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Archive for the ‘Preview/Prediction’ Category

Michigan to face Florida State in Orange Bowl

Sunday, December 4th, 2016


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Michigan missed out on the College Football Playoff, but still earned a spot in one of the prestigious New Years Six bowl games and gets an intriguing matchup against another traditional power. The Wolverines will face 11th-ranked Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

Meet the teams

At this time two years ago Michigan’s season was over and a coaching search was just beginning. The Wolverines would watch rival Ohio State run the table to a national championship, but not before luring Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL.dalvin-cook

In a short two years, Harbaugh has transformed the culture of the program the way his mentor, Bo Schembechler, did 45 years prior. Harbaugh proceeded to double Michigan’s win total in his first season and then match that again this fall, and on Dec. 30 he has a chance to improve upon that with an 11th win for just the 10th time in program history. In fact, it would be just the seventh time in program history that the Wolverines won at least 21 games in a two-year span.

Yet, the Orange Bowl feels like a letdown. Michigan had a legitimate argument for an inclusion in the College Football Playoff with two losses, both on the road and both on the last play of the game, by a combined four points, and as many top-10 wins as any team in the country. But when the CFP committee released its rankings on Sunday afternoon, one of those losses proved too much to overcome ACC champion Clemson and Pac-12 champion Washington, both of which had just one loss.

When Michigan got left out of the BCS championship game following the 2006 season they saw the Rose Bowl matchup with USC as a consolation prize and played like they didn’t want to be there. USC won 32-18. This time around, they’re taking the perceived snub as a chance to make a statement against another college football blueblood.

Florida State began the season ranked fourth nationally and quickly ascended to second after knocking off Ole Miss and Charleston Southern. Then, they ran into Louisville and the Cardinals kicked off a 3-3 stretch that saw FSU also lose to North Carolina and Clemson wrapped around wins over USF, Miami, and Wake Forest.

The Seminoles won four straight to close the season, topping N.C. State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Florida to climb back to the cusp of the top 10 entering bowl season.

Scouting report

As a team, Florida State’s offense ranks 24th nationally in total offense (345.1 yards per game), 32nd in scoring offense (35.3 points per game), 39th in rushing (206.8 yards per game), and 29th in passing (267.6 yards per game). The main weakness is the offensive line, which has allowed 34 sacks — the same number as Rutgers and more than only 16 teams nationally.

FSU is lead by junior running back Dalvin Cook, the nation’s seventh-leading rusher, who averages 135 yards per game. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in eight of the last nine games with two of those over 200.

Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois ranks 30th nationally with 260.7 passing yards per game and 36th nationally with a pass efficiency of 143.7 — one spot behind Wilton Speight.

Florida State’s defense ranks 29th nationally in total defense (357.2 yards per game), 43rd in scoring (24.4 points per game), 27th against the run (131.3 yards per game), and 65th against the pass (225.9 yards per game). Although those numbers aren’t great, the Seminoles are 16th in third-down defense (33.8 percent) and they lead the nation with 47 sacks — three more than Michigan.

Senior defensive end Demarcus Walker leads the nation with 15 sacks (14 solo) and ranks 18th with 17.5 tackles for loss. He’ll be a handful for Michigan’s offensive line.

Way too early prediction

Michigan opened as a 6.5 point favorite and should have a fully healthy offense with Wilton Speight getting a month to heal his left shoulder. That should allow the offense to function at full capacity — it’s clear that it wasn’t at Ohio State a week ago. Florida State’s pass defense has surrendered over 200 yards in half of their contests and over 300 yards four times. By comparison, Michigan’s defense has allowed over 200 yards passing twice with a high of 281 against Maryland. With a fully healthy Speight, I like Michigan’s chances of moving the ball.

Defensively, Michigan’s defense has done a good job this season of shutting down individual running backs. Cook may be the best they’ve faced this season, but they held Saquon Barkley to 59 yards on 15 carries, Corey Clement to 68 yards on 17 carries, and Mike Weber to 26 yards on 11 carries. L.J. Scott managed 139 yards, but that’s an outlier against 11 others. Francois isn’t a major threat to run the ball, so the Wolverines won’t have the same issues they faced against Ohio State. And Michigan boasts the nation’s best pass defense, allowing just 135.9 yards per game. With their pass rush and FSU’s porous offensive line, Francois won’t have much time to throw the ball.

Michigan has an edge on both sides of the ball and — like last year — it’s hard to pick against Harbaugh with a month to prepare. The Wolverines entered last year’s Citrus Bowl hoping to beat Florida and they demolished the Gators. I don’t expect as big a margin this time around, but there’s no reason not to expect a Michigan win.

M&GB staff predictions: The Game

Saturday, November 26th, 2016


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Previously this week: First Look: Ohio State, Tailgate Tuesday, Five-Spot Challenge, Big Ten power rankings, The Numbers GameGame preview

The day we look forward to all year is finally here. For the first time in 10 years both teams enter with enormously high expectations. Not only is a Big Ten championship game berth on the line, but a potential spot in the College Football Playoff is up for grabs. Win and you’re still alive. Lose and you’ll get a decent bowl game as a consolation prize.

Let’s not waste any more time with the pleasantries. You know the stakes. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin (2)

I’ll start with a disclaimer. This prediction is based on Speight being able to play the whole game. If he’s unable to play, or if he’s knocked out of the game, I predict a Michigan loss. But I’m hedging my bets on his shoulder not being quite as bad as Harbaugh let on the past couple of weeks.

In a game like this where both teams rank among the nation’s best both offensively and defensively, and both teams will come in full of emotion in a rivalry game, I like to think that they’ll both keep doing what the are good at — what got them there.

Staff Predictions
Michigan    Ohio St   
Justin 26 24
Derick 14 24
Sam 17 24
Josh 13 27
Joe 21 20
M&GB Average 18 24

As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Ohio State’s defense has been susceptible to big plays, especially in the run game where they rank 77th nationally, giving up 5.91 explosive runs per game. In fact, they’re slightly worse in that regard than Indiana, which entered last week surrendering 5.7 per game — 70th nationally. We all know what Michigan’s running game did to the Hoosiers, racking up seven explosive runs including De’Veon Smith’s scampers of 39, 34, and 25 yards. We also know that on drives in which Michigan has an explosive play they score 73 percent of the time.

Michigan’s offense averages 11.36 explosive plays per game and OSU’s defense surrenders 8.09 per game. Let’s say Michigan’s offense gets eight and scores points on 75 percent of those. Even if they’re all field goals, that’s 18 points. But Michigan will score at least one touchdown, so now we’re into the 20s. Two puts them at 26 points — two touchdowns and four field goals — and I think that’s enough to win the game.

Michigan’s defense surrenders just 6.09 explosive plays per game — fifth nationally — while Ohio State’s offense averages 11.09 (16th). The Wolverines haven’t surrendered more than nine explosive plays in non-garbage time this season. But even so, even if Ohio State’s powerful offense gets its average of 11, Michigan’s defense gives up points just 35 percent of the time. That equates to four scores and I doubt all four will be touchdowns as Michigan has surrendered just 14 all season. Three touchdowns and a field goal is 24 points.

Sure, it may be slightly ridiculous to base a prediction on explosive play stats, but they’ve been pretty accurate all season. And now we have 11 games worth of data to use. If Speight plays, Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball well enough to put up some point on the Buckeyes, even if they settle for field goals. Senior Kenny Allen will come up big by making all of them. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will empty the kitchen sink trying to soften the Buckeye defense for Smith to get the running game going.

On the other side, Michigan will surrender a few big plays, likely including the 50-yard touchdown run up the middle that has become standard for OSU in this game. But by and large, the U-M defense will hold strong and keep the Bucks out of rhythm.

The game live up to its billing, going down to the wire. Allen boots a game-winning field goal, Michigan escapes the snake pit with its first win in 16 years, and heads to Indy for a rematch with Wisconsin. Of course, if Speight doesn’t play, this could be all moot.

Michigan 26 – Ohio State 24

Derick (1)

It’s finally time for the game everyone has been waiting for, and it’s even more important than we all imagined. Michigan and Ohio State will be fighting to stay alive in the College Football Playoff race, while the loser will be out of the running.

Last year, Michigan appeared to have a good chance to take down Ohio State at home, but the combination of J.T. Barrett and an excellent running back tore the Wolverines apart. Unfortunately for Michigan, that combination still exists.

Three weeks ago, I thought Michigan was the better team, but after a loss to Iowa and an awful offensive performance against Indiana at the home finale, that confidence has started to slip away.

I think Michigan is one of the three best teams in the country this season, but I think it will come up short on Saturday.

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 14

Sam (3)

So this is what it has all come down to. This, for all the marbles. A win for Michigan means a Big Ten championship game berth for the first time since its inception and one game closer to their first ever appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as hopeful about the outcome of this game as I was about three weeks ago when it looked as if the Wolverine offense was inching closer to their vaunted defense. One miserable performance and one quarterback injury later and the offense is looking fairly pedestrian of late while the defense continues to play about as well could be reasonably expected.

If the Maize and Blue are to have any shot it’s going to need to come in a defensive slugfest with a ground game that’s just good enough to put a couple scores on the board. I have an inkling that if Jabrill Peppers records his first ever interception, the visitors will walk away victorious. I also have an inkling that we we won’t be seeing that.

I trust Don Brown’s defense to hold the Buckeyes at bay for the most part but I have little faith that Michigan’s offense is going to be able to consistently churn yardage out against a stout OSU defense with what is likely to be a one-dimensional attack. In the end, J.T. Barrett will make the difference over John O’Korn to maintain Buckeye dominance of late in this yearly war and keep Harbaugh’s squad out of the final four. As much as it pains me to say it, give me Ohio State.

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 17

Josh (1)

I’ll just come out and say it: If anyone other than a close to 100 percent Wilton Speight comes out on the first series I don’t see Michigan winning this game. I said in my preseason prediction that Michigan would lose to Iowa (they did) and OSU. I also said that serious injuries to key players could derail the season. If Speight is out, Michigan loses; plain and simple. I just don’t see how John O’Korn can lead them to victory in Columbus.

That said, IF Wilton Speight does play I think Michigan has an excellent chance to win.

On defense, Michigan needs to have figured out how to stop the missed tackling issues and they need to seal the edge. If not, Curtis Samuel is going to run rampant downfield. J.T. Barrett doesn’t scare me if he’s forced to pass, the problem is when the defense loses contain. I’m interested to see what Don Brown has cooked up. Personally, I’d use the pass rush to contain him and just slowly close the pocket around him and trust the back end to do their jobs. But Don Brown is not exactly known for being a passive, sit back and wait coordinator. However, this is why he was brought in; to solve the problem OSU’s offense presents and to win The Game.

If they can keep Barrett from escaping pressure and finally seal the edge to keep Samuels and Mike Weber from breaking free for long runs then Michigan should be able to give the offense enough to work with to come out with the win.

On offense, Michigan needs to keep OSU honest with a balanced attack and they ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO hit a few deep balls so the running game doesn’t get bottled up. As much as I love the running backs Michigan has not one of them possesses all the skills of an elite back. Penn State’s Saquan Barkley and Michigan State’s L.J. Scott had some great games against this defense, but I don’t think any one back on Michigan is as good as either of those two. Every single guy who carries the ball has to bring his A-game for Michigan to win. OSU needs to be thinking about who is back there and what he can and cannot do, information overload.

Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson just need to keep being themselves but Jake Butt and his tight end cohorts need to be a bigger part of the passing attack. They are built to wreak havoc against OSU’s defense.

All signs point to O’Korn, not Speight, being the quarterback this weekend and I don’t see how he can improve that much from last week to be able to pull out a win in Columbus. I called this a loss in the preseason and unfortunately I am going to keep it that way.

Ohio State 27 – Michigan 13

Joe (6)

It’s finally here. The biggest game of the entire NCAA football season. This one will be special on all fronts. I’m not even going to go into all the different scenarios and player predictions. Let’s just say Michigan wins by one.

Michigan 21 – Ohio State 20

The Game preview: #3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State

Friday, November 25th, 2016


um-osu-game-preview-header(Dustin Johnson)

Ten years ago, No. 2 Michigan met No. 1 Ohio State on a crisp fall day in Columbus in what was being called The Game of the Century. With the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff still years away, the winner of The Game would earn a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

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Quick Facts
Ohio Stadium – 12p.m. ET – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (5th season)
Coaching Record: 164-28 (60-5 at OSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Ed Warriner (5th season)
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Greg Schiano (1st season)
Luke Fickell (12th season)
Last Season: 12-1 (7-1 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 13
All-Time Series: Michigan 58-48-6
Record in Columbus: Michigan 27-26-2
Jim Harbaugh vs OSU 0-1
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2015 (42-13)
Current Streak: Ohio State 4
Ohio State Schedule to date
Opponent Result
Bowling Green W 77-10
Tulsa W 48-3
at #14 Oklahoma W 45-24
Rutgers W 58-0
Indiana W 38-17
at #8 Wisconsin W 30-23
at Penn State L 21-24
Northwestern W 24-20
#10 Nebraska W 62-3
at Maryland W 62-3
at Michigan State W 17-16

After delivering a rousing speech to the team on Thursday night, Bo Schembechler passed away on Friday morning, the day before the game. The loss of the patriarch of Michigan football sent shockwaves around college football and completely changed the tone of the game. Whether it made an impact on the outcome of the game will never be known, but the game turned out to be a shootout. Michigan marched down the field for the game’s first touchdown. Ohio State answered and took a 28-14 halftime lead. Michigan fought back to within four, but was unable to pull it out as Ohio State won 42-39.

We all know the long and painful story from there. Michigan went on to lost the Rose Bowl to USC, then lost the first two games of the next season to Appalachian State and Oregon. Lloyd Carr retired at the end of the season and Michigan suffered through seven seasons of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.

Ohio State, meanwhile, went on to win four Big Ten championships, two BCS bowls, and play in three national championship games, winning one of them. During that span, they’ve beaten Michigan all but once, when the Wolverines pulled off a 40-34 win in Hoke’s first season, which was also a transition season between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.

Jim Harbaugh returned to Michigan in December 2014 and immediately locked in a solid recruiting class in short time and then turned a 5-7 team into a 10-3 team that beat SEC East champion Florida in the Capital One Bowl. But he wasn’t able to beat Ohio State, falling 42-13 in Ann Arbor. Now, 30 years after his infamous guaranteed victory over the Buckeyes, he takes his Wolverines into Columbus to try to earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

Ohio State comes in with an identical 10-1 overall record and 7-1 conference record as Michigan. The Buckeyes’ only loss was a 24-21 defeat at Penn State just a couple weeks after Michigan beat the Nittany Lions by 39 points. But OSU has beaten now-8th-ranked Oklahoma and 6th-ranked Wisconsin, both on the road. Add in a 62-3 thumping of now-16th-ranked Nebraska, and Ohio State has proven it can play with anyone.

Like that Game of the Century a decade ago, this year’s matchup figures to be a monumental battle between two of college football titans. In college football’s greatest rivalry, what more could you ask for? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Ohio State has the ball

Despite losing their running back, quarterback, tight end, most of the receiving corps, and their left tackle to the NFL, Ohio State’s offense hasn’t really missed a beat. It leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally in scoring (43.8 points per game), leads the Big Ten and ranks eighth nationally in rushing (263.1 yards per game), ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 68th nationally in passing (230 yards per game), and leads the Big Ten and ranks 21st nationally in total offense (493.1 yards per game).

That the Buckeyes lost last season’s quarterback is slightly overstated given that junior J.T. Barrett is back. He started his freshman season, going 11-1 in 2014 before ending his season against Michigan and watching Cardale Jones lead the team to the national title. Jones won the starting job last season, but Barrett saw ample playing time, including a four-touchdown performance in last year’s Michigan game.

This season, Barrett leads the Big Ten with 24 passing touchdowns, though he ranks sixth in yards per game (209.5) — one spot behind Wilton Speight’s 215.6 — and third in pass efficiency (147.7) — one behind Speight’s 148.9. He has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,304 yards and just four interceptions. But he’s coming off his worst passing performance of the season against Michigan State, in which he completed just 10-of-22 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Still, he’s even more dangerous with his legs as he rushed for 105 yards. He has thrown for more than 200 yards in seven of 11 games, including a five-game stretch leading up to the MSU game, and he’s also tied for the team lead with eight rushing touchdowns.

Michigan fans will be familiar with redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber, the Detroit Cass Tech product who originally committed to Brady Hoke, decommitted in favor of Ohio State, and nearly switched back to Michigan after Harbaugh was hired. But he stuck with the Buckeyes and has rewarded them with a 1,000-yard season in his first campaign. He currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 95.1 yards per game. He has rushed for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns on 6.3 yards per carry. But after opening the season with three 100-yard games in his first four, he has just one in the last seven games. He rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries at Michigan State last Saturday. Penn State and Wisconsin held him to a combined 3.6 yards per carry.

The receiving corps is lead by the dangerous H-back Curtis Samuel. The junior from Brooklyn, N.Y. has 61 receptions for 790 yards and seven touchdowns — all team highs — and he also has 84 carries for 650 yards and seven scores. His 14 total touchdowns rank third in the Big Ten (non-quarterbacks) and he ranks second in the conference behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley with 132.5 all-purpose yards per game. Sophomore Noah Brown is the team’s second leading receiver with 27 catches for 345 yards and seven touchdowns, while senior Dontre Wilson has 26 for 343 and five. Junior tight end Marcus Baugh is the only other Buckeye receiver with 20 or more receptions with 21 for 242 yards and two scores.

Ohio State’s offensive line is good but not great. They’ve given up one more sack than Michigan’s has this season, but some of that success is a result of Barrett’s mobility. Senior center Pat Elflein and junior right guard Billy Price are the are the best linemen on the team. Elflein was a second-team All-American last season. Sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince and freshman left guard Michael Jordan are the weaknesses on the line where Michigan’s talented defensive front will attack. Junior left tackle Jamarco Jones has improved throughout the season and is a solid bookend.

When Michigan has the ball

The Buckeye defense ranks second in the Big Ten and third nationally in scoring defense (13 points per game), fourth in the Big Ten and 18th nationally against the run (120.3 yards per game) second in the Big Ten and third nationally against the pass (159.5 yards per game), and second in the Big Ten and fourth nationally in total defense (279.8 yards per game).

Like on the offensive side, despite losing much of their defense to the NFL, the Buckeyes still present the best and most athletic defense Michigan has faced yet this season. But they’re not as great at getting to the quarterback as they have been in years past, ranking just sixth in the Big Ten and 57th nationally with 24 sacks — two-thirds of Michigan’s total. Junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis leads the way in that category with 7.5 sacks, while the other end, sophomore Sam Hubbard, has three. Reserve ends, junior Jalyn Holmes and freshman Nick Bosa, have another six combined. The interior of the OSU line is lead by redshirt freshman Dre’Mont Jones and junior nose tackle Michael Hill who have a combined 59 tackles and five tackles for loss, but no sacks. Freshman backup tackle Robert Landers is also talented with 7.5 tackles for loss and one sack on the season.

There’s no dropoff at linebacker where junior Raekwon McMillan is one of the best middle linebackers in the country. He’s Ohio State’s leading tackler with 71, has 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. He’s much more athletic than your typical middle ‘backer. Sophomore WILL Jerome Baker and junior SAM Chris Worley are solid with 103 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, and six passes defended.

The secondary is lead by sophomore safety Malik Hooker, who leads the Big Ten with five interceptions and is dangerous with the ball in his hands, having returned two of them for touchdowns. He ranks third on the team with 60 tackles in addition to 4.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, and nine passes defended. He’s all over the field, both in coverage and run support. Junior Damon Webb — another Cass Tech star that got away from Michigan — is the other safety and he has 48 tackles, two for loss, one interception, and four passes defended. Junior Gareon Conley — a former Michigan commit — and sophomore Marshon Lattimore are the corners and both are very good.

The other third

Fifth-year senior punter Cam Johnston is one of Ohio State’s best weapons, leading the Big Ten in punting average by a whopping 4.5 yards! He’s averaging 46.3 yards per punt with 13 of 43 punts over 50 yards and nearly half (21) downed inside the 20. Senior kicker Tyler Durbin has been the Big Ten’s most reliable placekicker, converting 16-of-17 field goals, the only miss being the block at Penn State. But the former walk-on’s long all season has been 45 yards.

Sophomore receiver Parris Campbell is a dangerous kick returner even though he hasn’t taken one all the way yet. He averages 26.6 yards per return. Wilson is the main punt returner, averaging 6.3 yards per return.

Prediction

I’ll start with a disclaimer. This prediction is based on Speight being able to play the whole game. If he’s unable to play, or if he’s knocked out of the game, I predict a Michigan loss. But I’m hedging my bets on his shoulder not being quite as bad as Harbaugh let on the past couple of weeks.

In a game like this where both teams rank among the nation’s best both offensively and defensively, and both teams will come in full of emotion in a rivalry game, I like to think that they’ll both keep doing what the are good at — what got them there.

As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Ohio State’s defense has been susceptible to big plays, especially in the run game where they rank 77th nationally, giving up 5.91 explosive runs per game. In fact, they’re slightly worse in that regard than Indiana, which entered last week surrendering 5.7 per game — 70th nationally. We all know what Michigan’s running game did to the Hoosiers, racking up seven explosive runs including De’Veon Smith’s scampers of 39, 34, and 25 yards. We also know that on drives in which Michigan has an explosive play they score 73 percent of the time.

Michigan’s offense averages 11.36 explosive plays per game and OSU’s defense surrenders 8.09 per game. Let’s say Michigan’s offense gets eight and scores points on 75 percent of those. Even if they’re all field goals, that’s 18 points. But Michigan will score at least one touchdown, so now we’re into the 20s. Two puts them at 26 points — two touchdowns and four field goals — and I think that’s enough to win the game.

Michigan’s defense surrenders just 6.09 explosive plays per game — fifth nationally — while Ohio State’s offense averages 11.09 (16th). The Wolverines haven’t surrendered more than nine explosive plays in non-garbage time this season. But even so, even if Ohio State’s powerful offense gets its average of 11, Michigan’s defense gives up points just 35 percent of the time. That equates to four scores and I doubt all four will be touchdowns as Michigan has surrendered just 14 all season. Three touchdowns and a field goal is 24 points.

Sure, it may be slightly ridiculous to base a prediction on explosive play stats, but they’ve been pretty accurate all season. And now we have 11 games worth of data to use. If Speight plays, Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball well enough to put up some point on the Buckeyes, even if they settle for field goals. Senior Kenny Allen will come up big by making all of them. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will empty the kitchen sink trying to soften the Buckeye defense for Smith to get the running game going.

On the other side, Michigan will surrender a few big plays, likely including the 50-yard touchdown run up the middle that has become standard for OSU in this game. But by and large, the U-M defense will hold strong and keep the Bucks out of rhythm.

The game live up to its billing, going down to the wire. Allen boots a game-winning field goal, Michigan escapes the snake pit with its first win in 16 years, and heads to Indy for a rematch with Wisconsin. Of course, if Speight doesn’t play, this could be all moot.

Michigan 26 – Ohio State 24

Big Ten power rankings 2016 — Week 12

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016


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Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11

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*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 12
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (10-1, 7-1) Even Beat MSU 17-16 Sat. vs #3 Michigan (10-1, 7-1), 12pm, ABC
2. Michigan (10-1, 7-1) Even Beat Indiana 20-10 Sat. at #2 OSU (10-1, 7-1), 12pm, ABC
3. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2) Even Beat Purdue 49-20 Sat. vs Minn. (8-3, 5-3), 3:30pm, BTN
4. Penn State (9-2, 7-1) Even Beat Rutgers 39-0 Sat. vs MSU (3-8, 1-7), 3:30pm, ESPN
5. Nebraska (9-2, 6-2) Even Beat Maryland 28-7 Fri. at Iowa (7-4, 5-3), 3:30pm, ABC
6. Iowa (7-4, 5-3) Even Beat Illinois 28-0 Fri. vs #16 Neb. (9-2, 6-2), 3:30pm, ABC
7. Minnesota (8-3, 5-3) Even Beat N’western 29-12 Sat. at #6 Wisc. (9-2, 6-2), 3:30pm, ESPN
8. Indiana (5-6, 3-5) Even Lost at #3 Mich. 10-20 Sat. vs Purdue (3-8, 1-7), 12pm, ESPNU
9. Northwestern (5-6, 4-4) Even Lost at Minn. 12-29 Sat vs Illinois (3-8, 2-6), 12pm, BTN
10. Maryland (5-6, 2-6) Even Lost at #18 Neb. 7-28 Sat. vs Rutgers (2-9, 0-8), 12pm, ESPNN
11. Michigan State (3-8, 1-7) Even Lost to #2 OSU 16-17 Sat at #7 PSU (9-2, 7-1), 3:30pm, ESPN
12. Illinois (3-8, 2-6) Even Lost to Iowa 0-28 Sat at N’western (3-8, 2-6), 12pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-8, 1-7) Even Lost to #7 Wisc. 20-49 Sat. at Indiana (5-6, 3-5), 12pm, ESPNU
14. Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) Even Lost to #8 PSU 0-39 Sat. at Maryland (5-6, 2-6), 12pm, ESPNN

As college football heads into the last weekend of the regular season, our Big Ten power rankings remained exactly the same as last week. Interestingly, the top seven teams all won while the bottom seven teams all lost in Week 12.

The top four — Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State — remained exactly the same with OSU gaining all five first place votes, Michigan garnering four of five second place votes, Wisconsin getting four of five third place votes, and Penn State securing four of five fourth place votes. Nebraska remained fifth, but slipped slightly from 5.0 to 5.2, while Iowa gained one of their fifth place votes, going from 6.2 to 6.0. Minnesota and Indiana remained at 7.2 and 8.0, respectively, despite the Hoosiers losing to Michigan.

Northwestern retained the ninth spot, but fell from 8.6 to 9.2 after losing to Minnesota, 29-12. There’s a large leap between the Wildcats and the 10-14 spots. Maryland comes in just ahead of Michigan State at 10.8, whereas the Spartans are 11.0 after nearly knocking off Ohio State. Illinois is also 11.0. Purdue and Rutgers round out the rankings.

As we head into this weekend, a lot is still at stake. Michigan and Ohio State face off to determine the Big Ten East division winner. If the Wolverines win, they head to the Big Ten championship game next weekend. If Ohio State wins they’ll have to wait for the outcome of the afternoon matchup between Penn State and Michigan State. A Penn State win would send the Nittany Lions to Indianapolis, while a MSU win would send the Buckeyes to Indy.

In the West division, Wisconsin has the inside track, needing just a win over Minnesota. The Badgers can also go to Indy with a loss and an Iowa win over Nebraska. Nebraska needs to beat Iowa on Friday and have Wisconsin lose the next day to advance.

So sit back and enjoy an exciting weekend of Big Ten football with nearly half the conference still in the title hunt. Unless Michigan loses. Then you can drown your sorrows.

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First Look: #2 Ohio State

Monday, November 21st, 2016


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Michigan rebounded from its loss to Iowa with a workmanlike win over Indiana on Saturday. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it showed resilience, and finding a way to win without starting quarterback Wilton Speight will give the Wolverines some confidence heading into Columbus on Saturday.

Ohio State comes in with an identical 10-1 record overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten. Like the classic Michigan-Ohio State battles of old, The Game will have a major impact on the Big Ten title race. If Michigan wins, the Wolverines head to Indianapolis to face Wisconsin (assuming the Badgers beat Minnesota). If Ohio State wins and Penn State beats Michigan State, the Nittany Lions will win the East and head to Indy. If OSU wins and Penn State loses, the Buckeyes will play for the title. In other words, Michigan just needs to win.

Let’s take a look at how the teams compare through the first 11 games of the season.

Ohio State & Michigan statistical comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 43.8 | 42.3 5 11
13.0 10.9 3 1
Rushing Yards 2,894 2,588 1,323 1,195
Rush Avg. Per Game 263.1 | 235.3 8 19
120.3 108.6 18 10
Avg. Per Rush 5.7 | 5.2
3.4 3.0
Passing Yards 2,530 2,374 1,755 1,507
Pass Avg. Per Game 230.0 215.8 68 82 159.5 137.0 3 1
Total Offense 5,424 4,962 3,078 2,702
Total Off Avg. Per Game 493.1 451.1 21 38 279.8 245.6 4 1
Kick Return Average 24.1 17.3 14 121 18.4 21.0 25 | 78
Punt Return Average 5.2 16.0 96 6 3.1 7.6 11 63
Avg. Time of Possession 34:25 33:06 4 15 25:35 | 26:54
3rd Down Conversion Pct 51% | 44% 9 | 42
29% | 21.0% 7 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 17-100| 16-103
30 24
24-169 | 36-247 57 9
Touchdowns Scored 62 60
15 | 14
Field Goals-Attempts 16-17 14-19
13-15 | 7-13
Red Zone Scores (50-56) 89%|(53-58) 91% 29 | 16
(21-30) 70%|(13-19) 68% 8 5
Red Zone Touchdowns (37-56) 66%|(40-58) 69% (9-30) 30%|(8-19 42%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 38.6 36.1 14 25 15.1 | 5.6 7 1

I won’t sugarcoat anything. Ohio State is the best team Michigan has faced this season. That doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible — they almost lost to Michigan State this past Saturday — but there’s no denying that they’re a more talented team than Michigan has faced to date. And the numbers show that.

Wisconsin has a defense to rival Ohio State’s, but not the offense. Colorado has a top-30ish offense and defense, but not on OSU’s level. Same with Penn State.

The Buckeyes’ lone loss was a 24-21 defeat in Week 7 at Penn State. At the time, it looked to be a bad loss as the Nittany Lions were just 4-2 coming into that one with a loss to Pitt and a 39-point loss to Michigan. But Penn State has reeled off four straight wins since that upset of Ohio State and sits poised to capture the Big Ten East division crown if Ohio State beats Michigan on Saturday.

The Buckeyes rank fifth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 43.8 points per game — a point and a half more than Michigan. They have topped 60 points three times and surprisingly, none were against Rutgers, through they did score 58 against the Scarlet Knights. They’ve eclipsed 50 points in four of 11 games, but have been held to 30 or fewer points in four of their last six games. Their lowest point total of the season came this past Saturday when they managed just 17 points at Michigan State.

Ohio State does it mostly with their rushing game, which ranks eighth nationally, averaging 263.1 yards per game. That’s about 28 yards more than Michigan averages. OSU has topped 200 rushing yards in nine of 11 games with only Wisconsin (185) and Penn State (168) holding them under 200. By comparison, Michigan has tallied under 200 yards five times, including against Wisconsin (130), but ran all over Penn State to the tune of 326 yards. Against common opponents, Ohio State has averaged 255 rushing yards, while Michigan has averaged 271.

The passing game isn’t nearly as dominant, despite a senior quarterback with a lot of experience. The Buckeyes rank 68th nationally with 230 passing yards per game. They average about 14 more passing yards per game than Michigan. But that’s a result of Wilton Speight’s injury forcing John O’Korn to play this past Saturday, as the Wolverines entered the IU game averaging 231.5. Ohio State has thrown for fewer than 100 yards twice and 152 yards or fewer in four of 11 games. They had a season-high 417 passing yards in the season opener against Bowling Green’s 110th-ranked pass defense. Their most impressive performance was a 352-yard output against a decent Nebraska defense three weeks ago. Against common opponents, Ohio State has thrown for three more passing yards per game than Michigan (206 versus 203).

Defensively, the Buckeyes feature an elite defense that isn’t quite on Michigan’s level, but not far behind. They rank third nationally in scoring defense, allowing 13 points per game. Only four opponents have scored more than 20 points and they’ve held five to 10 points or fewer.

The rush defense ranks 18th nationally, allowing 120.3 yards per game, about 12 more than Michigan’s 10th-ranked run defense allows. Wisconsin and Michigan State both topped 200 yards on the ground against the OSU defense with 236 and 207, respectively. Wisconsin averaged 5.1 yards per carry and Michigan State averaged 5.9 — both about a yard more per carry than their respective season averages. The Buckeyes have held six of 11 opponents under 100 rushing yards, but those six opponents have an average Rushing S&P+ ranking of 63. Michigan’s defense has held eight of 11 opponents under 100. Against common opponents, Ohio State has allowed 132 rushing yards per game, while Michigan has held opponents to just 89 rushing yards per game.

Ohio State’s pass defense allows just 159.5 yards per game, which is good for third nationally. It’s 22.5 yards more than Michigan’s top-ranked pass defense allows. Three of 11 opponents — Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Northwestern — have topped 200 passing yards. The Buckeyes held Rutgers to just 33 passing yards (Michigan held them to five) and also had the fortune of knocking Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong out of the game early, and thus, holding the Cornhuskers to just 126 passing yards. Against common opponents, OSU’s pass defense has allowed about six fewer passing yards per game than Michigan has.

On special teams, Ohio State is pretty solid all around, ranking 14th nationally in kick return average, 25th in kick return defense, and 11th in punt return defense. The one weak spot is that they rank 96th in punt returns, averaging 5.2 yards per return. Michigan ranks sixth in that category thanks to Jabrill Peppers’ average of 16 yards per return, which means he essentially gives the Wolverines an additional first-down worth of field position on each return. The Buckeyes are also consistent with field goals (16-of-17), red zone scoring (89 percent), and third down conversions (51 percent, ninth nationally).

As you can see, this game is destined to be a dog fight for 60 minutes. Michigan’s defense will keep the Wolverines in the game. The main question will be whether or not Wilton Speight is healthy enough to play. If he is — and has full mobility — the Michigan offense can move the ball similar to the way MSU did. But if Speight can’t go, Ohio State will do a much better job shutting down Michigan’s running game than Indiana did, and O’Korn will have to make plays with his arm. That’s not a good proposition for the Wolverines.

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Saturday, November 19th, 2016


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Previously this week: First Look: Indiana, Tailgate Tuesday, Five-Spot Challenge, Big Ten power rankings, The Numbers Game, Tribute to BoGame preview

Michigan suffered its first setback of the season last week at Iowa. With two game remaining, Michigan must win both to advance to the Big Ten championship game. They can’t get caught looking ahead to Ohio State next week as Indiana has presented a tough matchup in recent years. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers in nearly 30 years, but if they’re not focused and prepared that streak could end.

Justin won last week’s picks for his second win of the season. If Michigan wins out and reaches the College Football Playoff Championship game, he could catch Joe, but like Michigan, he has no margin for error.

Here are this week’s picks:

Justin (2)

Last week I had a bad feeling about the Iowa game all week leading up to Saturday. It just felt like a trap game in every sense of the word and unfortunately, I was right. This week, I have the opposite feeling. Even with starting quarterback Wilton Speight out, Michigan is going to roll Indiana and gain a lot of confidence heading into Columbus.

Staff Predictions
Michigan    Iowa    
Justin 42 14
Derick 41 17
Sam 27 10
Josh 27 24
Joe 34 17
M&GB Average 34 16

Indiana’s offensive strength — its passing game — goes up against the best pass defense in the nation and won’t be able to move the ball consistently enough to score man points on Michigan. Sure, the Hoosiers passed for nearly 300 yards and scored 31 points against No. 10 Penn State last Saturday, but let’s not forget the PSU’s pass defense ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten. Let’s also note that Indiana has trouble putting the ball in the end zone and finishing drives.

The Hoosiers rank dead last in the nation with a 68 percent red zone scoring rate. And they’ve scored touchdowns on just 47 percent of their red zone trips. Michigan has done so on 71 percent of theirs. In other words, when in the red zone, Michigan converts touchdowns more often than Indiana converts points. To make matters worse for Indiana, Michigan’s defense is the nation’s best in the red zone, holding opponents to just 65 percent scores and 41 percent touchdowns.

On offense, Michigan will move the ball just fine with John O’Korn’s mobility giving an added dimension that wasn’t there with Speight behind center. Indiana will surely try to force O’Korn to beat them with his arm, and he’ll do so against the second worst pass defense in the Big Ten. He’ll throw for over 200 yards, opening up the running game for another 200-plus as the offense gets back to its high-scoring ways.

Michigan 42 – Indiana 14

Derick (1)

Michigan is coming off its first loss of the season, so Indiana has a chance to jump on the Wolverines while their down. On top of that, Saturday is the definition of a trap game before Michigan’s showdown with Ohio State, and the Wolverines will be without starting quarterback Wilton Speight for the first time all season.

John O’Korn adds another dimension to the offense with his legs, but Indiana’s defense is much improved from last season and should be able to make Michigan notice Speight’s absence. If the Wolverines can’t stretch the field in the passing game, this could get a little uncomfortable.

That said, Michigan has been historically dominant at home this season, and is one game away from a perfect 8-0 mark in the Big House. Brady Hoke would be proud. I think Michigan will get the job done, although it might be a little closer than people expect. Indiana has been one of the most interception-prone teams in the nation, so whoever starts at quarterback will have to be very careful against a star-studded Michigan secondary.

I’ll take Michigan to outlast Indiana for a big win.

Michigan 41 – Indiana 17

Sam (2)

After a lousy performance last weekend in Iowa, Michigan comes back home for Senior Day to face a roller coaster of a ride in Indiana. With some potentially inclement weather in the forecast, Michigan’s defense should be well suited to shut down an offense that is extremely reliant on the passing game, while the Wolverines’ run game will look to be the difference.

Michigan 27 – Indiana 10

Josh (1)

After last week’s heartbreaking loss I fully expect this team to be 100 percent prepared and into it for this one. But because this is Indiana, chaos will ensue and that makes this game a tricky one to call. IU gashed Michigan last year with Ryan Glasgow out. He’s here now but there have been some epic missed tackling problems and teams have figured out Michigan is weak on the edges. IU will exploit that. Oh, and they started running a 270 pound running back at quarterback last week. So yeah. And Wilton Speight is out. I was on the O’Korn bandwagon and I’m sure he’ll be fine, but as we saw with Jake Rudock, chemistry takes time. At least it’s a home game.

I almost forgot, IU plays defense now. Actual, decent defense.

Adversity typically makes a team stronger and Harbaugh hasn’t lost back to back games (at the college level) for three and a half seasons — 43 games. Michigan should win, but I don’t think it’s going to be pretty. I’m gonna put this right out there, if Michigan cannot get it together and put on a dominating performance this week they will lose to OSU and Penn State will be headed to the Big Ten championship game. I’m not sure what this team is made of, the past two regimes have jaded me despite the urge to remain positive because Harbaugh. Michigan wins but leaves more questions than answers heading into the showdown in Columbus.

Michigan 27 – Indiana 24

Joe (6)

This week should be fun. I have no idea what to expect from this team with a new quarterback under center. O’Korn should come in and sync with Butt immediately. The running game will also get a lot of work as we rotate through a bunch of fresh backs. I can see this one being tighter than everyone hopes for as Indiana is a solid team with a solid offense. Look for Michigan to slowly assert themselves up front and win a close one.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 17

#3 Michigan vs Indiana game preview

Friday, November 18th, 2016


um-indiana-game-preview-header

Michigan suffered its first loss of the season last weekend, but in the big picture, it didn’t really hurt them. Sure, it reduced the margin for error, but the Wolverines remain in the same position: win the next two and they’re in the Big Ten championship game. Win that one and they’re in the College Football Playoffs.

um-indiana_small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. ET – ESPN
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (18th season)
Coaching Record: 25-46, 11-36 (all at IU)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Johns (6th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Allen (1st season)
Last Season: 6-7 (2-6 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 48 – IU 41 2OT (2015)
All-Time Series: Michigan 55-9
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 32-7
Jim Harbaugh vs Indiana 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2015 (48-41 2OT)
Last Indiana win: 1987 (14-10)
Current Streak: Michigan 20
Indiana Schedule to date
Opponent Result
at FIU W 34-13
Ball State W 30-20
Wake Forest L 28-33
#17 Michigan State W 24-21
at #2 Ohio State L 17-38
#10 Nebraska L 22-27
at Northwestern L 14-24
Maryland W 42-36
at Rutgers W 33-27
#10 Penn State L 31-45

The final stretch begins tomorrow against the Indiana Hoosiers. Perhaps the silver lining of the Iowa loss is that Michigan won’t get caught looking ahead to Ohio State next week. They’ll be focused and prepared to get back on track this Saturday. And a win there will give them confidence heading into Columbus after Thanksgiving.

Indiana comes in with a 5-5 record, looking for one more win to gain bowl eligibility. They should be able to secure that next week against in-state rival Purdue, but head coach Kevin Wilson would love to beat Michigan to set up a great chance at the first winning season of his career.

Wilson is in his sixth season in Bloomington and has yet to turn the corner after going 1-11 in his first season. The Hoosiers have won between four and six wins in each of the past four seasons, topping out at six a year ago. They snuck into the Pinstripe Bowl and had a chance to finish 7-6, but lost to Duke on a field goal in overtime.

This season, Indiana opened with wins over Florida International and Ball State, but lost to Wake Forest. Then they beat Michigan State, which looked to be a big win at the time, but we later found out wasn’t worth much more than a win over FIU and Ball State.

Indiana then hit the meat of its schedule, falling by 21 at Ohio State, five against Nebraska, and 10 at Northwestern. They bounced back with wins over Maryland and Rutgers, but suffered a 14-point loss to 10th-ranked Penn State last Saturday.

Last season, the Hoosiers nearly beat Jim Harbaugh’s first Michigan squad, but the Wolverines pulled it out in overtime. Delano Hill batted down a fourth down pass at the goal line to secure the win. Harbaugh hopes to leave no doubt this time around.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Indiana has the ball

Offense has typically been the strength of the Hoosiers under Wilson, but it’s not quite as potent this season as it has been the past few. The Hoosiers rank seventh in the Big Ten and 71st nationally in scoring with 27.5 points per game, ninth in the Big Ten and 77th nationally in rushing (164.6 yards per game), second and 20th in passing (302.7 yards per game), and third and 32nd in total offense (467.3 yards per game).

Redshirt junior quarterback Richard Lagow ranks second in the Big Ten in passing in his first season as the starter. He has completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,866 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He has topped 200 yards passing in all but two games this season. Ohio State held him to 182 yards and Nebraska to 196. He has turned the ball over in six of 10 games and has multiple turnovers in four of them, so while he trails Purdue’s David Blough by fewer than six passing yards per game, he ranks just sixth in pass efficiency, about 10 rating points behind Wilton Speight.

Lagow has a group of talented receivers to throw to. Fifth-year senior Mitchell Paige ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 4.9 receptions per game, while sophomore Nick Westbrook ranks sixth at 4.4 and fifth-year senior Ricky Jones ranks seventh with 4.3. Westbrook is the conference’s second-leading receiver, averaging 79.3 yards per game. He has three 100-yard games including a 10-catch, 126-yard performance against Northwestern, but he didn’t catch a touchdown pass in that one. Last week, he caught his first touchdown pass since Week 3. Jones ranks sixth, averaging 71.3 yards. In Weeks 3 and 4, he caught a combined 13 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown. Since then, he has averaged 4.5 receptions for 60.5 yards. Paige isn’t as big of a home run threat, avearging just 10.9 yards per catch, but he also has two 100-yard games.

The running game has been the weakness offensively after losing Jordan Howard to the NFL. Junior Devine Redding is the Big Ten’s sixth-leading rusher, averaging 90.1 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in half of the Hoosiers’ games and needs 99 yards on Saturday to eclipse 1,000 on the season. Ohio State, Nebraska, and Northwestern — three defenses somewhat comparable to Michigan’s — held Redding to just 59 yards and 3.6 yards per carry. But he went for 108 yards and two scores on 4.7 yards per carry against Penn State last Saturday. After Redding, Indiana’s backfield is pretty thin. Freshman Tyler Natee is the team’s second leading rusher with 220 yards, but he averages just 3.7  yards per carry. Sophomore Mike Majette and redshirt freshman Devontae Williams average about four carries apiece per game.

When Michigan has the ball

In years past, Indiana’s defense wasn’t able to stop, well, anyone. Most games were shootouts. This season, however, they’re actually somewhat respectable under the guidance of Tom Allen, who spent last season as South Florida’s defensive coordinator. The Bulls turned in the American Athletic Conference’s best scoring defense, allowing 19.6 points per game.

The Hoosiers rank 11th in the Big Ten and 67th nationally in scoring defense (28.4 points per game), 10th and 52nd in rush defense (156.2 yards per game), 13th and 73rd in pass defense (235.8 yards per game), and 11th and 55th in total defense (392.0 yards per game).

Junior Greg Gooch and sophomore Jacob Robinson are the starting defensive ends have combined for 6.5 tackles for loss and one sack. The defensive tackles, redshirt junior Nate Hoff and fifth-year senior Ralph Green III are a little more impactful with 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

The linebacking corps is the strength of the defense, lead by junior middle linebacker Tegray Scales, who ranks second in the Big Ten with 94 tackles. He also ranks second with 15 tackles for loss — one more than Jabrill Peppers — and leads the team with four sacks. Redshirt junior SAM linebacker Marcus Oliver is the team’s second-leading tackler with 74 and has 10.5 tackles for loss, which ranks ninth in the conference. True freshman Marcelino Ball plays the HUSKY linebacker position and has had a pretty good inaugural campaign, ranking thid on the team with 68 tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He’s also third with seven pass breakups.

Redshirt junior cornerback Rashard Fant is the Big Ten’s leading pass defender in terms of passes defended with 18 and pass breakups with 16. By comparison, Channing Stribling leads Michigan with 13 and nine, though he does have twice as many interceptions as Fant. True freshman A’Shon Riggins is the other corner and he ranks second on the team with eight pass breakups. Safeties Jonathan Crawford and Tony Fields have combined for 108 tackles, 13 pass breakups and three picks.

The other third

Redshirt junior kicker Griffin Oakes won the Big Ten Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year award in 2015, but has struggled this season, converting just 12-of-21 attempts. He does have a big leg with a long of 54 yards, but has lacked the consistency that he displayed a year ago. Redshirt sophomore punter Joseph Gedeon ranks ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. He has been accurate, landing 21 of 45 punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

Williams averages 19.8 yards per kick return, while Paige averages 7.8 yard per punt return.

Prediction

Last week I had a bad feeling about the Iowa game all week leading up to Saturday. It just felt like a trap game in every sense of the word and unfortunately, I was right. This week, I have the opposite feeling. Even with starting quarterback Wilton Speight out, Michigan is going to roll Indiana and gain a lot of confidence heading into Columbus.

Indiana’s offensive strength — its passing game — goes up against the best pass defense in the nation and won’t be able to move the ball consistently enough to score man points on Michigan. Sure, the Hoosiers passed for nearly 300 yards and scored 31 points against No. 10 Penn State last Saturday, but let’s not forget the PSU’s pass defense ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten. Let’s also note that Indiana has trouble putting the ball in the end zone and finishing drives.

The Hoosiers rank dead last in the nation with a 68 percent red zone scoring rate. And they’ve scored touchdowns on just 47 percent of their red zone trips. Michigan has done so on 71 percent of theirs. In other words, when in the red zone, Michigan converts touchdowns more often than Indiana converts points. To make matters worse for Indiana, Michigan’s defense is the nation’s best in the red zone, holding opponents to just 65 percent scores and 41 percent touchdowns.

On offense, Michigan will move the ball just fine with John O’Korn’s mobility giving an added dimension that wasn’t there with Speight behind center. Indiana will surely try to force O’Korn to beat them with his arm, and he’ll do so against the second worst pass defense in the Big Ten. He’ll throw for over 200 yards, opening up the running game for another 200-plus as the offense gets back to its high-scoring ways.

Michigan 42 – Indiana 14

Big Ten power rankings 2016 — Week 11

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016


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Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10

week-11-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 10
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) Up 1 Beat Maryland 62-3 Sat. at MSU (3-7, 1-6), 12pm, ESPN
2. Michigan (9-1, 6-1) Down 1 Lost at Iowa 13-14 Sat. vs Indiana (5-5, 3-4), 3:30pm, ESPN
3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2) Even Beat Illinois 48-3 Sat. at Purdue (3-7, 1-6), 12pm, ABC
4. Penn State (8-2, 6-1) Even Beat Indiana 45-31 Sat at Rutgers (2-8, 0-7), 8pm, BTN
5. Nebraska (8-2, 5-2) Even Beat Minnesota 24-17 Sat. vs Maryland (5-5, 2-5), 12pm, ESPNN
6. Iowa (6-4, 4-3) Up 3 Beat #3 Michigan 14-13 Sat. at Illinois (3-7, 2-5), 12pm, BTN
7. Minnesota (7-3, 4-3) Down 1 Lost at #19 Neb. 17-24 Sat. vs N’western (5-5, 4-3), 3:30pm, BTN
8. Indiana (5-5, 3-4) Down 1 Lost to #10 PSU 31-45 Sat. at #3 Michigan (9-1, 6-1), 3:30pm, ESPN
9. Northwestern (5-5, 4-3) Down 1 Beat Purdue 45-17 Sat at Minnesota (7-3, 4-3), 3:30pm, BTN
10. Maryland (5-5, 2-5) Even Lost to #5 OSU 3-62 Sat. at #18 Neb. (8-2, 5-2), 12pm, ESPNN
11. Michigan State (3-7, 1-6) Up 2 Beat Rutgers 49-0 Sat vs #2 OSU (9-1, 6-1), 12pm, ESPN
12. Illinois (3-7, 2-5) Down 1 Lost at #7 Wisc. 3-48 Sat vs Iowa (6-4, 4-3), 12pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-7, 1-6) Down 1 Lost to N’western 17-45 Sat. vs #7 Wisc. (8-2, 5-2), 12pm, ABC
14. Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) Even Lost to MSU 0-49 Sat. vs #8 PSU (8-2, 6-1), 8pm, BTN

After holding the top spot for three weeks, Michigan falls back to two after a heartbreaking 14-13 loss at Iowa. Ohio State regains  top billing, which the Buckeyes held for the first seven weeks of the season. Wisconsin, Penn State, and Nebraska remain in the same order from three to five after wins over Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota, respectively. Interestingly, the top five all face opponents ranked in the bottom half of the conference this Saturday.

Iowa takes the biggest leap of the week, moving up three spots after shocking Michigan. They leap ahead of Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern, all of whom moved down one spot. Maryland remains in the 10th spot despite a 62-3 loss to Ohio State — the second straight week the Terrapins have remained the same after losing big. I guess that says a lot about the bottom four. Speaking of, Michigan State avoided the Big Ten cellar, proving that they’re better than at least one team in the conference with a 49-0 win over Rutgers. Illinois and Purdue each dropped a spot after losing to Wisconsin and Northwestern, while Rutgers remains in distant last with all five last-place votes for the fifth straight week.

Three of the bottom four face top-10 opponents this Saturday with Michigan State hosting 2nd-ranked Ohio State, Purdue hosting 7th-ranked Wisconsin, and Rutgers hosting 8th-ranked Penn State.

 

week-1-11-power-rankings

 

First Look: Indiana

Monday, November 14th, 2016


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Michigan suffered its first setback of the season on Saturday, falling 14-13 at Iowa. But the Wolverines still control their own destiny. Win their last two games and they’re in the Big Ten championship. Win that one and they’re in the College Football Playoff. It’s as simple as that — not that it will be simple to do.

It begins with the Indiana Hoosiers, who need to win one of their last two to earn bowl eligibility and both to ensure a winning season. At 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten, IU head coach Kevin Wilson would love to do just that to collect the first winning season of his career. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare through the first 10 weeks of the season.

Indiana & Michigan statistical comparison
Indiana | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 27.5 | 44.5 71 6
28.4 11.0 67 1
Rushing Yards 1,646 2,363 1,563 1,131
Rush Avg. Per Game 164.6 | 236.3 77 19
156.2 113.1 52 13
Avg. Per Rush 4.0 | 5.3
3.7 3.1
Passing Yards 3,027 2,315 2,358 1316
Pass Avg. Per Game 302.7 231.5 20 68 235.8 131.6 73 1
Total Offense 4,673 4,678 3,920 2,447
Total Off Avg. Per Game 467.3 467.8 32 31 392.0 244.7 55 1
Kick Return Average 20.0 17.8 83 119 20.4 21.8 61 | 74
Punt Return Average 7.9 18.0 63 2 5.7 | 8.1 39 72
Avg. Time of Possession 28:42 32:59 86 18 31:18 | 27:01
3rd Down Conversion Pct 39% | 47% 71 22
31% | 20.0% 13 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 20-142| 14-94
57 22
22-151 | 33-219 56 8
Touchdowns Scored 34 58
35 | 13
Field Goals-Attempts 12-21 12-17
14-17 | 6-12
Red Zone Scores (27-40) 68%|(51-56) 91% 128 | 20
(30-34) 88%|(11-17) 65% 93 1
Red Zone Touchdowns (19-40) 47%|(40-56) 71% (19-34) 56%|(7-17 41%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 31.0 37.4 53 25 26.4 | 5.1 46 1

Indiana won three of its first four games of the season, and when they beat then-No. 17 Michigan State it looked to be a big, program building win. In hindsight, it was simply what every other team in the Big Ten save Rutgers has done. The Hoosiers then proceeded to lose their next three, though they hung with Nebraska, before beating Maryland and Rutgers and then losing to Penn State this past Saturday. In short, Indiana’s five wins have come over the bottom three teams in the Big Ten East, FIU, and Ball State.

As usual, the Hoosiers do have a decent offense, averaging just a half yard more per game than Michigan does. But that hasn’t translated into points as they average 17 fewer points per game than the Wolverines. Indiana has topped 40 points just once in a 42-36 win over Maryland and 30 points in five of 10 games. They had a season low 14 points in a 24-14 loss to Northwestern. Against teams in the top half of the Big Ten in scoring defense, IU is averaging just under 18 points per game.

Indiana does it mostly through a passing game that ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Penn State. The Hoosiers average 302.7 passing yards per game (20th nationally), which is about 70 more per game than Michigan averages. Led by quarterback Richard Lagow, Indiana has thrown for more than 200 yards nine times, more than 300 yards four times, and more than 400 yards twice. They passed for 496 yards against Wake Forest and 420 against Rutgers, but Ohio State held the Hoosiers to their lowest total of the season, 182 yards on 14-of-28 passing.

The running game isn’t as explosive, averaging 164.6 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten and 77th nationally. During the three game losing streak against Ohio State, Nebraska, and Northwestern, the Hoosiers failed to break 100 rushing yards, averaging 90.3 yards. They followed that with a season-high 414 rushing yards against Maryland.

As noted above, Indiana moves the ball well, but has trouble scoring. Much of that is because they rank dead last nationally in red zone offense. Only 57 teams have reached the red zone more than the 40 times the Hoosiers have, but they’ve scored on only 27 (68 percent) of those trips. To make matters worse, they’ve scored touchdowns on only 19 (47 percent) of those.

On the defensive side, Michigan fans won’t like hearing that Indiana’s defense ranks very comparably on paper — and even better in some areas — than the Iowa team that just shut down Michigan’s offense. Similarly to the offensive side of the ball, Indiana’s defense in terms of yardage allowed looks better than their scoring defense. This is because they allow opponents to score on 88 percent of their red zone possessions, which ranks 93rd nationally.

In terms of total defense, Indiana allows about nine more yards per game than Iowa does, although prior to Iowa’s performance against Michigan on Saturday, the Hawkeyes allowed more yards per game than IU currently does. Four of 10 opponents have topped 400 total yards against the Hoosiers and Maryland reached 517. Three of those 400-plus yard games have come in the last four weeks, suggesting that they’re wearing down a bit late in the season. During that span, Rutgers was the only team that didn’t reach 400.

Indian’s rush defense ranks seventh in the Big Ten and 52nd nationally, allowing 156.2 yards per game. Ohio State rushed for 290 yards on 5.8 yards per carry and Maryland managed 269 yards on 5.4. However, Indiana’s defense held Penn State to just 77 rushing yards on 45 carries (1.7 yards per carry). Saquan Barkley managed just 58 yards on 33 carries.

The pass defense ranks second to last in the Big Ten and 73rd nationally, giving up 235.8 yards per game. Ohio State passed for only 93 yards — because they had such success running the ball that they didn’t need to — but only one other opponent threw for fewer than 200. Wake Forest passed for 172. The last four opponents have averaged 280.8 passing yards per game, lead by Penn State’s 332 yards this past Saturday.

While I mentioned above that Indiana’s defense compares statistically to Iowa’s, the advanced stats tell a slightly different story. S&P+ has Indiana’s defense 22 spots lower than Iowa’s.

Overall, Indiana has a potent passing offense but a lackluster running game. They have a better defense than typical Kevin Wilson teams, but it’s not one that should be able to shut down Michigan’s offense like Iowa did on Saturday. That said, depending on the severity of Wilton Speight’s injury, if Michigan has to start John O’Korn, Indiana will look to stuff the run like they did to Penn State this past weekend and force the inexperienced quarterback to beat them.

M&GB staff predictions: Iowa

Friday, November 11th, 2016


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Previously this week: First Look: Iowa, Tailgate Tuesday, Five-Spot Challenge, Big Ten power rankings, The Numbers Game

Note: Due to the events of this week and a hectic work schedule with a full day of travel today, there likely won’t be a game preview post today. Our staff predictions will have to suffice. 

With two-thirds of the season over, only three games stand between Michigan and the Big Ten championship game. And while Michigan has made their first nine games look relatively easy — aside from a slow start against Colorado — the toughest part of the schedule is here. Two of the final three are on the road, beginning with Iowa, where Michigan hasn’t won since 2005.

Joe, Derick, and Sam tied for the win in last week’s predictions, which means Joe has wrapped up the weekly wins challenge We’re all trying to catch him in the season-long aggregate standings. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin (1)

If there has been one knock on Michigan this season it has been their lack of road games. The Wolverines have left the state just once and that was to lowly Rutgers. Their only other road game was just up the road against equally lowly Michigan State.

Tomorrow, Michigan will try to do something it hasn’t done in 11 years and that’s win in Iowa City. True, the Hawkeyes have been less than impressive this year, but that doesn’t mean Kinnick Stadium is an easy place to go into and leave with a win.

Staff Predictions
Michigan    Iowa    
Justin 31 13
Derick 38 14
Sam 31 6
Josh 48 3
Joe 44 10
M&GB Average 38 9

Although the numbers don’t support it, for some reason I have an eerie feeling about this one. Even the 1997 Michigan national championship team nearly had their season derailed in Iowa City by an Iowa team that finished just 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. That game required a second half comeback by Michigan to pull off a 28-24 win.

This year’s Iowa team is still seeking its sixth win for bowl eligibility and needs to win two of its last three to ensure a winning season. The Hawkeyes play Illinois next week, which is their best shot at a win, but they must beat either Michigan or Nebraska for the other. In other words, they have something to play for and they’d rather not let it come down to the day after Thanksgiving against the Cornhuskers.

Statistically, there’s no reason Iowa should be very competitive in this one, but that’s why they play the games. Maybe Michigan will struggle a bit offensively in the first half and let Iowa hang around longer than they should. Wilton Speight hasn’t really had a bad game yet this season and maybe he’s due. Michigan’s defense has allowed 20 explosive plays in the past two weeks after allowing an average of fewer than five per game the first seven weeks. Iowa’s offense ranks 99th nationally in explosive plays per game, but perhaps they gained confidence from what Michigan State and Maryland did.

I see a close first half as Michigan’s offense faces some adversity for really the first time all season. A couple of turnovers lead to a low-scoring first half. In the end, Michigan is simply a much better team and pulls away, but not before giving Michigan fans a minor scare.

Michigan 31 – Iowa 13

Derick (1)

At the beginning of the season, Michigan’s trip to Iowa figured to be one of the three toughest games of the year. Iowa was coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and a perfect 12-0 regular season, and scheduled an 8pm kickoff at Kinnick Stadium.

But since the beginning of September, the Hawkeyes have lost four games and most of the shine has worn off from their magical 2015 season. Michigan heads into the matchup as a three touchdown favorite and a chance to clinch its first 10-0 start since 2006.

Iowa is by far the toughest road test Michigan has faced this season, but I still think the Wolverines have too much talent to lose. Wilton Speight is getting better every week and the defense is the best in the country. This veteran team knows it can’t afford to slip up, so there shouldn’t be concern about a trap game.

I think the suffocating Michigan defense will play a strong game against Kirk Ferentz’s pro-style offense and made it a rough day for a team that mustered just 14 points against both Rutgers and Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Wolverines should be able to run right over a team that allowed at least 35 points to Purdue, Northwestern and Penn State. Michigan will cruise to victory.

Michigan 38 – Iowa 14

Sam (2)

This game looks like it has everything a typical trap game has — a big spread, an away game with a rowdy crowd, and an opponent that has had some past success. Unfortunately for Iowa, this season has not been nearly as successful as last and Michigan has so far seemed to be immune from any sort of potential trap game so far. And with this being on the road, I don’t think Michigan will be sleeping at the wheel.

Iowa’s boring offense could make it conductive to getting crushed by an outstanding Wolverine defense while Michigan’s offense is inching closer and closer to scary good in its own right with each passing game. Speight will continue to impress while Michigan’s defense ends any chance of an upset with an early takeaway. Give me the Maize and Blue again.

Michigan 31 – Iowa 6

Josh (1)

First off, let me say that I am a believer in Wilton Speight. I was all but sure he was a stop-gap for Brandon Peters but after last week I am firmly in the camp that he is more than just a guy who won’t lose us a game. He might actually be the reason we beat Ohio State, but now’s not the time for that talk.

Iowa City is a scary place to play but Iowa is not a scary team. Their standard statistics and big play ones are not impressive at all, and they haven’t shown the ability to come from behind. Both of those things bode well and Michigan should make quick work of the Hawkeyes, but given that this is a night road game it might take a bit longer. Akrum Wadley scares me a bit on the edge, especially after last week. However, there’s nothing that would lead any rational football fan to believe that Iowa will have a creative game plan to take advantage of Michigan’s apparent weakness on the edge.

C.J. Beathard is a solid quarterback but he doesn’t really have anyone to throw to these days with Matt Vandenberg out with injury. Tight end George Kittle has some skill but he’s not going to beat Michigan singlehandedly.

The Michigan offense has been a juggernaut and I expect that to continue. This team won’t overlook Iowa but they have bigger fish to fry and they have been shredding anything that stands in their way. Sorry, Hawkeyes, you’re going to bear witness to many Mo Hurst belly rubs. Michigan might start slow, given the atmosphere, a la Rutgers, but then they impose their will and head home with another large victory.

Michigan 48 – Iowa 3

Joe (6)

Heading into Iowa for the 10th game has me scratching my head a little. I realize that Iowa is not the same team from last year nor have they lived up to expectations this season. Heck, not even half of what was expected, but it’s still a tough place to play. Iowa has a decent run game and is proficient in the red zone. The issue is that they don’t get there often enough.

The quarterback is averaging less than 200 yards a game in the air and has been a huge disappointment this year. The defense isn’t what you typically see from the Hawkeyes, either. I still think the good coaching staff at Iowa will have the guys up and ready to go and view this game as a way to salvage their season.

Sorry guys, not this week. Harbaugh will have them geared up and Speight will continue to grow. Look for a tight one early with Michigan pulling away in the second half.

Michigan 44 – Iowa 10