A zombie goes down!  A zombie is hit for 5 points of damage.  A zombie goes down!  A zombie is hit for 3 points of damage.  A zombie goes down!

MEYER casts TBOW at a BOREN . . . and BOREN is saved!

SIMON bashes a zombie mage and critically hits for 78 points of damage.  A zombie mage goes down!

. . .

Congratulations!  Each member of your party receives 432 experience points and 38 pieces of gold .  MEYER found a CRSTL FTBLL.

 

 

bigmc6000

October 26th, 2012 at 12:45 PM ^

Take it easy with the V-22 stuff,it's still the only aircraft that can do what it does and we're buying more of them because the Marines like them that much.

Section 1

October 26th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

I suppose the rational thing to do in the case of Raymon Taylor is to wait, like an adult, for another 27 hours or so and just see what sort of shape he's in.  And whether he has a football uniform on.

But does anybody know what is up and whether he can play at all?  I know, from carefully listening to all of the detail provided by Coach Hoke, that Raymon has suffered a mild boo boo, and that the boo boo is somewhere on his body.  Actually Coach Hoke didn't specify whether it was a mild, moderate or serious boo boo, so that part I was filling in from my imagination.

But apart from the fact that Raymon wasn't even a starter about 5 games ago, he has become a part of our defense that is critical this weekend.  If we are featuring a nickel-package defense with Courtney Avery and Jarrod Wilson, we might be okay.  Or it might be... interesting.