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M&GB staff predictions: Minnesota

Friday, September 26th, 2014


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Michigan enters Big Ten play 2-2 with losses against the only two power-five teams they’ve played. Minnesota comes to Ann Arbor 3-1 with wins over three cupcakes. Could the Gophers win for just the fourth time since 1968? Or will Michigan hold onto the Little Brown Jug for yet another year? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Minnesota
Justin 24 13
Sam 23 10
Derick 28 24
Josh 24 21
Joe 28 26
M&GB Average 25 19

Justin: Both teams are going to look to run the ball. That’s pretty much all Minnesota does and they’ll look to get David Cobb and redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Streveler going. Michigan’s run defense has been its strength in the early going, having held the last three opponents under 100 yards. Look for Greg Mattison to load the box and force Streveler to pass.

Michigan’s offense will also look to feed Derrick Green often, especially if Shane Morris gets the start. Don’t expect the offense to open up for him, but he can have success against Minnesota’s pass defense than has allowed three of four opponents to throw for more than 250 yards.

I expect a boring, low-scoring game that Michigan wins comfortably, but not a blowout.

Michigan 24 – Minnesota 13

Sam: It only took until Rich Rodriguez’s third season at the helm of Michigan football to have fans speculate over who Michigan’s next head coach would be – despite a better record year-over-year. We are now early in Brady Hoke’s fourth year leading the Wolverines, but the widespread speculation over his impending firing has certainly begun – because of a worse record year-over-year and an increasingly inept offense.

After a dismal 26-10 loss against a Utah team that is probably not great and in which Michigan’s defense scored more points than its offense, the Wolverines find themselves standing at just 2-2 going into the first weekend of Big Ten play against lowly Minnesota. Is the Big Ten title still up for grabs? You bet. How are Michigan’s chances of reaching that goal? Maybe as good as Lloyd Christmas’s chances of ending up with Mary Swanson.

All signs point to a new starting quarterback tomorrow as Devin Gardner appears to be regressing, but Shane Morris has not shown much to-date. Minnesota is probably the worst team in the Big Ten, and they only managed to complete one pass last week, so Michigan should win, but I don’t think it will be pretty.

The first time Michigan reaches the red zone tomorrow (not to jinx it) would be the first time the Maize and Blue has gotten there against a real team all season. Unless the offense churns out 50 points, I’m ready to write the season off. Ultimately, though, I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 23 – Minnesota 10

Derick: Michigan played one of its worst games since Brady Hoke took over as head coach Saturday, falling 26-10 to Utah at home. The team looked unprepared for a third straight week and is limping into the conference season opener against Minnesota.

The Little Brown Jug has been a staple in Schembechler Hall over the last decade, and Minnesota likely sees Saturday as its best chance in many years to bring the trophy back to Minneapolis. I think Michigan will have to really battle to fend off Minnesota, but will come away with a close win.

Michigan 28 – Minnesota 24

Josh: Coming into this season I had pretty low expectations (8-4) but after losses to Notre Dame and Utah yielded no offensive touchdowns and ZERO red zone trips I’ve all but checked out of football season (I wonder if John Beilein knows anything about developing football players). If the offense can’t even sniff the end zone against decent teams then the wheels have all but fallen off for Brady Hoke and crew. For now let’s enjoy Jabrill Peppers while we have him because he may very well bolt if (when) Hoke gets the boot.

Looking ahead at the schedule only two games pop out to me that can be chalked up as wins; Minnesota and Northwestern. Luckily for Michigan the Gophers are in town this weekend.

Minnesota can’t pass the ball to save their lives and while David Cobb is a very good running back, the run defense is the strength of Michigan’s defense. Sadly, defense is not the problem for Michigan. We’ll probably see Shane Morris starting at quarterback. While I like Devin Gardner, it is clearly time for a change, because he hasn’t progressed like he should have and his poor decisions have cost Michigan one too many games. I don’t see this one getting out of hand like most Minnesota games do (read: it won’t be a blowout) but I do think Michigan should be able to handle them. Then again I said that about Akron and UConn last year and they barely escaped, so who knows anymore.

Regardless of whether the quarterback is Morris or Gardner, I expect Nussmeier to keep the offense bare bones simple with some quick short throws and then pound the ball non-stop, with an occasional deep bomb off play-action to Devin Funchess. I’d be willing to bet Morris/Gardner still tosses a pick or two, and Minnesota will be in it far longer than the fans would care for. In the end I think Michigan will eek out a close one.

Michigan 24 – Minnesota 21

Joe: I could not be more confused heading into the Big Ten opener against the Golden Gophers. I have no idea who will be under center for this one. Although, I have a feeling we may witness the start of the Shane Morris show on Saturday with a compliment of Gardner out wide. Just a hunch. If this is the case, it will be Green followed by more Green followed by Funchess and a little more Green.

I want to see the offense spread things around a little more. It’s becoming very predictable once again and that is never good. If Michigan is able to get everyone involved and keep Minnesota guessing, they will be able to move the ball with some level of success. This will allow the defense to stay fresh and contain a very weak passing attack. The Michigan run defense has been solid but will have its hands full with David Cobb.  Keep an eye on their running quarterback as well.

This game has been fun to watch for the last few years and should be another close one. I will give it the ol’ college try and predict with absolutely no level of confidence a Michigan victory. Now where are my BBQ tongs?

Michigan 28 – Minneeeesota 26

M&GB staff predictions: Utah

Friday, September 19th, 2014


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Michigan let Miami (Ohio) hang around for a little over two quarters last week before stepping on the gas. Now Utah comes to town with an offense that make Michigan pay if the Wolverines turn the ball over. It seems most Michigan fans are equating Utah to a far inferior opponent, but the Utes are much better than we’re giving them credit for. Could they come into the Big House and win just like they did in 2008? Or will Michigan take care of business and head into conference play 3-1? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Utah
Justin 24 27
Sam 31 24
Derick 31 28
Josh 24 31
Joe 31 27
M&GB Average 28.2 27.4

Justin: Utah’s spread passing offense has scored 56 and 59 points in its fist two games and ranks 14th nationally with 557.5 total yards per game. It hasn’t faced a defense anywhere near as good as Michigan’s yet, but will the Wolverines be able to slow it down?

Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott will be a big test for Michigan’s secondary that may still be without Raymon Taylor. While Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers are talented, they’re young compared to the experienced Ute receivers. Quarterback Travis Wilson had a knack for committing turnovers when being pressured last season — he threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions — but he hasn’t really been challenged yet this season. If Michigan’s front seven can apply pressure and force some bad decisions the defense can slow down Utah’s offense. However, if it gives him time to throw, he can pick apart the defense just like Everett Golson did two weeks ago.

Michigan faces the same challenge on offense. Utah leads the nation with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss per game. We all know Devin Gardner’s inconsistencies when facing pressure, so a lot will fall on the shoulders of the young offensive line and its ability to handle Nate Orchard and the Utah pass rush. If it can give Gardner time to throw, Utah’s secondary is vulnerable. Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh quite a bit last week, but if Devin Funchess is still out tomorrow, can he do it again?

I think this will be a back-and-forth battle that will ultimately be decided on turnovers and special teams. Unfortunately, Michigan has been turnover-prone this season and has had lackluster special teams play, while Utah has a big advantage in that category with a near automatic kicker, a big-footed punter, and a home run threat return man. I hope I’m wrong.

Utah 27 – Michigan 24

Sam: It’s a testy time in Michigan Football history right now. The Wolverines have not won a Big Ten Championship in a decade, the Notre Dame series ended on the most rotten of notes, and Brady Hoke is looking like an embattled coach in his fourth season as the figurehead of the Maize and Blue.

Luckily for Hoke, the pitiful Big Ten is still up for grabs this season, and Michigan has one more week to shore things up on the field…but it doesn’t look like a week to relax. The Utah Utes, winners of two blowouts so far despite a shaky outlook before the season started, are less-than-a-touchdown underdogs and don’t seem to be fazed at all for this Saturday’s game. Junior quarterback Travis Wilson leads an aerial attack averaging more than 10 yards per pass attempt on the season that is set up by a ground game averaging a not-so-impressive-considering-the-competition five yards per carry.

Michigan’s run defense has proved extremely effective in the early going while the secondary play has left much to be desired. If Raymon Taylor and/or Jarrod Wilson sit again, I’ll be…worried. Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Brennen Beyer, and Frank Clark are anchoring a tough front seven, but the cornerbacks will need to stick with their guys long enough to let the pressure get to the QB. Wilson is not a major threat to run, though back-up Kendal Thompson will see a few change-of-pace snaps, so it is imperative that Taylor, Jabrill Peppers, Blake Countess, Jourdan Lewis, and company are on their games.

I certainly have no idea what will come of this game. Nationally, pundits love Utah after seeing Michigan struggle out of the gates. The big question mark will be Michigan’s offense of course. The Wolverines should hold Utah under 25, so if Devin Gardner can stay calm in the pocket, step up under pressure, and fire bullets to (hopefully) Devin Funchess and company, I like the home team.

A close game will be no shocker, but I believe a blowout would go Michigan’s way. Ultimately, give me the Wolverines.

Michigan 31 – Utah 24

Derick:  Michigan hasn’t shown a flash of the performance it demonstrated against Appalachian State in the past two weeks, and if Brady Hoke’s team comes out slow against Utah it may fall to 2-2 in the non-conference season.

Derrick Green put another strong performance together against Miami (Ohio), and the offense will need him to shoulder the load again against this Pac-12 defense. If he can take pressure off of Devin Gardner, then Michigan has a great chance to control the game.

Michigan should bounce back from the adversity of the last two weeks and squeak out a win heading into Big Ten play.

Michigan 31 – Utah 28

Josh: This ain’t Urban Meyer’s Utah Utes but they are an explosive, high scoring team, to a point. Fresno State has give up 50-plus in all three of their games this year and Idaho St is a mid-level FCS team, so of course Utah has put up some crazy numbers. I circled this game as a toss-up and called it as one of my potential losses coming into the season. I haven’t changed my mind and depending on how the injuries play out Michigan may end up on the wrong end Saturday.

Before I go any further let me say I am a big fan of Blake Countess, he is a damn good ZONE cornerback but he is just awful as a press corner, especially against speedy receivers. He’s just not athletic enough to do it. His gift lies in baiting quarterbacks to think a receiver is open and then jumping the route for a nice pick or pass break-up. If he is made to play anything but zone against Utah I don’t like his chances. However, if some form of the combo of Lewis/Taylor/Peppers play the boundary, as we saw last week with Lewis and Peppers, I feel good about Michigan’s chances to lock down Utah’s receivers. The run defense has been rather stout thus far and I think that holds serve here against the Utes. The defense doesn’t concern me as it has been pretty solid through three game. For me, this game all boils down to the cornerback play. If Peppers/Lewis/Taylor are the guys pressing we’re in good shape, but as soon as Countess is called upon to play press odds are he’s gonna get beat and Utah will test him.

Offense is where I think we can run into some trouble. Every single team in America knows the formula to beat Michigan: pressure Devin Gardner and he will eventually turn it over. Utah is aggressive on defense and will pressure Gardner. Utah will be able to take advantage of turnovers and that could spell doom. If the offense can run the ball well, enough to keep the chains moving, then this shouldn’t be an issue, but if Gardner is put in third-and-long situations the offense will sputter. If Gardner can not turn it over, something that he struggles with immensely, the offense should be okay. But that is a big IF as we still have not seen the run game do anything against a decent opponent.

Devin Funchess may or may not be out, and I wouldn’t expect Brady Hoke to tip his hand regarding injuries, especially with his stud receiver. To be honest, I like our chances better if Funchess is out. Wait, what?! Yes, I like our chances better if Funchess is out. No, I’m not crazy…well, maybe. But hear me out. Gardner has a tendency to lock on to his No. 1, and then he has another tendency to force it to his No. 1. Funchess is a monster, we all know that, but when Gardner is under pressure (which he will be a lot come Saturday) he makes ill-advised (to put it lightly) throws and forces it to Funchess, which in turn leads to turnovers, which in turn often lead to bad losses. Without Funchess, Gardner (in my mind) will be less likely to force it to another receiver with whom he doesn’t have unfailing faith, as he does with Funchess. So somehow in my roundabout logic I think we’re better off without Funchess because Gardner won’t force so many bad passes and will be less likely to turn it over. On second thought, maybe I am crazy.

As with most games the better team does not always win, usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. With Gardner at quarterback (I’ve all but lost faith in him, way too inconsistent to be trusted week to week) that is always a likelihood and I hate to be the guy who picks us to lose again but I’m going to do it anyway. Gardner will be pressured non-stop, he will turn it over one too many times, Utah will capitalize and win a close one.

Utah 31 – Michigan 24

Joe: I am starting to get the same feeling I had last year as Michigan battled a string of inferior programs. It’s not a good feeling! I want to see that killer instinct from a hungry group of Wolverines. I want to see something from this team that screams “things will be different this year.” I think I’m starting to see a little bit of this in the defense and hope they continue the upward progression this week. Let’s finally get the offense to join in and hit the Big Ten schedule running next week.

Utah likes to run an up-tempo offense and score in bunches, so keeping their offense off the field will be key. If Michigan is able to establish the run game early and control the clock, they will be just fine. I can see Green going for 150 and two touchdowns and Gardner mixing in another two through the air. The defense will force a few timely turnovers and hold on late for a close win. Michigan pulls this one out and look forward to Minnesota.

Michigan 31 – Utah 27
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Utah game preview; a First Look at the Utes; our Week 3 Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, grilled ravioli; a Q&A with Steve Bartle of the Utah blog Light the U; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Touch the BannerMGoFish provides a list of Michigan targets visiting tomorrow. Also, roundtable predictions from Maize n Brew.

M&GB staff predictions: Miami (Ohio)

Friday, September 12th, 2014


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Miami comes to Ann Arbor riding an 18-game losing streak, hoping to do what Toledo did a few years ago and what Akron nearly pulled off last year: pull off a MAC win in the Big House. Head coach Chuck Martin knows Michigan well and will have his team prepared. Could we be in for another huge letdown? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Miami
Justin 42 17
Sam 54 6
Derick 52 10
Josh 42 17
Joe 44 10
M&GB Average 47 12

Justin: Martin will have a good game plan for Michigan, but lacks the talent and depth required to be competitive. Andrew Hendrix will test Michigan’s secondary and get a couple of big plays, but Michigan’s front seven will make its mark on an offensive line that has given up nine sacks through two games.

Devin Gardner will look for Devin Funchess early and often and also benefit from Jake Butt’s return. The running game will look much better than it did last week, but that still won’t give us any confidence in it beyond Saturday.

Michigan 42 – Miami 17

Sam: It can’t be that time again so soon can it? That feeling of impending doom at the start of every Michigan game? Well…I guess we will just wait and see. That sure worked out last season.

After a crushing 31-0 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame in a game that meant a LOT to Michigan Football but apparently didn’t mean much to Brady Hoke and this team, the Wolverines welcome the second patty-cake of the season to the Big House.

Miami of Ohio, they of the 18 straight losses (including 13 by double digits…but hey, they gave Eastern Kentucky a run for their money!!), will provide the competition(?) this Saturday in front of a crowd with plenty of leg room and not much reason to cheer.

Michigan will roll, because Miami is unspeakably terrible, but it won’t mean much. Even if they did lose, it probably wouldn’t damper Hoke’s outlook on the season, because, after all, the RedHawks are not in the Big Ten.

Anyway, expect to see much of the same as against Appalachian State. The offensive line will look wonderful, the secondary will be world class, and everything will be rosy again. Maybe that time will have to wait just one more week. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 54 – Miami (Ohio) 6

Derick

Michigan failed to show up for the biggest nonconference game of the season, and now it has to avoid any carryover as Miami (Ohio) comes to the Big House. The Wolverines were dominated in every facet of the game in South Bend, but should look much better against a winless MAC opponent. Michigan will blast the RedHawks on Saturday, but it won’t make up for the debacle last week. More importantly, will any major changes be implemented by Brady Hoke, who’s feeling the heat now?

Michigan 52 – Miami (Ohio) 10

Josh

Well, I hate to say it but I was right about Michigan’s potential struggles last week in the pass game, lack of run game, no pass rush and turnover Gardner showing up. Let’s hope my optimism against this week’s opponent carries over like my pessimism did last week.

Miami (Ohio) comes at the perfect time and should be a nice confidence booster heading into the Utah game (which I circled as a trap game heading into the season). Unlike Akron and UConn, Miami (Ohio) is actually pretty bad, 18-game losing streak bad. Coming off a loss to an FCS team I don’t think the RedHawks will put up much of a fight, though their passing game does concern me a bit with our depleted secondary. Hoke doesn’t talk about injuries (in case you haven’t heard) so who knows if Raymon Taylor and Jabrill Peppers are ready to go. They likely won’t run the ball so Michigan can commit most of their efforts to stopping the pass.

Expect Doug Nussmeier to get a little more aggressive than he was in weeks 1 and 2 and look to throw the ball over the top a few times to open up the defense. Devin Funchess is still a nightmare match up and he’ll come down with most jump balls so why not send him deep? Dennis Norfleet gave us glimpses (which is all he ever seems to give us) of what he can do in the slot and if the offense can establish a downfield threat it’ll open things up in the short and intermediate passing game, and run game. The Green/Smith combo should have a nice day but I doubt we’ll see the kind of numbers they put up against Appalachian State.

I don’t see Michigan suffering a ‘hangover’ from the Notre Dame debacle, though I question the “it was just one game” comments. Regardless, the Irish played very well last week and took advantage of all their opportunities via short fields and turnovers. No, Michigan didn’t play well at all but as much as I hate to admit it Notre Dame is very good team and should win nine or 10 games, so it’s not like Michigan just lost to Sisters of the Poor. That said, Michigan struggled with cupcakes last year and I think that is still very fresh in their minds. They will come in mentally ready and should roll over the RedHawks with relative ease. It won’t be an Appalachian State style rolling but Michigan is a 30-point favorite for a reason.

Michigan 42 – Miami (Ohio) 17

Joe

This is where we find out what this Michigan team is made of. We’ve heard all week long that this team has great leadership and will not get discouraged by last week’s shutout loss…it’s first in 30 years by the way. While I hope this to be the case, I am extremely skeptical. I need to see some MOXY and ATTITUDE from this group and see it early on Saturday.

With that being said, I feel the offense will be able to run the ball at will against an overmatched Miami squad. I can see both running backs going for over 125 yards and Gardner throwing for two touchdowns in this rebound game. Funchess will have his usual 100-plus-yard game and a touchdown by half. I am looking for a strong defensive performance with some early turnovers to get the momentum and crowd back into things. If Michigan is able to start fast, this will be a cakewalk. If Michigan struggles early, the Hoke teams tend to tighten up an keep things interesting for three quarters. I think this Wolverines group rebounds behind a strong running game and fired up defense. Michigan improves to 2-1 with a victory over the RedHawks of Miami.

Michigan 44 – Miami (Ohio) 10
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Miami (Ohio) game preview; a First Look at the RedHawks; our Week 2 Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Spatchcock RedHawk; a Q&A with Chuck LaPlante, the Miami writer for the MAC SB Nation site Hustle Belt; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. I also answered some questions for Hustle Belt.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Touch the BannerMGoFish provides a list of Michigan targets visiting Notre Dame tomorrow. Also, roundtable predictions from Maize n Brew.

M&GB staff predictions: Notre Dame

Friday, September 5th, 2014


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One hundred and twenty-seven years ago, Michigan traveled to South Bend and taught a group of Catholics how to play football. Tomorrow, those two schools that share such history will square off for the final scheduled time. It could be ten years, it could be more before the two all-time winningest programs rekindle the rivalry, but both will be looking to carry bragging rights into the hiatus. Here are our predictions.

Justin

When I watched and re-watched Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Rice, I came away impressed with the Irish offense. Rice is a much better opponent than Appalachian State and Notre Dame didn’t have much trouble with them. Specifically, Everett Golson is a much better quarterback than when Michigan last saw him two years go. In that game, Golson went 3-of-8 for 30 yards and two interceptions before being replaced by Tommy Rees. He spent last season away from the program due to suspension, but used that time to work with quarterback guru George Whitfield and become a better quarterback. That was on display last Saturday when he completed 14-of-22 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 41 yards and three touchdowns. Those are Devin Gardner numbers.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Notre Dame
Justin 38 33
Sam 31 26
Derick 31 27
Josh 20 27
Joe 34 28
M&GB Average 31 28

Golson showed very good arm strength and touch on deep throws as his receivers routinely beat the Rice secondary. That won’t happen tomorrow and Michigan’s game plan would be wise to keep all receivers in front of them and force Golson to hit the quick throws, which is where his accuracy struggled last Saturday.

Rice was able to move the ball fairly well against the Notre Dame defense, especially through the air. The Owls ranked 103rd nationally in passing offense last season, averaging just 178 yards per game. Against Notre Dame, Rice threw for 226 yards and had a lot of wide open receivers. Brian Kelly chalked that up to miscommunication and said it has been fixed this week, but Michigan’s receivers are much, much better than Rice’s. Unless Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder can keep Gardner off balance all day long, Gardner will have a big day and lead Michigan to a close victory in a high scoring affair.

Michigan 38 – Notre Dame 33

Sam

Michigan versus Notre Dame doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in the world of sports, a matchup that almost always brings bright and loud fireworks. In two days, the two old-time rivals will go at it for the last time in the foreseeable future and for the all-time college football win percentage lead (ND currently leads by an unfathomably small margin)…as if this Saturday’s game to be played at night at Notre Dame Stadium needed any more hype.

So what should we expect? Fireworks, smoke bombs, firecrackers, and then some. There has not been a runaway victory in this game for quite some time, and I don’t expect one this weekend either.

I think we will see another decently high-scoring affair, with the Devin-to-Devin connection getting things going again early before Everett Golson leads the Irish back to within striking distance and maybe the lead. If Michigan’s offensive line can make ND’s defensive front look like Appalachian State (2014 version), the Maize and Blue will roll behind Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith again. It won’t be that easy, though. In the end, I like Michigan’s front seven to apply a good deal of pressure and Michigan’s offense to have one too many weapons on one too many plays for the shaky Irish secondary to hold up. Funchess scores two more while Amara Darboh finds the end zone for the first time in a Michigan win.

Michigan 31 – Notre Dame 26

Derick

It’s tough to draw conclusions from the performances of Michigan and Notre Dame last week, but two blowout victories have set up a battle between two teams that looked nearly perfect in Week 1.

Michigan showcased a revived rushing attack that crumbled to pieces during the conference schedule in 2013. A healthy Devin Gardner complimented the running of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith with 13 completions on 14 attempts to round out an incredibly efficient offensive attack.

If Doug Nussmeier can maintain this level of productivity from his sophomore running backs, Michigan’s offense will be nearly impossible for any team to stop.

In the final meeting between the two teams, Notre Dame will struggle to stop that offense and Michigan will come out with a slim win.

Michigan 31 – Notre Dame 27

Josh

Saturday marks the end of a classic (albeit not very often) rivalry. To be honest, I don’t blame Notre Dame for backing out; they’ve lost six of the last eight and Michigan is getting back to being Michigan. With the move to playing five ACC teams every year the Irish don’t want too many good opponents on their schedule after all.

After last week’s showing I feel better about this weekend, though not much better. If this was a home game I’d be much more confident. However, it is not and Notre Dame Stadium is a tough environment. None of Hoke’s teams have shown the ability to win on the road against decent opponents and that is a big red flag for me heading in.

A lot of the college football pundits seem to think this will be a shoot out, I don’t think so at all. Michigan’s defense is much more aggressive than last year and has the athletes to play press coverage, which will allow the front four ample opportunities to create havoc for the running backs and Everett Golson. Michigan only had two sacks and two more TFL’s against Appalachian State, that just doesn’t cut it. The Irish front will be far bigger and stronger than App State was, presenting a challenge. Michigan should be able to hold its own but I don’t think they’ll generate much pass rush or fluster Golson too much. Lack of pass rush will allow the Irish will beat the Michigan defense deep a few times and they’ll put points up on the board. Maybe not a ton, but it’ll be enough.

Devin Gardner looked really good last week, making checks at the line for protection and switching plays. But can he do it again, and against a better team? I’d love to say yes but I really have no idea if he can be consistently good. Funchess is an unstoppable monster on the outside and odds are Notre Dame will double him so Gardner needs to find that second receiver. I think it’ll be Norfleet out of the slot. But if Norfleet can’t step up and Gardner keeps forcing passes to his No. 1 guy it won’t turn out well. For me it’s basically a coin flip over which Devin Gardner shows up but on the road and I have to lean towards inconsistent, prone to turnover Gardner.

The run game, while dominant last week against a weak opponent, still concerns me. Take out the big runs for Green and his yards per carry are a paltry 3.7, which for a man of his size and (alleged) skill is completely unacceptable. De’Veon Smith showed better and has better vision so I’d be willing to bet he gets the nod as 1a, but he still lacks game breaking speed so don’t expect him to hoof it for any more 50-plus gains.

The line had some trouble creating holes against App State and I think that’ll get worse against the Irish. Graham Glasgow will play and we’ll probably see yet another starting five on the line. These guys just can’t get enough time together to jell and if you don’t know what you’re gonna get from the guy next to you it makes your job all the more difficult. Mason Cole, while admirable and fairly technically sound last week, is still just a freshman and as we saw is clearly not strong enough yet. I think he’ll get abused more than once and that could spell doom for Gardner as he is not the best at making decisions under duress. I think the Irish sack him four or five times and force at least one turnover that leads to a score.

Until this team shows me they’ve made marked improvement, can be consistently good week to week and can beat a decent opponent on the road I won’t have much confidence in them. They beat App State like they should have now comes the first test of whether this team has come together and can get it done. I’m not so sure they have and Michigan ends this rivalry with a big fat L and the “Fire Hoke” bandwagon will warm itself up.

Notre Dame 27 – Michigan 20

Joe

The “final” showdown in the storied rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan is set for primetime on Saturday, and this contest will not be without its fair share of storylines. Fresh off of easy wins and equally impressive showings for each quarterback, each of these teams will be put to the test.  The lingering question for me is this: Which Michigan team will show up on the road? Despite Hoke’s success at home (20-2), the Wolverines have struggled away from Ann Arbor and are a disappointing 7-11. If the offensive line can buy Devin Gardner some time while opening up holes for the duo of De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green to take some pressure off of him, Big Blue will play spoiler on ND’s home turf.  I have no doubt that Michigan’s defense and special teams will step up in this one and keep it competitive, therefore, the bulk of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the offense. This game will not be decided until the fourth quarter, so enjoy some BBQ, a cold beverage, and a Wolverines victory.

Michigan 34 – Notre Dame 28

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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Notre Dame game preview; a First Look at the Irish; our Week 1 Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Irish Stout Pepper Beef; a Q&A with Ryan Ritter of Her Loyal Sons; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n Brew, Maize n Blue Nation, and Touch the Banner. MGoFish provides a list of Michigan targets visiting Notre Dame tomorrow. Also, roundtable predictions from Maize n Brew.

From the other side, staff predictions from Her Loyal Sons. Spoiler: they all pick ND and most of them aren’t even close games. Also, a prediction from One Foot Down.

M&GB staff predictions: Appalachian State

Friday, August 29th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

The eight-month wait is finally ticking down into the final hours and I’m sure you can hardly contain yourself. Last night we got to watch the first real football of the season and tonight we get to watch our rivals in East Lansing feast on an inferior opponent. Tomorrow, it’s our turn. Seemingly everyone has made their predictions by now and now it’s time to make ours. We make it an internal competition throughout the season to see who is the most accurate. Derick won the title last season, so he will try to repeat. Here are our predictions:

Justin

As I said in this morning’s game preview, there’s not much good that can come out of this game. Win big: good, just as expected. Win close: uh oh. Lose: all hell will break loose. A dominating performance that leaves no doubt is needed, but just like in last season’s opener against Central Michigan, it won’t tell us much going forward. The most important thing for the offense is to get the offensive line some confidence, let Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith show what they can do, and enable Devin Gardner to begin developing chemistry between his talented but inexperienced receiving corps. And against a defense like App State’s all three should happen.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Central Michigan
Justin 52 10
Sam 45 7
Derick 45 14
Josh 52 9
Joe 48 17
M&GB Average 48 11

I’m most excited to see Greg Mattison’s new-look aggressive defense. Running back Marcus Cox is the danger man, but he can’t do it all. Quarterback Kam Bryant is going to have to try to make plays through the air with an inexperienced group of receivers. This has the makings of a big day for the secondary, and can you imagine the hype if Jabrill Peppers makes a big play? Michigan wins big, gives the starters a rest for much of the fourth quarter, and moves on to Notre Dame.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 10

Sam

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t watched much (OK, make that any) Appalachian State tape to prepare for my prediction. Hell, I don’t think I’ve seen a single Mountaineer play since that game-that-shall-not-be-named.

What I do know is that Michigan will play Appalachian State to kick off this season for some unknown and illogical reason. Lightning has struck twice before, but I would venture to say that this weekend should see clear skies and a return to normalcy…at least for the time being. Michigan’s depth and athleticism on offense paired with a potentially stout defense should prove to be far too much for Appalachian State (don’t worry, I just knocked on wood…twice). The Devin-to-Devin connection will reach paydirt twice while both Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both score TDs along with the first career scoring reception from Amara Darboh. Michigan rolls.

Michigan 45 – Appalachian State 7

Derick

Will this year’s matchup with Appalachian State be redemption? No, of course Michigan can never erase that 2007 upset. But there certainly won’t be a repear oF that debacle, at least not this year.

Michigan should dominate defensively, and an inconsistent offense will flourish against a weak, new-to-FBS opponent. Devin Gardner is going to be the talk of the town on Saturday, leading Michigan to the win.

Michigan 45 – Appalachian State 14

Josh

It’s finally that time again. I’ll be honest, I’m not looking at this game as ‘revenge’ and I’m not even upset about 2007′s game. Yes, it was (utterly) disappointing but App State was a two-time defending champ that would go on to with a third straight and was loaded with talent. But neither of the teams that took the field back then are taking the field this Saturday.

On to 2014, we know App. State is not the ’07 version and it’s not even close. Yes, Michigan has many questions on offense but the defense will be very good (possibly elite). App. State wasn’t very good at stopping the run last year so I expect to see much of the same from them. Even with unknowns on Michigan’s offensive line I think the run game will get going early and often,while mostly unproven Michigan still has loads of talent. This, in turn, ‘should’ open up the play-action game and Michigan’s superior athletic talent should run (literally & figuratively) rampant over the Mountaineers. On defense I expect to see a lot of blitzes, from everywhere on the field, which should leave to some turnovers and easy scores for the offense.

I know we’ve all been waiting with baited breath for Jabrill Peppers to take the field and, unlike with Norfleet where I always just expected his next game to be the one he finally breaks a return touchdown, I actually DO think Peppers will find the end zone. We’ve all seen his highlights, and if you haven’t welcome back from under the rock from which you’ve been hiding for the past 12 months. The kid is just an absolute freak of nature, and apparently he comes with an ‘edge’ according to Hoke.

All in all I expect this to be a typical blowout against a lesser opponent. Turnovers will be forced by the defense and the offense shouldn’t have too much trouble putting up points.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 9

Joe

It’s time to get this season kicked off with a BANG and exorcise some demons in the process. I’m 100 percent certain there is not a player or coach on the maize and blue sideline that cares about the last meeting between these two programs. I’m also 100 percent certain that the entire 109,000-plus fans in attendance do. That’s what makes this game so interesting. I think the offense will look to establish the running game early and wear down a smaller Mountaineer defense. Ball control…ball control….ball control. The offense will be able to move the ball relatively easy through the air as well with Funchess being a beast in the middle. A beast!

I can’t wait to see em turn the defense loose. Lots of blitz packages early will rattle an inexperienced App State bunch and create some early turnovers. Jake Ryan will have these guys buzzing and should force four or five turnovers throughout the game. They don’t give up more than 17 points in this one. Because of the turnovers, Michigan will have plenty of short fields to work with and take advantage putting up 45-plus.

Michigan 48 – Appalachian State 17
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Links: 

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Appalachian State game preview; a First Look at Appalachian State; our preseason Big Ten Power Rankings; this week’s BBQ/tailgate idea, Hot-’n-fast pulled pork with Carolina mustard slaw; end this week’s Five-Spot Challenge.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue News. Also, a visitor list from MGoFish.

From the other side, some predictions from AppFan.com and a game preview from Big C’s Tailgate. Also, this is kind of….interesting.

M&GB staff predictions: Kansas State

Friday, December 27th, 2013


On Thursday morning, the Phoenix Zoo set out two boxes with equal amounts of ground beef in each one in the Sumatran tiger habitat. On one box was the Michigan logo and on the other was the Kansas State logo. With a large crowd looking on, the tiger went straight to the K-State box and devoured the beef. Last year, she was 2-0 with his picks, so if her prediction prowess holds true, K-State should win. Let’s just hope Shane Morris isn’t as easily devoured by the Wildcat defensive line. Let’s take a look at our predictions:

Justin: Shane Morris makes his first career start against one of the nation’s best defensive ends, Ryan Mueller, who ranks in the top ten nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss. It will be up to Taylor Lewan, making his 48th and final start, to neutralize Mueller, and the rest of Michigan’s much-maligned offensive line to do the rest. Unfortunately, Kansas State’s defense is solid and that’s not good for a true freshman signal caller.

Defensively, Michigan will need to force turnovers and hold the Wildcats below their season average of 33 points. In five losses, K-State was held to an average of just 25 points. That’s about what it will take for Michigan to have a chance. But the Wildcats have a good running back, John Hubert, and a very good receiver, Tyler Lockett, as well as a two-headed monster at quarterback, both of which are capable runners. That’s enough to keep Michigan’s defense off balance.

Expect a close game, but K-State will be too much down the stretch.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Kansas State
Justin 27 33
Chris 21 30
Josh 38 24
Sam 17 31
Derick 21 28
Katie 21 31
Drew 17 27
M&GB Average 23 29

Kansas State 33 – Michigan 27

Chris: Kansas State 30 – Michigan 21

Josh: Please see yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan 38 – Kansas State 24

Sam: With the recent news that Devin Gardner broke his foot playing against Ohio State and will not play against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Michigan will be the underdog once again come Saturday night.

Michigan’s run game, which has struggled mightily for large portions of this season, will be the focus of a Kansas State defense that gives up just 23.7 points per game, and if the Wolverines are to have any chance, true freshman quarterback and first-time starter Shane Morris will need to live up to his recruiting projections quickly. I think running back Derrick Green will be able to find some holes to run behind after Michigan has had nearly a month to prepare for their Big 12 foe, but his increased production will probably be evened out by a less dynamic passing attack.

As in most bowl games, expect to see some trickery thrown in. Michigan will continue to run play action often, especially in this game, but they should also be playing without fear and trying plenty of new stuff. Kansas State could run away with it, but turnovers could also be a calling card for the Maize and Blue. A plus-two turnover margin or better and the Wolverines should find a way to stay in it til the very end.

Either way, I simply think Michigan’s inexperience at the quarterback position will prove too much to overcome. I’ll take the Wildcats.

Kansas State 31 – Michigan 17

Derick: With Shane Morris at the helm of the Michigan offense, who knows how the team will look. Morris has sat out basically two years of football after missing most of his high school senior season with mono. His return will be on the biggest stage of his life.

Michigan is also headed in the opposite direction as Kansas State, who finished the year winning five of six while the Wolverines dropped five of seven.

The outstanding effort against Ohio State has put Michigan fans back in a hopeful frame of mind, but beating a hot team with a true freshman quarterback is a tall order.

For better or worse, Michigan fans will get their first real look at Shane Morris (MGoBlue.com)

Kansas State 28 – Michigan 21

Katie: Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to watching Shane Morris at the helm of the Michigan offense. Devin Gardner played so well against Ohio State, it’s true. But that does not erase the mistakes and fumbling around that was most of the season (and I do realize that the O-line was a terrible liability, and made Gardner’s job much more difficult). Morris had little to no playing time this season because the Wolverines couldn’t close out a game with enough time to put in a backup. Well, he’s got his chance now.

As for how he’ll do. I’m hopeful. Am I expecting a win? No. And after coming so close to beating the Buckeyes a win at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl isn’t all that appealing. Yes, I want to win. However, I would rather give the kid a shot and have a more seasoned backup for next year.

All in all, if Michigan can play a game like the last one, they’ll come away with a win. If Morris looks like a deer in the headlights, it’s likely that the Maize and Blue will end up a disappointing 7-6. The only question is what team will show up? The one that played OSU to within a point, or the one that nearly lost to Akron.

Kansas State 31 – Michigan 21

Drew: The main headline entering tomorrow’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is that starting quarterback Devin Gardner will be unable to play with a broken left foot. This is absolutely devastating news for the Wolverines. Gardner has been the target of many U-M fans’ criticism this season—some of it deserved, most of it not. Those fans would be foolish not to realize that he has been the catalyst for the Wolverines’ offense.

Gardner had one of the best statistical seasons in program history. His 3,443 total yards are the second-most by a Wolverine, trailing only Denard Robinson’s 4,272 in 2010. His 2,960 passing yards also are the second-best, trailing only John Navarre’s 3,331 in 2003. Gardner also accounted for 32 total touchdowns and 21 passing touchdowns, tied for second-most and sixth-most in school history, respectively. Very few backups, if any, can replace the production U-M will miss with Gardner’s absence.

Enter: true freshman Shane Morris. Morris will be the sixth true freshman to start at quarterback in Michigan history. Morris may be inexperienced, attempting only nine passes this season, but he has the potential to be a star. Recruiting services considered Morris a Top 100 recruit in the 2013 class. The question will be if Morris can show that promise tomorrow.

The good news for Morris is precedent. Michigan is 4-1 when one of its true freshmen makes his first career start at quarterback, 3-0 in such situations since 2004. Further, in the past decade, not only did U-M win those games, those three true freshmen played very well, throwing for a total of 411 yards, eight touchdowns, and only one interception.

The bad news for Morris is that he likely will have little help, which the previous three true freshman starters had. Michigan’s rushing offense is ranked #100 out of 123 NCAA FBS teams, averaging only 130.8 yards per game. And that includes the 40.2 rushing yards that Gardner averaged each game. Also, U-M’s offensive line has allowed more tackles-for-loss than any other FBS team. A poor rushing attack and a leaky offensive line? Not the situation a head coach wants to throw his true freshman quarterback into.

Ultimately, to win tomorrow against a Kansas State squad that has won five of its past six games, Michigan will need Morris to carry most of the load by himself. Morris will show flashes of the potential that made him an elite high-school recruit. But it will not be enough. Michigan’s defense will keep it competitive throughout before the Wildcats put it away with a late fourth-quarter touchdown, dropping U-M’s bowl record to 20-23.

Kansas State 27 – Michigan 17

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Links:

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Kansas State game preview; a First Look at Kansas State; the Kansas State edition of Friend vs Foe with John Morse of the K-State blog Bring on the Cats; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Drew (@DrewCHallett) detailed Michigan’s custom of January bowl games and why the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is rare territory for the Wolverines.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue Nation.

From the other side, game preview from Bring on the Cats, as well as their staff predictions.

Finally, I did a story for BTN Live B1G on the clothing company run by former Michigan basketball player David Merritt and the good cause it is helping fund. Check it out and consider purchasing some merchandise to help support underserved youth.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 29th, 2013


Michigan has lost three of four. Ohio State has won 23 straight. Most around the country don’t give Michigan a chance. The huge Vegas spread is evidence of that. One would think that a Michigan blog would be the most optimistic, so do any of us give the Wolverines a shot? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Justin: Now that The Game is finally here, Al Borges can finally open up his playbook that he has kept under wraps the past few weeks. No more letting defenders run through the line forcing Devin Gardner to think quickly. No more confounding runs ending up in loss of yards. No more three-and-outs. Michigan will move the ball with ease, torching an overmatched Buckeye defense and putting up 40 points in a big win.

Ok, so that would be fantasy land, right? In all reality, it will be more of the same as what we saw the last few weeks. Michigan will score some points, but the offense won’t simply move in spurts. The defense will do a good job of slowing down the Buckeyes, but it simply won’t be enough. Ohio State is the much better team and, while Michigan will put up a fight, the disparity will show.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 24 38
Chris 17 31
Josh 13 31
Sam 3 31
Derick 14 47
Katie 21 35
Drew 13 34
M&GB Average 15 35

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Chris: Ohio State 31 – Michigan 17

Josh: Let me set the table before we dig into this week’s prediction. I hate Ohio State, I always have and I always will, that’s a given. I never root for Ohio State, even if it’s in Michigan’s best interest, on those occasions I just hope they don’t lose so it benefits us but I never root for them, ever.

I lived in Ohio for almost two years and it made me hate them even more. I’ve been to Columbus for Michigan games on several occasions and those fans make me hate them more still. I hate that they have lying cheating coaches who skirt the rules and yet are still heralded by the school as if they did nothing wrong.

However, this year my hatred has seemed to fade a bit. Maybe it’s because I’m a grown man in my mid-30′s and I shouldn’t be harboring hatred towards a school and kids I don’t even know. But more likely it’s because a snowball has a better chance in hell (not the one in Michigan) than Michigan does this weekend. In the end I think I am just trying to temper my expectations and hatred so I don’t get too upset if we play horribly and lose by a ridiculous amount.

And now on to what I’d like to see from Michigan this week. Whether we see it is another story.

On Offense:

Michigan is pretty bad at protecting Devin Gardner and giving up sacks. Ohio is pretty good at sacking the QB. I’d just like to see Michigan keep Devin Gardner from getting hurt. We still have a bowl game to play and getting this offense more practices with their starting QB over the next month will only add to their growth heading into the offseason. If Gardner is injured and can’t practice much or at all I think that might slow down any progress this offense might make. I could be wrong but at the very least you don’t want a kid like Devin Gardner to get hurt.

Keep Fitz Toussaint on the bench. I know this sounds harsh especially since he’s a senior but with the line the way it is we cannot afford to have him dancing around and being tentative behind the line when he should just hit a hole and power through it. Derrick Green has shown some flashes of what he can be in the future and right now he needs as many touches as possible. He hits the hole and isn’t someone who can be arm tackled. Even when he doesn’t get much, as long as he gets back to the LOS, he falls forward and gets more yardage. The same cannot be said for Fitz.

Yes, he is a senior and yes not all of his issues are his fault but Michigan football is about putting the best eleven guys on the field and letting them play. He has yet to show me he is one of those eleven.

Find someone not named Jeremy Gallon or Devin Funchess when the going gets rough. Early on Jeremy Gallon was Gardner’s security blanket and for good reason but it became too predictable. As soon as he was in trouble he looked for #21. Once Funchess emerged he became a second outlet, then the top option for a while. But last week Gardner again went back to Gallon when he was pressured and flustered. Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell know this and will key on it. If Michigan is to stand a chance they need to get Jehu Chesson and others involved in the offense.

Take advantage of any positive situations. Michigan has been awful on third down and has failed to punch it in the end zone on numerous occasions when they’ve had short fields. Field goals won’t beat OSU, plain and simple. Michigan needs to take advantage of short fields, turnovers, even just solid field position and make it count.

Throw out the record and past failures of the season and play like this is our bowl game. No, it’s not really but it might as well be since we’ll end up with some mid major team in the bowl most likely. Ohio has locked up their Big Ten title game slot but a Michigan win would give them zero chance at the BCS title (if FSU and/or Bama lose) and that alone would be awesome.

This is not to say they won’t give their hearts and play with full effort, because I feel they already have been, but they need to bring out some nastiness and play like Michigan. I’ll spare you the Brady Hoke intro press conference reference but you know what I mean. If there ever was a game this year for them to play like Michigan, this is it.

On defense

Contain Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. Far easier said than done but if anyone can do it it’s Greg Mattison. By contain I don’t mean shut down, I mean slow down and limit their big plays. Big plays, as we all know, have hurt Michigan this year. The Buckeyes have an explosive offense and stopping all big plays is a tall task, but if Michigan can limit them they increase their chances of hanging with them.

Disrupt their rhythm. When high octane offenses, or any offenses for that matter, get in a rhythm they can be very tough to stop. Getting a few early stops and/or turnovers could slow down the OSU attack and give Michigan a chance to put some points on the board.

Play with reckless abandon. Michigan is already assured a bowl game and a winning season even if they lose their last two games. So why not throw out all the stops and play every down like it’s their last. The defense playing well may be Michigan’s only chance to win this game. Being aggressive and going for the pick instead of the deflection is risky but now is the time to be risky and go for gold. The defense is solid but they need to bring their A-game on every single play and go all out if they want to give the offense a chance.

On Special Teams

If there ever was a game where field position mattered it would be this one. This OSU team is going to score, they’re just too good not to, but at least make them work hard for it by driving the length of the field.

This may tie in more to the offense’s general ineptness than the special teams’ ability but giving OSU good field position all afternoon will spell doom and frustration for Wolverine nation.

From the Fans

I added this section because I think it’s important. I’ve been as hard on this team as anyone this year, and it’s because I expect a lot of Michigan. All through my grade school and high school years Michigan was a dominant team against OSU. They upset good OSU teams and then went on to win the national championship my senior year of high school. Those years led me to expect top defenses, punishing running games and Rose Bowl or bust. I’ve been critical of Al Borges, we all have, and even Devin Gardner and others but at the end of the day I still love Michigan football.

These kids ARE playing their hearts out, they ARE giving 100% effort and for anyone to question that is just disgusting. Expecting more from Michigan is one thing, but calling out players on Twitter or other media and questioning their heart and acting like jerks (or a more colorful word) isn’t cool. And it isn’t the Michigan way.

Win or lose I want Michigan fans to take the high road and not act like fools. Be disappointed if we lose, I will be, but don’t say hateful things to the players. These are 18-22 year old kids, they don’t need constant criticism from people outside the program, they need our support. And win or lose, that is what we should give them.

Prediction

As much as it pains me to say this I don’t think Michigan stands a chance. Yes, miracles do happen and I’ve seen bad Michigan teams beat good OSU teams before but I’m just not feeling that way this year. Unless the offensive line becomes great all of a sudden I’m not so sure we sniff the end zone much. Inability to convert on third downs, or even long downs could spell very short fields and numerous scoring opportunities for the Buckeyes. Above all else, OSU needs a statement win to impress the voters and Urbs will be looking to keep pouring it on a hated rival.

Ohio State 31 – Michigan 13

Sam: Do yourself a favor and try to stay away from the TV on Saturday if at all possible. The Game will not be much of a game this season in the blistering cold in Ann Arbor as Ohio State hammers one final nail into Al Borges’s coffin with a big win.

Ohio State 31 – Michigan 3

Derick: After completely forgetting about the second half of the game against Iowa,  Michigan has lost all confidence in it’s ability to move the ball. Though they put up 21 points in the first half, the team had less than 150 yards as a whole.

Unfortunately, an underrated and underrecognized defense is suffering from the offense’s  inability to get first downs, and it spends far too much time on the field.

Ohio State is the best team on Michigan’s schedule, and Michigan hasn’t handled the other 11 games well.

Discounting the first two Rich Rod years, this game would be the most surprising in my years as a Michigan fan if we pulled off an upset.

Ohio State 47 – Michigan 14

Katie: Maybe because this isn’t in The Shoe the Buckeyes won’t be lucky this weekend. Michigan could pull off the upset, but without a bit of good fortune and the full support of the crowd I don’t see it being a favorable outcome for the Wolverines. No, The Buckeyes have too potent an offense, and too resilient a defense. Miller is a great QB and a mobile threat as well. Their backup, Kenny Guiton, isn’t too bad either. That in combination with a powerful running game could mean some rather large issues for Michigan. If they have a weakness Michigan can exploit though, it will be in the passing game. The Maize and Blue will have to play their best defensive game of the year not only to keep OSU in check points wise, but to make sure that their fumbling offense won’t have too much of an uphill battle to overcome.

In this game I’m always for retaining that glimmering hope even when the outlook seems bleak. And if we get beat and beat badly, I hope that it will at least mean a change in coaching staff.

Ohio State 35 – Michigan 21

Drew: This week’s “Inside the Numbers” column detailed Michigan’s odds to upset third-ranked Ohio State in “The Game” tomorrow. To summarize those odds in one word: bleak. OSU has won a school-record 23 straight games. Michigan has lost four of its last six. Accordingly, OSU is a 15-point road favorite against U-M. Since 2000, the Wolverines are only 2-10 against the spread versus the Buckeyes. And, in the past three seasons, Big Ten teams that have been more than a two-touchdown underdog have won only five percent of their games.

In rivalry games, though, there is a general attitude that all rational thought and reason should be thrown out the window and that one should expect the unexpected. Michigan fans have experienced this many times before, witnessing the Wolverines record monumental upsets against their bitter rival from Columbus in 1969, 1993, 1995, and 1996 among others. So if Michigan was to surprise the world by handing Ohio State its first loss and salvage its season, it would not be a first.

But do not hold your breath, Michigan fans. It hurts to say it, but it will not happen tomorrow. The Wolverines will fight, claw, and do everything in their power to win tomorrow, but it will not be enough. The Wolverines will keep it close in the first half as Greg Mattison unleashes defensive schemes that confound Braxton Miller. However, an offense as explosive and dynamic as Ohio State’s will not remain dormant all game. The Buckeyes will blow it open in the third quarter, and Michigan’s offense—the one that has scored only 42 in its past four regulations—will not be able to keep pace. A long month of hardship finally will cease for the Wolverines. Unfortunately, it will be on a sour note.

Ohio State 34 – Michigan 13

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Links:

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Ohio State game preview; Monday’s First Look: Ohio State, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Katie took a look back at Michigan’s big upset of Ohio State 20 years ago; Drew (@DrewCHallett) says screw the numbers, beat Ohio; and a Thanksgiving salute to the seniors that will be playing their final game in Michigan Stadium tomorrow.

Yours truly participated in Yahoo Sports The Post Game’s The Loyalty Report. I provided the Michigan side of why Michigan will win tomorrow, while Johnny Ginter of Eleven Warriors did the Ohio State view.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, and The M Block.

From the other side, game preview from Eleven Warriors, as well as a roundtable.

Finally, tomorrow is the last day to donate to the indiegogo campaign for Vincent Smith, Martaveous Odoms, and Brandin Hawthorne’s Pahokee garden project. Help out a group of Michigan Men who are working to make their hometown a better place.

M&GB staff predictions: Iowa

Friday, November 22nd, 2013


Last week, all seven of us had pretty similar predictions, and if Brendan Gibbons hadn’t made the last second field goal to send the game into overtime, we all would have been over. But after the three overtimes played out and Michigan’s offense finally found the end zone not once but twice, we all ended up under the final score. This week, Michigan faces a very good defense in a place the Wolverines haven’t won since 2005 in what will likely be poor weather conditions. Can Michigan build on the momentum from last week’s thrilling win, or will Iowa hand Michigan its third loss in four games? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Justin: Al Borges did a good job of keeping the playbook pretty vanilla for 59 minutes and 50 seconds last week. Unfortunately, Ohio State now has on tape the rush field goal that the staff had been trying to keep under wraps. Then, in overtime, he was forced to open things up a bit in order to get the win.

This week, look for a game plan similar to what he used in regulation against Northwestern. The Buckeyes are just one week away, so no need to show them anything. Save the reverses and double reverses and triple reverses and halfback passes and flea-flickers and fumblerooskis and statue of Liberties for next week. Do just enough to eek out the win. But this time it won’t be enough because Iowa’s defense > Northwestern’s. And they have pink locker rooms.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Iowa
Justin 13 16
Chris 20 23
Josh 13 20
Sam 10 13
Derick 17 21
Katie 17 13
Drew 13 17
M&GB Average 15 18

Iowa 16 – Michigan 13

Chris: Iowa 23 – Michigan 20

Josh: See yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Iowa 20 – Michigan 13

Sam: With basketball season now in full force, I don’t find a ton of free time to write about what’s left in the football season. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Michigan takes to the road for a second straight Big Ten barn-burner of a game that once again looks to be low-scoring and, frankly, somewhat boring. The Wolverines have not scored a touchdown in five consecutive regulation quarters and boast an offensive line that is in complete shambles. Devin Gardner, for his part, continues to have a difficult time reading blitzes and running away from them, which has contributed to the nearly 20 sacks taken in the past three games.

In Iowa City, I don’t expect too much to change. The offense will struggle to move the ball forward with any consistency and the defense will be solid.

Playing against the Hawkeyes will be quite like looking in a mirror for the Wolverines. Iowa is pretty mediocre all around on offense and features a bruiser of a running back that shouldn’t be able to get more than 3.5 yards a carry on Michigan and a quarterback who has tossed nine interceptions. Their defense is very solid and has allowed 20 or more points against only Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Iowa’s four losses are against teams that are ranked going into this weekend and their wins are unimpressive across the board.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what gives this weekend, but I think home field advantage might be a good place to start. Three of Iowa’s losses have come at home, but Michigan has been putrid away from the Big House for the better part of Brady Hoke’s tenure.

This game should be close until the bitter end when an Iowa field goal decides it. I’ll take the Hawkeyes.

Iowa 13 – Michigan 10

Fitz Toussaint is back but Derrick Green's performance against Northwestern warrants the bigger workload this week (MGoBlue.com)

Derick: Michigan continued to struggle on the road last week when the offense scored just nine points in regulation. This weekend, the team goes up against a much stronger Iowa defense.

Derrick Green gave the Wolverines a bit of a rushing threat in Evanston, and he will need to do the same on Saturday.

But on the road against a stingy defense? Doesn’t sound good for Michigan on offense.

Iowa 21 – Michigan 17

Katie: I feel like, you know what scratch that, I know that Michigan’s record could so easily have been worse than our 7-3 standing right now. The Maize and Blue faithful have held their breath against Akron, UConn, for quite a while against Indiana, and last week’s Northwestern matchup. I don’t know how the Wolverines have pulled it off I really don’t, but with two games left in the regular season I’m not going to pretend like a mark in the win column means that we’re improving. The same problems have been there all season, and to do nothing about them and keep playing the same way is the definition of insanity. Devin Gardner showed some level-headedness in OT. Yes, he threw the ball well then. But the coaches should have pulled him for freshman Shane Morris weeks ago. And running plays up the gut with our offensive line? Really Borges? Where is the imagination? I know these kids are struggling but maybe just something different. And the defense going into prevent, rushing three guys on crucial plays so that they give the call time to develop? No thanks.

It’s late in the season, so I’m venting now. I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude and brush aside the things that are irksome, like say Hoke not wearing a headset. So when the question is how we’re going to do away against Iowa (6-4) I’ll just go ahead and say that we could eke it out. But will it be pretty? Probably not. Although Iowa has raked up some wins over meager opponents, their points against ranking is 12th in the nation. Ohio State put up the most points anyone has scored against the Hawkeyes this season with 34, and that was an away game. The other Big Ten contenders Michigan State and Wisconsin scored 26 and 28, respectively in their games against them. So Michigan will have to put up points, which of late the team has struggled immensely trying to do. Truth be told though the running game is getting slightly better, and that could play a huge factor if we can gain yardage on the ground.

Of course no one knows how this will go, but I do know one thing. This time I won’t be holding my breath.

Michigan 17 – Iowa 13

Brady Hoke is looking for the first back-to-back road wins of his Michigan tenure (MGoBlue.com)

Drew: Remember my first “Inside the Numbers” column five weeks ago? The one explaining how Penn State needed an extraordinary amount of “last-minute luck” to topple Michigan in quadruple overtime? Well, Michigan was fortunate enough to benefit from it at least once this season, miraculously squeaking by a Northwestern squad that has now lost six straight.

Here are just a few things Michigan needed to transpire to beat the Wildcats: (1) NU dropping a wide-open touchdown pass in the first half; (2) NU dropping at least six interceptions even though no team in the nation had picked off more passes than NU beforehand; (3) NU allowing U-M to convert two fourth downs during the final drive of regulation; and (4) NU failing to recover Devin Funchess’ fumble in double overtime and seal its first conference win.

That should cover most of the “last-minute luck.” No? That list is missing something? Like what? Oh, the Michigan-fire-drill-substituting, Drew Dileo-power-sliding, Brendan Gibbons-still-backpedaling, 44-yard field goal to send the game into overtime? Yeah, that too.

It was a memorable and much-needed road win for the Wolverines, but U-M probably wishes it had saved that “last-minute luck” for tomorrow. Since 1994, all six Michigan-Iowa contests played in Kinnick Stadium have been decided by eight points or less.  Four of those six have been decided by three points or less. U-M has lived on the edge at the end of games all season.  Don’t expect that to change in Iowa City.

Although their styles differ, Michigan and Iowa are very similar football teams.  Both teams have been mediocre in the Big Ten season.  Both teams lost to Michigan State, beat Minnesota, and beat Northwestern in overtime. Both teams are undefeated against FBS squads with non-winning records, but have struggled to beat FBS squads with winning records. Both teams rely on their defense—each of which is ranked in the top 20 in total defense—while their offenses try to find their footing.

Everything about this contest screams a competitive, low-scoring affair.  In these situations, favorable results tend to favor the home team. It does not help Michigan’s case that it has been putrid on the road in recent years. In true road games under Brady Hoke, U-M is 6-7 and has not won two straight. This season alone, U-M is 2-2 on the road, performing shakily in its two wins against teams with a combined 4-15 record.

Michigan’s defense will keep it competitive throughout, but U-M’s offense will determine which team will be victorious. Although U-M will put points on the board—setting a new NCAA record with its 362nd straight game without being shut out—it will struggle yet again. Plus, Iowa’s exceptional punt-return unit will be the one that finally exploits U-M’s sub-par coverage team, scoring a critical punt-return touchdown in the second half that becomes the game-deciding score.

Iowa 17 – Michigan 13
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Links:

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Iowa game preview; Monday’s First Look: Iowa, yesterday’s Friend vs Foe with RossWB of the Iowa SB Nation blog Black Heart Gold Pants, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Derick detailed his trip to the Northwestern game and what he took away from it. Drew (@DrewCHallett) explained the all-time streak Michigan is likely to break tomorrow.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, and The M Block.

From the other side, game preview from BHGP.

Finally, former Wolverines Vincent Smith, Martavious Odoms, and Brandin Hawthorne still need your help raising money for their urban garden project for their hometown of Pahokee, Fla.

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, November 15th, 2013


The battle of the bottom two in the Big Ten Legends Division takes place in Evanston tomorrow. A Michigan loss would remove any chance of a winning conference record for the Wolverines this season. A Northwestern loss would make the final two games of the season must-wins simply to get bowl eligible. Something has to give for these two reeling teams. Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Justin: Don’t expect Al Borges to open up his playbook just because the team has lost two in a row. He only has to keep it under wraps this weekend and next before he breaks everything out against Ohio State on Nov. 30. Right?

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17

Chris: The Michigan offense has nothing going for it at the present time. No blocking on the line, no running game, no passing game, and poor play calling. The forecast is calling for rain in Evanston for Saturday afternoon. Not to mention, the Wolverines can’t seem to win on the road and are no longer playing for anything except respect, which is often not enough in November after a tough season. Northwestern isn’t exactly a world-beater either. They’ve lost five straight games. All of this combined looks like a snooze-fest of a game. I’ll take the home team, only because they’re at home.

Northwestern 17 – Michigan 16

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 20 17
Chris 16 17
Josh 20 17
Sam 17 20
Derick 24 21
Katie 24 17
Drew 21 17
M&GB Average 20 18

Josh: Aside from a key player suffering a major injury the last two weeks could not have gone any worse. Michigan is officially out of the Big Ten title hunt (though they were essentially out before last week) and are no lock to get a seventh win which would guarantee a winning season. We know the line is young and Borges’ play calling often leaves something to be desired but this is team 134 and we have to accept that. Brady Hoke IS the man for this job and, like him or not, Al Borges is the OC for the forseeable future.

Instead of the usual “Michigan will win if..” what I’d like to do this week is touch on “What I’d like to see” a sort of lowering of the high standards we have for our beloved Maize and Blue. We’ve seen several versions of team 134 throughout the season and who knows which one we’ll from week to week but here are some (realistic) things I’d like to see this week at Northwestern.

On Offense

Scrap the pro-style for now. As we’ve highlighted on this blog (and Nebraska noted last week) Michigan tends to tip its hand on offense, especially when they line up under center. The line’s issues cannot be fixed week to week so the next best thing would be to have a legitimate threat of the run to help open up the passing game. What I’d like to see is a predominantly Shotgun and Pistol offense, or at least as much of it as possible. If the defense has to worry about the run coming from all angles it should, in theory, keep them on their toes and prevent them from bull rushing up the middle so much. Will this fix their ails? Probably not but it’s a good place to start. If Michigan can have a semblance of a running attack it will open up the pass and we all know what Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess are capable of if Gardner has time to throw.

I won’t be greedy here and ask to see a 100-yard rusher, though it would be nice, but just enough of a run game to help the pass and to generate some positive yards, for once.

In case that’s too much to ask (and sadly, it might be) I’d like see some quick short passes instead of the run, stuff like screens and short slants. Plenty of teams use the short passing game instead of a run game and it works. For a team that can’t run the ball but has a solid QB (given time Gardner is a really good QB) the short pass might be what it needs to get the ball moving forward consistently. Which ties into all I really want to see this week..

Go back to basics. We haven’t really seen it all year but I don’t think it’s too much to ask here. Step 1: Dumb down the playbook. Break out the uber-simple KISS playbook, find some plays that work. Step 2: keep running them until the defense stops them. Then find some other variations and keep running those.

Despite a lot of internet sentiment Al Borges is actually a really good OC. It’s rather difficult to call plays when the interior of the offensive line isn’t doing its job. Offensive linemen typically take longer to develop and this squad just hasn’t had that luxury.

Fortunately for Michigan they won’t be facing a very good defense so they should be able to get something going.

On defense

Northwestern has been ravaged by the injury bug this season and isn’t the team we all thought they’d be. However, they still have players capable of making big plays, namely Kain Colter. Michigan has been vulnerable to the big play and Northwestern will be playing with nothing to lose, since well they have nothing to lose. Michigan presents the Wildcats a great opportunity to move one win closer to bowl eligibility and the defense needs to be prepared for their best shot.

Don’t let Northwestern get any momentum. I know that Evanston is a virtual home game for Michigan but there will be plenty of starving Wildcat fans looking to upend a reeling Wolverine squad and get their first conference win.

Get some pressure. On the pass and the run. This line doesn’t have a LaMarr Woodley or Brandon Graham but they are capable of getting some pressure, right? If they can be even just a little disruptive it will take a lot of pressure, no pun intended, off the secondary and Michigan’s offense. I’d like to see, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask, one or two guys consistently in the backfield and maybe a handful of TFL’s.

Capitalize on any opportunities presented. Michigan has missed out on picking off some balls to end drives and missing some tackles have led to bigger plays. Stick to fundamental football and then make the most of the opportunities. There will be balls up for grabs and ball carriers not holding on the way they should, it just happens. Michigan needs to take advantage of those opportunities. Getting some stops and a turnover, or two, will swing the momentum in their favor and help the offense gain some confidence.

On Special Teams

It’s too bad Matt Wile’s punting can’t count as an offensive stat. Anyway, this will be what it always is; win the field position game. I don’t know what else to say here that I don’t say every week so I’ll leave it at that.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17

Sam: Northwestern 20 – Michigan 17

Derick: Unfortunately, things have started to spiral out of control for Michigan after the blowout loss in East Lansing.

The offense has finally found some consistency, but it’s in the form of a negative running game. The last thing Brady Hoke needed was to take his young team on the road while mired in a two-game skid.

Northwestern hasn’t been much better during the Big Ten season, but so far this team has failed to play a strong game away from Ann Arbor.

Somebody has to win this game though, and Michigan needs to step up and settle things down. I think Michigan will get a win when it needs it.

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 21

Katie: Michigan at Northwestern. Two teams that started off looking better than the season has played out. Both are at the bottom of the Big Ten Legends Division, and the Wildcats haven’t yet won a conference game. But that doesn’t mean Northwestern is going to roll over and let the Wolverines make it to an even 3-3 in Big Ten play. This Wildcat team played the Buckeyes to within 10, lost to Iowa in OT, and lost to Minnesota and Nebraska by a combined 6 points. Northwestern hasn’t had much go its way, and as Michigan fans we shouldn’t sneer. Akron, UConn, ND, those games could have be losses. And Indiana played us for about all we were worth.

The way the coaching has been at the Big House and away, it’s not improbable that Michigan could suffer its third loss in a row. Northwestern is back in Evanston after two tough defeats on the road, and is looking to break into the win column with Michigan. With the condition of Michigan’s run game, ranked 96th in the nation in yardage, the lack of pass protection and passing ability in crucial moments, that could very well happen.

As if the line of 2 and a half didn’t make calling which way this game will go any harder, the allowed points just seems to be saying the same thing. Northwestern is 62nd in points against, and Michigan, 61st. So, I’m going to have my hands over my eyes watching this one, hoping that Michigan doesn’t turn out to be that guy who goes into the basement after the murderer. Dumb, and predictable.

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 17

Drew: Last week, I wrote that Michigan would lose to a shorthanded Nebraska only if it had not mentally moved past the debacle in East Lansing. Thirteen points, minus-21 rushing yards, 15 tackles-for-loss allowed, and seven sacks allowed against the 70th-ranked defensive unit later, I can safely say that the Wolverines let Michigan State beat them twice.

And now, for all intents and purposes, the 2013 season is over, at least by Michigan standards. There will be no Big Ten championship, no Legends Division championship, and no BCS Bowl. After finishing with only two conference losses in Brady Hoke’s first two years, U-M already has suffered three this season with three conference games remaining that may add to that total. To top it off, the Wolverines have a sub-.500 conference record for the first time under Hoke.

The only thing left for Michigan to do is to stop the bleeding before Ohio State comes to Ann Arbor, likely bringing with it a 23-game winning streak. The first chance to do this is tomorrow against Northwestern—another underachieving Legends Division school. The Wildcats—thought by many to contend for a Big Ten championship this season—are winless in conference play and have been bitten by the injury bug. There is no better opportunity for Michigan to hop back on the tracks.

Yet, despite this, Michigan is an underdog to Northwestern—a team on a five-game losing streak—for the first time in the history of the series. To put this in perspective, the Wildcats were not even the favorite in 2008 when they had a 7-3 record and U-M was 3-7. This is a historic low for the Wolverines. But when one considers Michigan’s offensive woes the past two weeks and its 5-7 record in true road games under Hoke, it is not farfetched that many expect Michigan to lose tomorrow.

I predict that Michigan’s defense will be able to keep Northwestern in check. NU’s offense has been atrocious in conference play, ranking 11th among Big Ten teams in scoring offense and total offense. The question will be whether Michigan’s offense can pull out of its funk. The Wildcats have a knack for forcing turnovers, intercepting the most passes in the nation, but U-M has maintained the best turnover margin in Big Ten play. But it will not matter if Michigan cannot generate more than 200 total yards—a feat it has not achieved since October.

I think Michigan will win and end its skid, but I have been unable to peg this Wolverines team correctly since I joined Maize & Go Blue staff. The only thing I can predict with certainty is that Michigan fans’ frustrations and concerns will not be alleviated afterwards.

Michigan 21 – Northwestern 17

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For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Northwestern game preview; Monday’s First Look: Northwestern, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Drew (@DrewCHallett) compared this year’s Michigan offense to 2008.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, and The M Block.

From the other side, staff predictions from Sippin’ on Purple and something about the funny names on Michigan’s roster. I’m sure you can guess which ones they choose as the “best” name.

M&GB staff predictions: Nebraska

Friday, November 8th, 2013


Last week, three of the seven of us predicted Michigan to lose to Michigan State, but none of us expected such a beatdown. Josh was the closest with his 27-17 pick. Now, Michigan gets to face a team they match up against much better, and the Wolverines get the luxury of playing at home. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at our picks.

Justin: I’ll keep it short and sweet this week. Michigan got kicked in the mouth last week and is eager to get back on the field. The good news is it’s at home where Brady Hoke hasn’t lost in 19 tries, and that streak isn’t going to end tomorrow. Nebraska has a good offense, but it’s a shell of itself without Taylor Martinez. Slow down Ameer Abdullah and you virtually shut down the Huskers. Nebraska hasn’t beaten an FCS team with a winning record this season, got walloped by UCLA, and lost to Minnesota, giving up almost 300 rushing yards in the process. Michigan will get back to running the football against a poor defensive front and win going away.

Michigan 35 – Nebraska 24

Staff Predictions
Michigan Nebraska
Justin 35 24
Chris 31 28
Josh 41 24
Sam 27 20
Derick 31 24
Katie 31 24
Drew 41 28
M&GB Average 34 25

Chris: This season has been too tough to accurately predict what the players and coaches on this team will do each week, so I wont try it again here. Okay, yes I will, but I can only bring questions to the table instead of certainties at this point. Can the defense stop a Nebraska offense which has played poorly on the road, especially in the Big Ten and without Taylor Martinez? Will the Michigan offensive line figure out how to block anybody? Will Al Borges ever figure out how to run an offense that is based on the personnel he has at his service and on what the defense is giving him? Will Brady Hoke become a real head coach and step in and demand that his coaches (i.e. Borges) be better at what they’re getting paid to do? We’ll see. Michigan wins, only because they are at home and will (hopefully) be hungry to get back on the field and get a much-needed win. But talent-wise and coaching-wise, they’re no better than Nebraska.

Michigan 31 – Nebraska 28

Josh: See yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan 41 – Nebraska 24

Sam: I’ve been swamped with getting ready for the basketball season opener tonight, so no full prediction, but Michigan will win.

Michigan 27 – Nebraska 20

Derick: Michigan, coming off of an embarrassing loss in East Lansing, returns to the friendly confines of Ann Arbor to face a reeling Nebraska team. The Huskers are coming off of two straight bad games against Northwestern and Minnesota and are struggling to find consistency on the offensive end. Michigan will get back on track at home.

Michigan 31 – Nebraska 24

Katie: Well, this will hopefully go better than last week. Michigan is at home, the weather doesn’t look to be as inclement, and Nebraska did some talking which could help light a fire under a Michigan team that has looked rather inept (I’m looking at you, offense). So, what’s the good news? Both teams have the same record of 6-2 (though Nebraska is 3-1 where UofM is 2-2 in Big Ten play), and as embarrassing as the loss was to State last week, the Huskers lost to the Golden Gophers, who even we managed to beat 42-13. Not to mention the fact that Nebraska has played only one ranked opponent, and five of their wins came against two of the worst teams in the Big Ten and three beat-up teams at the beginning of the season. Northwestern, who started off so well before going winless in-conference, would have beaten them too if not for a last second Hail Mary pass as time expired.

What this means is this game is definitely winnable for Michigan, but the offense has to do something. I mean six points against the Spartans? I know their defense is great, but really? The running game has been atrocious, and the play calling, uninspired. The offensive line collapses too often, and our core of great receivers are not getting the ball nearly enough. But, if the Wolverines offense shows up and plays a fearless four quarters, I think they’ll take this game.

A win tomorrow is vital for Hoke's approval rating among the Michigan fan base (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan 31 – Nebraska 24

Drew: There is a popular cliché in sports: “Do not let a team beat you twice.” It means that a team cannot allow the hangover from a heartbreaking or soul-crushing loss affect its focus and preparation for its next opponent. Otherwise, the hangover will cause that team to lose its next game. The cliché could not be more apt for Michigan’s situation than it is this week.

Michigan just suffered its worst loss to its in-state rival in 46 years. The loss not only put Michigan State in the driver’s seat in the Legends Division, but also essentially eliminated the Wolverines from the Big Ten championship hunt. Media and fans have discussed the loss all week thereafter, questioning where Michigan stands as a program. If the coaches and players have had a similar mindset, U-M will lose to an opponent that is seven-point underdog to the Wolverines.

Although Nebraska is 6-2, the caliber of this Cornhuskers’ squad is inferior to the ones U-M faced in 2011 and 2012. Nebraska has not beaten a FBS team with a winning record this season. The combined conference record of the three Big Ten teams it has beaten is 0-13. When the Cornhuskers have played teams with comparable records to Michigan’s, they have fallen short.

Traditional statistics imply that Nebraska has a very good offense, especially on the ground, but a sieve-like defense. However, Nebraska is #52 in offensive FEI, which tracks an offense’s opponent-adjusted efficiency. Thus, Nebraska’s offense is much more mediocre than their reputation would make seem and has feasted on weaker competition. Nebraska will not have such a luxury against Michigan. At #19 in defensive FEI, the Wolverines have the best defense Nebraska has yet to play this season.

The resumes and stats suggest Michigan is the better squad, especially at Michigan Stadium, but NU must not be taken lightly. Michigan needs a win, badly. A loss would snap U-M’s 19-game home winning streak, give U-M a below-.500 B1G record for the first time in Hoke’s tenure, and cause a 7-5 record to be the most realistic outcome for the Wolverines. If U-M has not moved past the MSU disaster, the entire season could spiral out of control with a loss tomorrow.

But will this happen? No. Michigan will feel comfortable playing on its own turf, where U-M has averaged 42.1 points in its last 10 conference home games. The Wolverines’ offense will come back to life, and the Cornhuskers will not be able to keep pace with starting quarterback Taylor Martinez sitting out with an injury.

Michigan 41 – Nebraska 28

You can follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewCHallett
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For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Nebraska game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with the guys from the Nebraska SB Nation site Corn Nation; Monday’s First Look: Nebraska, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Drew (@DrewCHallett) took a look at Michigan’s unprecedented streak of consecutive games with crowds of over 100,000. Tomorrow will be the 250th straight.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue NationMaize and Blue News, UMGoBlog, and The M Block.

From the other side, a Michigan preview from Corn Nation and Michigan-Nebraska by the numbers.