The grades are in: First quarter report card for UM opponents, UM and the Big Ten

Submitted by Maize_in_Spartyland on September 18th, 2011 at 8:55 PM

In high school, every nine or so weeks a report card would come out. When the report card was good, nothing needed to be said. But when it was bad, some “spin” would occur (student-teacher conflict, tests were unfair, etc.).

It’s time to look at the first quarter of the season report card for Big Ten teams (and other Michigan opponents), now three weeks into the season. The report card will factor in each team’s success (or lack thereof) offensively and defensively, while keeping their win-loss record in mind. I’ll also provide a few games to look at over the next three games for each team.


Illinois – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (3-0)

Total Offense: 410 yards/game; 60th.

Run Offense: 223 yards/game; 22nd. Pass Offense: 187 yards/game; 83rd.

Total Defense: 269 yards/game; 17th.

Run Defense: 63 yards/game; 7th. Pass Defense: 205 yards/game; 59th.

Notes: Jason Ford has been impressive for the Fighting Illini (3.6/carry and 4 TD). Nathan Scheelhaase has raised his completion percentage from 58.7% to 71.7%. Western Michigan and Northwestern should provide a good idea as to the capability of this team.

Wins: Arkansas State (33-15); South Dakota State (56-3); #22 Arizona State (17-14).

Losses: None.

Grade: A-


Indiana – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (1-2)

Total Offense: 417 yards/game; 55th.

Run Offense: 169 yards/game; 55th. Pass Offense: 247 yards/game; 38th.

Total Defense: 373 yards/game; 73rd.

Run Defense: 177 yards/game; 87th. Pass Defense: 195 yards/game; 48th.

Notes: Demarlo Blecher has been one of the few bright spots for Indiana (13.6/catch and 1 TD). Ted Bolser (2 catches) has had virtually no involvement in an offense with lacks a leader at QB. Indiana could very well not win another game this season. With that said, games against North Texas and Illinois should provide a better measure of the ceiling for Indiana.

Wins: South Carolina State (38-21).

Losses: vs. Ball State (20-27); Virginia (31-34).

Grade: D


Iowa – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 411 yards/game; 59th.

Run Offense: 127 yards/game; 82nd. Pass Offense: 284 yards/game; 22nd.

Total Defense: 397 yards/game; 88th.

Run Defense: 157 yards/game; 76th. Pass Defense: 240 yards/game; 82nd.

Notes: Iowa could/should be 1-2. Iowa’s defense and run offense have been disappointments thus far. A loss to cellar-dweller/rival Iowa State was surprising.  Hawkeyes rallied back against a poor Pittsburgh pass defense to get the win. James Vandenberg (869 yards; 8.51/pass and 7 TD) and Marvin McNutt (17.4/catch and 2 TD) have led the way for the Iowa offense. Louisiana-Monroe (Kolton Browning is a solid Sun Belt QB who will test the Iowa secondary) and Northwestern should provide a good measure as to Iowa’s team this year.

Wins: Tennessee Tech (34-7); Pittsburgh (31-27).

Losses: @ Iowa State (41-44 OT).

Grade: C


Michigan – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (3-0)

Total Offense: 461.5 yards/game; 24th.

Run Offense: 245 yards/game; 13th. Pass Offense: 177 yards/game; 87th.

Total Defense: 374.5 yards/game; 76th.

Run Defense: 202.5 yards/game; 103rd. Pass Defense: 172 yards/game; 26th.

Notes: Denard Robinson’s arm has not been impressive (49.1% completion percentage with 6 TD and 4 INT). Can you believe Roy Roundtree has only 29 yards receiving to date? The run game, however, has been very good; Vincent Smith (132 yards 11/carry), Denard Robinson (352 yards 7/carry and 2 TD), and Fitz Toussaint (126 yards 5.7/carry and 3 TD) have led the way.

Wins: Western Michigan (34-10); Notre Dame (35-31); Eastern Michigan (31-3). San Diego State and Northwestern will provide insight into Michigan’s potential, before the showdown in East Lansing.

Losses: None.

Grade: B


Michigan State – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 396 yards/game; 67th.

Run Offense: 125 yards/game; 83rd. Pass Offense: 270 yards/game; 26th.

Total Defense: 192 yards/game; 4th.

Run Defense: 88 yards/game; 28th. Pass Defense: 104 yards/game; 3rd.

Notes: If I was a Spartan fan, the Notre Dame game would be concerning to me. Cousins threw 53(!) times and the Spartan run game was limited to 23 carries for a total of 29 yards (1.3/carry) with a long of 8 yards. Dion Sims (7 catches for 65 yards and 2 TD), BJ Cunningham (26 catches for 361 yards and 1 TD), and Le’Veon Bell (30 carries for 136 yards and 3 TD) have been the bright spots on offense. Games at Ohio at home to Michigan will determine if this team is a contender or merely feasts on inferior competition.

Wins: Youngstown State (28-6); Florida Atlantic (44-0).

Losses: @ Notre Dame (13-31).

Grade: C+


Minnesota – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (1-2)

Total Offense: 373 yards/game; 78th.

Run Offense: 175 yards/game; 48th. Pass Offense: 197 yards/game; 77th.

Total Defense: 399 yards/game; 90th.

Run Defense: 93 yards/game; 31st. Pass Defense: 305 yards/game; 112th.

Notes: Minnesota kept the USC game closer than expected, but followed that up with a loss at home to the Aggies (Minnesota was a 21 point favorite). The Gophers are clearly a program in transition and are 2-3 years away from being competitive. Marqueis Gray (468 yards passing and 328 yards rushing; 3 TD, but 2 INT) and Da’Jon McKnight (16 catches for 221 yards and 1 TD) have been the stars on the offensive side. Games at Michigan and at Purdue will provide a gauge as to the upside of this team.

Wins: Miami (NTM) (29-23).

Losses: @ USC (17-19); New Mexico State (21-28).

Grade: D+


Nebraska – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (3-0)

Total Offense: 422 yards/game; 51st.

Run Offense: 252 yards/game; 11th. Pass Offense: 169 yards/game; 92nd.

Total Defense: 364 yards/game; 67th.

Run Defense: 132 yards/game; 61st. Pass Defense: 232 yards/game; 78th.

Notes: Yes, the Huskers have averaged 46.5 against two FBS bowl opponents. But let’s talk about the defense. Robbie Rouse (Fresno State) gashed the blackshirts for 169 yards on the ground; Chris Polk (Washington) ran for 130 yards last week. The run defense has not been great; Wisconsin is two Saturdays away – at Camp Randall. Taylor Martinez is completing under 50% of his passes, but his feet (384 yards and 6 TD) and Rex Burkhead (250 yards and 5 TD) have led the offense. Games at Wyoming and at Wisconsin, before Lincoln matchup with Coach Pelini’s alma mater, will determine whether the Nebraska run defense has improved. Wyoming has two decent running backs in Ghaali Muhammad (160 yards 10.0/carry and 1 TD) and Brandon Miller (160 yards 7.6/carry and 1 TD).

Wins: Chattanooga (40-7); Fresno State (42-29); and Washington (51-38).

Losses: None.

Grade: B+


Northwestern – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 390 yards/game; 71st.

Run Offense: 220 yards/game; 24th. Pass Offense: 169 yards/game; 93rd.

Total Defense: 394 yards/game; 87th.

Run Defense: 205 yards/game; 105th. Pass Defense: 188 yards/game; 39th.

Notes: Take this with a grain of salt; Dan Persa has been hurt. Kain Colter (65% completion percentage and 237 yards rushing with 4 TD) has done a good job of getting Jeremy Ebert (162 yards 16.2/catch and 2 TD) and Mike Trumpy (119 yards 5.2/carry and 1 TD) the ball. The Wildcats gave up 381 yards on the ground to Army’s triple option offense last week, but limited Boston College to 104 yards on the ground in week 1. Neither game is indicative of Northwestern’s team as a whole. Games against the 22nd and 13th run offenses, Illinois and Michigan, respectively, will give a better idea of Northwestern’s potential.

Wins: @ Boston College (24-17); Eastern Illinois (42-21)

Losses: @ Army (14-21)

Grade: B-


Ohio – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 342 yards/game; 86th.

Run Offense: 170 yards/game; 53rd. Pass Offense: 172 yards/game; 91st.

Total Defense: 263 yards/game; 14th.

Run Defense: 107 yards/game; 37th. Pass Defense: 156 yards/game; 17th.

Notes: Who knew how much Terrelle Pryor hurt the Bucks? QB decision-making/play-calling from Ohio has been awful. Jake Stoneburner, TE, has 93 yards and 4 TD. Joe Bauserman’s completion percentage has been bad (50%), but has 4 TD passes. Eric Page (Toledo) had 145 yards receiving and 2 TD against Ohio. Lamar Miller (184 yards 7.1/carry) and the Canes made viewers wonder whether a Hurricane Warning prevented Ohio from even making it to the game. Believe it or not, Colorado can present problems for the Buckeyes with All-PAC-12 WR Paul Richardson (360 yards 20/catch and 4 TD), but Ohio should win. The schedule only gets tougher with Michigan State visiting and a visit to Lincoln.

Wins: Akron (42-0); Toledo (27-22).

Losses: @ Miami (YTM) (6-24).

Grade: C


Penn State – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 306 yards/game; 103rd.

Run Offense: 148 yards/game; 66th. Pass Offense: 158 yards/game; 100th.

Total Defense: 242 yards/game; 9th.

Run Defense: 111 yards/game; 42nd. Pass Defense: 130 yards/game; 7th.

Notes: Will Joe Paterno and/or Jay Paterno, for the sake of Nittany Lion Nation, please decide on a QB? Lucky for Penn State, they have workhorse Silas Redd (255 yards 5.1/carry and 4 TD) and Derek Moye (220 yards 15.7/catch) leading the way offensively. The only key game of the next three is Iowa, given the trouble Penn State has had with Iowa (Hawkeyes have won the last 3 meetings). For the sake of ending the QB competition, either the games against Eastern Michigan or Indiana may be relevant, too.

Wins: Indiana State (41-7); @ Temple (14-10).

Losses: Alabama (27-11).

Grade: B-


Purdue – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 471 yards/game; 22nd.

Run Offense: 258 yards/game; 9th. Pass Offense: 212 yards/game; 64th.

Total Defense: 321 yards/game; 43rd.

Run Defense: 109 yards/game; 40th. Pass Defense: 212 yards/game; 63rd.

Notes: Purdue could very well be 1-2, coming back late to beat Middle Tennessee. Caleb TerBush (63% completion 546 yards and 3 TD) has done well filling in for Rob Henry and Robert Marve. But with Marve back, there may be a QB competition in West Lafayette. But the Purdue offense has been led by the tandem of Ralph Bolden (223 yards 5.7/carry and 2 TD) and Akeem Shavers (186 yards 6.4/carry and 3 TD). Games against Notre Dame and at Penn State should give a better idea of whether or not this is a bowl team.

Wins: Middle Tennessee (27-24); SE Missouri State (59-0).

Losses: @ Rice (22-24).

Grade: C


Wisconsin – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (3-0)

Total Offense: 505 yards/game; 14th.

Run Offense: 238 yards/game; 17th. Pass Offense: 267 yards/game; 27th.

Total Defense: 271 yards/game; 18th.

Run Defense: 77 yards/game; 18th. Pass Defense: 193 yards/game; 44th.

Notes: Hard to find any flaws with the Badgers. But giving up 17 to UNLV seemed worrisome, that is, until Hawaii (-18) lost to UNLV last week (40-20). QB transfer Russell Wilson (791 passing and 8 passing TD; 110 rushing and 1 TD) has played pitch-and-catch with Nick Toon (198 yards 14.1/catch and 3 TD) and Jacob Pedersen (164 yards 16.4/catch and 4 TD). The combination of Montee Ball (272 yards 5.7/carry and 7 TD) and James C. White has been lethal (208 yards 5.8/carry and 2 TD). Circle the game against Nebraska as being a key game. It’s one of the few roadblocks to an undefeated regular season. Circle the Indiana game, too - only for the purposes of seeing if Wisconsin can score more than 83 this year.

Wins: UNLV (51-17); Oregon State (49-7); vs. Northern Illinois (49-7).

Losses: None.

Grade: A


Non-Conference Opponents

Eastern Michigan – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 358 yards/game; 83rd.

Run Offense: 289 yards/game; 6th. Pass Offense: 68 yards/game; 118th.

Total Defense: 298 yards/game; 29th.

Run Defense: 153 yards/game; 75th. Pass Defense: 145 yards/game; 11th.

Notes: Eastern has been the epitome of winning the games they should and losing the game they should lose. Eastern Michigan held Michigan to 95 yards passing, granted it was largely due to Denard Robinson’s inaccuracy. As good as the pass defense was, the run defense game up 376 yards and 2 TD. Alex Gillett has not been good, completing less than 50% of his passes with 3 TD and 2 INT. However, Javonti Greene (346 yards 6.1/carry and 1 TD), Dominique Sherrer (231 yards 7.7/carry and 2 TD) and Alex Gillett (211 yards 6.6/carry and 1 TD) have paced an impressive Eagle run offense.  Penn State and Silas Redd should shred the Eagles’ defense, but Akron will provide a better indication as to whether Coach Ron English can add to his win total this year.

Wins: Howard (41-9); Alabama State (14-7).

Losses: @ Michigan (3-31).

Grade: B-


Notre Dame – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (1-2)

Total Offense: 432 yards/game; 37th.

Run Offense: 143 yards/game; 70th. Pass Offense: 289 yards/game; 20th.

Total Defense: 354 yards/game; 58th.

Run Defense: 89 yards/game; 30th. Pass Defense: 265 yards/game; 97th.

Notes: Trying to say something positive about the Irish pass defense . . . um, they aren’t Turnover Tommy Rees (772 yards 69.7% 6 TD and 5 INT)? In fact, if you count the INT as completed passes, Rees has a 74% completion percentage . . . to someone. Michael Floyd (397 yards 12.8/catch and 2 TD), TJ Jones (126 yards 10.5/catch and 2 TD), Theo Riddick (101 yards 10.1/catch and 2 TD), and Cierre Wood (299 yards 5.0/carry and 4 TD) have made up for Rees’ misgivings. But as long as Gary Gray and Robert Blanton are on the field, the Irish have a shot at losing, despite the offensive talent and Manti Te’o. After giving up 108 yards on the ground to Denard Robinson and 338 yards through the air, Pittsburgh and Air Force are the key games. Pittsburgh Coach Todd Graham won at Notre Dame last year, having coached Tulsa. Air Force triple option offense will give the Irish defense fits, just look at the Navy v. Notre Dame games in recent years.

Wins: #15 Michigan State (31-13).

Losses: South Florida (20-23); Michigan (31-35).

Grade: C


San Diego State – Projected Record: (3-0); Actual Record: (3-0)

Total Offense: 428 yards/game; 42nd.

Run Offense: 220 yards/game; 24th. Pass Offense: 207 yards/game; 71st.

Total Defense: 383 yards/game; 80th.

Run Defense: 197 yards/game; 98th. Pass Defense: 186 yards/game; 38th.

Notes: Army offense shredded the Aztec run defense to the tune of 403 yards! Triple option aside, the Aztec run defense has done a pretty decent job (held Washington State to 82 rushing yards, less sacks). RB Ronnie Hillman (497 yards 6.5/carry and 8 TD(!)) rushed for 191 yards against Washington State and 117 against Army.

Wins: Cal Poly (49-21); @ Army (23-20); Washington State (42-24). Besides Hillman, Ryan Lindley (622 yards 53.7% and 7 TD), Colin Lockett (254 yards 21.2/catch and 2 TD) and Dylan Denso (140 yards 15.6/catch and 2 TD) have paced the Aztec offense. San Diego State enters a dangerous stretch, playing at Michigan, home to #20 TCU and at Air Force. Each presents its own unique problems, namely, the Aztec former coach, a dominant defense, and a triple option offense, respectively.

Losses: None.

Grade: B+


Western Michigan – Projected Record: (2-1); Actual Record: (2-1)

Total Offense: 420.5 yards/game; 53rd.

Run Offense: 150 yards/game; 63rd. Pass Offense: 231 yards/game; 43rd.

Total Defense: 273.5 yards/game; 19th.

Run Defense: 136 yards/game; 64th. Pass Defense: 137.5 yards/game; 8th.

Notes: Western Michigan was impressive in its win over Central Michigan, in the Battle for the Victory Cannon. Having the 8th ranked pass defense is a bit misleading, as the Michigan game did not even make it through three quarters. Alex Carder (681 yards 72.1% and 5 TD), Jordan White (363 yards 12.5/catch and 2 TD), and Robert Arnheim (109 yards 10.9/catch and 1 TD) have led the Bronco offense. The Broncos have a chance to make a statement in their next two games: @ #24 Illinois and @ Connecticut. Splitting the next two games puts the Broncos in a position to win at least 8, if not, 9 games, this year.

Wins: Nicholls State (38-7); Central Michigan (44-14).

Losses: @ Michigan (10-34).

Grade: B



September 18th, 2011 at 9:36 PM ^

While the Big Ten has recognized the stats from the Western Michigan game. The NCAA has said that they do not count.  The win is recognized having been agreed upon by both coaches, however the NCAA has said that all stats from that game "do not exist" and are not in any record books (i.e. ESPN and so on will not have them in total season stats). This is due to the fact that the game did not complete the 3rd quarter (for those looking for a reason).


September 18th, 2011 at 9:11 PM ^

Pus deserves no better than a c- for barely beating temple. I don't think wisconsin's running game is as good as last year's but Wilson gives them a better ability to come from behind if it has to go one dimensional. That means the offense may be better but Wisconsin isn't going to challenge 83


September 18th, 2011 at 10:07 PM ^

2. Sparty's D is inflated by playing FAU, given the flying Schnellenbergers were probably the worst team I've seen this year

3. how the hell did UNLV score 40 points vs. anyone? That QB was horrible against Wisky

4. Blanton played an outstanding game vs. Sparty, and didn't he have a pick against us? The mob has ruled against Gray only, and statistically speaking the mob is often correct


September 18th, 2011 at 10:58 PM ^

ND's pass defense isn't as bad as that #97 ranking looks.  MSU threw for about 300 yards, but needed over 50 attempts to do it, while USF didn't do much through the air.  It was only against us that they struggled.     

Wisconsin Wolverine

September 18th, 2011 at 11:37 PM ^

I'm just trying to get a read on the Illini this year ... They seam like a wild & mysterious bunch.  I'd like to think we have a legit shot head-to-head with those guys, but I can't tell how much better they've gotten since last year?  It certainly seems like they're doing well, but I just have a hard time building up the fear for them.  Am I wrong?

ps Wisconsin looks sick, in my opinion.  Sick good.  It will make my year if, by some miracle, we get to take them on in a B1G championship game.


September 19th, 2011 at 1:45 AM ^

CFBstats has the full 3 game numbers factored in:

Scoring offense: 46th (33.3 PPG)

Rushing offense: 19th (226.67 YPG)

Passing offense: 93rd (177 YPG)

Total offense: 62nd (403.7 YPG)


Scoring defense: 24th (14.7 PPG)

Rushing defense: 82nd (167 YPG)

Passing defense: 27th (175.7 YPG)

Total defense: 53rd (342.7 YPG)


Turnover margin: 5th (2.00)

Total takeaways: 5th (10)



September 19th, 2011 at 2:54 AM ^

Thanks for putting a lot of work into a very easy-to-follow post.  I'm glad it got bumped up to a diary.  

Also, living in Spartyland must be a lot more fun this week.

Johnny Blood

September 19th, 2011 at 9:30 AM ^

Anyone else watch Notre Dame squelch a very good running game for MSU and feel a little better about our own team? 

We were all very down on our RBs after the Notre Dame game, but after watching them play MSU I think a lot of that had to do with how good ND is at stopping the run... though we still clearly need some improvement as well.


September 19th, 2011 at 11:10 AM ^

Great post. Thanks for doing this.

Right now Wisconsin appears to be by FAR the best team in the conference.  Russell Wilson has been superb and gives them the double-threat on O they've often lacked.  Now they can MANBALL you all day long with that huge line, then play-action or drop back and torch you through the air.  The D looks good, if not great, as well. To my eyes, they have as good a chance as any team to be playing for the MNC.

Illinois might be the second best team in the conference, though it's unclear how good the competition has been. Personally, I think they'll stumble, but time will tell.

Nebraska is the other team that has been impressive.  While the "black shirt" D hasn't appeared to be as good as expected, the offense has been efficient, if a bit one-sided towards running.  Martinez has shown some flashes in the passing game, but, not unlike UM, they'll need to keep the running QB healthy. If they do, I think they'll show they're the true second best team in the B1G.

After that, questions.  Was Sparty a pretender, or were they just undone by a road game against an ND that was much better than its first 2 games indicated (turnovers)? Can Michigan continue its rebound, despite the lack of running game and over-reliance on DRob, and will the D and ST's improve quickly enough to get them above .500 in conference? Is PSU as awful as they appear to be so far? Is karma real and is Ohio unravelling?  Will Iowa improve on D enough to challenge for the division? How good can NU be with Persa back? 

It will be fun to watch the season unfold to see how things play out.


September 19th, 2011 at 11:37 AM ^

I agree with most of your grades but I think some of them are too generous. I'd give MSU a D, they got smoked in their one real game and that OL looks like it's going to be a major weakness all year. I'd give OSU a straight F. They barely beat Toledo and their offense was nonexistent against a Miami defense that got shredded by Maryland. Their defense isn't that great either. Lastly I would give PSU a C-. The Alabama loss isn't too bad by itself, but they really struggled with Temple and still have yet to break 14 points against a 1-A opponent.

Hillbilly Jihad

September 20th, 2011 at 4:35 PM ^

giving us a a B seems ridiculous considering i watched that D get gashed by everyone they've played and the offense being pathetic excpet for four jump balls.  i may be a glass half empty kind of guy, but if i was this UM team bringing home a progress report with a C i would be thrilled.  if this team is not dramatically improved by saturday they will take a collar.  truth.