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Michigan to face South Carolina in Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day

December 3rd, 2017 by Justin Potts


Despite finishing fourth in the Big Ten East, Michigan received an invitation to the Outback Bowl over Michigan State and Northwestern, who finished with a better record. Michigan will face South Carolina on New Year’s Day in a rematch of the 2013 Outback Bowl which saw South Carolina top Michigan 33-28.

South Carolina went 8-4 this season and 5-3 in the Southeastern Conference, finishing second in the SEC East behind 7-1 Georgia. The Gamecocks beat N.C. State 35-28 to open the season and also topped Louisiana Tech (17-16) and Wofford (31-10), but lost 31-10 to then-No. 3 Clemson in the non-conference. In conference, they lost to Kentucky (23-13), Texas A&M (24-17), and then-No. 1 Georgia (24-10).

Despite winning eight games, South Carolina had just three decisive wins, beating Missouri 31-13, Arkansas 48-22, and Wofford. The other five were all within one score, including the 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech and a 15-9 win over Tennessee. Those two teams finished a combined 10-14.

The Gamecocks are ranked 66th nationally by S&P+ with an offense ranked 88th and a defense ranked 46th. By comparison, Michigan is 21st with the 74th ranked offense and 10th ranked defense.

Quarterback Jake Bentley ranked third in the SEC with 2,555 yards passing on a 62.4 percent completion rate. But he threw 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Will Muschamp’s offense featured a running back tandem of A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams that both had 92 carries and averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry. But Bentley, who had just 86 rushing yards, sack yards included, led the team with six rushing touchdowns.

Receiver Bryan Edwards ranked ninth in the conference with 705 yards on 59 receptions and led the team with four touchdown catches. Tight end Hayden Hurst was the team’s second-leading receiver with 41 catches for 518 yards and two scores.

Defensively, South Carolina doesn’t have a Jadeveon Clowney this time, but they’re still a solid defensive team as one would expect a Muschamp team to be. Linebacker Skai Moore ranked 11th in the SEC with 88 tackles and third with three interceptions, while defensive end D.J. Wonnum ranked seventh with six sacks.

The Outback Bowl will kick off at 12pm Eastern on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla. Perhaps most importantly for this young Michigan team, they’ll get a month of practice to get better as they look to build toward 2018 when they return nearly everyone.

Stay tuned for more a in-depth look at South Carolina in the weeks to come.

Twenty Wolverines earn All-Conference Honors

November 29th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Melanie Maxwell)

Michigan finished the regular season fourth in the Big Ten East, but was well represented on the All-Big Ten teams, most notably on the defensive side. Altogether, the Wolverines had 20 different players earn All-Conference honors.

The All-Big Ten defense and special teams were named on Tuesday and Michigan and 10 of its 11 defensive starters earn honors, second only to Wisconsin, which had 12.

Senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was a unanimous first-team selection by both the coaches and the media after recording 59 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, one pass breakup, two quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble.

Sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary was a first-team selection by the coaches but a second-team selection by the media. He recorded 62 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, a team-high seven quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble. Alternatively, senior end Chase Winovich was named to the first team by the media and second team by the coaches. He recorded 74 tackles and led the team with 17.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks, in addition to five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

Sophomore defensive back Lavert Hill was named to the second team by the coaches and third team by the media, while fellow sophomore Viper Khaleke Hudson was a second-team selection by the media and third team by the coaches. Hill recorded 24 tackles, five for loss, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups, while Hudson notched 72 tackles, 16.5 for loss, 7.5 sacks, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles. Hudson set a Big Ten record with eight tackles for loss in a single game against Minnesota.

Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush was a first-team selection by the coaches and second-team by the media after leading the team with 94 tackles in addition to 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, a team-high eight pass breakups, an interception and a quarterback hurry.

Senior linebacker Mike McCray and junior safety Tyree Kinnel were both third-team selections by both the coaches and media. McCray was the team’s second-leading tackler with 75 and notched 13.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, five quarterback hurries, a pass breakups and a forced fumble. Kinnel recorded 67 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 1.0 sack, seven pass breakups and two interceptions.

Sophomore safety Josh Metellus was an honorable mention selection by both the coaches and media after recording 49 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups, and a forced fumble. Sophomore defensive back David Long was the final member of the defense earning All-Conference honors as he was named to the third team by the media. Long tallied 20 tackles, 2.0 for loss, 0.5 sacks, two interceptions, and four pass breakups on the season.

Senior safety Brandon Watson was the lone defensive starter left off the All-Conference teams.

Sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin was an honorable mention special teams selection by both the coaches and media after converting 15-of-20 field goal attempts with a long of 55 yards. However, after making 11 of 13 in non-conference play, he was just 4-of-7 in Big Ten play. Freshman receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was an honorable mention selection by the media as a punt returner. He averaged 8.53 yards per return — which ranked fourth in the conference among players with at least 10 returns — including a 79-yard touchdown against Air Force.

Finally, freshman punter Brad Robbins was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches. He averaged 40.93 yards per punt with four booted over 50 yards and 18 of 58 punts downed inside the 20 compared to just four touchbacks.

The All-Big Ten offensive teams were announced on Wednesday and Michigan found seven players among those honored. Senior offensive lineman Mason Cole and sophomore lineman Ben Bredeson were both unanimous second-team selections by both the coaches and media, while junior running back Karan Higdon was a third-team selection by both. Higdon led the Wolverines in rushing with 929 yards and 11 touchdowns on 6.3 yards per carry. He finished seventh in the conference with 77.4 yards per game, but fourth in average per carry among backs with at least 130 carries.

Sophomore running back Chris Evans was an honorable mention selection by the coaches after finishing second on the team with 661 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 5.2 yards per carry. He was also effective in the passing game, catching 14 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore tight end Sean McKeon and junior tight end Zach Gentry were both honorable mention selections by the media. The duo ranked second and third on the team in receiving yards with 285 and 276, respectively. They also combined for five touchdown receptions. McKeon was the team’s leading pass catcher with 29 receptions. ‘

Finally, senior lineman Patrick Kugler was named honorable mention by the media and fifth-year senior fullback Henry Poggi was Michigan’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.

The Big Ten individual awards will be announced on Thursday.

Let’s raise $10k for ChadTough (again)!

November 27th, 2017 by Justin Potts


No, Jim Harbaugh didn’t get fined $10,000 by the Big Ten this year, but that’s not going to stop us from doing good. In partnership with Kerri from SupportUofM, Craig from The Hoover Street Rag, and Brad from Maize & Blue Nation we’re out to raise another $10k for The ChadTough Foundation in this now-annual tradition.

Last year’s fundraiser set out to match Harbaugh’s $10k fine by raising $10k for ChadTough. Not only did we do that through the collective goodwill of the Michigan fan base, but we raised more than $28,000 what all was said and done. And we did that in less than a week!

That was great, but we’re of the mindset that we should never stop doing good, so we’re doing it again. Tuesday is Giving Tuesday, so we encourage you to donate to the cause. All proceeds will go directly to The ChadTough Foundation.

Last week, the Carr family marked the two year anniversary of Chad Carr’s passing as a result of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It’s a position no parent ever wants to be in and the goal of The ChadTough Foundation is to fund research and raise awareness of DIPG in hopes of someday finding a cure, or at the very least, treatment. It’s already working as Michigan Medicine has gained brain tumor insight from studying Chad’s tissue.

Let’s once again pull together as one big Michigan family and continue to help fight this awful disease.

Please take a moment to do two things:

1. View the fundraiser page and donate
2. After you donate, share via social media to encourage others to donate as well

Together, we can help make a difference for kids who suffer from DIPG, and maybe someday kids won’t have to suffer from it at all.

Go Blue!

Wilton Speight to transfer for final season

November 27th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Getty Images)

Senior quarterback Wilton Speight posted an Instagram message on Sunday afternoon thanking Michigan fans and coaches for the past four years and announcing his intention to seek a grad transfer for his final season of eligibility.

Thank you, Michigan. These past 4 years have been nothing short of spectacular. Enrolling in January of 2014 as a kid from Virginia i didn’t know what to expect. Four years later i leave a Michigan Man. The amazing memories with my teammates, playing under the best coaches in America, and enjoying everything that this wonderful university and town have to offer- what a ride. To the fans that stuck with us through thick and thin— thank you. To Coach Hoke for giving a kid with no offers a chance— thank you. To Coach Harbaugh for coming in and making me a better man and a better quarterback. For understanding this decision of mine and always having my back no matter what— thank you. I don’t know where next will be, and I’ll use these next four weeks to figure that out. i’m excited to keep pursuing my dreams in a new jersey, but will forever root for the boys wearing the winged helmet. Go blue!

A post shared by Wilton Speight (@wiltonspeight_3) on

Speight began the season as Michigan’s starting quarterback, but suffered season-ending a spinal injury against Purdue, just four weeks into the season. He had completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 581 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions to that point and his loss was felt by the Michigan offense as it sputtered under John O’Korn until he gave way to redshirt freshman Brandon Peters four games later.

Speight had a solid 2016 season, his first as a starter, with an experienced supporting cast, passing for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns, and seven interceptions while leading the Big Ten with a 61.6 completion percentage.

The would-be fifth-year senior was expected to compete with Peters, redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey, senior Alex Malzone, and incoming freshman Joe Milton for the starting job in 2018. His departure almost certainly means the job will be won by Peters, who threw for 486 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions on a 57.8 percent completion rate this season before suffering a concussion against Wisconsin. The concussion kept Peters out of the Ohio State game on Saturday, but he should be healthy for Michigan’s bowl game at the end of December with a full month to prepare as the starting quarterback and a chance to build momentum going into the offseason.

Speight’s transfer destination is unknown at this point, but the Virginia native could potentially look toward the East Coast to rejoin former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin at Maryland. As a grad transfer, Speight will be able to play immediately without having to sit out for a year.

#9 Ohio State 31 – Michigan 20: QB play, missed opportunities doom Michigan in The Game

November 25th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan’s offense took the field with 2:47 remaining and a chance to go win the ball game. Instead, John O’Korn dropped back to pass and heaved the ball downfield to a wide open Ohio State safety. With two open receivers on the play, the fifth-year senior misread the coverage, according to Jim Harbaugh after the game, and Michigan fell for the fourth time this season and the sixth straight time to rival Ohio State, 31-20.

The sequence of events perfectly summed up the entire game as Michigan often took a step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, and two more steps back. The game plan was good enough to win but the quarterback play wasn’t. It’s as simple as that.

Final Stats
Michigan  Ohio State
Score 20 31
Record 8-4 (5-4) 10-2 (8-1)
Total Yards 295 350
Net Rushing Yards 100 226
Net Passing Yards 195 124
First Downs 16 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 6-50 9-75
Punts-Yards 7-288 6-270
Time of Possession 28:43 31:17
Third Down Conversions 9-of-17 8-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-13 5-43
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-2
PATs 2-for-3 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Full Box Score

O’Korn loves the University of Michigan and has poured his heart and soul into it. He has been heavily involved off the field, paying visits to U of M Mott’s Children’s Hospital and befriending superfan Larry Prout Jr. For all of those things, he’s the model Michigan Man and deserves to be commended. But he simply wasn’t good enough on Saturday, and when you play big-time college football you have to accept due criticism as well.

Michigan got the ball first, but was forced to punt. After the defense forced an Ohio State punt, the offense went to work, driving 77 yards on 13 plays for the game’s first touchdown. To his credit, O’Korn made some nice throws, including a 27-yard strike to Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-8 to set up the opening score.

At the end of the first quarter, facing a 4th-and-20, Urban Meyer called timeout to allow his punter to kick with the wind instead of letting the quarter run out. Donovan Peoples-Jones made him pay, returning the punt 42 yards to the Ohio State 11-yard line. An Ohio State holding penalty moved it to the six. Two plays later, O’Korn found tight end Sean McKeon in the end zone to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

But Ohio State answered, mounting an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of its own on the ensuing possession. However, Michigan had a great chance to continue its momentum when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett overthrew his receiver right into the hands of safety Josh Metellus. But he couldn’t hold on and Barrett made him pay with a 21-yard touchdown scamper on the next play to pull OSU within 14-7.

After a Michigan punt that gave Ohio State the ball near midfield, the Buckeyes evened the score with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to tight end Marcus Baugh. The teams went into the half knotted at 14.

Ohio State began the third quarter with possession, but Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out, gaining the field position edge that resulted in a go-ahead score two drives later. Starting at their own 49, O’Korn hit Kekoa Crawford in the flat, who raced 43 yards to the Ohio State 8-yard line. Three plays later, Karan Higdon scored from two yards out, but Quinn Nordin’s extra point attempt was blocked, putting Michigan ahead 20-14 midway through the third.

As has been the case much of the season, Michigan’s stout defense surrendered a score following an offensive score, allowing Ohio State to drive 78 yards on 11 plays. Midway through the drive, Barrett went down with a leg injury and was replaced by Dwayne Haskins, who made two big plays. First, he connected with receiver Austin Mack for a 27-yard gain on 3rd-and-13. Mack held onto the ball despite a vicious hit by Tyree Kinnel that left Kinnel injured with a likely concussion. Two plays later, he evaded a rushing Maurice Hurst and galloped 22 yards to the 1-yard line. J.K. Dobbins finished the job to put the Buckeyes ahead 21-20.

Michigan’s offense failed to get anything going the rest of the way as O’Korn was sacked four times and threw the game-ending interception. Ohio State added a 44-yard field goal and a 25-yard Mike Weber touchdown run in garbage time to expand the margin of victory.

For the game, Michigan rushed for 100 yards and passed for 195, essentially equaling the total yardage Ohio State’s defense allows per game. O’Korn completed 17-of-32 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown, and the interception. Chris Evans amassed 101 total yards, rushing for 67 on 6.1 yards per carry and catching five passes for 34 yards, to lead the team in both rushing and receptions. Higdon added 55 yards on 5.1 yards per carry, while Crawford led the team with 57 receiving yards.

Defensively, Michigan held Ohio State to 350 total yards — 200 below their season average — and just 124 yards through the air. Barrett completed 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Haskins completed 6-of-7 for 94. Dobbins topped the century mark with 101 rushing yards on 6.7 yards per carry, while Weber added 67 on 4.5.

Michigan finishes the regular season with an 8-4 record overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play, while Ohio State improves to 10-2 and 8-1 and will face undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game next Saturday in Indianapolis. Michigan will await its bowl fate following next weekend’s conference championship games. Most signs are pointing toward the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec .28 with the Wolverines facing either Harbaugh’s former team (Stanford) or Michigan’s former coach, Rich Rodriguez’s new team (Arizona).

Game Ball – Offense

Chris Evans (11 carries for 67 yards, 5 receptions for 34 yards)
It was apparent from the outset that Evans was playing determined football, fighting through tackles and gaining extra yards on Michigan’s first few possessions. On Michigan’s first touchdown drive, he had runs of nine yards and 24 yards and also a 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-11. On Michigan’s next possession, he converted a 3rd-and-4 with a 5-yard catch. He finished the game with three explosive runs (of 10 yards or more) and three of Michigan’s nine third-down conversions. It was his third game ball in Michigan’s final four weeks.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
Week 6 — Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Week 7 — None
Week 8 — Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 9 — Karan Higdon (16 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns) & Chris Evans (18 carries for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns)
Week 10 — Chris Evans (15 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 29 yards)
Week 11 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (4 receptions for 64 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Rashan Gary (10 tackles — 5 solo — 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
The old sports adage is that great players rise to the occasion in big games. Michigan’s star sophomore defensive end, Rashan Gary, did just that. He has been unfairly criticized at times this season for not posting gaudy numbers while taking on double teams and allowing others to make plays. Today, he was a force from the start. He sacked Barrett for a three yard loss on Ohio State’s second possession and again on OSU’s second possession of the second half, that time for a loss of six on 3rd-and-5 to force a punt. Then, when Michigan needed to get the ball back for a chance to win, he stuffed Weber for a loss of two on 3rd-and-1, setting up a 43-yard field goal, which the Buckeyes missed. To make the performance even more impressive, Gary injured his shoulder in the first half — some reports said he dislocated it but popped it back in and continued playing. It was an inspiring performance by the star of Michigan’s defense.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
Week 6 — Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 7 — Khaleke Hudson (4 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)
Week 8 — Maurice Hurst (8 tacles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Khaleke Hudson (13 tackles — 11 solo — 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 10 — 4 tackles — 3 solo — 1 pass breakup, 1 interception returned 80 yards)
Week 11 — Khaleke Hudson — 9 tackles — 3 solo — 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry)

The Game preview: Michigan vs #9 Ohio State

November 24th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Patrick Barron)

It seems like just a few weeks ago that we were eagerly anticipating a big season opener against Florida, hopeful of a big win to kick off a good season despite losing nearly every major contributor from 2016. Michigan did win, 33-17, but it raised expectations and set up what has seemed to be a disappointing season to date. Saturday offers one last chance at redemption as Michigan hosts 9th-ranked Ohio State.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – FOX
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (6th season)
Coaching Record: 174-31 (70-8 at OSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Wilson (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Schiano (2nd season)
Last Season: 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 30 – UM 27 2OT (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan 58-49-6
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 31-22-4
Jim Harbaugh vs Ohio State 0-2
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2016 (30-27 2OT)
Current Streak: Ohio State 5
Ohio State schedule to date
Opponent Result
at Indiana W 49-21
#5 Oklahoma L 16-31
Army W 38-7
UNLV W 54-21
at Rutgers W 56-0
Maryland W 62-14
at Nebraska W 56-14
#2 Penn State W 39-38
at Iowa L 24-55
#12 Michigan State W 48-3
Illinois W 52-14

The national narrative surrounding the Michigan football program has become that the Jim Harbaugh tenure has been a failure and that he may be looking to get out of Ann Arbor. Kirk Herbstreit spewed the nonsense on ESPN College GameDay last Saturday, ESPN anchors discussed if Harbaugh is a candidate for UCLA’s opening prior to Michigan’s basketball game on Monday night, and Paul Finebaum has been shouting Harbaugh’s demise from rooftops all season. Right or wrong, only one thing can change that narrative and that’s beating the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Michigan hasn’t done so since Brady Hoke took advantage of the Jim Tressel-to-Urban Meyer transition by topping Luke Fickell in 2011. Ohio State has won the last five, though if you ask anyone outside Columbus, J.T. was short last year. Michigan took the Buckeyes to double-overtime in the Horseshoe and appeared to have stopped J.T. Barrett short of the line to gain on 4th-and-1, but it was ruled a first down. One play later, Curtis Samuel scored the game-winning touchdown.

And so has been the torturous past decade and a half for one half of the sport’s greatest rivalry. To say Michigan is due for a win and Harbaugh is due for a big rivalry win would be an understatement. But that’s not how it works. Whether Michigan has won 14 of the last 16 or lost 14 of the last 16 it doesn’t change the fact that they enter tomorrow’s matchup as a double-digit underdog and will need to play their best game of the season to pull off an upset.

Ohio State may have the most upside as any team in the country, but they also might have the lowest floor of any of the teams still in contention to make the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes have one of the nation’s most potent offenses and have averaged 50.4 points in their nine wins, but have scored a total of just 40 points in their two losses.

Their performance against Iowa three weeks ago gives Michigan a sliver of hope that even the mighty Buckeyes can have an off day. Michigan averages a half point more per game than Iowa does, has a slightly better offense and a considerably better defense, so if they play well and catch a break or two, anything can happen.

Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Ohio State offense

Last offseason, Urban Meyer did what many Michigan fans hope Jim Harbaugh does this offseason: go out and land a top-notch offensive coordinator. Meyer pulled in Kevin Wilson, who was fired from Indiana following the 2016 season for player mistreatment. Last year’s co-offensive coordinator was hired by former offensive coordinator Tom Herman at Texas and the other co-offensive coordinator, Ed Warinner, was let go in favor of Wilson.

Wilson was known as a great offensive mind during his six years in Bloomington. Although he went just 26-47, he constantly featured one of the top offenses in the Big Ten. He was summoned to Columbus to bring back the tempo that Herman installed but Beck and Warinner got away from. All he has done is guide an offense than ranks 3rd nationally and 1st in the Big Ten in scoring (44.9 points per game), 12th and 1st in rushing (252.5 yards per game), 20th and 1st in passing (293.6 yards per game), and 4th and 1st in total offense (546.2 yards per game).

The obvious leader of the Buckeye offense is senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is looking to become the first quarterback in the history of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry to win four games over the other. He’s the team’s second-leading rusher with 605 yards and eight touchdowns, but his passing acumen has always been his knock. However, he ranks third in the Big Ten with 245.3 passing yards per game and leads the conference with a completion rate of 66.9 percent. He also has a 32-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio, though five of those seven picks have come in the two losses and six of the seven have come in the last three weeks.

Barrett has the fortune of one of the nation’s best true freshmen in the backfield. J.K. Dobbins ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing with 99.0 yards per game behind Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 132 yards on 6.9 yards per carry against Michigan last Saturday. Dobbins is averaging 7.3 yards per carry this season with four 100-yard rushing games, though he has done so just once in the past four weeks and twice since Week 3. He has found the end zone just once in the past month, but he has been sharing the backfield lately with redshirt sophomore Mike Weber, who has topped 100 yards in each of the last two weeks and has scored four touchdowns.

Junior Parris Campbell is the team’s leading receiver, averaging 51.8 yards per game, though he hasn’t been as much of a factor lately as he was in the early part of the season. He caught six passes for 136 yards and a score in the season opener and also topped 100 yards in Week 4 against UNLV, but has averaged just 2.8 catches for 32.7 yards over the last six weeks. Redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill leads the team in receptions with 49 thanks to a 12-catch, 102-yard performance against Penn State. He averages just 9.5 yards per reception, which is worst among all receivers.

Junior Johnnie Dixon is the big-play guy, averaging 24.3 yards per reception and he leads the team with eight touchdowns on just 17 receptions. But the oft-injured Dixon missed the Michigan State game two weeks ago and didn’t catch a pass last week. Junior Terry McLaurin and sophomore Binjimen Victor have combined for 12 touchdowns and nearly 700 yards receiving.

Ohio State defense

While the Ohio State offense is operating under a new coordinator this season, the defense is in its second year under former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. His defense is good this season, but not quite as good as it has been in recent years. It ranks 22nd nationally and 5th in the Big Ten in scoring (19.8 points per game), 12th and 4th against the run (114.0 yards per game), 15th and 4th against the pass (177.5 yards per game), and 8th and 3rd in total defense (291.5 yards per game).

The strength of Ohio State’s defense — like usual — is the defensive front, led by sophomore end Nick Bosa and senior tackle Tyquan Lewis. Bosa leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, while Lewis, last year’s Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, is close behind with 4.5 sacks. Add in junior end Sam Hubbard, senior tackle Tracy Sprinkle, senior end Jalyn Holmes, and redshirt sophomore tackle Dre’Mont Jones, and it’s enough to give Michigan fans nightmares given the Wolverines’ troubles with pass protection this season. Like Michigan’s, it’s a deep and extremely talented defensive line.

Senior linebacker Chris Worley started 14 games at outside linebacker the past couple seasons but moved inside this year and ranks fourth on the team with 43 tackles and five tackles for loss. Junior Jerome Baker and senior Dante Booker are the outside ‘backers, though both missed the Michigan State game two weeks ago. With those injuries, Worley moved back to the outside two weeks ago and redshirt freshman Tuf Borland filled in admirably in the middle.

The secondary got picked apart early in the season, but has gotten better as the season has progressed. In the season opener, Indiana threw for 420 yards and the Buckeyes couldn’t stop Simmie Cobbs, who caught 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Oklahoma threw for 386 yards a week later, but OSU’s secondary has been much better since. Still, it gave up 244 passing yards to Iowa’s 87th-ranked passing offense three weeks ago.

Redshirt sophomore Damon Arnette and junior Denzel Ward are the starting corners and have combined for 66 tackles, five for loss, three interceptions, 20 passes defended, and 17 pass breakups. Sophomore Jordan Fuller and senior Damon Webb are the safeties and the two leading tacklers on the team with a combined 103 tackles. Webb leads the team with three interceptions.

Ohio State special teams

Redshirt junior kicker Sean Nuernberger is dependable, having made 13-of-15 attempts this season with a long of 38. He was the team’s kicker as a freshman during the 2014 national championship run, making 13-of-20, but lost the job the next season and redshirted in 2016. Sophomore punter Dru Chrisman was the top-rated punter in the 2016 class and ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 43.5 yards per game.

Campbell leads the Big Ten in kick returns, averaging 36.6 yards per return with a long of 82, though he hasn’t scored a touchdown. Hill is the team’s main punt returner, averaging just 3.5 yards per return.

Prediction

I’m not going to sugar coat it. If Brandon Peters is out tomorrow, I don’t give Michigan much of a chance. John O’Korn is a great guy and clearly loves Michigan, but based on what we’ve seen this season, combined with the offensive line’s struggles in pass protection, Ohio State’s front seven is going to have a field day.

The hope is that Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, and Pep Hamilton have been able to come up with a few wrinkles that can squeak out some points and help get the running game going. Remember last week when they lined Chris Evans up in the wildcat to no avail? Hopefully that’s not the wrinkle tomorrow, but perhaps it was put in against Wisconsin to set up another wrinkle against Ohio State. Who knows, but simply lining up and trying to run at Ohio State isn’t going to work without at least some passing threat.

Defensively, Michigan needs to load the box to stop the run while keeping Barrett in sight at all times and forcing him to throw the ball. If he beats Michigan’s top-rated pass defense with his arm, fine. But don’t let him beat you with his legs. At least one of Barrett, Dobbins, or Weber will likely break a big run, but if the defense can’t keep Barrett contained, it’s going to be a long day.

I think Michigan holds close through the first half thanks to a strong defense, but fades in the second similar to the Wisconsin game. Ohio State simply has too much firepower to leave on the field for long periods of time if Michigan’s offense can’t sustain drives.

Score Prediction: Ohio State 31 – Michigan 13

 

Tailgate Tuesday: Hickory smoked trail mix

November 23rd, 2017 by Justin Potts


Tailgate Tuesday has traditionally been our weekly contribution from our resident pitmaster, Joe Pichey from GoBlueBBQ. Due to a new job, Joe has had limited time this season, so I have taken the reigns as interim Maize and Go Pitmaster. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and will feature a variety of appetizers, main courses, and sides to help you be the king of your next tailgate. Gentry’s BBQ, a Orlando, Fla. based BBQ and catering company, sponsors this season’s feature by providing their killer rubs and sauces for use in the recipes. Buy them here. In addition, Fogo Charcoal provides charcoal to use in each recipe. Buy it here.

PreviousGator kabobsSteak tacos nortenos with bacon fat flour tortillasBrisket burnt endsFried pork tenderloin sammy with fire roasted green chile jam and savory corn casseroleSmoked onion dipJalapeno ballsSous vide french dip cheesesteakWestern style chopped pork and red slawCarolina hush puppiesSmoked beef empanadasHome-cured applewood smoked bacon; Beer cheese soup
Recipe Archive

Yes, I know today isn’t Tuesday, but I was in San Francisco for work last weekend which meant I wasn’t home to smoke anything. Due to my busy schedule I opted not to smoke a bird for Thanksgiving this year, but I wanted to at least smoke something, so since the worthless nuts from Ohio are coming to town this Saturday I decided to smoke some nuts and make my own trail mix. This one requires as few or as many ingredients you want and allows you to mix and match whatever ingredients you please to make your own trail mix. It’s easy to make ahead of time and bring to tailgates or homegates, or bag and give out as Christmas gifts. Your friends and family will thank you.

Ingredients
1 pound raw almonds
1/2 pound raw cashews
1 pound raw peanuts
1/2 pound raw pistachios
1 bag salted popcorn
1/2 pound sesame sticks
1/2 pound pepitas
8oz craisins
1 large bag plain M&Ms
1 bag Duke’s original smoked shorty sausages
Gentry’s Beef Brigade BBQ Rub
Garlic powder
Directions

As mentioned above, you can use whatever type of nuts or ingredients you want, but here’s the gist of this easy recipe. Honestly, the most time consuming — and fun — part is probably deciding which ingredients to go with. If you have a Caputo’s Fresh Market near you, they have a great selection of nuts, candies, dried fruit, etc.

The general rule of thumb with a trail mix is you want nuts, dried fruit, grains, candy, and meat. You don’t have to include something from all of those categories, but a good selection makes for a well-rounded trail mix.

Fire up your smoker to 225-275 degrees. This isn’t a long smoke, so as long as it falls somewhere in that range you’re good. You don’t want it too hot because the nuts will burn easily. Put all of your nuts in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit for 10 minutes — no more — and then strain out the water. You can smoke the nuts without submerging in water first, but the water really helps both the smoke and whatever rub or seasonings you apply to stick to the nuts. Just make sure not to soak the nuts for longer than 10 minutes because they’ll start to absorb it and become mushy.

Now apply your seasonings. For this recipe I went with Gentry’s Beef Brigade BBQ Rub and some garlic powder. The Beef Brigade rub provides a nice savory, peppery taste to counter the sweeter and fruitier taste of some of your other ingredients.

You can use a cookie sheet to smoke these on if that’s all you have, but a basket or grill topper that has holes in it is preferred to let the smoke penetrate from all sides. Put all of your nuts into a basket or grill topper in a single layer and place in the smoker. You’ll only be smoking these for about 30 minutes, so don’t get too comfortable. About halfway through, give them a nice stir to make sure they’re all getting smoke. You might have to smoke them in two separate batches depending on how many you have, but with the short smoke time, that’s just fine.

After about 30 minutes, pull them out of the smoker and let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours to cool and harden. You’ll notice after you take them out of the smoker that they are kind of soft, which is partly due to the water bath and also the smoking process. Once they sit for an hour or two they’ll harden back up.

Now it’s time to mix in all the other ingredients. I used pepitas, plain salted popcorn, sesame sticks, craisins, Duke’s shorties, and M&Ms in addition to my smoked almonds, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios. Side note: if you’ve never tried Duke’s smoked shorty sausages, you’ve got to give them a try. Duke’s is my go-to beef jerky brand and their shorties are great when hiking, golfing, driving, etc. Just hide them from your kids because they’ll get hooked too, although if you need to get some protein into them, these are a great way. Anyway, just cut them up into small pieces for your trail mix.

Mix everything together in your preferred proportions and now you’re ready to serve! My wife just told me it’s the best trail mix she’s ever had, so hopefully your family and friends feel the same way!

Visit Gentry’s to purchase their great rubs and sauces. You can follow them on Twitter at @gentrysbbq and you can also follow our resident pitmaster Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

First Look: #8 Ohio State

November 21st, 2017 by Justin Potts


Michigan put up a fight for 40 minutes in Madison last Saturday, leading the fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 10-7 until midway through the third quarter, but disaster struck in the form of a head injury to quarterback Brandon Peters and the Wolverines suffered a 24-10 defeat to drop to 8-3 on the season and 5-3 in Big Ten play. They have one regular season game remaining and it’s the big one — the one that is simply referred to as The Game. It presents one last chance to salvage what most consider to be a disappointing season and spoil Ohio State’s hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

Ohio State & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
44.9 3rd 26.3 82nd PPG 19.8 22nd 17.1 11th
2,778 2,136 Rush Yds 1,254 1,285
252.5 12th 194.2 35th Rush/Gm 114.0 12th 116.8 15th
6.0 4.6 Rush Avg 3.2 3.4
3,230 1,828 Pass Yds 1,953 1,588
293.6 20th 166.2 111th Pass/Gm 177.5 15th 144.4 1st
6,008 3,964 Total Off. 3,207 2,873
546.2 4th 360.4 102nd Total Off./Gm 291.5 8th 261.2 3rd
25.0 15th 19.5 99th KR Avg 17.6 14th 15.6 2nd
3.8 117h 7.5 63rd PR Avg 1.0 1st 10.5 100th
28:40 91st 32:02 22nd Avg TOP 31:20 27:58
50% 4th 33% 112th 3rd Down% 30% 14th 25% 1st
16-96 30th 29-205 102nd Sacks-Yds 29-208 23rd 36-251 8th
65 35 TDs 29 23
13-15 (87%) 15-20 (75%) FG-ATT 5-10 (50%) 9-14 (64%)
54-61 (89%) 36th 31-36 (86%) 53rd Red Zone 23-30 (77%) 22nd 21-26 (81%) 45th
41-61 (67%) 19-36 (53%)  RZ TD 18-30 (60%) 15-26 (58%)
3.79 2nd 2.27 57th OFEI/DFEI 1.39 15th 1.35 11th
40.9 4th 27.8 69th S&P+ 18.8 12th 18.1 8th

When everything is clicking Ohio State may have the most upside of any team in the country. But as their two losses indicate, they also may have the lowest floor of any of the teams in contention to make the final four. The Buckeyes have two good wins, both at home, over then-No. 2 Penn State (39-38) and then-No. 12 Michigan State (48-3). But their two losses to then-No. 5 Oklahoma and then-unranked Iowa have come by a combined 46 points.

The Iowa loss was the most surprising as the Hawkeyes took a 31-17 lead into the half and kept piling on in the second, eventually winning 55-24. They have since dropped their last two games at Wisconsin and at home to Purdue by a combined 33 points to fall to just 6-5 overall and 3-5 in conference play. They’re simply not a very good team, and yet they handed Ohio State a 31-point loss. In fact, in their two games before the Ohio State game and their two games since, they’ve combined to score a total of 56 points — one more than they scored against the Buckeyes.

So is there hope for Michigan? Objectively, sure. The Wolverines average about a half a point more than Iowa does, have a slightly better offense, and a considerably better defense. And in a rivalry game like this, anything can happen. But when applying recent history, its hard to imagine Michigan breaking out of the slump that has seen them lose 14 of the last 16 meetings.

This season, Ohio State features one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, ranking 3rd nationally in scoring (44.9 points per game), 12th in rushing (252.5 yards per game), 20th in passing (293.6 yards per game), and 4th in total offense (546.2 yards per game).

The Buckeyes have been held below 25 points just twice this season and both were losses — 24 points against Iowa and 16 against Oklahoma. They’ve scored 48 or more points in eight of 11 games with a high of 62 against Maryland. The only game in which they scored fewer than 48 but more than 24 was the 39-38 come-from-behind win over Penn State.

The running game hasn’t been held below 163 yards in a single game this season. Michigan’s rush defense, which ranks 15th nationally, allows just 116.8 yards per game and has allowed 163 or more just four times in 11 games, although it has done so in each of the past two. Ohio State has topped 200 yards rushing eight times and 300 yards in each of the last two weeks. The same Michigan State defense that held Michigan to 102 rushing yards on 39 carries yielded 335 yards on 42 carries to OSU.

The passing game isn’t quite as good under senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, but it’s still dangerous and the Buckeyes’ receivers have matured throughout the season. In the two losses, Barrett has thrown a combined five interceptions — four of which came against Iowa — and in the nine wins, he has thrown just three. Iowa and Oklahoma held the Bucks to just 195.5 passing yards per game on just a 53.6 percent completion rate. Those other nine games? He’s averaged 315.4 passing yards on a 69.6 percent completion rate.

Michigan boasts the nation’s top pass defense, allowing just 144.4 yards per game, and with a healthy Lavert Hill back, they’ll present the toughest matchup OSU has faced to date. Michigan has allowed just one opponent — Penn State — to pass for more than 200 yards.

Defensively, Ohio State isn’t nearly as good as they were a year ago but they still rank among the nation’s best. The Buckeyes rank 22nd nationally in scoring defense (19.8 points per game), 12th against the run (114.0 yards per game), 15th against the pass (177.5 yards per game), and 8th in total defense (291.5 yards per game).

With the exception of two games, OSU’s defense has been tough against the run. One of those two, Army, is excusable because they’re a service academy that runs a wacky offense like Michigan’s defense saw with Air Force. The other was Iowa, who inexplicably rushed for a season-high 243 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. To put that in context, Iowa has rushed for more than 200 yards just one other time (against North Texas) and has been held to just 89 yards or fewer four times.

Ohio State’s pass defense has been more susceptible, though it rebounded from a very poor start to the season. In the season opener, Indiana passed for 420 yards and Oklahoma threw for 386 a week later. Since then, Ohio State has allowed more than 200 yards passing just twice and has held three opponents — Army, Maryland, and Illinois — to fewer than 20 passing yards. The exceptions were Nebraska’s 27th-ranked passing offense which threw for 349 yards and Iowa’s 87th-ranked passing offense that passed for 244.

On special teams, Ohio State is one of the nation’s best in kick returns, but one of the worst in the punt return game. They’re also among the nation’s best at defending both kick and punt returns. Kicking-wise, Ohio State has converted 13-of-15 field goals.

The Buckeyes will be the most talented team Michigan has faced this season, but as Iowa showed three weeks ago, they’re beatable. Just how much of a chance Michigan will have will likely depend on the health of Peters.

#5 Wisconsin 24 – #24 Michigan 10: Peters injury, poor second half send Michigan home from Madison in defeat

November 20th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan hadn’t beaten a top 10 team on the road in over a decade but had a 10-7 third quarter lead over fifth-ranked Wisconsin on Saturday. But freshman quarterback Brandon Peters got knocked out of the game with a head injury and from that moment on, the Wolverines were lifeless on both sides of the ball and suffered a 24-10 loss.

Final Stats
Michigan  Wisconsin
Score 10 24
Record 8-3 (5-3) 11-0 (8-0)
Total Yards 234 325
Net Rushing Yards 58 182
Net Passing Yards 176 143
First Downs 13 14
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 4-28 4-35
Punts-Yards 9-363 8-298
Time of Possession 28:15 31:45
Third Down Conversions 5-of-17 5-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 2-18 3-18
Field Goals 1-for-1 1-for-1
PATs1 1-for-1 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-3 2-of-3
Red Zone TDs-Chances 1-of-3 1-of-3
Full Box Score

Peters wasn’t perfect — he committed his first turnover since assuming the job four weeks ago — but he was running an efficient offense midway through the third quarter. But a big hit in which he was driven to the ground head-first resulted in being carted off the field and taken to a local hospital and it seemed to take all the air out of the Wolverines. John O’Korn went just 2-of-8 for 19 yards the remainder of the game as Michigan’s offense couldn’t get anything going.

Michigan began the game with a few offensive wrinkles with Chris Evans taking snaps out of the wildcat, but Michigan couldn’t sustain drives against the nation’s best defense. Likewise, Michigan’s defense was holding Wisconsin’s offense in check, but the Badgers got a break when Nick Nelson returned a Brad Robbins punt 50 yards for a touchdown.

Two possessions later, Michigan got a 1st-and-goal at the Wisconsin 6-yard line thanks to a 35-yard pass from Peters to tight end Zach Gentry. Karan Higdon gained one yard on first down and Peters found Donovan Peoples-Jones in the end zone on second, but the call was ruled incomplete on the field. Review showed that he got a foot down prior to stepping out of bounds, but the officials ruled that it wasn’t conclusive enough to overturn the call. On third down, Peters scrambled to his left and tried to make a play, but fumbled and Wisconsin recovered at the one.

Michigan’s defense forced a punt and the Wolverines finally found the end zone in the ensuing possession. Peters connected with Peoples-Jones for 48 yards to set up a 1-yard Ben Mason touchdown run to tie the game at seven.

On Wisconsin’s third possession of the second half, Devin Bush intercepted Alex Hornibrook at the Wisconsin 29-yard line, but Michigan had to settle for a 39-yard Quinn Nordin field goal to take a 10-7 lead.

Wisconsin responded with a 7-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that was aided by a dubious pass interference call on Tyree Kinnel on 2nd-and-14 from their own 19-yard line on a play in which the receiver didn’t know where the ball was and wasn’t even looking back for it as it was thrown behind him. Without that flag, Wisconsin likely fails to convert on third and long and Michigan gets the ball back with the lead.

Instead, Michigan got the ball back trailing 14-10 and three plays later Peters was knocked out of the game. Again, Michigan came up on the wrong side of the flag as none was thrown on Wisconsin’s defender for driving Peters into the ground. Michigan was forced to punt and five plays later Wisconsin scored again to take a 21-10 lead.

From there, Michigan gained just 34 yards on three possessions under O’Korn and didn’t come close to sniffing the end zone. Wisconsin tacked on a 30-yard field goal to reach the games final score of 24-10.

Michigan had out-gained Wisconsin 200 yards to 170 yards prior to Peters’ injury, but gave up 155 yards in the final 20 minutes of the game. Michigan was held to just 58 yards rushing but passed for 176. Peters went 9-of-18 for 157 yards. Evans gained 25 yards on 11 carries, while a hobbled Higdon had 20 yards on seven carries. Peoples-Jones had four catches for 64 yards.

Now 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten, Michigan hosts Ohio State (9-2, 7-1) in the regular season finale next Saturday at noon. Ohio State clinched a spot in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin with a win over Illinois on Saturday, and although they don’t have anything to play for conference-wise, they’re still hoping for a spot in the College Football Playoff if they can take care of business against Michigan and then Wisconsin in Indianapolis.

Game Ball – Offense

Donovan Peoples-Jones (4 receptions for 64 yards)
This one wasn’t obvious as Michigan didn’t do much on offense, but it was arguably Peoples-Jones’ best game of the season as a receiver. He proved he can be a deep threat with a 48-yard reception in the second quarter and led the Wolverines with four receptions. He also made a nice catch on the touchdown that was ruled incomplete, outjumping a Wisconsin defender on a fade route.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
Week 6 — Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Week 7 — None
Week 8 — Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 9 — Karan Higdon (16 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns) & Chris Evans (18 carries for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns)
Week 10 — Chris Evans (15 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 29 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Khaleke Hudson (9 tackles — 3 solo — 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry)
It wasn’t quite the performance he put on against Minnesota two weeks ago, but Hudson made an impression in Wisconsin’s backfield on Saturday, recording another 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss, adding to his Big Ten lead in both categories. He finished the day with a team-leading nine tackles and also added a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. It was his third game ball in the past five weeks. Hudson has now put up very similar defensive numbers to those Jabrill Peppers put up a year ago. Hudson has recorded 68 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two interceptions, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles. Peppers recorded 72 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four sacks, one interception, eight quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble in 2016.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
Week 6 — Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 7 — Khaleke Hudson (4 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)
Week 8 — Maurice Hurst (8 tacles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Khaleke Hudson (13 tackles — 11 solo — 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 10 — 4 tackles — 3 solo — 1 pass breakup, 1 interception returned 80 yards)

#24 Michigan at #5 Wisconsin game preview

November 18th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Brad Mills, USA Today Sports)

It’s hard to believe that only two games remain in the 2017 regular season, but here we are with a chance for Michigan to either make a statement or continue what some believe to be a disappointing season. Never mind that Michigan lost 16 starters, they should be winning a national championship in Jim Harbaugh’s third season, the theory goes. Well, that’s not going to happen this year, but by beating Wisconsin and Ohio State the Wolverines could earn at least a share of the Big Ten East title, which, when taken in context, should be considered a major accomplishment.

Quick Facts
Camp Randall Stadium – 12p.m. EST – FOX
Wisconsin Head Coach: Paul Chryst (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 50-25 (31-6 at UW)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leonhard (1st season)
Last Season: 11-3 (7-2 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 14 – UW 7 (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan 50-14-1
Record in Madison: Michigan 21-6-1
Jim Harbaugh vs Wisconsin 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2016 (14-7)
Last Wisconsin win: 2010 (48-28)
Current Streak: Michigan 1
Wisconsin schedule to date
Opponent Result
Utah State W 59-10
Florida Atlantic W 31-14
at BYU W 40-6
Northwestern W 33-24
at Nebraska W 38-17
Purdue W 17-9
Maryland W 38-13
at Illinois W 24-10
at Indiana W 45-17
#20 Iowa W 38-14

Doing so is much easier said than done, however, as both Wisconsin and Ohio State rank in the top 10 nationally. Wisconsin has already booked it’s spot in the Big Ten championship game by winning the much easier West and has its sights set on a College Football Playoff berth.

The Badgers are 10-0, but find themselves behind a pair of one-loss teams, Clemson and Oklahoma because of their strength of schedule which has seen them beat just one ranked team. That was 20th-ranked Iowa last week and it was Iowa’s fourth loss of the season. They were only ranked because they used their Kinnick Stadium voodoo on Ohio State the week before that.

Wisconsin played a non-conference schedule that consisted of Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and a very bad BYU team. In conference play, they get to avoid Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State, which means Michigan is their last chance for a quality win before they get to Indianapolis.

Although Michigan holds a 21-6-1 advantage in Madison, they haven’t won there since 2001 when Hayden Epstein kicked a 31-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to give Michigan a 20-17 win.

Michigan won last season’s matchup 14-7, scoring on a 1-yard Khalid Hill touchdown early in the second quarter and a 46-yard Wilton Speight touchdown pass to Amara Darboh with eight minutes remaining. Jourdan Lewis sealed the win with a leaping, one-handed highlight-reel interception and Michigan’s defense held the Badgers to just 159 total yards.

Can they replicate that performance tomorrow? Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Prediction

Offensively, Wisconsin ranks 24th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring (36.3 points per game), 18th and 2nd in rushing (245.0 yards per game), 95th and 10th in passing (188.1 yards per game), and 37th and 2nd in total offense (433.1 yards per game).

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook ranks seventh in the Big Ten in passing, averaging 186.3 yards per game, but is very accurate, completing 64.1 percent of his passes. However, he is prone to mistakes. His 12 interceptions are more than all but Nebraska’s Tanner Lee, so if Michigan’s defensive front can pressure him they could create some turnovers.

The harder task will be stopping Wisconsin’s running game, which features the Big Ten’s leading rusher, freshman Jonathan Taylor, who averages 152.5 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in seven of 10 games this season with a high of 249 on 10.0 yards per carry against Nebraska and a low of 73 yards on 6.1 yards per carry against Illinois. Northwestern, who features a rushing defense on par with Michigan’s, held Taylor to his lowest yards per carry of the season — 4.2 — though he did still score two touchdowns.

Defensively, Wisconsin ranks 3rd nationally and 1st in the Big Ten in scoring (13.4 points per game), 1st and 1st in rush defense (81.5 yards per game), 7th and 2nd in pass defense (166.1 yards per game), and 1st and 1st in total defense (247.6 yards per game).

The Badgers defense has shut down virtually everyone this season, allowing no more than 143 rushing yards or 271 passing yards in a single game. Maryland and Illinois both found some success on the ground against Wisconsin, both averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but they combined for just one rushing touchdown. Wisconsin has also done a good job of limiting big plays as only two teams nationally — Alabama and San Diego State — have allowed fewer explosive runs of 10 yards or more. Only three teams have allowed more 20-yard runs and Wisconsin is the only team in the country that hasn’t allowed a 30-yard run. Michigan’s running game ranks 10th nationally with 13 30-yard runs and fifth with nine 40-yard runs.

Wisconsin has also held six of ten opponents to 155 passing yards or fewer, including Iowa, who threw for just 41 yards last week. The same Iowa team that passed for 244 yards against Ohio State the week prior.

With Brandon Peters making his third career start at quarterback — and averaging just nine completions for 108 yards per game — it’s a safe bet to assume Wisconsin will stack the box to stop the run, which means Peters will need to be able to make plays with his arm for Michigan to win. That could make for a big day for Michigan’s tight ends, Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, who rank second and third on the team in receiving yards and lead the team with two touchdowns each.

This game features two great defenses and two average offenses, so expect a low-scoring game. The weather calls for rain in the morning, but it should be cleared up by game time and shouldn’t affect the game. With Michigan’s running game coming on the past few weeks and Peters’ ability to protect the football — he hasn’t turned it over yet — I like Michigan’s ability to break a couple of big runs even with a Wisconsin defense focusing on stopping the run. Defensively, Wisconsin is the type of offense that Michigan defenses can hold in check, so aside from a couple of early successful drives I don’t see Wisconsin doing much. Quinn Nordin redeems himself by making his only field goal attempt of the game and that’s the difference as Michigan pulls out a close one in Madison.

Score Prediction: Michigan 17 – Wisconsin 14