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M&GB staff predictions: The Game

Saturday, November 26th, 2016


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

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

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

Justin (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 26 – Ohio State 24

Derick (1)

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

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

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

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

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 14

Sam (3)

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

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

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

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

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 17

Josh (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio State 27 – Michigan 13

Joe (6)

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

Michigan 21 – Ohio State 20

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Saturday, November 19th, 2016


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

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

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

Here are this week’s picks:

Justin (2)

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 42 – Indiana 14

Derick (1)

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

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

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

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

Michigan 41 – Indiana 17

Sam (2)

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

Michigan 27 – Indiana 10

Josh (1)

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

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

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

Michigan 27 – Indiana 24

Joe (6)

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

Michigan 34 – Indiana 17

M&GB staff predictions: Iowa

Friday, November 11th, 2016


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

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

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

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

Justin (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 31 – Iowa 13

Derick (1)

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

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

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

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

Michigan 38 – Iowa 14

Sam (2)

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

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

Michigan 31 – Iowa 6

Josh (1)

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

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

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

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

Michigan 48 – Iowa 3

Joe (6)

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

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

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

Michigan 44 – Iowa 10

M&GB staff predictions: Maryland

Friday, November 4th, 2016


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

Fresh off a win over rival Michigan State, Michigan returns home to host former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin’s Maryland Terrapins. Maryland comes in with a 5-3 record, but has lost three of its last four. Could Durkin shock his former boss? Or will Michigan stay focused on the task at hand and take care of business?

Justin won our weekly predictions last week for his first win of the season with his prediction of Michigan 33 – Michigan State 13. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin (1)
Staff Predictions
Michigan Maryland
Justin 45 17
Derick 48 13
Sam 38 3
Josh 38 17
Joe 42 7
M&GB Average 42 11

Four straight opponents have rushed for at least 200 yards on Maryland’s defense — Indiana (414), Michigan State (270), Minnesota (229), and Penn State (372) and there’s no reason to believe Michigan will end that streak. Look for Harbaugh to give the ball to Michigan’s stable of backs over and over and over again with some jet sweeps mixed in. Of course, Durkin will know that Harbaugh will do this, but his defense won’t be able to stop it consistently.

On the other side of the ball, Maryland will probably hit a few explosive runs. Remember, the Terps actually have nine more explosive runs (10 or more yards) than Michigan does so far this season — which ranks sixth nationally — and Johnson and Harrison average 8.6 yards per carry. They won’t have consistent success against Michigan’s stout defense, especially without a major passing threat, but they’ll bust a few.

But it won’t be enough as Michigan is simply more talented and experienced on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines top 300 yards rushing and score pass just enough to keep the defense honest. Michigan’s defense gets to Hills a few times, but surrenders a few big plays and a couple of touchdowns. Michigan has the game in hand by halftime and cruises to a comfortable win.

Michigan 45 – Maryland 17

Derick

Michigan hasn’t covered two weeks in a row after covering easily throughout most of the first half. D.J. Durkin is returning to the Big House with a much-improved Maryland team and a reinvigorated Perry Hills at quarterback. But Michigan’s defense is a completely different monster, and the toughest test Hills will face all season. I think Michigan will handle the Terps’ defense fairly easily and cruise to a big win

Michigan 48 – Maryland 13

Sam (1)

On paper, this game looks a lot like the Illinois game to me. Sure, Maryland has been playing a bit better than the Fighting Illini, but they don’t have the players or schemes to give Michigan much of a challenge. Expect the Wolverines’ ground game to be on full display yet again while Speight throws a couple first half touchdowns before packing it in after halftime. Give me the Maize and Blue in yet another snoozer.

Michigan 38 – Maryland 3

Josh (1)

I haven’t seen Maryland play this year. I mean, why would I want to watch that? But from what I can glean from some breakdowns and the traditional and fancy stats, they’re a spread-y team in the mold of Ohio State — except without freak athletes. This should be a good test to see how Don Brown handles the power-spread that D.J. Durkin could not. As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Maryland is better on the ground than through the air and very good at generating explosive run plays, averaging 9.13 per game (6th nationally). But they’re not so good at explosive pass plays, ranking 111th. On defense, their run defense isn’t very good but their pass D is, so it could be interesting to see what Harbaugh has in mind. Michigan should have their way with the Terrapin defense, especially on the ground.

Honestly, I’m a little nervous about Maryland. It’s a classic trap game, sandwiched between a rival and a brutal away game at night. Plus, last year’s OSU game looms large in the back of my mind and Colorado had some great success early on against Michigan with their spread-y ways.

Maryland doesn’t have the athletes that Michigan does but spreading out the defense and going with three wide receiver looks opens the middle up for big runs, which they are very good at and Michigan has traditionally struggled with. Yes, Michigan does have Don Brown and Jabrill Peppers, but I think Maryland will find some success running the ball much like MSU did last week.

I expect them to dink and dunk down the field and get a big gainer here and there on their way to double digit points. I have a sneaky feeling this game will be uncomfortably close for longer than Michigan fans would like, thus refueling the concern against OSU, despite them appearing to be mortal.

Maryland puts up 400 yards and a fair deal of points, relatively speaking, due to busts on big runs up the middle. I’m looking at you Dymonte Thomas. Michigan wins but it’s close enough where the media, and fans, will start to question the elite status of Michigan’s defense.

Michigan 38 – Maryland 17

Joe (5)

We’re in the home stretch and everything is going as planned. I’m intrigued with this game only because we’re facing a former coach who knows Harbaugh and our boys fairly well. Durkin knows that the only way to keep things close is by draining the clock and keeping the Michigan offense on the sidelines. Maryland and their top 15 rushing attack will rely on a strong ground game and ball control. The defensive front will be tested but will also be out to prove the fourth quarter from last week is not going to happen again. I see Michigan coming out pumped and looking to bury the Terps quickly, which they do starting in the second quarter. Michigan wins this one big.

Michigan 42 – Maryland 7

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Saturday, October 29th, 2016


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Michigan fans have been waiting for this game since last year’s game slipped through Michigan’s fingers in the cruelest of ways. The Wolverines look for redemption against their bitter in-state rival Michigan State this afternoon.

Joe won our weekly predictions fifth the fourth time in seven games last week with his prediction of Michigan 48 – Illinois 7. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan MSU
Justin 33 13
Derick 52 7
Sam 42 0
Josh 42 13
Joe 34 10
M&GB Average 41 9

While Michigan is favored by more than three touchdowns I fully expect Michigan State to give Michigan a game early on. The Spartans may be just 2-5, but they’ll step on the field winners of seven of the last eight over Michigan. But this game is almost always won on the ground and Michigan’s defense is just too good for the Spartans to run on. Dantonio will try to get Scott going and will take some shots deep trying to catch the secondary by surprise. It may work once, but not with enough consistency to outscore Michigan.

Offensively, Michigan will pound the run and pick on the Spartan safeties through the air. I expect that we’ll see a little more utilization of Jabrill Peppers and that we’ll see the evolution of some of the plays that have been set up over the past couple weeks. Will he pass for a touchdown this week?

Michigan State keeps it close for much of the first half before Michigan’s talent, experience, and depth allows them to pull away in the second. It ends up a solid win, but doesn’t cover the spread. And we’ll be just fine with that.

Michigan 33 – Michigan State 13

Derick

If this isn’t the year, I don’t know when the year will come.

Michigan has a prime opportunity to crush Michigan State and end a losing streak in East Lansing that is nearing a decade since Mark Dantonio took over at MSU. The Wolverines are better at every single position except field goal kicker, and shouldn’t have any trouble rolling over their in-state rival.

The Spartan offense has a revolving door at quarterback, a terrible problem to have going into a game against the country’s best secondary. If any of the Michigan State quarterbacks is able to generate a passing game, I’ll be shocked.

On offense, Michigan State will probably force Wilton Speight to win the game. Luckily, he’s coming off his best performance at Michigan and should be able to do enough to lead Michigan to a win.

Jim Harbaugh would love to pile on in this game, and all signs point to him doing so. Yes, rivalry games can be strange, but I can’t come up with a legitimate football reason that MSU can keep this game close. I’ll go ahead and say it: I think this game will be hugely one-sided, with Michigan winning big.

Michigan 52 – Michigan State 7

Sam (1)

As each week comes and goes, I come to the same dilemma with every prediction: how in the world is Team X going to score against Michigan? Generic Team X this week just so happens to be Michigan State, a team that has dominated the Wolverines in recent years past but has fallen to unfathomable lows this season while Michigan continues to dominate competition of all types.

So again this week I must ask myself how I envision the opponent scoring. Certainly Mark Dantonio has been placing all his eggs in this week’s basket since the Spartans’ first loss many weeks ago and will have plenty of tricks to throw at the wall in the hopes that something sticks. But you’d have to have been in a coma the past two months to think that is going to make a difference this Saturday. Michigan’s defensive line should slaughter any combination of offensive linemen Michigan State can put together while the visiting offensive line should continue to pave new roadways and running lanes in East Lansing.

Four different Wolverines run for scores while Michigan records another defensive touchdown this weekend in a romp.

Michigan 42 – Illinois 0

Josh (1)

Rivalry games are always tricky things to predict, especially on the road. However, this Michigan State team isn’t exactly the team we’ve come to expect under Mark Dantonio. Rest assured the Spartans will bring their best game this weekend. Unfortunately for them so will Michigan.

Looking at the match-ups across the board it doesn’t look good for Sparty. Michigan holds the edge in every area, and by a large margin. Where that will hurt MSU the most is their offensive line versus the Michigan defensive line of destruction. Seriously, it’s not fair how good Michigan’s front is. The MSU offensive line has been pushed around and bullied by the likes of Maryland, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. Michigan is better than all of those teams. Add in a (likely) freshman starting quarterback and we should expect to see the Mo Hurst belly rub — a lot.

Michigan didn’t register many tackles for loss last weekend, but I think that changes in a big way this Saturday. I tend to agree with MGoBlog’s assumption that the only way for Sparty to have any success is to just attempt deep bombs to Donnie Corley and R.J. Shelton. Unfortunately for them, Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling are two of the best corners in the country and it’s highly unlikely they’ll get beat much, if at all. Remember, Michigan only surrenders 4.86 big plays per game and barely gives up more than one through the air.

When Michigan has the ball it could be a different story. Malik McDowell is still there and he’s still a monster. But injuries have taken their toll for MSU and they’re not playing with a full deck on defense. From what I’ve seen this has all the makings of a tight end coming out party for Michigan. As in multiple tight ends should have three-plus catches, and we might even see that awesome five tight end train set a few times, and not near the goal line.

Michigan is the far better team on paper but MSU will absolutely give everything they have. A win against Michigan and they’ll have essentially salvaged their season and probably get them bowl eligible down the road. A loss all but eliminates them from bowl contention. Luckily for Michigan, Jim Harbaugh prepares every game like it’s a championship game. If you think that Jim Harbaugh and his players have forgotten how that game ended last year, or how the Spartan players celebrated in The Big House you are sorely mistaken. They won’t talk about it, they will just show up and be about it, to paraphrase Tim Drevno. Michigan rolls over Sparty and brings Paul Bunyan home to his rightful place in Schembechler Hall.

Michigan 42 – Michigan State 13

Joe (5)

I’m torn on this one. I want to believe Michigan rolls over Sparty with relative ease but I know better. Dantonio will have his guys ready to go with the last chance to salvage their miserable season. Rivalry games a different animal and are always unpredictable. I still think Michigan wins this one but not as comfortably as most think.

Michigan 34 – Michigan State 10

M&GB staff predictions: Illinois

Friday, October 21st, 2016


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Fresh off a bye week, Michigan hosts Illinois in front of a homecoming crowd for the teams’ first meeting since 2012. Last week, Illinois beat Rutgers despite being outgained by 65 yards and being held to just 10 first downs. We all know what Michigan did to Rutgers the week before that. With Michigan favored by nearly 40 points in this one, it’s likely to get ugly early.

Joe won our weekly predictions four the fourth time in six games two weeks ago with his prediction of Michigan 54 – Rutgers 3. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Illinois
Justin 56 7
Derick 63 6
Sam 47 0
Josh 56 3
Joe 48 7
M&GB Average 54 5

Given Illinois’ inability to defend the run — they allow 224.2 yards per game against FBS competition and Rutgers rushed for 203 yards last week — another big day on the ground should be expected for a Michigan offense that ranks second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally in rushing. Will the Wolverines break 400 rushing yards like they did against Rutgers? Probably not, but they should top 300. I also think we’ll see a little more of Wilton Speight than we did against Rutgers when he threw just 13 passes. Having a strong ground game is great, but we can’t forget that Michigan only rushed for 130 against Wisconsin. The passing game needs to be strong as well, especially as the Big Ten title hunt enters the home stretch. Finally, I expect the offense to show a few new plays or formations that they worked on over the weekend specifically to set up plays for the Michigan State game next Saturday.

Defensively, Michigan will shut down the Illinois offense, but surrender one touchdown on a big run. If Lunt starts, he’s not a threat to run and Michigan’s defensive line will tee off on him. If Crouch starts, the Illini will have the dual-threat option and he’ll pull off a couple of first down runs on broken plays, but he won’t be able to do enough to cause concern. Jourdan Lewis will shut down Turner, rendering the Illinois passing game useless, and the rush defense will hold them under 100 yards.

Michigan is favored by 38.5 points and I expect them to cover. I think this game will be very similar to the Rutgers game two weeks ago, but to a lesser degree. Michigan won’t score 78 for the second straight game, they won’t top 600 total yards, and Illinois will get more than 39 total yards. But Michigan will still win big.

Michigan 56 – Illinois 7

Derick

The biggest blowout in this game’s history is 57-0, and that might be in jeopardy Saturday.

If Harbaugh wants to really get Jabrill Peppers into the Heisman conversation, he’ll make Peppers more of a factor on offense in the second half of the season. That doesn’t bode well for Illinois.

Michigan might not have the same motivation it did against a chirpy Rutgers team, but I still think this will be a blowout. Michigan wins big once again.

Michigan 63 – Illinois 6

Sam (1)

Another Big Ten game, another snoozer. At least, that’s why I’m expecting when the Wolverines welcome a woeful Illinois team for Homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor. With each passing week, the Big Ten looks like a two-team conference (okay, we’ll give Wisconsin and Nebraska a combined 0.5 worth of a team as well), and the Fighting Illini are certainly not in that conversation. This should be another game where the running game is dominant and Wilton Speight merely has to manage the offense and watch as Wormley, Taco, Peppers, Gedeon, McCray, Glasgow, Gary, Hurst, Lewis, and company dominate. The Maize and Blue rolls to 7-0 behind 350 rushing yards and plus-3 in the turnover game.

Michigan 47 – Illinois 0

Josh (1)

Illinois isn’t all that great, but they’re better than Rutgers. Michigan should win with relative ease but I do expect the Illinois pass rush to give Michigan some issues. Wilton Speight has been decent but not consistent this year. If Michigan wants to compete for a B1G Ten title and more he needs to clean up some stuff. Illinois should provide a good test for Speight’s pocket presence and quickness in decision making. The running back by committee will continue, perhaps with an appearance by Drake Johnson, and De’Veon Smith is likely to sit out most of the game as other guys get reps. A deep pass or two and this one will be over by halftime.

Illinois is a better running team than passing, so I don’t expect a ton of tackles for loss or sacks. What I do expect is a lot of three and outs and short fields for Michigan’s offense. Hopefully we can see Lavert Hill and David Long get some more solid game action as 2017 demands these guys are well seasoned.

As mentioned in this week’s The Numbers Game, Illinois is very similar (numbers wise) to Penn State and Michigan handled them quite easily, I expect a similar result.

Michigan 56 – Illinois 3

Joe (4)

I like this matchup versus Illinois on several fronts. The run game will see plenty of holes should get rolling early. The offensive line will dominate a less experienced and smaller defensive front for Illinois. The defense will continue to get better after a week off and will be very hungry. We are starting to get to the MEAT of the schedule and should start seeing more consistency from everyone. Look for Speight to go for 250 and three touchdowns while Peppers returns one to the house in his growing Heisman push. Michigan wins pulling away.

Michigan 48 – Illinois 7

M&GB staff predictions: Rutgers

Saturday, October 8th, 2016


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Michigan passed its first big test of the season with a 14-7 win over No. 8 Wisconsin last week. Rutgers, meanwhile, lost to Ohio State 58-0. Michigan visits Rutgers on Saturday for its first road game of the season.

Sam picked up his first weekly prediction win last week with his prediction of Michigan 24 – Wisconsin 10. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Rutgers
Justin 49 7
Derick 48 3
Sam 48 3
Josh 52 7
Joe 54 3
M&GB Average 50 5

Michigan picked up a big win over a top 10 opponent last week and now hits the road for the first time this season. It’s a night game in what should be a raucous environment. If ever there was a letdown game, this would be it. I’d expect Michigan to start slowly on Saturday night, but never be in real danger of losing. Perhaps an early turnover or a few early penalties that stall the first couple drives. But once the Wolverines settle in and exert their will, they’ll pull away and cover the 30-point spread.

Expect a big rushing day for Michigan as the running back by committee keeps going and going and going. Wilton Speight won’t be asked to do too much. A few timely tosses to Jake Butt and a couple tries downfield will be all they’ll need to keep the defense honest. De’Veon Smith cracks 100 yards and either Chris Evans or Karan Higdon busts a long touchdown run.

Michigan 49 – Rutgers 7

Derick

Michigan’s last trip to Rutgers didn’t go so well, but the Scarlett Knights will see a different team this time around.

It’s Michigan’s first road game, but it should be a good game to feel things out away from home. Rutgers is coming off an ugly 58-0 loss to Ohio State and won’t have star player Janarion Grant back this season.

Michigan’s defense is one of the best Rutgers will see all season, so the loss of Grant will loom large. Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling have a chance to shut down a passing attack that managed just three completions and 33 yards in Columbus.

This is one of the best home games Rutgers has this season, and those fans think Michigan is a rival. But even in that atmosphere, I think Michigan will run away with the game.

Michigan 48 – Rutgers 3

Sam (1)

After a hard fought battle against Wisconsin to cap off an undefeated five game home streak, the Wolverines take to the road to play their wannabe rivals in Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, coming off a couldn’t-have-been-worse 50-8 shellacking at the hands of their partners Ohio State, are running a defense that is on life support and sending out an offense that has no pulse. While Rutgers fans are calling this their Super Bowl, I can’t see it being much more than a leisurely walk on the beach for Michigan. The defense dominates once again while the rushing attack maintains its momentum with five touchdowns. Give me the Maize and Blue big.

Michigan 48 – Rutgers 3

Josh (1)

As I said in this week’s The Numbers Game, 2016 Rutgers is bad, and they should feel bad. If Chris Ash sticks around long enough I’m sure he’ll turn them around but for now this Rutgers team is pretty bad, on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Chris Laviano isn’t a threat on designed runs but can make things happen if the pocket breaks down. Unfortunately for him Michigan’s defensive line will be the best he’s faced thus far and he shouldn’t break more than one or two runs. From what I’ve seen he doesn’t really ever get a chance to pass the ball downfield much because his offensive line cannot protect him. Also unfortunately for Laviano — and the entire offense — their one good player, Janarion Grant, is out. This has the makings of a shutout, but Laviano’s ability to scramble worries me. I think they’ll end up with a few points as a result of a busted play or two. That said, if Michigan was to completely bottle up a team and keep them off the scoreboard this is probably their best chance.

There isn’t much that this game will tell us about Michigan that we don’t already know. Michigan will dominate on both sides and win with ease.

Michigan should be able to play plenty of back-ups throughout the second half and that’s a good thing as the showdown with Sparty looms. I’d really like to see is Michigan get their kicking game in order. If Quinn Nordin is healthy again, and it appears he is, I’d love to see him lockdown one of those three spots, or even Ryan Tice. But someone needs to step up and get some real game action over the next two games.

I’m not sure Rutgers can score but then again Michigan has been prone to giving up big plays it shouldn’t (it just doesn’t give up many). A bad turnover by Speight sets them up in scoring position, but that’s all they manage. Michigan wins big and heads into the bye week 6-0.

Michigan 52 – Rutgers 7

Joe (3)

The first road game of the season comes after the biggest test so far. That battle against Wisconsin will help this team down the line, but not this week. This Rutgers team is a bad football team. I’ve tried to find some positives to talk about but the best that I can come up with is how the best players from this state wear Maize and Blue. Let’s start with the quarterback play. Ughhhh. Moving on to the defense. Blaaaahhh. Special teams may be even as long as they can make 50 percent of their field goal attempts. Heck, we’d take that right about now. This one will get ugly fast! The defense will get pressure and force two turnovers a half, maybe more, and the ground game will be a focal point as the Wolverines try to gel with a new left tackle. I can’t see this one staying close any longer than it takes to cook a few brats on the grill. Michigan big.

Michigan 54 – Rutgers 3

M&GB staff predictions – Wisconsin

Friday, September 30th, 2016


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Previously this week: First Look, Five-Spot Challenge, Tailgate Tuesday: Tomato pie, Week 4 power rankings, The numbers game, Game preview

Both Michigan and Wisconsin enter Saturday’s matchup ranked in the top 10 — the first time in series history that the two have played as top 10 teams. Both earned dominant wins over Big Ten East foes last weekend and both feature defenses that rank among the nation’s best. So what gives?

Once again, Joe was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 42 – Penn State 10. He now has the lead in our staff picks challenge with three wins in four weeks. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Wisconsin
Justin 33 13
Derick 35 24
Sam 24 10
Josh 41 13
Joe 34 14
M&GB Average 33 15

Michigan and Wisconsin feature two of the nation’s best defenses, but I’m not sold on the offenses the Badgers have faced to date. That’s not saying that their defense isn’t great. But Michigan’s offense is light years better than those of LSU, Akron, Georgia State, and Michigan State. Michigan may not score the 52 points it averages, but it will move the ball semi-consistently and put a little bit of humility into Wisconsin’s defense. Look for a lot more Jabrill Peppers as a ball carrier, receiver, and as a decoy as Jim Harbaugh finds ways to neutralize Wisconsin’s linebacker strength.

Defensively, Michigan matches up nicely with Wisconsin’s offense. Alex Hornibrook hasn’t faced the type of pass rush Michigan brings and won’t have the same accuracy he displayed last week. Without a spread threat, the defense will be able to focus on bottling up Corey Clement and forcing third-and-longs where the Wolverines excel.

The first half will remain a close, defensive battle, but Michigan’s offense will find enough to pull away in the second. Wilton Speight will take care of the ball and put together a nice stat line with Jake Butt being his favorite target.

Michigan 33 – Wisconsin 13

Derick

Wisconsin is the first real test Michigan will face this season, setting up a top-10 battle in Ann Arbor.

Michigan provides a bigger test for Alex Hornibrook, who will see a defense averaging 4.3 sacks per game. On offense, Michigan probably won’t get up to 52 points (its season average), but it should do enough to win the game.

Wisconsin will hang around, but the special teams dominance of Michigan will wear down the Badgers. Michigan will pull away late to win.

Michigan 35 – Wisconsin 24

Sam

Many are calling this the first real test for this Michigan Wolverines squad after four straight blowouts. But with Vince Biegel out for the Badgers and Michigan’s defense getting close to full strength (minus the unfortunate loss of Jeremy Clark), I think the Wolverines hold every advantage in what should be a classic rough-and-tumble Big Ten throwback contest.

Jabrill Peppers should see plenty of snaps in all three phases, Jourdan Lewis and Ben Braden should inch closer to full health, and Michigan’s defense should be far too stout for a Wisconsin team designed to ground and pound. I’ll take the Maize and Blue in convincing fashion again.

Michigan 27 – Wisconsin 10

Josh (1)

As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Wisconsin is very good at preventing explosive plays but not so good at generating them. This plays right into Michigan’s hands. I think this will be a good test for the Michigan offensive line as they have struggled thus far against 3-4 fronts, and Wisconsin is always a stout team up front. I expect Wisconsin to keep Michigan well under their season average for explosive plays (currently 11.25 per game), but with the loss of stud linebacker Vince Biegel they will struggle to keep Michigan the board.

It appears as though sophomore running back Karan Higdon is not only healthy but quite possibly the No. 2 option behind De’Veon Smith. If this holds true I think we’ll see a heavy dose of run and play-action passing this weekend. I’m not sure Michigan tops 45 for the sixth straight game (dating back to last season) but they’ll come close. As we’ve seen Harbaugh isn’t one to let his foot off the gas.

On the other side of the ball redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook had a solid outing against Michigan State last week but it appeared that his arm strength was a bit, shall we say, lacking. He likely won’t be able to test Michigan deep, nor is he a threat to run. At least not a dangerous run threat anyway. It looks like Bryan Mone may be back this week, and if he is Hornibrook could be in for a long, painful afternoon. Michigan should keep their season pace with 10-plus tackles for loss and add three or four sacks as well.

Wisconsin is a pro-style team and they don’t really use many 3-plus wide receiver sets, so the huge loss of Jeremy Clark, literally and figuratively, might not rear its ugly head this week. However, Paul Chryst is a solid coach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him roll out a few plays with an extra receiver or two to try and stress Michigan’s pass defense.

Honestly, I’m not too worried this week but I am very uncomfortable going forward. Brandon Watson, David Long, and Lavert Hill don’t exactly instill much confidence in me right now. But again, this is as a good a week to test out some new defensive back options as any without much fear of disastrous results.

Normally you expect a battle of two top defenses (currently No. 1 and 2 in the Big Ten) to come down to which team has the better offense. That team is Michigan, by a longshot. On top of that ,I don’t think Wisconsin is as good as their record — and previous opponents’ ranking — would lead you to believe. LSU is clearly a dumpster fire and Michigan State gave that game away with poor quarterback play and a ton of turnovers. Did I mention Georgia State took them deep into the fourth quarter? Wisconsin is good, don’t get me wrong, but Michigan is just much better all-around. My gut says it won’t be as close as a top ten matchup ought to be though. Wolverines win big, again.

Michigan 41 – Wisconsin 13

Joe (3)

Now things start to get a little fun. We’re done with the early cream-puffs and start to get into the meat of the schedule. Mmmmmm…..meat! If you browse the inter webs on Tuesday’s, you know what we do to meat around here. We cook it low and slow and typically char it at the end. This will be no different against the Badgers. They are coming into the Big House riding high after a dominating performance against the Spartans. The big difference is the offense they will see this week is much better than anything they’ve seen so far. Speight will distribute the ball around and take a few deep shots along the way and eventually find Butt for a touchdown or two. The defense will get all over the freshman quarterback and force a few bad decisions resulting in short fields for the good guys. Michigan wins this one going away.

Michigan 34 – Wisconsin 14

M&GB staff predictions – Penn State

Friday, September 23rd, 2016


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Michigan opens Big Ten play on Saturday against 2-1 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are three games into a new up-tempo spread offense that has fans in State College excited, but is still in its infancy. They’re also missing their entire linebacking corps.

Joe was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 45 – Colorado 17. He now has the lead in our staff picks challenge. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn State
Justin 48 20
Derick 38 20
Sam 34 10
Josh 38 13
Joe 42 10
M&GB Average 40 15

This game just has the makings of a big Michigan win. The Wolverines faced adversity for the first time this season last week and showed they can overcome it. Now, with that added confidence, they’ll kick off conference play with a convincing win.

Like Michigan’s previous opponents, Penn State will load the box to stop the run and force Wilton Speight to beat them. But the Nittany Lions won’t be able to get consistent pressure on Speight and he’ll approach 300 yards passing. Watch for another big game from Jake Butt, who will capitalize on Penn State’s linebacker inexperience.

On the other side of the ball, Moorhead will try to keep the PSU offense moving quickly, getting the ball out of McSorley’s hands quickly and utilizing his feet. Michigan may give up a few big plays and some points, but it won’t be consistent. McSorley hasn’t faced the type of pressure Michigan will bring and will make a couple of mistakes. Michigan’s defense leads the nation on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 11 percent, while Penn State’s offense ranks 118th, converting just 27.3 percent. That doesn’t spell success with Don Brown bringing the heat.

Michigan 48 – Penn State 20

Derick

I think the up-tempo offensive style of Penn State will give Michigan some issues, but if Jourdan Lewis returns, the secondary will obviously have a huge lift.

On offense, Michigan will have to keep being creative in the running game to open things up for Wilton Speight in the short passing game.

I don’t think Penn State is much better than Colorado, but this might be Michigan’s toughest test to date. With that said, Michigan’s wake up call came last weekend and I expect Jim Harbaugh will have them firing on all cylinders to start Big Ten play.

Michigan will cruise past Penn State, 38-20.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 20

Sam

Michigan cruised through weeks 1 and 2 against clearly inferior competition…then came week 3 against a Colorado team that we also thought would be a mere speed hump (not even a bump!). Alas, as the first quarter was drawing to a close, I was already reasoning with myself that “it’s just a game”.

But the recovery came quickly, and things will hopefully be back on track as Penn State comes to town tomorrow. Wilton Speight is probably not as good as the first two weeks showed, and probably not as bad as last week either.

Will it be enough to win the Big Ten? Only time can tell. But it should be plenty to beat a Penn State team that is going to struggle to find space for Saquon Barkley to run into. Taco Charlton should be back in a big way as Michigan dumps the Nittany Lions.

Michigan 34 – Penn State 10

Josh (1)

Ah, Penn State. What a wonderful team. Wait, no that’s not right. Apparently they have a saying there, “It’s -blank- o’clock and Michigan still sucks.” Yes, Michigan sucks. Clearly they haven’t checked their place in the conference hierarchy lately. Even so, I think they’ll provide yet another stout test for Michigan this week. They have a new spread-y type offense, one of the best running backs in America and a dominating defensive li… What’s that? Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel graduated? And they’re also missing two of three starting linebackers? Oh well then, disregard any mention of their defense. So maybe the defense isn’t a force to be reckoned with anymore, but their new spread offense might be and Michigan will need to be on their best game if they want to avoid getting caught on too many busted plays again.

I’ll go ahead and say it, Saquon Barkley scares me. He is shifty, he has excellent vision and he is fast. Taking the wrong angle on him could end up with six on the scoreboard. Michigan absolutely has to contain him if they are to win this game. That said, it’s been the passing game that has generated the big plays for Penn State this year (4.67 per game, same as Michigan). Luckily, Michigan is getting Jourdan Lewis back this week so that should do wonders for the defense. And maybe Taco too? Either way, this is a game Michigan should win but will likely be test once again.

On offense – I’d like to see Wilton Speight bounce back from an iffy performance with confidence and make some big plays once again. At this point I’m not sure anyone really respects Michigan’s run game (I don’t blame them) so Penn State will probably be content to let Speight try to beat them with his arm. It would be nice to see the run game get some momentum heading into the Wisconsin match-up but my gut says Penn State is going to stack the box so I’m not so sure this is the week we see our traditional run game get going. Thank God for jet sweeps and guys like Jabrill Peppers, Jehu Chesson and Eddie McDooooooooooom. I’d also like to see the left guard spot get sorted out, as neither Ben Braden nor Ben Bredeson has looked all that good there and it’s beginning to become a concern for me as we head into the meat of the schedule.

On defense – I’d like to see them shore up some of the containment/missed assignment issues that plagued them the last two weeks as well as how they adjust to another spread/no-huddle team. Penn State isn’t exactly a tempo spread team, they are no-huddle but don’t run a ton of plays. In fact, they’re averaging almost 5.5 plays fewer per game than Michigan is right now. Either way, I’d like to see how Michigan continues to adjust to a no-huddle team. How they manage to improve upon this could be the difference between 12-0 and 10-2. Hopefully adding Jourdan Lewis back into the mix is a shot in the arm for both the pass and run defense.

For the record, I’m not too worried about Penn State causing issues here as it seems they line up quickly and look to the sideline for the play-call but it could be an issue anyway. Michigan has done a fairly good job of hiding their coverages/blitzes so far but when a defense is spread out it can become tricky to hide those blitzes as well as before. On that note…

Maybe a new wrinkle, or two, as far as formations or crazy blitzes to keep that spread offense from clicking. Don Brown has hung his hat on not only his aggressiveness but also his ability to stop spread teams, with three games under their belts I think now is the time we need to start seeing some progress on that front. Holding Penn State to under three big run plays and two big pass plays would be HUGE in my opinion. Remember, holding an opponent to under six big plays per game would be on par with a top ten ranking (stats-wise) based on 2015 big play stats. This needs to be the game where Michigan really asserts itself on defense and shuts down all those big plays they’ve been giving up lately.

On special teams – All I want to see is Kenny Allen keep his punts out of the endzone, consistently. That and maybe another block/deflection. I won’t be greedy and ask for another special teams score, OK maybe I will.

Michigan is the better team. They have better players and a far superior coaching staff. Any Penn State fan who thinks Franklin will outcoach Harbaugh (I saw it on twitter) clearly needs their head examined. Penn State will put up a fight, probably not a jump-out-to-an-early-lead like Colorado fight but a fight nonetheless. After getting punched in the mouth last week Michigan should come out focused and ready to roll. Michigan wins going away but the game is much closer than the score.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 13

Joe (2)

This is a game where the lines should dominate early and often and wear the Nittany Lions down over the course of four quarters. While the Penn State quarterback is leading the Big Ten in passing yards (second in passing yards per game) he will not have much time to survey his options. Our defensive front should have a field day and generate tons of pressures and quarterback hits. That will lead to turnovers and points for the Maize and Blue.

If Michigan can keep Saquon Barkley in check most of the time and force them to throw, things will get ugly in the second half. Barkley is the best and only option coming out of Happy Valley.

Wilton Speight should come back strong and have a solid day thru the air. I think Michigan will look to establish the run early and then open things up. Speight goes for 250 and three scores through the air with two of them going to Butt. Michigan wins this one big.

Michigan 42 – Penn State 10

M&GB staff predictions: Colorado

Saturday, September 17th, 2016


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Colorado comes to town tomorrow with a 2-0 record, hoping to relive the magic of 1994 when Kordell Stewart’s hail Mary stunned the Wolverines. As a 20-point underdog, a win this time around would be a much bigger stunner. Josh was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 51 – UCF 10. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Colorado
Justin 34 17
Derick 38 14
Sam 41 10
Josh 42 17
Joe 45 17
M&GB Average 40 15

Michigan’s schedule has gradually gotten stronger by the opponent and this will be the biggest test yet. The line has hovered around 20 points, but that will be a tough one for Michigan to cover. Through the first two weeks of the season Colorado ranks in the top 10 nationally in both offense and defense. Like Michigan they have feasted on cupcakes without playing down to their competition, but they have done it better.

Colorado has done a good job taking care of the ball so far this season. They have lost three fumbles — which are mostly random — but Liufau hasn’t thrown an interception yet. Michigan’s defense has forced four turnovers so far — two of which were pick-sixes — and they’ll need to force Liufau to make mistakes.

Offensively, the big question will be whether Michigan can muster a run game. UCF packed eight and nine man boxes a week ago to stop the run, so Wilton Speight aired it out 37 times. The passing game made seven big plays (20 or more yards). But Colorado features a much better secondary than UCF did. Awuzie is one of the best corners Michigan will face this season and will be able to stick with Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh. If the offensive line is unable to get a push and open up running lanes, Speight will be tested more than he has yet in his young career.

This game has the makings of a tight one through the first half that Michigan pulls away in the second. I do think the running game will be able to have some success — Colorado State rushed for 5.6 yards per carry on 33 attempts — and the play action passing game will make enough big plays to ensure the win, but not cover the spread.

Michigan 34 – Colorado 17

Derick

Michigan hasn’t seen a test like Colorado yet this season, but the Buffaloes still aren’t on the same level as most of the Big Ten. In two games against Hawaii and UCF, Michigan ran away from the game in the first quarter.

I expect this game will be closer, but it still shouldn’t be close. Michigan has more firepower offensively than Colorado and should be able to overwhelm the Buffaloes downfield. If the first two weeks are any indication, Michigan will once again struggle to run the ball against a solid Colorado front seven. But Wilton Speight has shown he can beat teams in play action, and I think he will again.

Colorado will hang in there for a half, but Michigan will run away in the third quarter for a win.

Michigan 38 – Colorado 14

Sam

This may be the first “test” for the Wolverines, but I’m resting easy. I still think Michigan’s defense is too good to cede more than a couple fluky touchdowns (even without a couple of major pieces) to Colorado, and Speight has been too good to contain. I like the Maize and Blue to cover the spread for a third straight time before conference season gets underway.

Michigan 41 – Colorado 10

Josh (1)

Colorado is probably better than both Hawaii and UCF, but they haven’t played anyone of note either. There were some concerns about Michigan’s run defense last week, losing ‘contain’ on the quarterback and giving up an 87-yard touchdown run. As I touched on in this week’s ‘The Numbers Game’ post I wouldn’t worry too much, these are issues that will be fixed by the coaching staff. Like last year, Michigan has been very vanilla in both their offense and defense. There’s no need to break out their whole bag of tricks early on and give teams like MSU, Iowa and OSU stuff to scout.

Michigan is much more talented and better coached than Colorado, but they still may give Michigan a test this weekend. Stats-wise, Sefo Liufau has been an efficient passer in his first two games and isn’t a slouch in the run game either. Normally this would be a prime letdown spot for a game — a solid opponent after two weeks of cupcakes. I don’t see Harbaugh letting that happen though. The man didn’t even find Colorado’s fake depth chart amusing (I thought it was rather clever).

That said, I think Colorado will hang with Michigan a lot longer than most people think, despite Michigan being favored by 20-points. They’re a spread team with a high-tempo offense and some solid threats in both the running and passing game. Michigan is missing two defensive linemen (and maybe Jourdan Lewis again too) and it will eventually take its toll resulting in a big run or two, as guys get worn down. Twitter will be panicking early as I think this will still be a competitive game heading into halftime. Michigan will pull away by the fourth quarter making the game look not nearly as close as it actually was.

Some things I’d like to see:

On offense: It would be nice to see the run game get going but I just want to see an efficient offense again, regardless of how they do it. This should be a good test for Speight and I’d like to see him remain calm in the pocket and make the correct reads/progressions as he did last week. On the ground, if they so choose to run a lot, I need to see some more consistency in the blocking and from De’Veon Smith’s decision making regarding which holes to hit and when to cutback, etc.

On defense: The obvious is not let the quarterback run all over them but I won’t be upset by a couple big runs. If they can keep the big plays to under five I’ll be very pleased. What I’d really like though is to see Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark play so well that we don’t need to worry about missing Lewis (if he’s out longer than expected). With Lewis this secondary can be elite; without him they cannot.

On special teams: It’d be crazy to think they can block another kick, or two, right?

Michigan 42 – Colorado 17

Joe (1)

Michigan 45 – Colorado 17