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Archive for the ‘Preview/Prediction’ Category

Michigan hoops preview: SMU

Friday, December 19th, 2014


UM-SMU
Michigan (6-4) vs SMU (7-3)
Saturday, Dec. 20 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 12 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Offense
68.9 Points/gm 71.4
(239-550) 43.5 Field Goal % 48.8 (250-512)
(86-223) 38.6 3-pt FG % 36.6 (48-131)
(125-165) 75.8 Free Throw % 75.1 (166-221)
12.5 FT Made/gm 16.6
31.5 Reb/gm 37.4
13.1 Assists/gm 15.2
9.5 Turnovers/gm 14.1
Defense
63.0 Points/gm 62.8
(236-520) 45.4 Field Goal % 38.4 (213-555)
(73-190) 38.4 3-pt FG % 33.5 (83-248)
32.0 Opp. Reb/gm 30.1
6.4 Steals/gm 5.9
2.0 Blocks/gm 4.1
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.7), Zak Irvin (15.3) Points/gm Nic Moore (14.5), Yanick Moreira (12.3)
Caris LeVert (5.2), Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Yanick Moreira (6.8), Ben Moore (6.5)

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A reeling Michigan squad returns to action on Saturday afternoon against a solid Southern Methodist team coached by a Hall of Fame coach and getting one of its best players from 2013 back. That’s not a good formula for a young team that has lost three straight to NJIT, Eastern Michigan, and Arizona. The latter was expected, but the 27-point margin of victory wasn’t, and the first two were downright embarrassing for a program that has exploded onto the national scene in recent years.

Former Bobcats, Knicks, Pistons, 76ers, Pacers, Clippers, Spurs, Kansas University, Nets, and UCLA head coach Larry Brown returned to college in 2011 and turned a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2002 into a ranked team for the first time in 19 years in just his second season. The only head coach to win an NBA championship and an NCAA national title has done wonders in Dallas and he’s done so with recruiting classes ranked no higher than 34th.

Last season, SMU went 27-10 and barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Mustangs earned a 1-seed in the NIT and reached the championship game where they lost to Minnesota. This season, SMU has started 7-3 with losses to the best three teams they’ve played, 13th-ranked Gonzaga, Indiana, and 25th-ranked Arkansas. The first two were the only road games the Mustangs have played this season, which means today will be their last chance to pick up a resume-boosting non-conference road win before conference play begins.

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown needs a win in Ann Arbor if he wants to guide SMU back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years (SMU)

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown needs a win in Ann Arbor if he wants to guide SMU back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years (SMU)

Four players average double figures through the first third of the season, led by redshirt junior Nic Moore. The 5’9″, 170-pound guard is averaging 14.5 points per game and leads the team with 4.9 assists per game as well. He’s shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from three-point range with 20 threes made.

Moore’s backcourt mate, Keith Frazier, is the third-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game. The 6’5″, 190-pound sophomore followed up a scoreless outing against Wyoming two weeks ago with a 20-point performance against UC Santa Barbara. Like Frazier, he’s shooting well, averaging 48.7 percent overall and 38.3 percent from downtown.

Senior center Yanick Moreira averages 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. At 6’11″, 220, he’ll be a tough matchup for freshman Ricky Doyle, who is making the first start of his career. Since being held to 10 points combined in the losses to Gonzaga and Indiana, Moreira has scored in double figures in six of the last seven with a high of 20 against Arkansas.

Sophomore Ben Moore has started all 10 games and is the fourth player averaging double figures. The 6’8″, 205-pound forward averages 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 45.3 percent. He started the season with games of 22, 11, and 16 points, but has reached double digits in just two of the last seven. In those first three games, he made 21-of-33 shots (63.6 percent), but has cooled off since.

Senior guard Ryan Manuel (6’4″, 185) has started five games and averages the fifth-most minutes, but contributes just 5.3 points. Interestingly, he’s not a three-point shooter — he hasn’t attempted one yet this season and has shot just 32 in the past three.

Canne Cunningham is the backup center. The 6’10″, 225-pound senior averages 7.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18 minutes a game.

The big addition to the roster is junior Markus Kennedy, who was academically ineligible to start the season. The 6’9″ forward averaged 12.4 points and led the team with 7.1 rebounds per game a year ago. He carried the Mustangs through the NIT last spring with 13 points against LSU, 19 points and 10 rebounds against California, and 21 and nine against Clemson.

SMU’s size and length will be difficult for Michigan to manage, but the two teams stack up pretty evenly statistically. SMU has a big edge on the boards, averaging six more per game, and holds opponents to seven percent lower shooting percentage. However, SMU turns the ball over five times more per game than Michigan, so Michigan will need to take advantage of those opportunities. Even though conference schedules haven’t yet started, it’s a must-win game for both teams’ hopes of reaching the Big Dance come March.

Michigan hoops preview & Sam’s 3 thoughts: #3 Arizona

Saturday, December 13th, 2014


UM-Arizona
Michigan (6-3) at #3 Arizona (8-0)
Saturday, Dec. 13 | Tucson, Ariz. | 5:15 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
74.2 Points/gm 76.0
(206-453) 45.5 Field Goal % 49.8 (235-472)
(75-176) 42.6 3-pt FG % 36.8 (50-136)
(107-139) 77.0 Free Throw % 67.5 (164-243)
13.4 FT Made/gm 18.2
32.8 Reb/gm 35.6
13.9 Assists/gm 14.8
8.8 Turnovers/gm 11.6
Defense
63.9 Points/gm 60.1
(189-419) 45.1 Field Goal % 39.6 (183-462)
(61-154) 39.6 3-pt FG % 34.5 (48-139)
30.5 Opp. Reb/gm 29.1
6.0 Steals/gm 8.9
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (18.6), Zak Irvin (16.1) Points/gm Stanley Johnson (13.8), Hollis-Jefferson (12.7)
Caris LeVert (5.6), Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Hollis-Jefferson (6.7), Stanley Johnson (6.4)

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A college basketball season is often likened to a roller coaster ride. There’s plenty of ups, plenty of downs, lots of twisting and turning, and sometimes sick stomachs. If Michigan’s season is anything like Millennium Force, the Wolverines are nearly touching the sidewalk. Just one week ago, Michigan welcomed the New Jersey Institute of Technology to Ann Arbor, only to be stunned by the team matching up with a top-25 squad for the first time ever. A few days later, the Wolverines looked to bounce back against Washtenaw county co-habitants Eastern Michigan, but again left the home crowd in a state of shock after what can only be described as a rancid offensive performance.

Today, the going gets a lot tougher, as the Maize and Blue face their first true road test against the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats (5:15pm, ESPN). Michigan is already at the bottom of the hill, but a third straight loss could see the cart begin to rattle off the rails. A win, of course, would do wonders for the young squad trying to figure it all out. Here are my three thoughts on today’s battle.

1. Battle at the 4: If Michigan is to have any hope today against Arizona’s stacked roster, they are going to need something out of the four spot. For my money, the Wildcats’ 6’7″, 220-pound Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one of the most fearsome college players in the country, and though he doesn’t even start for Sean Miller, he is an absolute wrecking ball, averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game. The sophomore can jump out of the gym, drive to the rim with no concern for safety, and crash the glass with an intensity rarely seen on the basketball court. To make matters worse, the four has been Michigan’s biggest cause for concern in what has been a shaky start to the year.

True freshman Kameron Chatman, who most thought was destined to play at Arizona before he surprisingly committed to Michigan last fall, is a talented player, but has a long way to go before fully grasping John Beilein’s offensive and defensive concepts. Chatman has been beat far too often on off-ball defense, has looked lost at times offensively, and appears to be struggling with his confidence. In Tuesday’s loss to EMU, Chatman made a nice move to drive baseline and would have had an easy layup or dunk with one more dribble, but instead decided to skip pass over to Spike Albrecht behind the three-point line, resulting in yet another empty possession for the Wolverines. When Chatman has been off, Albrecht has come in to give Michigan a smaller but more veteran two-point lineup.

Today, I’m not sure how feasible that will be with Arizona’s size. In addition to Hollis-Jefferson, the Wildcats also run out 6’7″, 245-pound super freshman Stanley Johnson, 6’9″, 230-pound Michigan wrecker Brandon Ashley, and 7’0″, 245-pound behemoth Kaleb Tarczewski. A Michigan lineup featuring both Albrecht and Walton, who are each dealing with injuries, could see one of them giving up six inches and 50 pounds if Miller takes advantage with substitutions of his own. Today, Chatman needs to grow up a little bit and focus on defense, box out, and play with confidence.

2. Mix it Up: This piece of advice goes for both ends of the court today for the visiting Wolverines. Against Eastern Michigan, Michigan was baffled offensively against the 2-3 zone for almost the entire 40 minutes, and only managed 42 points on 43 shots. Of those 43 shots, only a handful were good looks around the basket, and nearly half of them came from long range, where Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin combined to make all four of Michigan’s triples. I can guarantee that if Michigan only makes 19 percent of their threes again today, it is going to be an ugly loss. Arizona will not play much zone, but Michigan still needs to vary their offense and look for a variety of shots. Whether that means working the back door, focusing more on the pick-and-roll, or even trying to mix in some pick-and-pop with Mark Donnal, the Wolverines need to keep the Wildcats honest to open up the looks both inside and outside. Look for Beilein to draw up a couple plays from the get-go to try to get some open looks from downtown for LeVert, Irvin, and Walton. If they knock them down, the confidence should rise and Michigan will have a fighter’s chance.

Defensively, the Wolverines could also stand to throw some different looks at Arizona. NJIT’s offense ripped through Michigan’s porous defense to the tune of 72 points on 64.7 percent shooting from deep and 55.2 percent from inside the arc. Arizona’s size and strength down low has the potential to destroy Michigan’s inexperienced centers and wings defensively, and if the Wolverines play uninspired man defense again, they will wish they had never gotten on the plane to Arizona in the first place. In last year’s thrilling home loss to Arizona, Michigan was torn apart by Ashley, Tarczewski, and future NBA Lottery pick Aaron Gordon down low, allowing them to combine for 46 points on 57 percent shooting inside the three-point line and 20 rebounds. Today, look for Michigan to double down on all of Arizona’s big men while also mixing in some 1-3-1 on occasion to give the Wildcats a little to think about.

3. Dominate the Easy Points: Points are hard to come by, especially when facing a team like Arizona that has the size, athleticism, and savvy to shut down anyone. Beilein’s Michigan teams, on the other end, have been the best scoring team in the country for two years running, but it looks like early attrition to the NBA has finally started to show for the Maize and Blue. Michigan has gone through some long scoring droughts against Villanova, NJIT, and Eastern Michigan already this year, and a few minutes with doughnuts on the scoreboard against Arizona will spell doom. The Wolverines really need to put their heart and soul into each possession on both sides of the floor, but will especially have to take advantage of every “easy points” situation. For me, easy points include free throws and fast breaks. The Wolverines need to make their free throws and win the battle at the charity stripe, and can absolutely not afford to leave points on the table when presented with an odd-man fast break situation off turnovers.

Prediction: As evidenced by these three keys, Michigan will need to do a lot right and hope Arizona does a lot wrong to come out with a head-turning win. The Wolverines need to hit shots, play with intensity on defense, and act like they are competitors on the big stage. Unfortunately, I think Arizona’s size down low and experience at the guard spots will be too much to handle for the visitors, but it will be closer than many expect. I like the Wildcats today, 68-63.

Sam’s 3 thoughts: NJIT

Saturday, December 6th, 2014


Coming off their biggest win of the young season over Syracuse, the Michigan Wolverines now have a couple home games against lesser competition before preparing to take on Arizona and Southern Methodist on back-to-back Saturdays. Today, the opponent is the New Jersey Institute of Technology, an outfit that has been in Division I only since 2006-07 and has struggled mightily in that transition, with only one season of at least 16 wins and three seasons with five or fewer victories – including one with just one win and one with a donut in the win column.

In the early going this year, it hasn’t been much better, as the Highlanders are off to a 2-5 start with wins over Maine and Duquesne. In their defense, however, NJIT did give Marquette a close call in the Golden Eagles’ five-point win in Milwaukee. This afternoon (12:00pm, BTN), the Maize and Blue need to focus on the task at hand, but should have no problems disposing of the visitors with a strong effort. Here are a few quick thoughts on the matchup.

1. Get Walton Going: Derrick Walton is coming off what John Beilein has called a toe sprain and managed just three points on seven shots in somewhat limited minutes Tuesday night against the Orangemen. Spike Albrecht has been a savior thus far and will continue to be a very reliable backup point and wingman when paired with Walton on the floor, but Michigan needs production from its star sophomore if it is to replicate the success of the past couple seasons. Today, pay special attention to how Walton is moving on the floor, penetrating the defense, and running the fast break. He was probably slightly slower earlier this week, cutting down on his easy opportunities at the basket, but a smaller, less athletic defense should cure some of those issues.

2. Dominate the Defensive Glass: Tuesday’s win was an odd one for Michigan on the boards, as the Wolverines actually recorded more offensive rebounds (17) than defensive rebounds (14) and allowed Syracuse to grab nearly half of their own misses. It worked out this time, but it’s a trade-off that Beilein would probably never care to see again. Beilein stresses limiting possessions and second chance opportunities for the opponent while maximizing offensive efficiency on the Wolvereines’ own end; in fact, if the eighth-year head coach could have his way, he’d probably implement a rule where each team was only allowed one shot per possession, with turnovers and made baskets becoming the ultimate measure of success.

Against a smaller Highlander team that only sports one 6’8″ rotation player, Michigan should be able to control this department, but the Marquette game raises a little cause for concern. Against the Golden Eagles, NJIT managed to grab nearly half of their own misses while allowing Marquette to equally dominate their own boards. Luckily for Michigan, if today’s game turns into another feast of second chances, the Maize and Blue should still be able to win the possession battle, as the Highlanders turn it over a whopping 17 times per game, with star sophomore point guard Damon Lynn leading the way – he’s already attempted 79 three-pointers but has coughed up the rock at least four times in each of his last five games.

3. Start Ricky Doyle? I never imagined I’d be writing this, especially so early in the season, but I think it’s time to consider starting true freshman and fan favorite big man Ricky Doyle. It’s been made eminently clear over the past few games that Doyle gives Michigan the best hands, energy, rebounding, finishing, and touch down low, and it’s only a matter of time before his tremendous share of playing time turns into a spot in the starting five. With a couple easier games before a brutal two game stretch and the start of Big Ten season shortly thereafter, now seems like the time to make the change to allow the native Floridian to get comfortable from the tip.

As it stands today, I believe there are three things holding back Beilein from making the move right now. First, he’s said a couple times that he likes to bring some energy off the bench, and Doyle provides that in spades; second, Mark Donnal seems to be dealing with some confidence issues, especially when going up around the rim, and Beilein may figure keeping him in the starting five shows that the team still believes in him; third, keeping Donnal as the starter lets the redshirt freshman pick up the first big man foul of the game, putting less stress on Doyle trying to stay out of foul trouble from the get-go. Either way, I believe the move will come eventually, and if it does, the timing seems right to do it sooner rather than later.

Prediction: On paper, this is a game that Michigan should dominate, and I think they will do just that. I can see a close game holding early on before Michigan’s guards and Ricky Doyle take control as the Wolverines coast to a 73-53 win to move to 7-1.

Michigan hoops preview: Syracuse

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014


UM-Syracuse
Michigan (5-1) vs Syracuse (5-1)
Tuesday, Dec. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 7:30 p.m. EST | ESPN
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Offense
76.0 Points/gm 70.2
(158-334) 47.3 Field Goal % 44.4 (159-358)
(53-119) 44.5 3-pt FG % 20.2 (18-89)
(87-113) 77.0 Free Throw % 66.9 (85-127)
14.5 FT Made/gm 14.2
34.2 Reb/gm 42.7
14.0 Assists/gm 15.0
9.2 Turnovers/gm 12.3
Defense
61.3 Points/gm 51.7
(138-325) 42.5 Field Goal % 34.1 (110-323)
(44-120) 36.7 3-pt FG % 26.8 (33-123)
30.3 Opp. Reb/gm 33.2
5.8 Steals/gm 9.8
2.5 Blocks/gm 6.3
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (17.7), Caris LeVert (17.5) Points/gm Rakeem Christmas (17.5), C. McCullough (15.3)
Caris LeVert (6.2), Derrick Walton Jr (5.4) Reb/gm Rakeem Christmas (9.5), C. McCullough (8.3)

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Despite losing to 12th-ranked Villanova in the Legends Classic championship game last Tuesday, Michigan showed it can compete with the nation’s best. The Wolverines rebounded from that loss with a 91-62 win over Nicholls State on Saturday and now host Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The last time Michigan and Syracuse faced off a national championship game appearance was on the line. Michigan topped the Orange 61-56 in the 2013 Final Four to reach the title game. This time, the only thing on the line is a chance to pick up an early-season quality win that will pay dividends come tournament time. Michigan will get another chance for that when it travels to Arizona next week, but getting Syracuse at home on national television is a prime opportunity.

Syracuse comes in with an identical 5-1 record with wins over Kennesaw State (89-42), Hampton (65-47), Iowa (66-63), Loyola (70-37), and Holy Cross (72-48) and a loss to California (73-59). Like usual under head coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse gets it done defensively, allowing an average of 51.7 points per game, which ranks ninth nationally. In addition, Syracuse is holding opponents to just 34.1 percent from the field (eighth nationally) and 26.8 percent from three-point range.

Three players average in double figures, led by 6’9″, 250-pound senior forward Rakeem Christmas, who averages 17.5 points. He also leads the team with 9.5 rebounds per game and 15 blocks. He has scored at least 15 points in five of six games this season. The only one he didn’t was the loss to Cal in which he was held to eight on 3-of-10 shooting. The last time out, he scored 25 against Holy Cross on 8-of-10 shooting and 9-of-10 free throw shooting.

Freshman forward Chris McCullough (6’10″, 220) is the second leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 board per game. He scored a season high 20 points against Iowa and has two double-doubles in six games.

Redshirt junior guard Trevor Cooney (6’4″, 195) is the only other player in double figures, averaging 10.2 points per game, but he has struggled from three-point range, having made just 9-of-33. Freshman guard Kaleb Joseph (6’3″, 165) is the fourth player that has started all six games this season. He leads the team with 6.2 assists per game while scoring 8.5 points, but he has also turned the ball over 21 times. He has only attempted three three-pointers and missed all of them.

Sophomore forward Tyler Roberson (6’8″, 212) started the first four games and averaged 6.5 points and five rebounds, but missed the last two with a strained abdominal muscle. It is unclear whether he will be ready for tonight’s game. In his place has been 6’7″, 185-pound sophomore forward B.J. Johnson. He has averaged 7.8 points and 7.6 rebounds thanks in large part to a 19-point, eight-rebound performance in the season opener against Kennesaw State. However, he was held scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting in the loss to Cal.

Junior forward Michael Gbinije (6’7″, 200) is the first man off the bench, averaging six points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He ranks second on the team with 10 steals, but has made just 2-of-16 three-point attempts to start the season. Ron Patterson, a 6’2″, 200-pound sophomore guard, is the only other player averaging double-digit minutes per game (10.2), but he has very little production, averaging 1.2 points and 1.7 assists.

Syracuse is shooting just 20.2 percent from three-point range so far this season and averaging 5.8 fewer points than Michigan. But the Orange have a major advantage inside with a 8.5 rebounds per game edge. If Michigan can force Syracuse to settle for long shots and limit Syracuse’s second-chance opportunities, the Wolverines will have an excellent opportunity to pick up a win. But Michigan’s big men — Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and Max Bielfeldt — will have to control Christmas and McCullough without getting into foul trouble, especially with D.J. Wilson out several weeks with an injury.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 28th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win of the season against Maryland last Saturday, leaving the Wolverines in need of a win in Columbus for the first time in 14 years to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. Ohio State is in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth, so it won’t take Michigan lightly. Can Michigan shock the Buckeyes, or will Ohio State continue its dominance? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 13 50
Sam 11 41
Derick 16 38
Josh 14 50
Joe 17 48
M&GB Average 14 45

Justin: Brady Hoke beat Ohio State in 2011, his first season as Michigan’s coach, but has lost the last two. Both losses were much closer than they should have been, which suggests that, even though Ohio State is the better team, Hoke has been able to get his team ready for The Game.

But no matter how ready Michigan is, it won’t be enough tomorrow. Ohio State can’t afford a narrow win since it needs to jump two teams in the next two weeks to get into the playoff.

Michigan’s defense ranks ninth nationally, but even if it contains Ohio State’s offense, the Wolverines’ offense won’t be able to score enough to win. Michigan has scored fewer than 20 points in seven of 11 games this season. Ohio State hasn’t been held below 21 yet and averages more than twice that.

Michigan will hang around in the first half, but Ohio State will blow the game wide open in the second and won’t let up. Quarterback J.T. Barrett will beat the Michigan secondary deep for a couple of big plays and Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott will wear down the front seven on the ground.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Sam: Ohio State 41 – Michigan 11

Derick:  Michigan unfortunately missed its chance to lock down a bowl game last weekend when it hosted a bad Maryland team on senior night. Now, it’ll take a mammoth upset against Ohio State, who is looking to qualify for the College Football Playoff with another undefeated Big Ten season.

The near-upset in last year’s game should be enough to keep the Buckeyes from sleeping on even this Michigan team. Ohio State needs to put up style points after trialing Indiana in the third quarter at home last week, so I think Urban Meyer will try to run up the score and pound his greatest rival.

Michigan’s defense has kept games close for most of the season, but this J.T. Barrett-led OSU attack is the best they’ll face this season. Is there a chance? The Buckeyes have faced just two defenses ranked better than Michigan’s in points allowed: A loss to Virginia Tech and an overtime win over Penn State.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s strength is not in the secondary, so Barrett can carve up Greg Mattison’s crew through the air. OSU will roll to a 38-16 win.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 16

Josh: Oh, how I hate Ohio State. If there’s anything I hate more than Ohio State it’s Ohio State fans. Unfortunately, this century has not been very good to Michigan and aside from 2006 and 2011 Michigan hasn’t come into the game with much hope of beating a good OSU team in over a decade. This year will be no different. Yes, we can throw away the records when these two teams meet. Yes, there have been epic upsets by Michigan over highly ranked OSU teams. Yes, Penn State, Minnesota and even Indiana gave this Buckeye team a run for their money this year. And yes, Michigan almost ended Urbs’ 23 game win streak last year. But this Michigan team is, well I don’t know what this Michigan team is other than “not Michigan.”

J.T. Barrett is having one of the best seasons for a Big Ten quarterback ever. He is a redshirt freshman who was named the starter just weeks before the season. Coming into this season I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to win in Columbus, and that was when I thought we’d see marked improvement in player development and a competent offense. Now, I’m not so sure Michigan can score double digits.

This game is gonna get ugly and the rabid fans in Columbus are going to eat it up. They don’t care that Michigan is having a down decade (even though they used the “Luke Fickell isn’t a real coach” excuse when we beat them in 2011). Michigan won’t roll over and die, these kids will fight with all their hearts from start to finish. Sadly, they don’t have as much talent on the field and they definitely can’t compete with the coaching staff on the other sideline.

I feel bad for the seniors and I feel bad for Brady Hoke. Ending your Michigan career with a blowout loss to a hated rival is no way to go out. But the reality is OSU is the far better team, with a far better coaching staff and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach the entire game. But hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and 2014 will be like 1968 and we’ll get Bo 2.0 (Jim Harbaugh) after a blowout loss. I can dream, right?

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 14

Joe: The biggest game of the year is finally here and I’m thinking “UPSET”. Ya, I said it. “UPSET”. Unfortunately, I’m referring to the way my stomach feels during these games. This one will get ugly and out of hand by halftime. The guys will battle hard for Hoke and try to keep things close but won’t be able to contain Barrett. I think he runs wild in this one and will also hits some receivers on deep routes. As much as I want to predict a close one, I just can’t do it. The Offense has been horrible for a few months now and I can’t see things getting right this week. Not against a fired up group of Buckeyes.

Ohio State 48 – Michigan 17

Michigan-Ohio State game preview

Friday, November 28th, 2014


Game Preview_OhioState_banner

For many years, Michigan and Ohio State ended the regular season with a clash that decided the Big Ten title. When the two rivals meet tomorrow afternoon in Columbus, they’ll both have something to play for beyond just bragging rights, but their goals couldn’t be more different.

Michigan missed an opportunity to gain bowl eligibility with a 23-16 loss to Maryland last Saturday, which means the Wolverines will have to beat the Buckeyes to extend their season. Ohio State, on the other hand, is still vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

UM-OhioState-small-final
Quick Facts
Ohio Stadium – 12 p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 138-26 (34-3 at Ohio State)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinators: Chris Ash (1st season)
Luke Fickell (9th season)
Returning 2013 Starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 12-2 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 41 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-46-6
Record in Columbus: Michigan leads 27-25-2
Record in Ohio Stadium: Ohio State leads 24-21-1
Brady Hoke vs OSU: 1-2
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last UM win at OSU: 2000 (38-26)
Current Streak: Ohio State 2

Ohio State already has the Big Ten East division wrapped up, but trails Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, and TCU in the rankings. Only the top four will get in. Ohio State will get a chance for another big win in next week’s Big Ten Championship game, but if they struggle with a 5-6 Michigan squad at home, it would be hard to make a case for moving the Buckeyes ahead of any of those other teams unless they lose.

TCU took care of business on Thursday night with a 48-10 win over Texas, and only has Iowa State remaining. Mississippi State visits in-state rival Ole Miss tomorrow, but the Rebels have lost three of their last four after opening the season 7-0. Unless Alabama loses to Auburn tomorrow, MSU won’t reach the SEC Championship game. If the Crimson Tide can top Auburn, they’ll face Missouri or Georgia next week for the SEC title. Oregon, like Ohio State, faces a 5-6 team, Oregon State, and then the Pac-12 Championship game. That leaves Florida State, the reigning national champion and the only unbeaten team.

A lot can happen this week and next, but in order to avoid getting left out, Ohio State has to beat Michigan and look good doing it. Playoff committee chair Jeff Long started a controversy when releasing this week’s rankings by describing the committee’s use of “game control” as an evaluation metric, which is essentially rewarding teams for running up the score. A 42-41 win over Michigan like last year will not win Ohio State any points in that category, so Urban Meyer will look to keep his foot on the gas pedal and send Brady Hoke packing.

As fans on both sides are fully aware, anything can happen in a rivalry of this magnitude. Because of this, OSU fans are approaching tomorrow’s matchup with caution, despite having won 11 of the last 13. Michigan fans, meanwhile, have already set their sights on Jim Harbaugh and can’t wait until the game is over to close the book on yet another lost season.

Does Michigan have a chance to knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus for the first time since 2000? Or will Ohio State simply take care of the inevitable, ensuring Michigan a third losing season in the last seven years? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Ohio State offense: When Ohio State has the ball

Although they lost running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State entered the season with high hopes offensively, mostly because of senior quarterback Braxton Miller who would be entering his fourth season as a starter. The two-time defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was near the top of most preseason Heisman trophy watch lists. But after re-injuring his throwing shoulder in fall camp, Miller was forced to spend the season on the sidelines.

Enter J.T. Barrett.

The redshirt freshman, who hadn’t seen the field since his junior year of high school thanks to a senior-year injury of his own, was thrust into action much earlier than expected. And while there were some early-season hiccups that resulted in a loss to Virginia Tech — which could ultimately cost the Buckeyes a shot at the national title — he has had one of the most impressive seasons in the country. The Wichita Falls, Texas native has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,658 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, and has rushed for 849 yards and nine scores. Two more solid performances and he will likely earn an invitation to New York at season’s end.

Barrett ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, first in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. He may not match Miller’s 2012 rushing total of 1,271 yards, but he has far and away surpassed Miller’s best numbers.

But it hasn’t been a one man show in Columbus. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott picked up right where Hyde left off with 1,061 yards through 11 games. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rushing with 96.5 yards per game and fifth with 5.9 yards per carry. He has topped 100 yards in five of the last eight games, including a 23-carry, 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against Michigan State.

Ohio State doesn’t have a receiver that ranks in the top ten in the conference in yards or receptions, but the Buckeyes have a group of very solid receivers. Senior Devin Smith is the big-play receiver, leading team with 610 yards on just 25 receptions. Sophomore Michael Thomas has 12 more catches, but five fewer yards. Both have eight touchdowns. Freshman Jalin Marshall has emerged as a threat as the season has gone on. He caught just six passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games, but has 18 for 308 yards and four scores in the last six. Elliott has actually caught the second-most passes on the team (25) for 201 yards. Tight end Jeff Heuerman, who caught a touchdown against Michigan last season, doesn’t have nearly the production he had a year ago but is still a threat with 16 catches and two touchdowns.

The offensive line was a major question mark entering the season, but has progressed pretty well throughout and has had the luxury of starting the same group all 11 games. After giving up eight sacks in the first two games — seven in the Virginia Tech loss alone — the Bucks have allowed just 15 in the last nine games. Some of that has to do with the progression of Barrett, but the line has done its part. Left tackle Taylor Decker is the anchor alongside redshirt freshman Billy Price, junior center Jacoby Boren, redshirt sophomore guard Pat Elflein, and fifth-year senior right tackle Darryl Baldwin.

Michigan offense vs Ohio State defense: When Michigan has the ball

Last season, Ohio State’s defense didn’t do much to help its offense, but new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has helped shore it up. While it’s still not where Meyer wants it to be, it ranks 30th nationally in scoring defense (22.5 points per game), 41st against the run (147.8 yards per game), 15th against the pass (182.5 yards per game), and 19th overall (330.4 yards per game). It also ranks 18th in sacks (32).

It all starts up front for the Buckeyes with one of the best defensive lines in the nation. The group took a hit when last year’s sack leader, defensive end Noah Spence, was suspended for failing a drug test after last season’s Big Ten Championship game. Slated to miss the first two games of the season, he failed another test and was summarily suspended for the entire season. The other end, sophomore Joey Bosa, has been an absolute star, leading the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Spence’s replacement, senior Steve Miller has recorded six tackles for loss and one sack.

In the middle, Ohio State is led by senior Michael Bennett and junior Adolphus Washington. Bennett finished fourth in the Big Ten with 15 tackles for loss in 2013, but has fallen off that pace this season with 7.5 so far and three sacks. Washington has seven and 2.5.

The linebacking corps had to deal with the loss of Ryan Shazier to the NFL, but has developed great cohesion with the same three players picking up 32 of the possible 33 starts. Junior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry leads the team with 99 tackles to go along with 8.5 for loss, three sacks, an interception, and two passes defended. Redshirt freshman strong side linebacker Darron Lee ranks fourth on the team with 50 tackles but second with 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and also has two interceptions. Senior middle linebacker Curtis Grant has 47 tackles, three for loss, and one sack.

The secondary was the unit that got torched over and over again last season, but has fared much better this year. Cincinnati and Michigan State both passed for over 350 yards on Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have held five of 11 opponents below 150 yards through the air. Redshirt freshman Eli Apple and senior Doran Grant are the starting corners and have five interceptions and 18 passes defended between them. Sophomore safety Vonn Bell is the team’s second-leading tackler with 68 and also has three picks, while the other safety, redshirt sophomore Tyvis Powell, ranks third with 57 and also has three takeaways.

Special Teams: The other third

True freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger has made just 10 of his 16 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 49 yards. Interestingly, he has yet to attempt a field goal between 30 and 39 yards or over 50 yards all season. He is 5-of-6 from 20-29 yards and 5-of-10 from 40-49 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston, on the other hand, ranks third in the Big Ten with an average of 43.6 yards per punt. He has downed 19 of his 31 punts inside the 20-yards line and booted nine of them over 50 yards with just three going into the end zone.

The Buckeyes rank 18th nationally in punt returns and 19th in kick returns. Marhsall ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 13.6 yards per punt return and has taken one to the end zone. Dontre Wilson ranks fourth in the conference with 24 yards per kick return — 0.1 more than Dennis Norfleet — but a broken foot suffered against Michigan State has sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.

Prediction

There are two likely scenarios for Michigan on Saturday. Either the team plays with nothing to lose, inspired by its soon to be former head coach and gives Ohio State a run for its money, or it packs it in at the first sign of distress and gets pushed around for 60 minutes resulting in the worst defeat in the history of the rivalry.

Michigan had no business nearly beating Ohio State last season, but came within a failed two-point conversion from doing just that. But heading into that game there was at least an indication that Michigan’s offense could outscore the Buckeyes. This year, however, Michigan’s offense has been stuck in neutral, failing to score 20 points in seven of 11 games. Ohio State hasn’t scored fewer than 21 points in a game all season and averages more than twice that.

The only hope Michigan has is if its defense plays its best game of the season, contains Barrett’s legs, and pressures him into mistakes that he — like any first year starter and freshman — can be prone to make. But that’s certainly no easy task and one that even Michigan State’s defense couldn’t do. And even if the defense can do that, Michigan will have to avoid costly turnovers that have plagued the offense all year. And even if both of those things happen, Michigan will need Dennis Norfleet to break a return that doesn’t get called back. In other words, Michigan needs a perfect storm.

Michigan has allowed just nine first half points in its last three games combined, and will hang with Ohio State early on. But Michigan won’t be able to keep the Bucks at bay for long, and if they can’t find the end zone themselves, will see the game slip away in a hurry. Expect a fairly close game at halftime that Ohio State blows wide open in the second half with a couple of deep balls to Smith or Thomas and the running combo of Elliott and Barrett wearing the defense down. Meyer goes for two at the end to get to 50 and earn style points with the playoff committee, Hoke is fired shortly after, and Jim Harbaugh comes home to reignite the rivalry.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Big Ten power rankings: Week 13

Thursday, November 27th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (10-1, 7-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 42-27 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (5-6, 3-4), 12pm, ABC

The Buckeyes got a real scare Saturday against Indiana, as the Hoosiers held a lead in the third quarter. OSU posted a late charge to win by 15, but the seemingly unbeatable OSU team from the last month looked vulnerable against the last-place Hoosiers. Ohio State is just a win over Michigan away from another undefeated conference season.

2. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 45-3 This Week: Sat at Penn State (6-5, 2-5), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Michigan State kept rolling after the bounce-back win over Maryland last weekend with a 45-3 drubbing of Rutgers. The Spartans will finish the season in Penn State.

3. Maryland (7-4, 4-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 23-16 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (6-5, 2-5), 3:30pm, ESPNU

It wasn’t pretty, and they needed help from some mindless Wolverines penalties, but the Terrapins pulled out an upset win in the Big House to spoil Michigan’s senior day Saturday.

4. Michigan (5-6, 3-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 16-23 This Week: Sat at #6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1), 12pm, ABC

Michigan had a golden opportunity to salvage a bowl game from a crumbling 2014 season Saturday, but blew it with two penalties that called back a touchdown and kept a Maryland drive alive. Now a likely beat down in Columbus will cap off a losing season for Michigan.

5. Penn State (6-5, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 14-16 This Week: Sat vs #10 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Penn State falls in at No. 5, demonstrating just how weak the East has been this season. Penn State scored just 14 points and lost to an awful Illinois team on the road Saturday.

6. Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #11 Michigan State 3-45 This Week: Sat at Maryland (7-4, 4-3), 3:30pm, ESPNU

The Big Ten season can’t end soon enough for Rutgers, who suffered another enormous beating, this time at the hands of Michigan State, on Saturday. The regular season will end with a trip to Maryland.

7. Indiana (3-8, 0-7) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #6 Ohio State 27-42 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (3-8, 1-6), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Indiana almost did the unthinkable and pulled off the road upset in Columbus Saturday, but a late-fourth quarter collapse erased that opportunity and left the Hoosiers with just one last chance at a conference win: Purdue.

B1G East Week 13

West Division
1. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Iowa 26-24 This Week: Sat vs #18 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

The Badgers faced a tough challenge Saturday in traveling to Iowa City to face a desperate Hawkeyes team. With the lead in the West Division on the line, Wisconsin held off Iowa for the 26-24 win. Now a matchup with Minnesota will determine the West title.

2. Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat #23 Nebraska 28-24 This Week: Sat at #14 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Minnesota hung around all season in the West race, but on Saturday they made their first real move that turned heads by upsetting Nebraska on the road. Now Minnesota has given itself a chance to win the division with a game in Madison, Wisconsin on the horizon.

3. Iowa (7-4, 4-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #16 Wisconsin 24-26 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (8-3, 4-3), 12pm, ABC

Iowa needed to win its final two games to win the West Division, and fell just two points short of keeping those hopes alive against Wisconsin Saturday. Now the season finale is a battle for third place with the Cornhuskers.

4. Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #25 Minnesota 24-28 This Week: Sat vs Iowa (7-4, 4-3), 12pm, ABC

Nebraska’s season did a complete U-turn in the last two weeks, as it saw Big Ten championship aspirations crumble after loses to both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Now the Cornhuskers have to avoid a third straight loss against Iowa to finish in the top three in the West.

5. Northwestern (5-6, 3-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 38-14 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-6, 2-5), 12pm, ESPNU

This final two-game stretch for Northwestern is one of the quietest stories that should be a big deal in the Big Ten. With a 3-6 record heading into a game against nationally-ranked Notre Dame, the Wildcats’ bowl chances looked almost laughable. Now, after a second straight win, only 2-5 Illinois stands in the way of Northwestern’s postseason aspirations.

6. Illinois (5-6, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 16-14 This Week: Sat at Northwestern (5-6, 3-4), 12pm, ESPNU

Illinois kept Penn State’s nightmare season going Saturday by holding the Nittany Lions to 14 points for its second Big Ten win. Now the Illini can qualify for a bowl game with a win over Northwestern this weekend.

7. Purdue (3-8, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 14-38 This Week: Sat at Indiana (3-8, 0-7), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Since losing by just one in Minnesota five weeks ago, Purdue has lost three straight games by at least 18 points. The season ends with a rivalry game against Indiana, the Big Ten’s other last-place team.

B1G West Week 13

Michigan hoops preview & Sam’s 3 thoughts: #12 Villanova

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


UM-Villanova
Michigan (4-0) vs Villanova (4-0)
Tuesday, Nov. 25 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 10:00 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Legends Classic Championship
Offense
77.5 Points/gm 76.8
(103-220) 46.8 Field Goal % 45.3 (106-234)
(33-74) 44.6 3-pt FG % 28.7 (27-94)
(71-92) 77.2 Free Throw % 71.6 (68-95)
17.8 FT Made/gm 17.0
34.5 Reb/gm 35.2
14.8 Assists/gm 15.5
7.8 Turnovers/gm 9.3
Defense (2013-14)
61.5 Points/gm 57.0
(92-218) 42.2 Field Goal % 43.7 (87-199)
(30-81) 37.0 3-pt FG % 27.4 (17-62)
30.8 Opp. Reb/gm 31.3
6.0 Steals/gm 10.5
3.5 Blocks/gm 4.0
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (20.3), Caris LeVert (16.3) Points/gm Dylan Ennis (12.5), Darrun Hilliard (11.0)
Caris LeVert (7.0), Derrick Walton Jr (5.5) Reb/gm Daniel Ochefu (9.3), JayVa Pinkston (6.0)

___________________________________________________________________________________

It hasn’t always been pretty, and it hasn’t been particularly clean basketball yet, but the young Michigan Wolverines find themselves off to a 4-0 start after last night’s 70-63 Legends Classic semifinal win over a decimated Oregon squad. John Beilein’s freshmen still have a ways to go, and even the veterans have looked rushed at times, but there’s little reason to complain over an undefeated start. Tonight (10:00pm, ESPN2), the Wolverines face their toughest test thus far, however, in the Villanova Wildcats. Jay Wright has put together somewhat of a basketball powerhouse in Philadelphia, and the crowd at the Barclays Center won’t be as Maize and Blue dominated as it was last night. How can Michigan escape with another win and the preseason tournament title? Here are my three keys.

1. Play Poised: Villanova is considerably more experienced than Michigan, starting two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore, and will look to control the pace right out of the gates. Last night, the Wolverines allowed Oregon to dictate flow far too often, and despite recording only eight turnovers total, Michigan often looked out of sorts and unimpressive offensively. If the Wildcats are able to dominate the fast break the same way the Ducks did, Beilein’s squad will be in for a long night and an even longer flight home. Villanova only coughed it up nine times against VCU’s aggressive defense in their 77-53 blowout, and their veteran, guard-dominated style will be hard to rattle. Michigan just needs to run their offense, minimize turnovers, and take advantage of fast break opportunities to control the pace.

2. Crash the Glass: I’m still not sure how the Wolverines never trailed last night despite letting Oregon rebound a whopping 45 percent of their own misses, but another miserable performance on the defensive glass is sure to equal a loss against Villanova. Michigan actually led the nation in defensive rebounding percentage before being beat up last night, and they have the size and athleticism to clean up, but the Wolverines need to stop ball-watching and put bodies on the opponent. The problem with last night wasn’t that Oregon was winning 50-50 rebounds consistently; the problem was that Oregon was too often the only team represented in the vicinity of their own misses. On four or five occasions, the Ducks grabbed uncontested offensive boards and laid (or slammed) them right back in. Those are the easy points Michigan cannot afford to give up against a much better team. Tonight, it’s all about positioning. It doesn’t matter if it’s Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Spike Albrecht, or Ricky Doyle grabbing defensive rebounds; all that matters is that Michigan is boxing Villanova out consistently on defense and competing on the glass.

3. Guard the Hot Hand: With Villanova’s bevy of guards comes a significant threat from deep. So far, the Wildcats have been ice cold from downtown, with a team mark of only 28.7 percent, and only two players are shooting better than 33 percent, but that won’t last all season. Junior Dylan Ennis, brother of former Syracuse star Tyler Ennis, is hitting at a 40% rate from downtown while freshman Phil Booth has made two of five attempts in limited minutes; but Michigan will also need to watch out for junior Ryan Arcidiacono, a high-volume sniper who can go off at any time despite his current 23.5 percent connection rate, and senior Darrun Hillard II, who shot 41% from distance last year but is shooting a lowly 19 percent so far this year. The young Wolverines should have the advantage from outside, but they’ll need to play smart defensively and stick to the shooters when the drive-and-kick is on.

Prediction: In my preseason preview, I penciled in a loss in tonight’s Legends Classic finale for Michigan, but I like the way the guards are playing and I was extremely surprised by Ricky Doyle’s strong emergence last night. Villanova was also quite unimpressive against Bucknell last week and has struggled mightily to put the ball in the hoop. Further, Michigan has also been playing some solid set defense despite some baffling freshman miscues on that end of the floor. I like Zak Irvin to have a big game tonight while Mark Donnal is the surprise big, helping Michigan to a 71-66 win.

Michigan hoops preview: Oregon

Monday, November 24th, 2014


UM-Oregon
Michigan (3-0) vs Oregon (3-0)
Monday, Nov. 24 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 9:00 p.m. EST | ESPN3
Offense
80.0 Points/gm 89.3
(82-174) 47.1 Field Goal % 47.8 (97-203)
(28-61) 45.9 3-pt FG % 39.2 (29-74)
(48-63) 76.2 Free Throw % 71.4 (45-63)
16.0 FT Made/gm 15.0
36.3 Reb/gm 47.3
16.0 Assists/gm 19.0
7.7 Turnovers/gm 11.3
Defense (2013-14)
61.0 Points/gm 66.3
(69-159) 43.4 Field Goal % 35.0 (70-200)
(25-62) 40.3 3-pt FG % 40.5 (30-74)
27.3 Opp. Reb/gm 36.0
7.0 Steals/gm 6.3
3.7 Blocks/gm 6.0
Individual Leaders
Zak Irvin (20.7), Derrick Walton Jr (17.7) Points/gm Joseph Young (26.0), Dillon Brooks (12.7)
Caris LeVert (7.7), Derrick Walton Jr (6.0) Reb/gm Jordan Bell (9.0), Dwayne Benjamin (8.7)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan won its two regional games of the Progressive Legends Classic last week, topping Bucknell 77-53 and Detroit 71-62. Tonight, the Wolverines face their first big test of the season and their first game away from the Crisler Center. Michigan faces Oregon in the tournament semifinal in Brooklyn, N.Y. tonight at 9 p.m.

Oregon also comes in 3-0 with wins over Coppin State (107-65), Detroit (83-66), and Toledo (78-68). The Ducks are averaging 9.3 more points per game than Michigan and allowing 5.3 more. They shoot about the same as Michigan so far in the early season, but shoot three-pointers about six percent worse. Oregon has attempted 13 more threes than Michigan has and made just one more. The Ducks attack the board, averaging 47 rebounds per game compared to Michigan’s 36. However, they let opponents rebound 36 per game while Michigan allows its opponents to rebound 27.3 per game.

Fifth-year senior guard Joesph Young (6’2″, 180) is the star, averaging 26 points per game so far and shooting 50 percent. He scored 32 points in the opener against Coppin State, 22 against Detroit, and 24 against Toledo. Despite making just 1-of-12 three-point attempts against Detroit, he’s still shooting 40 percent from downtown. Young scored the fifth-most points in a single season in Oregon history, earning second-team all-Pac 12 honors last season.

Freshman forward Dillon Brooks (6’6″, 225) is the second-leading scorer with 12.7 points per game. He’s been consistent so far this season, scoring 14 points in each of the first two games and 10 in the third. He’s from the same hometown in Canada as Nik Stauskas, and while he’s not the three-point shooter Stauskas was, he has still made 5-of-12 so far this season.

Redshirt junior forward Elgin Cook (6’6″, 205) also averages 12.7 points per game and has made 14-of-27 shots so far, but has attempted just one three-pointer, which he missed. He was the team’s field goal percentage leader last season at 57.5, a total that ranked third in school history.

Junior forward Dwayne Benjamin (6’7″, 210) has started all three games, but struggled a bit so far. He managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting in the opener, but scored eight and 11 in the last two. He has, however, been solid on the glass, ranking second on the team with 8.7 rebounds per game.

Rounding out the starting lineup is 6’1″, 175-pound freshman guard Ahmaad Rorie. After scoring 10 points in the first game, he scored 10 combined in the next two. He’s shooting just 29.4 percent from the field and 30 percent from downtown, but ranks second on the team with nine assists.

The main contributors off the bench are 6’4″, 197-pound senior guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit, 6’9″, 215-pound freshman forward Jordan Bell, and 6’3″, 185-pound freshman guard Casey Benson. Bell is playing 25 minutes a game and leads the team with nine rebounds per game while making 10-of-14 shots. Abdul-Bassit ranks fourth in scoring with 9.7 points per game and has made 5-of-10 three-point attempts. Benson is the only other player in the rotation averaging more than two minutes per game. He averages six points and 3.3 rebounds and has made seven of his 12 shots.

You can see that head coach Dana Altman is playing quite a few freshmen, and that’s mostly out of necessity. The Ducks lost 10 contributors from last season to graduation, dismissal, and transfer. Young is the player Altman will have to lean on if the Ducks want to do better than their preseason Pac-12 media poll expectations of eighth place.

Oregon won’t be the best team Michigan faces in the non-conference portion of the schedule — maybe not even the best team Michigan will face in Brooklyn — but it will be a big early test for Michigan’s remade roster. It will also be an important game for both teams’ postseason hopes come March, as Oregon will surely be fighting for a bubble spot in the NCAA Tournament, and Michigan could use a quality early season win before Big Ten play starts.

The game will be shown on ESPN3.

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 24th, 2014


FirstLook-OhioState

Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win on Saturday, falling to Maryland 23-16. That leaves one final chance to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a losing season. Unfortunately, that game is in Columbus where Michigan hasn’t won since 2000. Normally, the week of the Michigan-Ohio State game is an exciting one that fans on both sides look forward to all week. But it has never felt so hollow than it does now. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Ohio State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 44.3 | 20.3 5 | 111
22.5 | 20.6 30 | 21
Rushing Yards 2,856 | 1,833 1,626 | 1,179
Rush Avg. Per Game 259.6 | 166.6 13 | 61
147.8 | 107.2 41 | 9
Avg. Per Rush 5.6 | 4.7
4.1 | 2.9
Passing Yards 2,769 | 1,791 2,008 | 2,141
Pass Avg. Per Game 251.7 | 162.8 48 | 113 182.5 | 194.6 15 | 23
Total Offense 5,625 | 3,624 3,634 | 3,320
Total Off Avg. Per Game 511.4 | 329.5 10 | 114 330.4 | 301.8 19 | 9
Kick Return Average 23.7 | 19.9 18 | 82 17.8 | 21.7 15 | 81
Punt Return Average 12.0 | 6.8 19 | 85 6.0 | 12.8 44 | 116
Avg. Time of Possession 31:59 | 30:35 20 | 46
28:01 | 29:25
3rd Down Conversion Pct 53.0% | 38.0% 3 | 81
36.7% | 37.0% 40 | 42
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 23-156 | 20-130
T68 | T54
32-219 | 29-248
T18 | T30
Touchdowns Scored 65 | 25
32 | 25
Field Goals-Attempts 10-16 | 15-21
8-13 | 18-22
Red Zone Scores (47-57)82%|(29-33)88% T67 | T30
(27-33)82%|(31-38)82% T56 | 51
Red Zone Touchdowns (40-57)70%|(20-33)61% (22-33)67%|(18-38)47%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .542 | -.241
11 | 94
-.435 | -.295 18 | 35

Ohio State clinched the Big Ten East division with a 42-27 win over Indiana on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes can afford to take this week lightly. Aside from it being The Game, Ohio State still has a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Currently ranked sixth, and with only one team — Florida State — undefeated, the Buckeyes need all the style points they can get. Despite winning by 15 this past Saturday, the fact that they trailed Indiana — the Big Ten’s only winless team — until late in the third quarter, didn’t win them any style points. The Bucks have just two games remaining — Michigan and the Big Ten title game — to jump at least two of Alabama, Oregon, Mississippi State, and TCU and fend off Baylor.

Ohio State’s offense will be the best Michigan has faced this season. Only Baylor (50.0), TCU (45.9), Oregon (45.8), and Marshall (44.9) average more points per game than the Buckeyes (44.3). In fact, they’ve been held below 30 just once and below 40 just three times. The fewest points they’ve scored all season came in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2. Michigan has scored fewer than that in seven of 11 games. Following the Week 2 loss, Ohio State averaged 51.3 points over the next seven games.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 at Navy W 34-17
Sept. 6 Virginia Tech L 21-35
Sept. 13 Kent State W 66-0
Sept. 27 Cincinnati W 50-28
Oct. 4 at Maryland W 52-24
Oct. 18 Rutgers W 56-17
Oct. 25 at Penn State W 31-24 2OT
Nov. 1 Illinois W 55-14
Nov. 8 at #8 Michigan State W 49-37
Nov. 15 at #25 Minnesota W 31-24
Nov. 22 Indiana W 42-27
Nov. 29 Michigan

The catalyst has been redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who ranks 12th nationally in total offense (318.8 yards per game) — one spot ahead of Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The combination of Barrett’s rushing ability and running back Ezekiel Elliott has Ohio State’s run game ranked 13th nationally. Elliott is already over 1,000 yards and Barrett is 151 yards away.

The OSU passing game is slightly less potent — 48th nationally — but has two very talented receivers in Michael Thomas and Devin Smith, a rising star in Jalin Marshall, and a solid tight end in Jeff Heuerman. And despite being a first-year starter, Barrett has 33 touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions.

Put together, Ohio State’s offense ranks 10th nationally in yards per game (511.4). Michigan’s ranks 114th, or 12th-to-last. The Buckeyes convert 53 percent of their third downs, which ranks third nationally.

Defensively, Ohio State is slightly worse than Michigan, but not nearly as bad as last season. The 22.5 points allowed per game are two more than Michigan and rank 30th nationally. Michigan State put up 37 points, which is the OSU has allowed. Only one — Kent State — was held to single digits and only four have been held below 20.

Ohio State’s rush defense ranks 41st, allowing 147.8 yards per game, about 40 more than Michigan allows. Some of that is a result of playing Navy’s triple-option attack that racked up 370 rushing yards in Week 1, but Indiana rushed for 281 last week.

The pass defense is better, ranking 15th nationally with 182.5 yards allowed per game. Again, some of that is a result of playing Navy, which attempted just four passes for 20 yards. But Michigan State passed for 358 and Cincinnati for 352, so the Buckeyes can be vulnerable through the air.

Altogether, Ohio State’s defense ranks 19th nationally. Michigan’s ranks ninth. Despite a defensive line that most considered the best in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country this season, OSU has just three more sacks than Michigan through 11 games. In addition, OSU isn’t as good at keeping opponents out of the end zone once they reach the red zone. The Bucks allow 67 percent of red zone trips to result in touchdowns, compared to 47 percent allowed by Michigan.

Special teams is a big strength of Ohio State as they rank 18th nationally in kick returns and 19th in punt returns. Comparatively, Michigan ranks 82nd and 85th. OSU also ranks 15th in kick return defense and 44th in punt return defense compared to Michigan’s 81st and 116th.

Everything about this game suggests a Buckeye blowout. The way the season has gone many Michigan fans would be okay with that being the final nail in Brady Hoke’s coaching coffin. But perhaps Hoke can rally the troops to make one final stand the way they nearly did a year ago. It’s unlikely, but that’s why they play the game.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
J.T. Barrett 190-293 2,658 33 10 241.6
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Ezekiel Elliott 180 1,061 8 65 5.9
J.T. Barrett (QB) 156 849 9 86 5.4
Curtis Samuel 51 354 4 34 6.9
Cardale Jones (QB) 24 188 0 21 7.8
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Michael Thomas 37 605 8 79 55.0
Devin Smith 25 610 8 80 55.5
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) 25 201 0 22 18.3
Jalin Marshall 24 347 6 57 31.5
Jeff Heuerman (TE) 16 194 2 32 19.4
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Joshua Perry 58 41 99 8.5-31 3.0-18 (1 INT)
Vonn Bell 38 24 62 1.0-2 0-0 (3 INT, 8 PD)
Darron Lee 33 17 50 11.5-48 4.5-34 (2 INT)
Joey Bosa (DE) 27 16 43 18.0-102 11.5-84
Adolphus Washington 18 18 36 7.0-23 2.5-13
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Sean Neurnberger 10 16 49 65 65
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Cameron Johnston 31 1,351 43.6 19 9
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Ohio State in the coming days.