Last time Michigan took the field, Sam was almost exactly right with his prediction of 27-21 Ohio State. The actual score was 26-21. It was Sam’s second win of the season, moving him into a tie with Chris, Josh, and Katie for second. If any one of them win this week, he or she will tie Matt for the weekly title. If not, Matt will win it outright. This is a tough one to pick because nobody really knows how Denard will be utilized and we aren’t that familiar with South Carolina. The Gamecocks are favored to win, so let’s take a look at our picks:
Justin (1): I’ve said it several times already, but I think Al Borges will determine who wins this game. South Carolina has a very good defense led by outstanding pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney and if Michigan’s offense is as predictable as it was in the second half of the Ohio State game, Michigan doesn’t stand a chance. I do think Michigan has the advantage of getting five weeks to prepare. Yes, both teams get that amount of time, but the way the offense changed when Denard was replaced at quarterback by Devin Gardner negates any advantage South Carolina’s defensive staff has to look at film. Nobody truly knows how Denard will be utilized and it’s up to Borges to call a great game, using Denard all over the field in a variety of packages and giving him the threat of throwing it. That’s the only way to keep South Carolina’s defense on its heels.
The Gamecocks will look to run right at Michigan and exploit J.T. Floyd’s replacement, Courtney Avery. Steve Spurrier will employ a two-quarterback attack to try to keep Michigan’s defense off balance. Connor Shaw is a dual threat, while Dylan Thompson is a more traditional passer.
It will take a flawlessly executed game by Michigan’s offense to win and I don’t see that happening. It will be a close game, but South Carolina’s defense will be too much for Michigan to execute perfectly. For more, see the First Look, this morning’s Game Preview, Friday’s Friend vs Foe, or my Q&A with Garnet and Black Attack.
South Carolina 24 – Michigan 20
Chris (2): This bowl matchup presents an interesting matchup for the Wolverines. South Carolina started the season with stud running back Marcus Lattimore in the backfield, but he was lost to a gruesome knee injury mid-way through the year. Since then, the Gamecocks have lacked a real threat in the running game and have gone to a more wide-open spread attack with mobile QBs Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. For being a Steve Spurrier coached team, South Carolina doesn’t pass as much as you would think.
On the other side, Michigan has lacked a true running game all season. Other than when Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner has run the ball, Michigan has been unable to move the ball on the ground. Like South Carolina, Michigan only really throws the ball when they have to. Once Denard injured his elbow during the Nebraska game, Gardner was able to provide a spark in the passing game despite not having played the position much so far in his Michigan career.
In 2012, defenses led both of these teams. Michigan led the NCAA in total pass defense for the majority of the season but was not very good against the run. South Carolina, on the other hand, looked to have one of college football’s best total defenses early on, but they were exposed in back-to-back weeks against LSU and Florida. Still, they are good against both the run and pass due to their overall defensive talent and speed. They also feature an outstanding pass rush, led by a freak of a player in All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
I think Michigan is going to have their hands full in this game. Without a running game to keep the defense honest, South Carolina will be able to focus on containing Robinson and Gardner in the backfield. As long as they don’t rush too quickly upfield, they should be able to limit their ability to escape the pocket. Even if they do get out in space, South Carolina is fast enough to limit their total yardage. I do think Michigan will be able to limit South Carolina in the passing game, but it won’t matter as that’s not the focus of the Gamecock offense. South Carolina will feature a balanced attack with a mobile QB and a lot of overall speed. While I’ll be cheering for the Wolverines, I think South Carolina wins.
South Carolina 30 – Michigan 17
Josh (2): Michigan has a chance to once again beat an SEC team. Something the rest of the Big Ten can’t seem to do lately; I’m talking to you Ohio St.
With Devin Gardner solidified as the starting QB, Michigan has gained a legit passing threat and Denard will no doubt be featured at various positions in his Wolverine finale. Just what those positions may be is yet to be determined, but rest assured he’ll be out there doing everything he can to help Michigan win another bowl game for Brady Hoke. Given Al Borges’ tendency for crappy play calling in big games recently I am not so optimistic heading into this match up. South Carolina isn’t as explosive on offense as they were with Marcus Lattimore but they aren’t anything to scoff at. However, Michigan’s defense should be able to keep the Gamecock’s offense in check giving the offense a chance to put some points on the board.
With the recent addition of a passing game Michigan know only needs to find its running game. With Fitz out that task rests on the shoulders of Denard Robinson, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith. I’m not sure who will step up, if anyone, but someone needs to help Gardner out with a rushing attack. Given what we’ve seen thus far, I’d say Denard is our only chance of having a rushing game though. If he can stay healthy and on the field, Michigan has a chance to win the game. But the Gamecock defense will be doing everything they can to hit Denard and hit him hard every time he has the ball. If Denard isn’t out there every play Michigan’s chances of winning this game drop dramatically. The Gamecock’s defense is not one you want to face with a one-dimensional offense.
The heart of that defense is what scares me (and most other teams) the most, Jadeveon Clowney. For me this game will come down to Michigan’s ability to keep Clowney from being a disruptive force as he has been all season. I just don’t see that happening. Taylor Lewan is an All-American, but I’m not so sure he’s even worthy of being an All-Big Ten lineman. I expect South Carolina to move Clowney around the defensive front to give Michigan different looks and to exploit mismatches as often as possible. Gardner and Denard are both great athletes and not prone to taking sacks, and Clowney may not rack up any sacks or TFL’s but I still think he will leave his fingerprints all over the outcome of this game.
Gardner is mobile and can definitely make plays but I just don’t see Michigan coming out of this one with a win if they cannot get the run game going as well. South Carolina’s defense is better than OSU’s, and poor play calling aside, the Buckeyes shut us down in the 2nd half of that game. The Ole Ball Coach is a wily veteran and as much as it pains me to predict a Michigan loss, that is what I am doing. I sure hope I’m wrong though!
South Carolina 31 – Michigan 21
Matt (3): What a great time of year this is. Although the end of the season always brings disappointment, knowing we won’t get that college football experience until next August, bowl games and the National Championship are always something to get excited for.
We Michigan fans haven’t had the greatest year, seeing as Michigan lost four games. Although, when you look at the losses, it’s not as bad as it seems. Losing to Alabama and Notre Dame, who are currently ranked #1 and #2 and will be meeting on January 7th in the National Championship Game, isn’t something to be too down on. The loss against Ohio State hurts, but they did go undefeated. The Nebraska loss was tough, and many feel if Devin Gardner came in instead of Russell Bellomy that it would have been a whole different ball game. But enough about that.
Michigan will be playing a New Year’s Day bowl game, the Outback Bowl, against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Another Big Ten vs SEC matchup.
If you compare ratings, these teams are similar. South Carolina gets the edge in rushing yards per game, but they are without Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks get the edge in passing yards per game as well, with Connor Shaw leading the team. Shaw has had an impressive year.
Michigan still has the dual-threat combination of Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner at quarterback, although we aren’t sure how Al Borges will decide to use them in the bowl game. Will they both be on the field at the same time? Or will they split snaps?
Looking at stats, South Carolina has held teams to less points compared to Michigan, but not by that many.
I think the key to Michigan gaining this victory is how Al Borges decides to play Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. If you have both of these incredible athletes on the field, you have the defense spread thin, having to cover both men very heavily.
Both are a huge threat at any position they play, although I prefer seeing Gardner at quarterback while Robinson is at running back or receiver.
It’s going to be a tough game for the Michigan Wolverines. South Carolina plays in the SEC. We all know the SEC is a top notch conference. Their only losses were at the hands of Florida and LSU. Michigan is definitely going to have their hands full. But I see Brady Hoke, Al Borges and Greg Mattison having these guys ready. And at the end of the 4th quarter, I see Michigan winning by a small margin.
Write it down folks! Michigan wins this one, 31-28. Go Blue!
Michigan 31 – South Carolina 28
Sam (2): [Sam didn't get a chance to submit a full write-up, but submitted his score prediction].
South Carolina 27 – Michigan 17
Katie (2): The outlook for this game looks to be pretty even. South Carolina is ranked just out of the top ten, and Michigan just inside the top twenty. Their defenses are #12 and #11, respectively. As for the offensive side of the ball, neither are in the top fifty, though the Wolverines do rank in at #6 in third down conversion, while the Gamecocks are a considerably lower #43. Michigan is also #40 in rushing offense, and while their opponent can’t better that they also lost their leading rusher Marcus Lattimore to a horrific knee injury this season. Michigan however, was able to bring back their wounded star for the Ohio State game, and though Robinson won’t likely be passing he still has the potential to be lethal with his feet, and perhaps even deadlier in some type of wildcat offense alongside Devin Gardner. But the Gamecocks won’t be any pushover even against a potent Michigan backfield, as they have a formidable rush and red zone defense, and a long tally of intercepted passes that will test the Wolverines oft scoring offense.
With the defenses being on par with each other, this match-up will be about how the offenses break down the opposing side. And Michigan should look to keep South Carolina to under 21 points, as only two losses were when they scored three touchdowns or less, and because they scored 30 or more points in seven games. With an average of just over 13 yards a catch offense, Carolina will keep Michigan’s #2 pass defense on their toes. Which means that the coaches will have to know what to dial in to switch up the game plan in case their team finds itself in a rut.
Overall, it looks to be a great New Year’s day game.
Michigan 30 – Ohio State 24
Archive for the ‘Friday Pick’em’ Category
Last week, Matt captured his third prediction victory of the year with his 41-13 pick. Katie and Justin were both close as well, while Sam had his worst pick of the season. This week is the big one, the one we’ve all been waiting for since Michigan beat the Buckeyes a year ago. Ohio State is favored and looking for an undefeated season, while Michigan is still hoping to keep its Big Ten title hopes alive. A lot is on the line, and that’s just how it should be. Let’s take a look at our picks.
Justin (1): Despite being unbeaten, Ohio State is far from unbeatable. The Bucks had to survive overtime against Wisconsin and needed a last minute comeback just to force overtime against Purdue (!). They let Indiana score 49 points and needed a late touchdown to beat Cal, who is just 3-9 this season.
A week ago, questions swirled about Denard’s status and availability. Would he see the field? If he did, would it just be a ceremonial snap for one last time in the Big House? Well, he did see the field and that ceremonial snap turned into another and another and another. In the end, he carried the ball 13 times for 98 yards and caught two passes for 24 more. He lined up at quarterback a few times, but didn’t throw a pass, and he also served as a decoy several times, one of which resulted in a Vincent Smith touchdown as the entire Iowa defense keyed on Denard.
Yes, it was against Iowa, but Ohio State’s defense isn’t much better. In fact, statistically, they aren’t. The offense that was on display last week will be built upon. Al Borges will try to get the ball to Denard in space to make Ohio State’s linebackers and defensive backs make plays in space. Devin Gardner will also throw the ball quite a bit, looking for Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo underneath the Buckeye zone. There will be yards to be had and Michigan will need to be efficient with punching the ball into the end zone instead of settling for field goals or turning it over.
Ohio State’s offense is high-powered and will put a lot of pressure on Michigan’s defense. Braxton Miller has gotten much better since last season, though he’s still prone to mistakes. Michigan’s defensive line will have to make sure it doesn’t rush right by him, leaving lanes for him to step up and run. To be sure, Greg Mattison’s defense will focus on keeping Miller from getting to the edge like Wisconsin did. Linebackers Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens, and Desmond Morgan will need to stay disciplined. We will also probably see quite a bit of Jakes Ross to get more speed on the field like we have against other spread offenses.
I just don’t see this one being a defensive battle, nor do I see it being a blowout in either direction. It will go back and forth with both teams scoring often. Unfortunately, I think Ohio State ends up on top. But I hope I’m wrong. For more analysis, check out this morning’s game preview, yesterday’s Friend vs Foe, Wednesday’s MMQ, and Monday’s First Look.
Ohio State 38 – Michigan 35
Chris (2): The time has come for The Game. The biggest rivalry in all of sports. There are others that come close, but there is no competition that matches the hatred and passion that comes with Michigan and Ohio getting together to battle it out on the football field at the end of every season. Saturday’s matchup is no different. Michigan will enter the game knowing whether they have a chance to win the Legends Division after a Nebraska loss on Friday. Even if that’s not the case, Michigan will be motivated by the opportunity to ruin Ohio’s undefeated season and what will be Ohio’s bowl game, since they are not eligible for any postseason play.
Last week, Michigan unveiled a new style of offense with Denard Robinson playing in a new multi-role position and Devin Gardner taking all of the snaps under center. The result was the best day of offense that a Michigan team has had in years. As I pointed out in my Monday Morning Quarterback article this past week, I believe that dynamic nature of this offense has added a positive twist to this game that will make it even more exciting.
Living in Columbus, I have seen Ohio play a lot. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of this Ohio team. One thing I can tell you is that they struggle with is teams that spread them out and attack them with multiple formations and multiple looks. They have been especially vulnerable when offenses get the ball out on the edge quickly and the defense is forced to run to the ball and make a tackle. Speaking of tackling, Ohio has been poor in this area all season, which could be an advantage for the Michigan offense.
So what do I see happening on Saturday? Defensively, Michigan needs to stop the run and prevent QB Braxton Miller from the running the ball out of the pocket. This means a disciplined pass rush that keeps Miller contained in the pocket. Expect Ohio to try to establish dominance in the trenches right off the bat with a strong rushing attack to wear down the defense and keep an explosive Michigan offense off of the field.
When Michigan is on offense, I think the key will be up front with the offensive line defending against the Ohio pass rush. All season, Michigan has struggled with their blocking. If they can’t keep the Ohio defense from penetrating the line and disrupting the play in the backfield, it will be a long day for Michigan fans. Al Borges will need to call a heavy mix of screens, draws, and short, quick-hitting passes that will force the defense to stay off of the line of scrimmage and give the offense room to operate. Spread them out and make the defense tackle in space. That’s how Michigan will move the ball.
My prediction for this game is that Ohio is going to be too much for the Michigan defense on the ground. Michigan hasn’t been great defending the run this year and that’s not a recipe for success in this rivalry. I want Michigan to win and hope with everything in me that I’m wrong.
Ohio State 26 – Michigan 23
Josh (2): Ah, Beat Ohio week. My favorite week of the year. Last year Michigan broke their losing streak to that team from Columbus and look to make it two in a row for Brady Hoke. The Game always has significance but it lost some of its luster under the last regime, who didn’t seem to understand its importance. But let us not dwell on the past. Ohio comes into the game at 11-0 and would love nothing more than to cap off their undefeated season with a win against the Wolverines. A month ago I would have said Ohio wins big, but with the emergence of Devin Gardner and a legitimate passing game I have changed my tune. It won’t be easy, it never is against Ohio, but with Gardner at QB and Denard playing the role of WR/RB I think we have a really good chance at beating an undefeated Ohio team again.
Michigan has the nation’s top pass defense; part of that is who they’ve played but a bigger part is Greg Mattison and his scheme. He sets his guys up to succeed and has instilled a great confidence that had been lacking since the 2006 team. Ohio has a high octane offense led by Braxton Miller but, as Wisconsin showed last week, it is possible to bottle him up and stifle their offense. Being in Columbus will not make this an easy task for our boys in Maize and Blue but if they can limit the Buckeyes’ big plays and get their offense in a groove they have a great chance of coming away with a win.
Denard Robinson has meant so much to this program, with both his play and his leadership. I have not always been so supportive of his passing ability but his leadership is unquestioned. It would mean the world to him and Wolverine fans the world around if he could go out having beat Ohio in his last regular season game. That said, Devin Gardner is now the starting QB and I could not be any more confident in him than I am right now. He may not have the electric legs of Denard but his passing and decision making are head and shoulders above. We may not have the best sample to look at, having faced less than stellar teams the past three weeks, but what he has done against weaker defenses is what any good QB should do. 46/70, 834 yards 7 TD’s, 3 picks and he’s added 105 yards on the ground and another 6 TD’s. 13 total TD’s in three games to only 3 turnovers, definitely solid numbers. Throw in the wrinkle of Denard being in the backfield or spread out wide and you have a deadly combo that will be a nightmare for Ohio to prepare for.
Ohio has one of the worst pass defenses in college football. They’ve given up over 300 yards passing or 200 yards rushing in six of their eleven games; Miami (OH), Indiana and PSU all put up over 300 yards passing and Cal, Nebraska and Wisconsin all totaled over 200 yards rushing. They’ve given up over 300 yards of total offense to ten of their eleven opponents; Illinois being the only one held under. Yes, they do average over 400 yards per game, 425 to be exact, but defense wins championships and their defense gives up a ton of yards. The odds of Michigan not having a 300 yard passer or 200 yard rusher are slim to none. If Michigan puts up those types of numbers they should be in a good spot to win the game.
Devin Gardner gives this team a unique advantage; Ohio has only three games to look at and game plan against. Teams cannot prepare for Gardner the way they can against Denard, as he can both pass and run very well. I don’t expect Denard to throw the ball, though it wouldn’t shock me on a trick play, but look for Borges to get him the ball in space where he is deadly. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Denard return kicks or punts in Columbus.
The keys to this game are how well Michigan’s defense contains Braxton Miller and the Buckeye offense and if Borges can get the run game going without Fitz Toussaint. If they can prevent the big plays and keep Ohio from scoring like they are accustomed to then Michigan goes back to A2 with the win. Denard should help alleviate some of the sting from the loss of Toussaint and we should see a good dose of bruiser Thomas Rawls as well to keep the Ohio defense off balance.
Michigan will play spoiler to Ohio’s perfect season and come away with a close win in Columbus.
Michigan 31 – Ohio State 28
Matt (3): WhatHere it is! Michigan vs Ohio State week! It’s a game that I get so excited for. It’s a game that I get so nervous for.
Michigan comes into the game in Columbus this Saturday with a potential shot to win the Legends Division (that is if Iowa can defeat Nebraska on Friday). But even if the Wolverines can’t win the Legends Division with this win, it’s obviously a game that they still want to win.
This season is Urban Meyer’s first season as the Buckeyes head coach, and he’d love nothing more than to go undefeated, topping the season off with a win over the Michigan Wolverines. And of course, Brady Hoke would love to be the one that spoils that for Urban. Brady beat the Buckeyes last year, in his first season as head coach of the Wolverines. He’ll look to stay undefeated against the heated rival.
I would normally go into stats, but when it comes to this game…The Game, you can throw the stats out the window. Michigan has a few losses this year. It doesn’t matter. Ohio State is undefeated this year. It doesn’t matter. Braxton Miller is hoping for a Heisman. Yep, it doesn’t matter.
Al Borges got to have some fun last weekend, having Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson on the field at the same time. He’ll look to use that same attack this weekend in Ohio Stadium. Devin has played very well in his starts as quarterback for Michigan. You have to go with the hot hand. And having Denard on the field is a must. The guy is electric. You never know what he’s going to do. For instance last week it was 3rd down and one yard to go, and Robinson rushed for 40.
This Devin/Denard duo is incredible. One of the best Michigan has ever seen. I think that is going to be the difference. OSU and Michigan’s defenses match up well, as does their offense in my opinion.
Look for Greg Mattison to have the Wolverines defense pumped and ready to flatten those Buckeyes. Although Luke Fickell wiill have his defense ready as well. I really do think the difference is that a Devin/Denard duo beats one Braxton Miller.
If this game were played 100 times, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went 50/50. We’re in store for a very exciting game this Saturday at noon. Michigan edges Ohio State out in a close game, and Brady Hoke continues his success as Michigan head coach, and his winning streak against the team he simply calls, “Ohio”.
Michigan 41 – Ohio State 38
Sam (1): It is said that when rivals go up against each other, all previous records and statistics should be thrown out the window; adrenaline and effort will decide the outcome. Truth be told, however, I’ve never bought into that line of thinking. In a rivalry game, both teams are going to give their all on every single play out of sheer hate and respect for the opponent. Considering this, all we really have to analyze is past performance. Sure, upsets might be more common in rivalries, but there is no reason they should be. If everyone cares equally, the best team should win.
We all know that when it comes to rivalries, there is none bigger than The Game. Michigan and Ohio State, Maize and Blue versus Scarlet and Gray, the Wolverines against the Buckeyes. Even the imagery seems to suggest bitter enemies, and throughout time, that is what these two schools have been.
Tomorrow Michigan will take the trip down the Ohio Turnpike to face a hostile Columbus crowd in the Horseshoe for the biggest game of the season. The Buckeyes are playing for pride, honor, and perhaps a shot to go down in history as the best ever team in the bowl era to not play beyond November. The Wolverines come into the game with an outside chance to claim a Big Ten crown, but fate is not completely in their hands. Regardless of how everything plays out, the winner will go home happy, and the loser will look to the calendar to count down the days til next year’s match-up.
Everyone knows tomorrow will be Urban Meyer’s first Game as Ohio State’s head coach, Brady Hoke’s first time as head coach in Columbus, and the second year in a row where one team is breaking in a new head man. The game is played on the field, though, where Michigan will likely be starting a different quarterback for the fourth straight year against Ohio State while the Buckeyes return sophomore sensation Braxton Miller to the gridiron.
Hoke has returned Michigan to form over his two years as head coach, and has also returned the program to the days of Fort Schembechler, where practically no useful information gets out of the inside. No one knows Denard Robinson’s status for tomorrow’s game after he played a scatback role in last Saturday’s blowout of Iowa. I assume Devin Gardner, who has been impressive thus far, will start behind center again, but Hoke has yet to rule out Shoelace from playing quarterback. Then again, for all we know, Robinson may not even be able to go with the unpredictable nature of his nerve injury.
Meyer will roll with Miller running his run-spread offense, an offense that seems tailor-made for the big yet speedy quarterback. The Buckeyes have averaged 5.3 yards per carry behind Miller’s 1,214 yards on 207 carries and have outscored their opponents by more than two touchdowns per game.
With Gardner under center for Michigan, the Wolverines will likely look to the air more often to exploit Ohio State’s secondary. The running game just hasn’t been up to par all year for Michigan, and with the loss of Fitzgerald Toussaint last week, I don’t see a single running back that can go for more than 50 yards total. A healthy Denard Robinson completely changes things, however, and gives Al Borges the opportunity to run a plethora of looks and plays. The Buckeyes will look to contain Robinson if he plays and will pay special attention to the passing game, which just might open things up on the ground.
Unlike in traditional match-ups between these two rivals, this year could see a bit of a shoot-out. Ohio State has given up more than 20 points in five of their past six games and has yet to hold an opponent to single digits while Michigan has scored more than 30 in three straight, but Ohio State has also scored more than 20 points in all but one game and has gone for 50+ on four different occasions. Try as Michigan might, they will not hold Ohio State all day long. Braxton Miller is going to break a couple long runs and the secondary will probably give up one or two back-breakers.
All truth be told, this should be a very close game. While I won’t discount each teams’ previous results as many others will, I don’t see a whole lot to give one team a decided advantage. Vegas tends to agree, giving Ohio State a 3.5-point edge, which is basically a toss-up decided by the traditional three to four points given for home field advantage.
This game will come down to turnovers in the end, and inexperience on the visitor’s side will not bode well as the Buckeyes claim a 2-to-1 turnover advantage on their way to dashing Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes.
Ohio State 27 – Michigan 21
Katie (2): Heading into the last and most anticipated game of the season Michigan and its fiercest rival are neck in neck despite the discrepancy in the win-loss standings. Ohio State may be coming into the game with a perfect record, but then again they also haven’t played two teams who have had or now hold the number one ranking. Michigan has rebounded since the early losses and the unfortunate play and collapse of the offense that led to the Nebraska debacle. A spot in the Big Ten Championship is also all but gone for Michigan, unless of course the Huskers get outplayed or outlucked by the Hawkeyes. But that’s not what matters this week, as it’s more than likely that neither team will be playing for the conference title (of course the Buckeyes are out regardless).
What matters is firmly reinstating the rivalry after shallowly ending the drought that plagued Michigan for more than half a decade. One win doesn’t prove that Michigan has made a comeback in The Game, but back to back victories, one amid the hostility that is The Shoe would show that the Wolverines are going to make the coming years a stage for uphill battles.
The numbers are fairly similar, so what it will come down to is execution. Can the Buckeyes hold Michigan to twenty points or less, which is what history has written the past two years for the Wolverines only losses. Since Hoke has been coach the Wolverines are 18-0 when scoring more than twenty points. And since the offense for Michigan has only gotten more prolific that should be a tall task for the Buckeyes. Not to say that Braxton Miller couldn’t take over and play well, as he has nearly all season, and force an old fashioned shootout. But with Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner shifting in the backfield and posing all sorts of defensive headaches, the outlook is good that Michigan will be able to score enough points to keep the Bucks at bay.
The key will be keeping the Ohio State offense to a dull roar by making big plays, like forcing fumbles, a problem that the Scarlet and Grey are familiar with this season, and increasing their percentages of three and outs. To keep the Buckeyes high powered offense from scoring Michigan needs to maintain clock control with long drives, because it won’t be enough to simply attempt to stifle them. They can’t score if they don’t have the ball. That equation always works out. Add to that the fact that Michigan goes into the week ranked 12th in the nation defensively, while Ohio State is falls short at 38th.
However, the Buckeyes do have the advantage of having the better rush defense, an asset that will presumably bode well for them when facing the backfield potential of Robinson and Gardner. The intangibles of this game also coming into effect, with Meyer being in his first year, the status of the game, Robinson wanting to part with the team with a win, this being the last game of the season for OSU, all amount to this game likely being a close call either way. I’ve got Michigan in this one, and the first back to back wins since 1999-2000.
Michigan 31 – Ohio State 27
Last week, none of us expected Denard to miss the entire game, but regardless it went about as expected. Katie picked up her first win of the season, nearly getting the score exactly right. Her 38-13 prediction was just three off of the 35-13 result. The rest of us were all close as well. This week, Michigan returns home to face Northwestern. Denard’s status is up in the air once again, but that shouldn’t change the outcome too much in this one.
Justin (1): Northwestern will put up its best effort, but Michigan will be too much in this one regardless of who pilots the offense. Look for more passing than usual, especially if Devin Gardner is behind center. Big games from Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, or Devin Funchess are in the crystal ball. The Wildcats will hang tough into the third quarter before Michigan seals the deal.
Michigan 28 – Northwestern 17
Chris (2): Northwestern enters this game with two losses (both in the Big Ten) and, like Michigan, is looking for help to make it to the Big Ten Championship. If they lose on Saturday, their chances of winning the conference are gone. Similarily, Michigan is also needing a win to stay in contention for the Big Ten title. However, the Wolverines only need Nebraska to lose one of its remaining games for them to make it to Indianapolis. So there is a lot on the line for both teams.
The strength of this Northwestern team is its rushing offense. They are ranked 13th nationally in total rushing behind Junior running back Venric Mark and dual threat quarterback Kain Colter. The passing game is a different story, however. The Wildcats rank #113 overall. So given this, the key for Michigan will be to stop Northwestern from moving the ball on the ground. I see Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison committing a safety down into the box to provide some extra run support and force Northwestern to the air where the Michigan defense excels.
Defensively, Northwestern is right in the middle of the pack in the NCAA total defense rankings at 60th. They do give up over 3 touchdowns per game and a lot of yardage through the air. This should bode well for either Michigan quarterback that starts the game. We know that Devin Gardner throws a nice ball and if Denard Robinson’s elbow is healthy, he will benefit from a young secondary which has been susceptible to the big play. Michigan will need to run the ball to win though. As we’ve seen with these guys, relying on only the pass to win is not a winning strategy. A good mix of run and pass should open up more plays and help move the ball down the field for the Wolverines.
On another note, expect an aggressive defensive game plan from Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, especially after seeing some of the holes which both Nebraska and Minnesota exposed in the Michigan offensive line. The line must play better than they have the last two weeks and keep the pressure from reaching either Denard or Gardner in the backfield before they can make a play.
I expect this game to be close as both teams are fighting for their seasons. I expect that the Michiagn defense will give up some points, but not more than what the much weaker Northwestern defense will. Northwestern will play on emotion and look to try to create some big turnovers to give their offense some extra possessions. But in the end, Michigan will win.
Michigan 27 – Northwestern 18
Josh (2): Pat Fitzgerald has done a great job in Evanston and Northwestern is not the pushover they once were. However, Michigan still has the better team and better coaching staff. Under Hoke Michigan is undefeated in the Big House and that trend should continue.
Northwestern doesn’t pass the ball much (just under 140 yards per game) but they have a versatile QB in Cain Kolter and they can run the ball very well. Kolter does not present the same type of threat Denard does but he is deadly with the ball nonetheless. His backfield mate, Venric Mark, is built from the Vincent Smith mold; small and quick but with more strength than you’d think.
It is yet to be determined if Denard will resume his duties in the backfield, but Devin Gardner is a capable backup and it shouldn’t matter which QB takes the field. If I had to guess, I’d say Gardner gets the nod as Hoke rests Denard for another week just to be safe. If that is the case look for Borges to try to air it out. This Northwestern defense allowed Taylor Martinez to go 27/39 for 342 yards and while improved he is not considered a great passer. Thomas Rawls should play more of a role as Michigan is still looking to get someone other than Denard going on the ground.
Michigan needs to win this game to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title game. Nebraska has Penn St. at home today, Minnesota next week and must travel to Iowa to end the season. Not the toughest road, but anything can happen.
Michigan takes control of this game late and pulls away in a closer than expected battle.
Michigan 31 – Northwestern 17
Northwestern has only lost two games this season. One to Penn State at Beaver Stadium, and one to Nebraska in Ryan Field. Of course we all know who Michigan has lost to, so let’s not even go there…
Michigan is ranked a little higher in passing than Northwestern, but the Wildcats are ranked higher in rushing. Northwestern has a duo of running backs that are really tearing up defenses. However, Michigan’s defense has turned into a beast this season. After playing horribly against Alabama, and not great against Air Force, our D has really stepped up. I don’t see it being any different this Saturday.
I think that Northwestern will come out being able to move the ball a little at the beginning of the game, but Michigan’s defense is going to wear them out. No matter how many running backs they want to use.
A big question about this game is, will Denard Robinson play? Last week we heard he was going to play. However he did not. Devin Gardner started in his place…and kicked some serious Golden Gopher tail. I heard Denard is day-to-day, which could mean anything. Will we see him Saturday? Not sure. But honestly, if Devin Gardner has to take the snaps as quarterback again, you won’t hear me complaining. But that’s just me.
Michigan comes off of an awesome victory against Minnesota, come into the Big House pumped, take down one of the best in the Big Ten, and never looks back. I predict Michigan will shut down Northwestern’s offense, only allowing a few scores.
Michigan by 25. And they are starting to get pumped for The Game in Columbus…
Michigan 35 – Northwestern 10
Sam (1): This Saturday’s Michigan-Northwestern football game is one big question mark as far as I’m concerned. Sure, Michigan has more talent overall, is the home team, and is playing for a conference championship. At the same time, however, Northwestern is a tough team to figure out, Denard Robinson’s status is up in the air, and the Wildcats won the last matchup between these two teams at the Big House back in 2008.
Still, the oddsmakers give the Wolverines nearly a double-digit edge for this weekend, perhaps because of Northwestern’s inability to close out the big game. And while Northwestern sits at 7-2 overall, with one loss coming at Penn State and another in a one-point heartbreaker against Northwestern, the best team they have beaten is one of Indiana, Vanderbilt, or Iowa – certainly no powerhouses this season. Nebraska and at Penn State are not bad losses for an average team by any means, but the fact that Northwestern blew fourth quarter leads in both of those games raises serious question marks about their ability to stay with and finish off better opponents.
Pat Fitzgerald’s team is quarterbacked by the dual-threat speedster Kain Colter, who has actually run for 100 yards and eight touchdowns more than he has thrown for. The likely reason for that, however, is Northwestern’s other quarterback, Trevor Siemian, who has attempted almost twice as many throws as Colter has but doesn’t have the legs to scare the defense. Fitzgerald will often utilize both of these guys on the field at once to maximize their speed of play and to give defenses a couple drastically different looks using the same exact personnel. Expect more of Colter than Siemian throughout, but I think we will see a decent dose of each.
In the backfield, the cat-like Venric Mark has been remarkable for the Cats, running for 1,072 yards on 166 carries (6.5 ypc) and nine touchdowns. As you may have guessed by now, Northwestern is a team that will keep the ball on the ground, having attempted exactly 150 more rushes than passes through nine weeks. Interestingly, their yards per attempt running (5.3) and passing (5.78) are very similar, hinting that Fitzgerald does a great job of spreading the field. In a running-spread offense, the point is to neutralize defenders and win the numbers game when pounding the rock, which Northwestern has clearly succeeded at so far. More yards per attempt passing would be ideal, but Northwestern just doesn’t have that go-to guy on the outside.
Four receivers for Fitzgerald have recorded at least 200 yards through the air, but no one has more than 266 yards or 26 catches, both fairly low numbers through nine games. Obviously the advantage in using this approach is that defenses need to focus on stopping the run first and cannot key in on any receiver when Colter or Siemian drop back to pass, but the disadvantage is that there isn’t that one reliable guy that can be counted on every night to have a serviceable game.
For Michigan, the receiving woes are quite familiar, as Jeremy Gallon leads the team with merely 22 receptions for 390 yards. The next-leading receiver is Devin Gardner with 16 catches. And Gardner will probably be throwing the balls instead of catching them this Saturday.
The big if for the Wolverines couldn’t be more obvious. If Denard Robinson can safely go, Michigan should have no problem running the ball, and the run should clear up the passing lanes a little bit. If Robinson cannot play, Gardner will step in at quarterback and likely throw and handoff a majority of the time despite his athletic ability because the coaches will do everything in their power to keep him protected; an injury to Gardner in the case of Robinson’s absence would likely see the non-fictional Jack Kennedy taking snaps.
Gardner, of course, will hand the ball off plenty, but the running backs haven’t exactly been a strength for the Wolverines either, as the once-touted Fitz Toussaint has yet to eclipse 100 yards a game, senior Vincent Smith averages just 2.8 yards per carry, and the remaining backs behind them are wildly unproven. This game plan could get very interesting very fast.
With all the uncertainties, a prediction is hard to come up with, but I suppose it’s a requirement to write for this blog. Northwestern has done an above-average job of stopping the run this season and only gives up a tick more than 22 points per game, but Michigan’s defense will be the difference in this game. Neither Colter nor Siemian are big enough passing threats to keep Michigan from stacking the box and slowing the effectiveness of the run. If Denard is back, Michigan has the game in hand going into the fourth quarter. If Gardner is quarterback, this game will come down to the last 10 minutes. Either way, Michigan wins.
Michigan 27 – Northwestern 17
Katie (1): This is where things get interesting. Nebraska and Michigan are tied for first in the Big Ten Legends division, but Michigan, having lost to the Huskers, needs to stay at one loss and see their rival at the top of the standings lose one of its next three conference games. This could very well be a problem if Nebraska goes to 5-1 this weekend by beating Penn State. After that they face a weak opponent in the Golden Gophers before going on the road to Kinnick Stadium to go up against a mediocre Hawkeye team that will likely be looking to play spoiler, and perhaps fighting to remain bowl eligible. That’s also saying that Michigan will finish the season with three more wins against Northwestern, Iowa, and Ohio State, which makes the loss to Nebraska look more and more like the crack that eventually leads to the breaking of the dam, and the washing away of the dream of a conference championship.
But there are still three weeks left of football to be played, and anyone who watches the top 25 rankings knows just how much can happen in one week, let alone three.
Northwestern is 7-2 (3-2) with losses to Penn State and Nebraska. They have yet to play a ranked team, and have built a record on beating Vanderbilt (the academic pride of the SEC), South Dakota, and a down and out Boston College team. However, their offense has been able to put up at least 21 points in every game. Defensively they have three linemen and a safety who all have more than 65 tackles, a pretty impressive statistic even when considering the caliber of teams they have faced. It’s those assessments that is likely why Northwestern has clawed its way into the AP polls at number 24.
The Wildcats also play two quarterbacks, and seem to do it relatively well. Mark Venric, their running back, has gone over a thousand yards on the season and has scored nine touchdowns, and their four top receivers are all over two hundred yards. Other than having a glorified running back as a QB who makes up much of our offense, Michigan fairs about the same statistically. However, with Hoke being tight lipped about who the starter will be in this weeks game, my vote is for Gardner who showed real determination and poise, albeit against Minnesota. It can’t be natural to switch position from game to game, and I want to give credit where it is due. That being said I think that either player will be able to do well under the helm, but as for passing ability I wouldn’t put the ball back in Denard’s hands just yet. I want to see what Gardner can do, especially when there seems to have been an agreement that he could shift back to the quarterback position next year. An offensive struggle seems to be in the cards this week.
This one should be close, and as the schools are academic rivals as well as athletic this match up should be fun to watch.
Michigan 30 – Northwestern 24
Last week, all predictions went out the window when Denard left the game with a nerve injury to his elbow. Russell Bellomy couldn’t get anything going on offense and Michigan was held without a touchdown for the second straight week. Denard is back this week and heaven forbid he get hurt again, we should have a pretty good idea of how this game will play out.
Justin (1): Michigan makes its first visit to TCF Bank Stadium for a noon (11am local time) kickoff against Minnesota. The time is important because the only chance the Gophers have of pulling this one out is if Michigan sleeps through its alarm because it’s so used to playing 3:30 (or later) games. As long as the Wolverines lay off the waffles and fake eggs from the hotel breakfast bar and come ready to play, they’ll get back on track for what is shaping up to be an epic clash with Ohio State at season’s end. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time.
Michigan will be, as the Black Eyed Peas sing, runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin’. Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls will see lots of carries until Minnesota proves it can stop them – which the Gophers haven’t been able to do against anyone this season. Michigan will build a big lead and let Denard give way to Bellomy in a good scenario this time. For more analysis, check out this morning’s game preview, Friend vs. Foe, and Monday’s First Look.
[Edit: I should also add that the only other thing that could prevent a Michigan win is another significant injury to Denard. If that happens, all bets are off].
Michigan 37 – Minnesota 10
Chris (2): With four games left in the regular season, the Wolverines enter this game at Minnesota knowing that they need to win out and get help with a Nebraska loss in order to make it to the Big Ten Championship. However, I think that it’s important that the team not be thinking about it this way. It’s one game at a time. No scoreboard watching. Everyone does their job. Give your all EVERY play. I think if they do that, they can win these last four games and end up in Indianapolis on Dec 1.
First thing’s first though. Historically, Michigan has dominated the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. They have won 14 straight trips there, winning by an average score of 40-13. Last time at Minnesota was back in 2008 (29-6 win). Minnesota enters the game at 5-3 (1-3 Big Ten) and are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.
Overall, this is a decent Minnesota squad that can sneak up on teams if they take them too lightly. Minnesota’s biggest weakness is their defense, especially when trying to stop the rush. In their three losses this season, they gave up big days on the ground to opposing running backs to the tune of 242 yards per game. Wisconsin’s running backs put up 337 by themselves. So far, this has been a season when Michigan has been unable to run the ball effectively with someone other than Denard Robinson. If there’s any hope for this running game, it will need to show on Saturday because it will provide the Wolverines with the best chance to win.
On offense, Minnesota has switched to true freshmen Philip Nelson at quarterback. Dynamic quarterback MarQueis Gray has been hampered by injuries this season, which prompted the switch. Just because Nelson is young and inexpereinced, the Wolverines can’t look past his skills. He earned Mr. Football honors in the state of Minnesota and they doesn’t hesitate to chuck the ball around when he’s under center. This bodes well for a Michigan pass defense which ranks as one of the best in the nation. Defensively, I don’t see the the Wolverines having much trouble. Minnesota isn’t going to control the line of scrimmage with three sophomores starting on the offensive line.
I like Michigan to win this game, but I don’t think it’s going to be by a large point differential.
Michigan 31 – Minnesota 14
Matt (2): We haven’t really taken Minnesota seriously. Overall, our record in the Battle for the Little Brown Jug, is 67-22-3. And Minnesota has only beaten us three times since 1968. However, looking past them is a big mistake.
Although the Golden Gophers seem to pale in comparison with the Wolverines, only being ranked higher than Michigan in passing by a small margin, and being ranked lower than Michigan in rushing yards, points for, and points against, the game is still being played in Minneapolis, and this is a rivalry game. You know what they say about rivalry games. Throw the records out the window.
However, is this really a rivalry? Is this anything like Michigan vs Notre Dame, Michigan State or Ohio State? The answer is simple, no. But we still want to hold onto that Little Brown Jug, and we still want to win the Legends Division, which could happen, but we need Nebraska to lose too!
Minnesota is ranked higher than Michigan in passing, although if you compare QBs, Denard has thrown over 500 yards more and three more touchdowns (that’s not counting the six Denard has scrambled in). Minnesota’s rushing game isn’t that great either, averaging 162 yards a game while Michigan averages 206.
And as far as defense goes, Michigan allows 17 points a game. Minnesota allows 23.
The biggest factor to this game, is going to be Denard Robinson. Is he going to be able to play? He left the Nebraska game with an injured nerve in his elbow. From there we got to see Russell Bellomy come in, and have a horrible game. I’m not blaming the kid. He’s new to all this. He isn’t supposed to be the starting QB. He’s supposed to watch as Denard tears defenses apart. So when Denard went down, Bellomy had that deer in the headlights look, and tried. I heard many people asking (and begging) Brady Hoke to put Devin Gardner in as QB instead. He did not.
News at Michigan practice his week, is that Devin did however take snaps as QB, just in case Robinson doesn’t end up playing this Saturday. Maybe Hoke heard the people.
I think Denard will play this Saturday. Will he injure the elbow again? Not sure. I don’t think he’ll play all game. I think Hoke will play him, but pull him every now and again to let Devin, and maybe even Russell get some snaps (that is if the game is in hand). We really need to rely on Fitzgerald Toussaint this Saturday. Al Borges needs to let Fitz run straight at the Golden Gophers defense, and ram the ball down their throats.
I have not done the best job at guessing the score this season, but here we go…
I don’t see this one being that close. Michigan is going to take the lead, and never give it back. The Little Brown Jug will stay in Ann Arbor for another season. Denard scores a couple TDs, and so does Devin Gardner (as QB, NOT WR).
Michigan 38 – Minnesota 17
Sam (1): Michigan wins. End of story.
Michigan 31 – Minnesota 13
Katie: Last week didn’t turn out nearly as well as was hoped for, but there is a consolation, this week we play Minnesota and the poor Golden Gophers are at the bottom of the Legends Division. But hey, it could be worse, the Leaders has two teams without a Big Ten win, and Minnesota has notched a W against the Boilermakers to make them 1-3 in conference play. Michigan on the other hand is living in disappointing times. Granted, the preseason polls were overestimated, the Wolverines have still lost three games so far this season, and while that’s not quite a debacle it will be if we go 5-3 in Big Ten play. Northwestern I’m sure would love nothing more than an upset at the Big House after what will likely be a safeguarding of the Brown Jug. Not to mention Ohio State, who will welcome Michigan into the ‘Shoe for the first time since coach Urban Meyer was instated, and with a definite chip on their shoulder due to their inability to play in the conference championship or a bowl game.
I’m not trying to overlook Minnesota. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I do know however, that one has to make the catch before running with it, and that the play can’t go down field until the ball is secured. Really though, did last years score against Minnesota have to look like a MAC team rollover. 58-0?
So while that sort of bullying hasn’t happened to the Gophers this year, they also have yet to play a ranked team. Though it is true that they played the Wildcats, who are now second in the Legends, within a touchdown. Now I am going to make the assumption that if we can’t beat Minnesota that the season is, for all intents and purposes, over. But on a positive note I’m not envisioning much of a problem. That is unless the offense collapses without Denard, and Devin Gardner, who could see a return at quarterback, looks worse than Bellomy. Not that the red-shirt freshman would look quite as bad as he did against Nebraska. I think that with more than a few minutes notice, and an away crowd that hasn’t been getting pumped for a night game for hours in advance, he should be able to pass more efficiently. With that being said I still would not hesitate to say that Gardner was our starting QB if number 16 wasn’t ready.
As for the stats, Minnesota’s aren’t too bad on either side of things, but they don’t look as good on paper as Michigan does, and Michigan has been fumbling around this season. The Wolverines best bet is on a strong defense that gives its offense as many opportunities to score as possible. Without Denard’s fleetness of foot Michigan could need time for some extended drives. Look for a Wolverines victory, but without last year’s margin.
Michigan 38 – Minnesota 13
Last week, none of us were correct with our score prediction, but Justin finally picked up his first win of the season. And what a week to get it. He was 12 high on Michigan’s score but just three high on Michigan State’s. Sam correctly predicted that Michigan State would score 10, but he was way too confident in Michigan’s offense. This week, Michigan takes to the road for its first trip to Lincoln, Neb. in 101 years. It’s a nationally televised night game in a tough place to win, so it should be fun to watch. At least the World Series won’t interfere…oh, wait.
Justin (1): Like Chris below, I pegged the trip to Nebraska as a loss prior to the season starting since Michigan would be coming off an emotional win over rival Michigan State. That’s exactly what could happen, but I just don’t think Nebraska has the defense to keep Michigan out of the end zone, while Michigan’s defense is good enough to slow down Nebraska’s high-powered offense.
Both teams will look to run the ball, so whichever defense is able to slow down the other’s run game will win the game. Offenses like Nebraska’s are the types of offenses Greg Mattison’s defense thrives on (see: Nebraska and Northwestern 2011, Illinois and Purdue 2012).
It will be closer than last year’s matchup for most of the game as Nebraska will put up some points. It’s too good of an offense not to. But I don’t see the ‘Huskers scoring at the level they have been all season. I attribute a lot of the gaudy numbers to a very weak out of conference schedule.
As I said in the game preview and this morning’s Friend vs Foe feature, Al Borges will employ the same gameplan he used against Illinois and Purdue: a run heavy attack with a few passes sprinkled in to keep the defense honest. Due to Nebraska’s good secondary, expect Borges to keep the passing game simple with high-percentage pass plays to keep Denard from making the mistakes he made against Alabama and Notre Dame.
Michigan should be able to run up 200-250 rushing yards and 100-150 passing yards with either Denard or Fitz Toussaint (or both) having a big game. And I expect Devin Funchess to lead the Wolverines in receiving. Michigan will pull away late to sieze the Legends division.
Michigan 42 – Nebraska 24
Chris (1): I have been going back and forth on this game all week. As I said in my preaseason preview, when I looked at the schedule before any of the games were played and the team was still in two-a-days, I thought this would be one of Michigan’s toughest games all season. At the time, my view on this game was that Michigan would be coming off an emotional win against MSU, and to go on the road the following week and play in a hostile environment in Lincoln, was going to be a tough test. Especially against a physical team like the Cornhuskers.
Well, that’s exactly where we are at. The Wolverines came away with a stunning last second win and now have to avoid the letdown on the road against a decent, but not great, Nebraska squad. It’s a Nebraska team which has been up and down all season. In their games against tougher competition, they haven’t put together two good halves of football yet this season. One half they might come out and score in bunches and the next they give away turnovers and points (see Wisconsin on Sept. 29).
The Nebraska offense can score behind the athletic Taylor Martinez at quarterback. Running back is an unknown for this game, as the starter Rex Burkhead re-injured his knee and may be out. But the offense doesn’t lose anything with backup Ameer Abdullah (5.9 ypc, 7 TD) filling in. They can also score a lot, as they are averaging just over 41 ppg and are the sixth-best rushing offense in the nation. Along with that, Martinez is having one of his most efficient years passing with 15 TD, 4 INT, 162.8 rating.
Statistically, the Michigan pass defense is one of the best in the nation. That may not be the case after last week when MSU found some holes in the coverage, however Michigan has been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and cause a few turnovers. If they can do that again this week, and keep a ‘Spy’ on Martinez so he can’t run away from the rush, then he will throw bad passes like he did at Ohio State.
Aside from the offense turning the ball over frequently, the Nebraska defense has not been very good. They are the 71st-ranked scoring defense as they are giving up almost four touchdowns per game. I think this bodes well for the Michigan offense, especially after facing an MSU defense which was much better than what they will see on Saturday.
I have been convinced that Michigan was going to lose this game since day one. But after seeing Nebraska play a few times this year, and even though they are playing at home at night, I am changing my mind. I think Michigan wins the game behind a well-balanced attack on offense and by creating some turnovers on defense. The key will be to avoid thinking about last week’s win and not getting rattled by the Nebraska crowd early and having quality offensive possessions. They don’t need to score every time they have the ball early, but they need to show that they can move the ball. Defensively, the key is Martinez. If they can confuse him with pressure and different looks in coverage, then Michigan will be alright. Michigan wins a close one.
Michigan 28 – Nebraska 25
Josh (2): As mentioned in the game preview, this is a must win game for both teams. While Nebraska fans are hospitable and not complete jerks like some of our other foes’ fans, Lincoln will not be a friendly place to play come Saturday evening. Al Borges has pared down the play book and has taken a conservative approach that has worked quite well recently. Denard is not being asked to do things he cannot do and while Fitz hasn’t been the Fitz of 2011, he is still a threat that cannot be overlooked by opposing defenses.
Taylor Martinez has been a hot or cold player his whole career, he can go off for 340 yards passing with 4 TDs or he can throw 4 picks. I’m just not sold on him as a leader or a solid quarterback. Denard may not be a good passer but he is a great leader and no one can deny what he can do with his feet.
For me, this game’s key is Michigan’s defense. No one is talking about them, and I have no idea why. They are No. 10 in total yards allowed per game and No. 3 in passing yards allowed per game; since the Air Force game they’ve only given up an average of 10 points per game with no one scoring more than 13. Those are damn good numbers, but the beat down at the hands of Alabama has given the media the perception that this team is no good. Regardless, this Michigan defense is good and they do what needs to be done.
Nebraska has been running the ball very well this season and Rex Burkhead is the leader of that rushing attack. Burkhead is a beast but it looks like he won’t be available this weekend. With their top back most likely out the 6th ranked rush offense in the country will be lacking significant firepower. With more of the load to be shouldered by Taylor Martinez I think the pressure gets to him and he doesn’t produce like Husker nation hopes.
Wisconsin is Nebraska’s only win of note and their out of conference schedule was weak at best. They were destroyed by Ohio State lost to a decent UCLA team on the road and had to come from behind against Northwestern last week. Great academic school, not so great at football. Not to take anything away from what Pat Fitzgerald is doing in Evanston, but the Wildcats are not exactly a top tier team. Michigan has been tested by two top five teams (ND may be overrated but they still have a solid defense) and has dominated its conference schedule thus far.
Nebraska is a two point favorite, home field after all, and the over/under is a whopping 57.5 points. Odds makers obviously think this is going to be a shootout. I, however, do not. Nebraska gives up only three points less than Michigan scores, so it should be no problem for Michigan to put up some points on the Huskers. Michigan, as we all know, has not given up a lot of points to anyone other than Alabama (yes, AF scored 26 but they’re a wonky offense and that can be overlooked). I expect Greg Mattison’s defense to keep Martinez in check as they did last year and the offense should provide a heavy dose of Denard, Fitz and hopefully Thomas Rawls.
Brady Hoke said last year was not a success because they did not win a Big Ten title. They have made that their one goal and Hoke has said every week is championship week. They’ve been playing lights out since conference play started and I expect nothing less from our boys in Maize and Blue on Saturday night. They win and all but secure their spot in Indianapolis.
Michigan 31 – Nebraska 13
Matt (2): I remember being so nervous when we played Nebraska last year. The outcome ended up being a great one (if you are a Michigan fan anyway). Will we see the Wolverines beat the Cornhuskers again, in Nebraska this time? It’s definitely possible.
Michigan has been playing well. Their offense hasn’t looked bad, and their defense. Oh their defense! It’s incredible how much better our defense has gotten in the past couple of years. Honestly, I think I’m more impressed by our defense than our offense. Nuts to think how the last rushing touchdown we have given up was against Notre Dame.
Taylor Martinez is going to be looking to lead the Cornhuskers to their jest victory of the Wolverines since joining the Big Ten. And he will have Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. Ameer is a good running back, that has crushed why Fitz Toussaint has rushed for this year, but is also about 300 yards shy of Denard’s rushing yards this season.
I think the biggest story of this game is going to be either Taylor Martinez versus Denard Robinson, or Taylor Martinez vs the Michigan defense. If we can keep pressure, cause mistakes, and force some turnovers, we can make a repeat of last year’s game. Although I don’t see it being that much a dominant performance. Although stranger things have happened.
Nebraska’s offense isn’t something to squawk at. They are ranked higher in rushing and passing than Michigan. But the big difference is defense. Michigan is ranked higher on defense, and seems to have the better defense obviously.
That’s going to be the key Saturday. I see this one being high scoring. I see big plays from both teams, and I see a combined score of near 100 points. Michigan pulls it out, in a hard fought battle.
Wolverines by 10. If this is a low scoring game, I’m done for the year!
Michigan 52 – Nebraska 42
Sam (1): Now seven games into the regular season, and three into Big Ten season, teams are starting to show their identities. Michigan is a team that relies on another stout defense under Greg Mattison and an offense led by the legs of Denard Robinson. The Wolverines still haven’t given up more than 13 points in five straight games, an impressive number in college these days, and while the offense struggled last week in a 12-10 barn-burner win over Michigan State, it has thrived throughout the season, averaging a solid 30.7 points per game. Robinson continues to make the offense click, running for 128.6 yards per game on his own and throwing for 180.6 more per outing with 15 total touchdowns.
Nebraska is not much different, running for a whopping 279 yards per game, good for sixth in the country. Sensational dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez is third on the team with 403 yards running on the season and his passing numbers have been unexpectedly brilliant after a rough 2011, throwing for 230.7 yards per game and 15 touchdowns to only four interceptions. Returning starting running back Rex Burkhead has 405 yards of his own on 8.6 yards per carry, but he is doubtful to play this weekend with a leg injury. Enter speedy sophomore Ameer Abdullah, however, and the Cornhuskers have had little problem replacing Burkhead’s success. Abdullah actually leads the team in rushing with 615 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with 15 catches for 129 more yards.
The Huskers sit at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play after a fourth quarter comeback last week over middling Northwestern to return to Huskerland with a 29-28 win. And while any win is a welcome takeaway for any team, Bo Pelini has to be concerned with the play of his defense lately, having given up a whopping 39.3 points per game over the last three contests, including 63 to Ohio State in a beatdown in Columbus.
Nebraska’s pass defense has been great, ranking 10th overall in passing yards allowed, but the run defense has hemorrhaged yards at a clip that leaves them ranked 90th in the country in that category. Unfortunately for Nebraska, running the ball is exactly what Michigan does well.
Last year’s matchup between these two teams in Ann Arbor saw the Wolverines romp the Huskers in a 45-17 victory that featured 238 yards and four touchdowns on the ground for Michigan, including 138 and 83 for Fitzgerald Toussaint and Robinson, respectively. Toussaint has obviously struggled in the early going and is still looking for a breakout game. Again, I think this could be it.
Martinez’s much improved accuracy needs to be on display this Saturday if Nebraska is to cover the 2.5 points they are giving up to Michigan in the spread, or to simply win the game in general. In last year’s blowout, Martinez managed only 122 yards through the air on a rancid 9-of-23 attempts and just 49 rushing yards on 16 carries. Burkhead didn’t fare any better, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry on 10 rushes.
Michigan’s secondary is a little banged up, and Mattison is certainly praying that Raymon Taylor will be 100% after coming out of last week’s game. The Cornhuskers boast an array of receiving threats, led by Kenny Bell and his 26 catches for 540 yards (good for an eye-opening 20.8 ypc) and five scores. Michigan should be able to contain the running game as Jake Ryan continues his domination of opposing offenses, but if Martinez starts to find receivers down field, it could be a long night.
Luckily for the Wolverines, Greg Mattison’s bend-don’t-break philosophy has been a great success in his two seasons leading the defense. Bell might have a couple catches for 20-plus, but I would be surprised if he went for more than 75 yards. Abdullah will create some trouble with his speed, but I expect Michigan’s front seven to show up and have a big night again.
Finally, you heard it here first – Fitz Toussaint will eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game for the first time all season, going for 125 and a pair of touchdowns. Robinson will be his usual self and run for 100-plus and throw for two touchdowns and the defense will hold the Huskers to under 20 again in a 34-18 win.
Michigan 34 – Nebraska 18
Katie: Michigan and Nebraska head into the weekend with the same record, although the Maize and Blue are sitting a bit more comfortably because of their undefeated conference play. The Huskers on the other hand are tied for second place in the Legends division with Iowa. Both teams have one loss, and Iowa is facing the Northwestern Wildcats that gave Nebraska so much trouble last week. So with the Hawkeyes potentially falling to a 2-2 record, the Cornhusker fans know how big a win at home is for their team. If all goes well for Nebraska they will end the week tied for first, of course, not if Michigan can help it.
The Wolverines just came off of a close call to their instate rivals. Their touted offense put up only 12 points. Thankfully though, the Spartans posed the biggest defensive threat that Michigan will face in the second half of the season. That is until they visit that team down south who should never be underestimated, especially not when they have home field advantage. As for Nebraska, the combined records for the teams they have beaten is an unimpressive, 18- 20, the number being saved only by Wisconsin and Northwestern, who the Huskers beat by 3 and 1 respectively. So when it comes down to numbers the total offense tallies heading into the game this Saturday are pretty even. Red Zone scoring is within one percentage point, but then again Nebraska lost to the only ranked team they have played thus far, and while Michigan has the same track record to opponents ranked in the top twelve the Buckeyes are a far cry from Alabama and are edged out by Notre Dame. Not to mention the fact that Ohio State has been on the ropes two weeks in a row to low caliber teams. That being said Michigan’s record is more impressive at 5-2 than is Nebraska’s and they should prove it with a win this weekend.
However, the Huskers have an impressive run game with a senior back Rex Burkehead coming in at just under 400 yards, and a sophomore leading the way with 514. That’s without the starting quarterback Taylor Martinez’s 459 rushing yards. So the ground game is pretty solid, and Martinez’s pass percentage is respectable. If there’s a potential downside it’s in the passing game. He’s got a favorite. Kenny Bell has about 300 yards more than anyone else in the receiving core. If Michigan can shut him down it will probably bode well for them to stick tough and remain perfect in Big Ten play.
On the other side of the ball Michigan has seen steady improvement since their first game. And while Will Compton is a force for Nebraska with 53 tackles, Michigan’s own Jake Ryan is only one short of the statistic. Our boys in the winged helmets have also amassed thirty more take down’s than their next opponents, and while playing a tougher schedule. Needless to say I’ve yet again picked the Wolverines to bring home the victory.
Michigan 31 – Nebraska 20
Last week, we were all pretty close to Michigan’s score, but none of us thought Michigan would pitch a shutout. But that’s precisely what it did. Josh was the only one to get Michigan’s point total of 45 exactly right and he was also the closest to zero for Illinois’ score, so he took home his second win of the season. Now, Michigan faces its second rivalry game of the season against a Michigan State squad that has a good scoring defense but a bad scoring offense. Michigan’s defense has improved all season and the offense is finding its stride. So what will give?
Justin: While Michigan State isn’t as good as most expected before the season started, I don’t think this will be an easy win by any means. With three losses – two in the Big Ten – Michigan State is essentially playing to save face tomorrow. The Big Ten title is likely out the window, so similar to what Michigan will see at season’s end against Ohio State, the Spartans would love nothing more than to spoil Michigan’s chances.
The Spartan defense is formidable, but the guys in the interior are nowhere near as talented as Jerel Worthy was, which is a big reason the ends, Will Gholston and Marcus Rush, haven’t produced as well as they did last season. Gholston is fast and can chase down the ball carrier, but is not good when teams run straight at him, which is precisely what Michigan should do. The linebackers, led by Max Bullough, are some of the best in the conference, so Al Borges will need to keep them off balance with play action and well-timed screens.
On the other side of the ball, State’s offense has been anemic for most of the season and Michigan’s defense has been steadily improving. The past two weeks, Michigan didn’t exactly face a downfield passing game, so it will be interesting to see how the Michigan secondary holds up against a passing offense that has six guys with 15 or more catches and five with 200 or more receiving yards. But the bread and butter of the Spartan offense is running back Le’Veon Bell who already has 200 rushes and is about to eclipse 1,000 yards. Ohio State held him to just 2.6 yards per carry, and while Michigan likely won’t limit him to those numbers, the defense certainly can slow him down.
Expect Greg Mattison to dial up some blitzes to confuse and put pressure on Maxwell while stuffing the run on obvious run downs. With a similar offense as we saw the past couple weeks, Denard should be able to get his yards while the combo of Fitz and Thomas Rawls will pound away. As long as Denard doesn’t make the passing mistakes he made against Notre Dame, which I don’t think he will because the passing game will be much more controlled, Michigan will win.
Michigan 24 – Michigan State 13
Chris (1): Here we go folks! Time for the Wolverines to make up for four years of frustration against their in-state rival. Let’s take a look at the matchup.
MSU enters the contest at 4-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten. The season so far can best be summed up for the Spartans as a disappointment. A lot of people in the media and across the country had the Spartans pegged win the Legends division and go on to become Big Ten champs. Things changed early in the season, however. In the first game against Boise State, many witnessed a serious flaw in the MSU offense. That was the lack of a passing game, as MSU was breaking in a new quarterback in Andrew Maxwell and a group of inexperienced receivers. Running back Le’Veon Bell has essentially been a one man show, however, one player can’t win football games on his own and defenses have attacked MSU by stopping the run and forcing Maxwell to win games. This has resulted in a lack of scoring to the tune of 21 points per game.
The MSU defense, which was came into the season as the strength of the team, has actually been alright. They are the 14th-ranked scoring defense at 15.7 points and feature eight returning starters, led by defensive end William Gholston and linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen.
On Saturday, I believe the key to a Michigan win will be the ability of the Wolverines offense to stay balanced and mix up the play calling to keep the MSU linebackers from flying all over the field and making plays. This means using play-action passes and running a variety of inside and outside running plays. Al Borges would be wise to keep Denard in the shotgun to give him so time to react to what will be a tough upfield rush to stop the run and put pressure on Denard when he passes. In last season’s game in East Lansing, I thought that Denard missed a lot of opportunities to scramble when the protection broke down, as the MSU defensive line rushed hard upfield and left running lanes open. At that time, Borges was still trying to make Denard into a pocket quarterback, so Denard hung in the pocket and either took sacks or forced bad passes.
With the struggles that the MSU offense has had this season, you have to think that the Michigan defense has a serious edge here. Especially with the way they have looked over the past two weeks, albeit against lesser competition. However, Greg Mattison has done an excellent job with the guys on his side of the ball and I expect this to continue on Saturday.
The one thing that MSU has in their favor here is that they will be coming into this game looking for a statement win to re-establish their season. I don’t think that will be enough. Certainly not in Ann Arbor after Michigan has lost four straight in the rivalry and is still very much in the hunt for a Big Ten title. I like Michigan to win.
Michigan 30 – Michigan State 13
Josh (2): Little Brother has won four games in a row against Michigan. Granted, three of those were against the Rich Rod regime and don’t really count in my opinion, but they are not the dominant program in the state of Michigan or in the Legends division, and it is time to put them back in their place.
MSU has struggled mightily thus far, losing to Notre Dame, Ohio State and Iowa, and almost lost to bottom feeder Indiana. Their defense is only allowing 16 points per game but the offense is only putting up 21. Andrew Maxwell has been improving as a passer but Sparty has yet to find a true number one receiver. Le’Veon Bell is a workhorse back and he is capable of gashing any defense. If Maxwell can take some pressure of Bell with the passing game this could be a long afternoon for the Wolverines.
Unfortunately for State fans, I just don’t see that happening. Despite what the media is saying about Team 133, the fact is that they’ve only lost two games. Alabama, the undisputed No. 1 and probable BCS Champion, and Notre Dame. They may be overrated but the truth of the matter is they’re No. 5 in the BCS poll and Michigan barely lost to them despite six turnovers. Those losses are about as respectable as you can get. Michigan has beaten the teams it should beat, and beat themselves against a good team in South Bend.
Al Borges has recently trimmed the playbook and opted for a more run-friendly approach, and it has paid off. Michigan is running the ball for 232 yards per game (16th in the nation) and has exploded for almost 330 yards per game over the last two. Fitz Toussaint is slowly getting back in a rhythm but Thomas Rawls has been nipping at his heels. According to Borges, Rawls has earned the right for more touches and when he gets them he makes the most of them. I expect to see Rawls with a much larger role moving forward and it starts Saturday in Ann Arbor against MSU. It’s no secret that I like Thomas Rawls, a lot. But even if Fitz still gets the lion’s share of the carries it just means we have three running threats, something no team wants to game plan against.
Much like Team 132′s seniors against OSU, these seniors will not leave Michigan having never beaten a hated rival. I expect Jake Ryan to continue to wreak havoc in the opposing backfield and Raymon Taylor will continue to play well in the secondary as they keep Andrew Maxwell in check.
Throw out what both teams have done up to this point, it doesn’t matter. Both teams will bring their A-game and it should be a great game. At the end of the day Michigan will have reclaimed Paul Bunyan and solidified themselves as not only the favorite in the Legends division but in the Big Ten conference.
Michigan 28 – Michigan State 17
Matt (2): This Saturday at 3:30, Michigan will host the Michigan State Spartans in the Battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy. This may be the most exciting week leading up to a game except for that one game on the last Saturday of November, but we’ll get to that.
The Wolverines have lost the last four they’ve played against Michigan State, including a heartbreaking loss in overtime. Just thinking about it hurts.
This Saturday, the Wolverines are a 9.5 point favorite – something that we wouldn’t have expected before the season started. Back then, it seemed everyone thought that Wisconsin and Michigan State were going to repeat, and go to the Big Ten Championship for the second straight year. Oh how things have changed.
Michigan State’s rushing game has been down this season, and so has their defense. Meanwhile, Michigan’s defense has took a huge jump since the beginning of the season, and has been making scoring points seem pretty easy.
Last week, Michigan gave Illinois quite the beating, winning 45-0. Michigan out-passed them 174 yards to 29, and out-rushed them 353 to 105. Now, do I think Michigan State is a better team than Illinois? Yes I do. Do I think Michigan State will be able to score some points on the Wolverines? Yes. But, the biggest question is, whether I think Michigan State can beat Michigan.
This is a rivalry game. In many rivalry games, you can throw all records and all stats out the window. It’s who wants it more. It’s hatred, it’s trick plays. It’s pulling out all the stops. We’ve seen Michigan State pull out some crazy plays. We’ve seen fake field goals for game winning passes, among other things. I’ll admit, I’ve seen the Spartans pull out some nailbiter games, with some awfully clever and risky plays.
However, Brady Hoke and his coaching staff have been incredible. We have seen this team get better and better. Hoke, Borges and Mattison obviously know what they are doing. They are great coaches. I doubt we will see a whole lot of trick plays this Saturday, but these coaches don’t seem to need trick plays. They seem to do just fine with what they have. With what they teach these players. I think this Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines are going to snap this losing streak to Sparty. We’re going to bring the Paul Bunyan trophy back home to the Big House, and we’re going to show the world that we belong at the top of the Legends division of the Big Ten!
Sorry, got ahead of myself a little.
Michigan wins, with a dominating performance against Little Brother.
Michigan 41 – Michigan State 27
Sam (1): With a 45-0 pounding of Illinois last weekend, Michigan is riding high and sitting at 2-0 (4-2 overall) in the Big Ten. The Spartans of East Lansing, on the other hand, couldn’t be lower, sitting at 1-2 (4-3 overall) in the conference after an ugly 19-16 double overtime loss at home to Iowa. This week, Michigan State takes a short trip east on 96 and a quick hop south on 23 to Ann Arbor to face their biggest rivals, poised to put forth their best effort. One thing is certain – they’re going to need it.
The Wolverines come into this weekend blazing hot on both sides of the ball. They have scored 44 or more points in three of their past four games and have only given up a combined 19 points over their past three games. Denard Robinson (surprise!) has been the name of the game lately, rushing for 363 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions over the past two weeks.
Obviously Robinson is a special talent, often making plays out of nothing, but a lot of credit needs to go to the offensive line, which has paved the way for the running game and admirably protected their quarterback on passing plays.
If one thing is going wrong for Michigan offensively, it’s the play of their running backs. Fitzgerald Toussaint continues to struggle to make the right cuts and pick the right holes, and it appears that backups Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, and possibly Vincent Smith will see a number of carries from here on out as Al Borges likely deploys a platoon system.
For Michigan State, again, the opposite couldn’t be truer. First-year starter Andrew Maxwell’s play has steadily declined despite not turning the ball over too often, as he managed just 179 yards (with no touchdowns and one pick) on 12 of 31 passing last week. The banged-up offensive line seems to cave on every passing play and has struggled to create holes for the running game, in stark contrast to Taylor Lewan and the rest of Michigan’s front.
The lone bright spot? Junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who has carried the ball a whopping 200 times in seven games for 916 yards and eight touchdowns, good for averages of 28.5 carries per game and 4.6 yards per carry. To make these numbers even more impressive, consider the fact that he weighs nearly 250 pounds and defenses have keyed on him in just about every game.
If Michigan State is to have a chance this Saturday, Bell will have to have a tremendous game, yes, but Dan Roushar will also have to keep the Wolverines defense on its heels by mixing up the calls a little bit. No running back will be good enough against this Michigan defense to win the game by himself.
Speaking of Michigan’s defense, watch for redshirt sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan, who represents Bennie Oosterbaan with his number and legacy patch, to continue his destruction of quarterbacks and running backs at large. Ryan has been racking up sacks and tackles this season like he’s being paid to do it. To put it simply, he has been unstoppable. He registered some 11 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss to go along with a forced fumble on a play in which he fell down and later ran down the quarterback last week alone. Kenny Demens has been great as well, partially due to strong fundamental tackling and partially due to a stout defensive line that has really seemed to hold its own lately.
Maxwell is going to have to throw the ball well this Saturday and hope that reliable tight end Dion Sims will be back from his ankle injury to give coach Mark Dantonio hope. True freshman Aaron Burbridge emerged as a go-to target two games ago against Indiana, and he will be an X-factor in this game as well, as he figures to match up with the still relatively-untested Raymon Taylor. The other Spartan receivers have really struggled to catch the ball; if Michigan State continues to shoot themselves in the foot, they might as well save their gas and ship Paul Bunyan via FedEx to Ann Arbor.
Michigan State will certainly want to keep this game low-scoring, as their defense is certainly the strength of the team. The Spartans have yielded 20 points only twice this season – 20 to Notre Dame in a game in which the offense was anemic and 27 to Indiana, all in the first half. If they hold Michigan under 20 by containing Robinson with their strong front seven, this will be a one-possession game.
There is absolutely no denying that Michigan State has owned this rivalry over the past four seasons; sure, the games have been pretty close, but four wins in a row is four wins in a row. The last time that happened, my parents had lived less than a year combined (not to make anyone feel old here though). A win for the Spartans would give them their longest-ever winning streak over Michigan, and something tells me that this game will be closer than what most expect. Michigan State has been Michigan’s first loss the past three seasons, and while neither of these teams comes into this weekend undefeated for the first time since 2008, the stakes certainly remain high.
Something else tells me, however, that Brady Hoke is going to want to send a message to his in-state brethren that the tides are turning in the state of Michigan. Both teams are going to give it their all, but one team’s all has proven to be much better than the other’s this season. Denard Robinson will shake the cobwebs off from last season’s 28-14 loss with a monster four touchdown game, and though Michigan State will put the first points on the board (with a field goal), Michigan will score the next 20 on its way to a blowout.
Michigan 36 – Michigan State 10
Katie: I think it’s safe to say that the Spartans have not gotten off to the start they had wished for in the preseason. Being 1-2 in Big Ten play also doesn’t help matters. With a loss to Michigan the Spartans will lose all hope of playing in the conference championship, but even now with a couple of losses to Ohio State and Iowa, their chances aren’t looking favorable.
As for the Wolverines, after the two losses to non-conference teams they have beaten both Purdue and Illinois, though it must be said that those teams combined Big Ten records make them 0-5. Michigan State will be Michigan’s first Legends division opponent, and as an instate rival the Spartans pose a distinct threat. Rivalry games have been known to throw rankings, and well thought out predictions out the window. So while it would seem that Michigan should be able to end their four game losing streak, it’s also possible that State will take last week’s loss to Iowa to heart and fight to remain afloat in the division standings. Now for the analysis.
Michigan’s starters include six seniors and five juniors, while the Spartans have five upperclassman to their six with less than two seasons under their belts. Offensively, it seems that the matchup will be between Michigan State’s Andrew Maxwell and Michigan’s Denard Robinson. Whoever can get their offense up to speed and gain enough pace to prevent idling should be able to eat the clock and take home the win. Considering the Spartans have had to punt twice as many times as the Wolverines I’m giving the advantage to the home team here.
As for the run game, Le’Veon Bell is a force and is easily within range of a 1,000-yard season. Of course, Michigan’s Robinson is known for his scrambling abilities and fleet footedness. Who has the better game? It’s a tossup. As for the pitch and catch side of things, the edge goes to the Spartans whose receiving core of Mumphrey and Sims both have over 300 yards, and that’s not including the three other players over 200 yards on the season. Michigan has just two receivers over 200 yards. And while Maxwell and Denard have roughly the same passing percentage, Robinson has two times the amount of interceptions, and is the senior and captain of the team. Maxwell came into the season having only 50 passing attempts in his career.
If the Wolverines want this game to go as smoothly as possible they need their quarterback to play smarter football, and receivers Roundtree, Gardner, and Funchess to step up and make big time catches. If it hits you in the hands you have got to come down with it. But as much as the offense needs to do for both teams the defense needs to slow their resolve.
The starters on defense for both teams are pretty evenly matched. The Spartans have two tremendous linebackers in Allen and Bullough, and a playmaker at safety in Isaiah Lewis. They have five picks on the year, the same as Michigan. But Michigan State also has a formidable defensive end in William Gholston, whose specialty is pass defense. So while the Wolverines have 400 total tackles on the season, 20 less than the Spartans, they lack the defensive standout. However, since the total points allowed category is slightly in Michigan’s favor at 105 vs State’s 110 if Michigan stays balanced they could very well hold the Spartans to under 21 points, which would mean that the offense would have to score one touchdown per quarter, a manageable feat for Michigan.
I think this will be a hard fought game, but one which will end the Wolverines disappointing streak against the Spartans.
Michigan 28 – Michigan State 21
Last week, we all underestimated Michigan’s offense and overestimated Purdue’s. Everyone expected Michigan to win, but not many people anywhere thought the Wolverines would shut down Purdue’s offense the way it did. Offensively, Michigan was unstoppable, except when it fumbled at the end of the first half leading the Purdue’s only touchdown. That opening drive when Michigan went 17 plays and just ran the ball down Purdue’s throat was beautiful to watch wasn’t it? Well this week should be similar, so let’s take a look at our picks.
Justin: Unbeaten in conference play. The two main challengers, Michigan State and Nebraska each have a loss. They also happen to be Michigan’s next two opponents. Beat them both and Michigan is in the drivers’ seat for the Legends division. That means Michigan will be looking ahead to next week, right? Doubtful.
Brady Hoke has been excellent at tempering expectations and keeping the team focused on one week at a time. He will run right at Illinois just like he did Purdue and throw the ball just enough to keep the defense honest. Michigan wins big. For more, check out this week’s Friend vs Foe and this morning’s game preview.
Michigan 48 – Illinois 10
Chris (1): Illinois enters this game with a 2-4 record, with their only FBS win coming against Western Michigan. They have looked poor on both sides of the ball, giving up an average of over 28 points per game while only scoring around 20 points per game. Coming into the season, hopes in Champaign were high for another bowl trip, as they returned 14 starters and a dual-threat quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase. However, injuries on the offensive line have limited the offense’s effectiveness and the defense has yet to show up for a game.
Am I worried that Michigan will lose this game on Saturday? No. But this game does happen at an interesting time on the schedule. With MSU coming up next weekend and Nebraska after that, the potential is there for a “look ahead” game. The Wolverines need to avoid letting that happen. If they sit back and think they are just going to roll Illinois without much of an effort, they may find themselves on the losing end. Scheelhaase can frustrate defenses with his running and his ability to create plays when the blocking breaks down.
The line for this game is currently sitting at 25 points. I think that’s about right. Denard Robinson will have a similar game this week as he did last week against Purdue and the Michigan defense will put a hurting on the Illinois offense. If anyone knows how to get the players to contain Scheelhaase, it’s defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Michigan wins.
Michigan 40 – Illinois 16
Josh (1): Illinois is not a very good team, to put it lightly. Their one “big” win came against FCS opponent Charleston Southern. They beat Western Michigan in their opener but have not played well against anyone of significance. They’ve been blown out in all four of their losses: Arizona State, Louisiana Tech, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Their leading rusher has 227 yards on the season. Denard had more than that last week. Nathan Scheelhaase is a decent quarterback but so far he has more picks (five) than touchdowns (three). In their four losses the defense has given up an average of 431 yards, while the offense has turned the ball over an average of 3.5 times per game. During those losses they’ve been outscored by 30 points per game.
This team gives up a ton of points and yards on defense and turns the ball over like it’s their job on offense.
Since the Air Force game Michigan’s defense has not given up more than 13 points to anyone. They may not be creating as many turnovers as Greg Mattison would like but they’ve been improving each week. Raymon Taylor made the most of his bump to starting cornerback last week and I expect him to improve as the season progresses.
Al Borges went back to Denard’s strengths last week and it yielded huge dividends. I expect much of the same against a porous Iliini defense.
This one shouldn’t be close and will be another good confidence booster heading into Michigan State week. I’d be shocked if Russell Bellomy and Thomas Rawls didn’t see a lot of action late in the game – maybe sooner for Rawls if Toussaint continues to prove ineffective. Michigan made Kirk Herbstreit eats his words of doubt last week against Purdue, and this week they’ll make him look good for jumping back on the Michigan bandwagon.
Michigan 45 – Illinois 9
Matt (2): It’s easy to think that Michigan will be able to defeat Illinois handily. Illinois has had a very off year, currently sitting with a record of 2-4. Michigan however…well, hasn’t been too bad. After a tough loss to Alabama and a loss also to Notre Dame, Michigan is 3-2.
Michigan has been lacking in quite a few areas this year in some games, and in others, they look outstanding. The play against Purdue last Saturday was amazing. Turnovers, touchdowns; it was outstanding.
I hate to sound like a pessimist, because that’s one thing I’m definitely not, but Michigan hasn’t had the kind of year we all were hoping for. But two losses isn’t the end of the year. Honestly, we can still win the Big Ten. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.
Many people chose Purdue as kind of the black horse of the Big Ten. Some analysts were saying they could quite possibly win the Big Ten. And if I’m not mistaken, the Big Ten Network seemed to be pretty impressed with Purdue before the season started. So…either Purdue isn’t as good as everyone thought, or Michigan is better than everyone is thinking.
Michigan versus Illinois usually seems to turn out to be a good game. I remember quite a few times watching this game end up being high scoring and very exciting. However, I do not believe that this year we will see a high scoring, or very exciting game.
I see Michigan coming out on fire. They are coming off of an impressive win over Purdue. The momentum should carry the Wolverines into this game ready to take the Illini down, and that’s just what they’ll do. I think that Michigan’s defense will continue to be dominant, and the offense will be able to put up some long drives and put points up on the board.
Dominant performance tomorrow! Go Blue!
Michigan 31 – Illinois 9
Sam (1): In last week’s Big Ten opener, Michigan did exactly what it had to to keep its Big Ten championship hopes alive and well in a 44-13 bashing of the Purdue Boilermakers. This week, expect much of the same. With one game before Michigan State takes the short trip to Ann Arbor to try to keep their winning streak against their arch rivals going, Michigan will likely run, run, and run some more. Al Borges and Brady Hoke want a win this weekend, and only a win. They don’t need to be flashy, they don’t need to run the score up, they just need to start the Big Ten season 2-0 and get ready for the Spartans.
Obviously Brady Hoke will tell you that Illinois is the only thing on Michigan’s mind right now, as it should be, but I’m pretty sure that the Wolverines have one eye on the schedule. Denard Robinson and the rest of his backfield mates carried the ball a whopping 54 times for 304 yards and three touchdowns last week in West Lafayette, and seeing as the Fighting Illini have given up 465 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in the last three weeks (all 20-plus point losses), look for more of the same.
Michigan also forced four turnovers one week ago; if that happens again, this game will be over at halftime. Illinois is led by dual-threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has completed 62.5 percent of his passes on the season so far but has thrown only three touchdowns to his five picks and has only run for 95 yards. His favorite target will be Ryan Lankford, who with 362 yards receiving has more than double that of the next guy down, but a number of other receivers could see the ball as well, as five receivers have caught double digit balls, including three with 20 or more.
Defense is obviously a huge problem for Illinois and will likely be their downfall again this weekend. They have given up 28.3 points per game in the middle of a not-so-powerful schedule that includes Western Michigan, Arizona State, Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech, and Penn State. Illinois hasn’t held an opponent under 30 since week one, when they beat Western 24-7, and they have given up more than 40 points three times in those five weeks since.
Meanwhile, Greg Mattison has his Michigan defense returning to 2011 form, a bad sign for the teams remaining on the Wolverines’ schedule. The Maize and Blue have given up only 13 points in three straight weeks, and haven’t given up more than 25 since being trounced by Alabama to start the year. Jake Ryan has emerged as a force rushing the passer and stifling outside run plays and the secondary has done its part in limiting the big play. It’s been an all around solid if not outstanding defense; I doubt the orange and blue will do anything to prove this sentiment otherwise.
There’s no sense in going into extreme detail for a game like this, so I’ll cut any extra details. Watch for Michigan to really try to get Fitgerald Toussaint going after yet another disappointing week running the ball and watch for at least one play-action pass to go for a 50-plus yard touchdown from Denard to Jeremy Gallon. In the end, this game should be in the bag by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. I’ll take Michigan to make it two in a row.
Michigan 43 – Illinois 10
Katie: Last week went well, as Michigan scored over forty points in a game for the second time this season. But Purdue also didn’t fair well against the Wolverine defense, and since the Boilermakers are the better of the two teams Michigan was pitted against in weeks five and six Michigan should be able to roll this weekend. Illinois is 2-4 coming into this Saturday’s game, Michigan is the first ranked team they have faced thus far. Their only two wins came against Western Michigan and a Charleston Southern team that’s having an equally hard time winning. That being said the Wolverines offense should be able to put up some great numbers.
The Fighting Illini have been outscored by their opponents 170- 127, while Michigan has raked up fifty more points than the teams they have faced. The total offense stat is pretty level, however the caliber of teams that the Wolverines has faced gives them the edge. Some people are even hoping that Notre Dame will make it into the National Championship game, which means our two losses have come to high quality teams. As for the running game the Illini backs could put up some numbers, though nothing like the yardage that Denard should scamper for, he already has 730 yards on the season. Not shockingly Illinois wins the receiving stats and the pass percentage, however, if those don’t turn into points then the Blue and Orange will be in deep trouble.
On defense Ashante Williams and Jonathan Brown could pose some problems for Michigan’s O-line, and possibly keep Robinson in check by forcing him to throw. If Illinois has any chance to stay in this game their defense will have to step up more than they have in the past six games. But with an offense that if firing on all cylinders can amass big numbers, I think that the Fighting Illini are going to have all that they can handle, and a bit more this Saturday.
Michigan still has its eye on the Big Ten Championship which means that this should be a full force effort, especially when the next home game is a fierce in state rival. I think Michigan takes charge early with methodical drives, and eats up the clock. This game is about proving our skills to those in East Lansing. We’ve broken the streak with the Buckeyes, it’s time to show Sparty that we’re back in business too.
Michigan 41 – Illinois 10
Against Notre Dame, we all expected a much higher scoring game by both teams. If you had told any of us that Michigan would go the entire game without a touchdown, we would have laughed in your face. But alas, a plethora of untimely turnovers doomed Michigan’s chances of reaching the end zone and we were all way too high with our picks. This week, it’s safe to say Michigan will get back on track, but it won’t be easy. Let’s take a look at our picks.
Justin: Expect Purdue to put up a good fight through two or three quarters, possibly right down to the end, but Michigan should pull away. As has been mentioned multiple times, Purdue has a very realistic chance of winning the Big Ten this season, so the Boilers will be hungry. But expecting Denard to make the same mistakes he did against Notre Dame is wishful thinking if you’re a Purdue fan. Al Borges will employ a much more controlled offensive gameplan, keeping Denard both under control in the passing game and turning him loose with his feet. If Marshall and Notre Dame can put up big numbers through the air, Michigan can too and will outscore the Boilers.
Michigan 30 – Purdue 21
Chris: The Purdue Boilermakers return 15 starters from last season’s 7-6 squad. Their record so far in 2012 (3-1) is a little deceiving because they have played three fairly weak teams in Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, and Marshall. Their only loss was a close contest at Notre Dame in Week 2. Because of this schedule, the Purdue offense has looked strong, scoring an average of 42.5 points per game. However, their defense has given up almost 21.
Michigan is coming off of a bye week following their poor performance against Notre Dame in Week 4. I believe that head coach Brady Hoke has used this time to re-focus his team and his quarterback for the start of the Big Ten conference schedule. All of Michigan’s goals for winning the conference championship are well within reach, starting with this week’s game against Purdue. Offensive coordinator Al Borges needs to get Denard going early to get him comfortable and in a rhythm. This means running the spread offense with Denard in the shotgun and letting him do what he does best. Michigan needs to establish the run early so the pass will open up later in the game.
I like Michigan to win this game by keeping it close in the first half by establishing themselves on both sides of the ball. Watch for them to make good halftime adjustments and pull away in the second half.
Michigan 31 – Purdue 14
Josh (1): After a much needed week off, Michigan is now set to resume its season with the first Big Ten conference game as they travel to West Lafayette to take on the Boilermakers. Purdue is an interesting team on offense. Quarterback Robert Marve started the first two weeks in place of a suspended Caleb Terbush, but injured his ACL in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame. Terbush has performed well in the two plus games since he has returned. Their running game is rather good with two solid backs.
Marve has been taking some snaps in practice this week and it has not yet been determined whether he will play. Preparing for two QB’s is never easy, but since neither is a major threat to run the preparations should remain pretty much the same for Greg Mattison. Purdue will be a good litmus test for Michigan as they enter conference play.
Purdue is a fairly balanced team, averaging 262 yards passing and 200 yards rushing, but their strength is in the rush game. The Boilermakers have a bit of a two-headed rushing attack with Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt. Shavers gets the bulk of the carries but Hunt is a very capable back who makes the most of his touches, averaging a stellar 9.4 yards per carry.
On defense, the Boilermakers are coming off a win over Marshall in which they surrendered over 500 yards, 439 of which came through the air. The game was a shootout and Marshall threw the ball 68 times, so numbers like that can be expected. Still, it’s never a good sign when a defense gives up those types of numbers.
The Boiler defense didn’t allow EMU or EKU to put up big numbers – though EMU did rush for 169 yards – but they let ND threw for over 300 yards. It’s not a bad bunch, and they have a legitimate NFL corner in Ricardo Allen, but they are susceptible to giving up big yards to a good team. Marshall was completely one dimensional last week so it might play into Michigan’s hands to just run the ball until Purdue proves they can stop it.
Michigan’s pass offense, and Denard, have been much maligned by a lot of people. I hate to say it, but I am one of those people. I love Denard, he’s a great kid and I’ve enjoyed watching him play, but he continues to make too many basic mistakes at inopportune times game after game. However, he is our quarterback and while I may pine for the days of great pocket passers past, he is too dangerous with his feet to not start him.
If Michigan plays like they did last week and turns the ball over half a dozen times, they lose. Plain and simple. But I just don’t see that happening. Not to mention, that despite all those turnovers Notre Dame still barely won the game. Michigan is better than the media wants to give them credit for and Brady Hoke is not going to sit back and let his kids sink into a depression about a bad game against a rival.
The Big Ten title is still within Michigan’s grasp and the road starts in West Lafayette. I’m looking for Al Borges to pare down the aggressive play calling a bit and put Denard in situations to succeed, such as the short passing game and more of the zone read. Fitz is clamoring for more carries and I think he’ll get them. He torched Purdue last season and he’s looking to do it again.
After looking at game tape I’m sure Purdue is going to do what everyone does against Michigan, try to stop Denard from running, and force him to be a pocket passer. If Michigan wants to be successful against Purdue, and the rest of the conference this year, they need Toussaint to step it up and play like he did last year and take some pressure off Denard and the passing game. It boils down to balance on offense, and limiting their turnovers of course.
Mattison will look to employ his same old scheme (it’s a good one) and incorporate his NFL style blitzes to rattle either quarterback. Terbush has thrown the ball exceptionally well percentage-wise, but he has four picks to go along with his seven touchdowns and most of those touchdowns (four) came against Marshall in the shootout. Purdue’s run game could be a huge concern for Michigan if the front seven doesn’t play well.
It should be a hard fought battle with either team capable of coming away with a win. History is on Michigan’s side as they are pretty dominant coming off a bye week. Hoke and Co. will have these kids ready. If Borges finally stops trying to force Denard into being a pocket passer, Michigan wins a close one.
Michigan 21 – Purdue 17
Matt (2): Saturday at 4:00, we have our beloved Michigan Wolverines taking on the Purdue Boilermakers. I see this game being a high scoring game, although not a shoot out like we have seen Michigan in many times before.
Turnovers could be the key. Michigan gave up way too many turnovers in their last game against Notre Dame. If we see that happen again, they very well will lose this game. But if Denard Robinson can play as well as we know he can, we could blow this game wide open.
I could easily see either team walking away with this one. And like I said earlier, turnovers are key. Michigan’s turnover ratio is bad. If their secondary can step up, and slow down this Boilermaker offense, this game can be ours.
I don’t think it’ll be high scoring, but it won’t be low either. Michigan will get the lead early, and hang on to win. Michigan by ten!
Michigan 38 – Purdue 28
Sam: After a debacle in South Bend two weeks ago and a bye week last week, the Michigan Wolverines will travel to West Lafayette to take on the upstart Purdue Boilermakers this Saturday. While most years this might seem like a certain victory on the schedule, Brady Hoke’s team will have to be on its game in the Big Ten opener if they hope to make it back to Ann Arbor with an unblemished conference record. Danny Hope’s team, quarterbacked by Caleb TerBush, is by no means a powerhouse, but so far it has at least looked like a formidable, if unpredictable, foe.
It’s like senior year in college. Purdue is supposed to be a pushover, a team that you can slack against and still get by. But that’s not always the way it goes. The real world (the big boys of the Big Ten, even though it turns out they aren’t as scary this season) lurks around the corner and teachers will force you to work way too hard. In the end, it’s a challenge that is at the very least worrisome. But it’s also a challenge that Michigan should be able to pass.
The Maize and Blue come in as narrow three-point favorites with everything on the line. A loss to open Big Ten season would be devastating with games against Michigan State and at Ohio State still on the table and would obviously mean an uphill battle to their stated goal of a Big Ten Championship. Denard Robinson, it’s your time to shine.
Much has been said about the loss to the Fighting Irish two weeks ago, the only opponent that both Michigan and Purdue have in common so far this year. Robinson threw four interceptions and fumbled the ball once, and no matter how much blame you put on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Al Borges, I don’t think anyone can argue that Robinson played well. He orchestrated a few solid drives but failed to put points on the board, and in the end, the scoreboard is all that counts. Sure, Michigan outgained Notre Dame by 60 yards and Purdue was outgained by them by nearly 100. In the end, however, both teams lost, Michigan by six and Purdue by three.
So what can we take away from this game? As usual, Denard Robinson needs to play well for Michigan to play well. If he coughs up the ball one or zero times, Michigan will win by double digits. If Purdue takes it away two or more times, it’s anyone’s game. Purdue didn’t play well on offense in their 20-17 loss to Notre Dame, but their defense kept them in it until the bitter end, holding Theo Riddick and company to a measly 1.4 yards per carry. The pass defense did them in, having allowed 324 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-39 passing by Everett Golson and Tommy Rees.
Now this doesn’t mean that Michigan needs to come out chucking downfield. In fact, that is exactly what gets Robinson in trouble most of the time. Borges would be wise to come out pounding the ball away on the outside. The Boilermaker’s Kawaan Short is an All-American defensive tackle, a guy who will cause havoc in both the pass and run games – he must be avoided. The Wolverines should come out running Fitzgerald Toussaint around Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and giving Robinson plenty of carries to work his magic as well. Once Purdue realizes the game plan and starts loading the box, Michigan will be able to utilize the play action and work some short throws over the middle and on the outside to get Denard loose.
If Michigan sticks to this plan and the interior line of Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Patrick Omameh can at least neutralize Short, Toussaint and Robinson will both run for over 100 and Michigan will start off the Big Ten with a solid, spread-covering win.
Michigan’s defense continues to impress even with a questionable defensive line; the linebackers and secondary have looked staunch in stopping the run and preventing back-breaking pass plays. Greg Mattison’s main focus on that side will be to stop TerBush from killing the corners with dink-and-dunk screens, so expect to see Raymon Taylor and J.T. Floyd play physical with Purdue’s wide receivers on the outside. A couple forced turnovers would be huge, and, as always, preventing plays of over 30 yards will be key. Akeem Shavers will see the bulk of the carries and TerBush will be throwing to a trio of receivers with more than 15 catches in Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross, and Gary Bush, but again, expect the linebackers to stop the run and the secondary to play tough.
In the end, I think Robinson will bounce back in a big way from a very humbling last outing, throwing for 150 yards and two touchdowns and running for another 120 yards and two touchdowns while not turning the ball over once. Toussaint will get going again with 100 yards and a touchdown and Michigan’s defense will hold strong to give the Wolverines their most impressive victory in the young season.
Michigan 35 – Purdue 17
Katie: Well, after last weeks lackluster performance hopefully we’ll see a refreshed offense, but I’m not holding my breathe. The five turnovers that Denard had were really disheartening, not that I didn’t see them in the realm of possibilities after these last few seasons, but I was optimistic, and I was wrong. That being said I can admit when I make mistakes and misjudge a situation.
Hoke’s faith in his starting quarterback became the picture of lunacy last week. Hopefully, he will never again be in the position of having to pull Robinson for an utter lack of composure and vision, but you never know, because Denard is still making throws off of his back foot, and throwing up balls that resemble tennis lobs. It was maddening as a viewer to see that Hoke would not call in the backup, and made me weary of his ability as a coach to make the necessary decisions. That being said I think that while Purdue is a dark horse, Michigan should be able to pick up the pieces and attempt to get back on track to answer whether this cup is half empty or half full.
After all the Wolverines have not yet played a Big Ten team, so their 2-2 record has yet to be defined in terms of the conference. Purdue played Notre Dame close, but ended up with the same results the Wolverines did. But Michigan’s loss falls heavily on the shoulders of a completely inept offense, and an awful strategy for moving the ball. This game will be different. Presumably. The Boilermakers are 3-1, but those wins came against MAC caliber opponents, making Michigan their first real test since facing the Irish, but this time they’ll have home field advantage.
The Boilermakers have been starting well. Putting up big numbers before halftime, so if Michigan wants to start off on the right foot in Big Ten play they had better show up early. Purdue has two receivers over two hundred yards receiving, and both of the quarterbacks that they use have better passing percentages than Denard, though that really doesn’t say much. The stat Michigan fans should want to know about is the interceptions, which total eight thus far for the Boilermaker backfield, an impressive number even though they came against teams that are not of the quality they will face this upcoming Saturday. As we saw, Robinson can be a turnover machine, so Purdue having made a couple of picks a game for four games shouldn’t sit well with Wolverine faithful. But the defense for the Michigan is more productive in terms of tackling, which is the meat and bones of that side of the ball. Picks are just the side dish. Defensively Michigan has the edge, and should also in terms of offense, though fans are all well aware of who has to have a productive game for the Wolverines to win. I’m leery of this one.
Michigan 24 – Purdue 21
Last week, we all underestimated both teams’ offenses, although UMass’ lone touchdown was a defensive one. Matt nearly hit the score on the head with his 56-13 pick. Michigan’s final touchdown ruined his perfect pick, but it was a good one nonetheless. Games like that are always hard to pick because you never know how long the starters will stay on the field and how soon the coach will ease off the gas pedal. This week should be better. We’re all familiar with Notre Dame and nobody expects a blowout in either direction. Let’s take a look at our picks:
Justin: What’s that? Is that an echo I hear emanating from South Bend? The Irish, who have been largely dormant for the better part of a decade, if not more, have set off BCS buzz following their first 3-0 start since 2002. ND ventured to its homeland to crush Navy, and may have found a bit of luck that had escaped the fighting leprechauns of late. It carried over once back in the States, holding of pesky Purdue and dominating a top-10 Michigan State squad on the road. Now, Lou Holtz isn’t the only one clamoring over the postseason possibilities for the Blue and Gold. A win tomorrow would snap several years of misery and likely propel the Irish into the Top 10.
But you know what? To hell with Notre Dame. All the talk surrounding the Irish is just that. Talk. Sure they beat a Navy team that got trounced by Penn State. Sure they kicked a late field goal to hold off Purdue. Sure they won convincingly against an overrated MSU squad that has very little offensive firepower. Michigan has the trump card in the form of Denard Robinson. His exploits against the Irish have been well documented this week, and the fact is, Notre Dame is terrified of him because he has single-handedly ripped out their hearts, poured out their lucky charms, and stolen their pot of gold each of the last two years.
Notre Dame has a vaunted front seven but a MASH unit in the back. Michigan’s receiving corps is rapidly becoming the best it has had in years, which no one foresaw entering the season. As I said in this morning’s game preview, Michigan will come out firing and make the front seven back off in order to open up the run game. And Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t have the firepower to keep up. It will be close and Michigan will have its share of struggles, but Denard will pull it out and celebrate his 22nd birthday in style.
Michigan 33 – Notre Dame 27
Chris: This week the Wolverines face a tough test when they travel to Notre Dame Stadium to play the Fighting Irish in an Under the Lights game Part 2. ND has been tough to gauge after three weeks of the season, after a close home win vs Purdue and a fairly dominating defensive win against Michigan State in East Lansing. ND quarterback Everett Golson looked good last week, but the ND offense struggled to convert 3rd downs as they went 1-14, an issue that could prove to be a problem on Saturday. Defensively, ND has looked faster than expected, especially up front, where sophomore nose guard Louis Nix (6’3″, 326 pounds), and senior inside linebacker Manti Te’o, control the inside. To me, this looks like the best ND team that has been in South Bend since 2006.
At the beginning of the season, ND was set to return 14 starters from the 2011 squad. Then starting cornerback, junior Lo Wood, was injured. This past Saturday, ND lost another starter, senior Jamoris Slaughter, when he tore his Achilles’ tendon. This could be an opportunity for the Michigan offense if the offensive line can keep the pass rush from putting too much pressure on quarterback Denard Robinson. MSU was supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten this season, however the ND front seven pressured the quarterback all game and also held the running game to 50 total yards. The key for Michigan offensively will be how they handle this group and whether they can keep the rush off of Denard long enough for him to pass or make a play with his feet. The Michigan offensive line has improved in each of the first three weeks, but this will be a tough task. I do believe that ND will get pressure on Denard for the majority of the game, so it will be imperative that Denard not try to stand in the pocket and force passes to his receivers. Running lanes will be there and he will need to use his running ability to pick up yardage and move the ball. To counter this, I expect that ND will use one of the linebackers to “spy” Denard all game in an attempt to tackle him before he can get too many yards.
The ND offense is stronger this year as well. In addition to Golson, ND features the running back tandem of junior Cierre Wood and senior Theo Riddick. They are fast and strong and can pile up yards quickly. They also have a good offensive line which did well against an MSU defensive front which was predicted to be very good this season. Junior tight end Tyler Eifert will create match-up problems for the Wolverine defense, as linebackers are generally too slow and defensive backs are too small to cover him. I expect ND head coach Brian Kelly to use him similar to how Michigan’s Al Borges has used Devin Funchess this season and I think the potential is there for Eifert to have a big game. I think Michigan will come out and try to pressure Golson with a number of zone blitz schemes which defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is famous for. The goal will be to create turnovers by forcing Golson into making mistakes, as he is just a sophomore playing in this rivalry for the first time.
I believe that Michigan will face a tough scene at ND on Saturday. In addition to this being a night game, this will also be a revenge game for ND, as they try to return the favor to Michigan after they blew a 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter and gave up the game-winning TD with two seconds left on the clock last year in Ann Arbor. Michigan has improved as a team in Brady Hoke’s second season, but the inconsistent play by the offensive and defensive lines has me concerned for this game. That, combined with a raucous atmosphere in South Bend tells me that ND may have the advantage in this game. I think the game will be back and forth the entire time, but ND will win in the end.
Notre Dame 30 – Michigan 27
Josh (1): Ah, Notre Dame week. It doesn’t quite have the ring of Ohio week but it is a big game nonetheless. This game has a little more meaning for me this year, not in a ‘intra-family rivalry’ way like Justin, but in a ‘I live about a mile from Notre Dame stadium and see their fans everyday’ kind of way. Notre Dame has looked good, and bad, thus far. Michigan has looked bad (though who doesn’t against ‘Bama?), OK and finally good. I usually just go out and pick Michigan because they’ve owned the Irish recently but this year I’m not so sure. Notre Dame’s fronts (on both sides) took care of business last week against State’s lines, and those guys are big and physical. This worries me more than a bit. Michigan is heading in the right direction and I think they’ll be in the national title hunt come 2015, but at the moment they don’t possess Big Ten size and strength up front.
Notre Dame has seemingly solved their QB questions and Everett Golson is entrenched as the starter. While he he hasn’t put up really eye popping numbers he has played well and makes plays when needed. Reminds me of someone, less than stellar passer, comes up big when he’s needed. Now I am in now way shape or form comparing Golson to Denard (well, I am) but he has a similar skill set, though he doesn’t use his legs quite as often.
Michigan “righted the ship” last week, if you will. And got their offense back on track as they dominated an overmatched UMass team. Notre Dame is not UMass, but they are not the Notre Dame of old either. Notre Dame is putting up 30 points per game and only allowing 10, Michigan is putting up 36 and allowing 26; something has to give. Both teams have fairly balanced offenses. I think Notre Dame has the better passing attack but Michigan has the better ground game.
The loss of Blake Countess should rear its ugly head Saturday night and I fully expect Golson to try and take advantage of either Courtney Avery (we all know my comfort level with his coverage ability) or Raymon Taylor (he’s young and inexperienced but he has good upside and hey, a true frosh stepped up last year at CB). On defense, as always, the name of the game is stop Denard. And this will be no different. If the Irish can force Denard into a passing QB under duress or on the move (neither are his forte) then they have a great chance of winning this game.
Denard has had success against the Irish, with both his arm and his legs, and I expect to see more of the same come Saturday night. While the passing game has been much maligned and his struggles well documented (and those with faith in Denard’s arm dwindle in numbers) he is not an awful passer. He just needs to make better decisions and not throw off balance. With the emergence of Devin Funchess at WR/TE and the crazy athleticism of former QB Devin Gardner, Denard now has two big (literally) time receivers to help him out. I don’t advocate the jump ball, but if you’re gonna throw those 50/50′s those two guys are nice to have out there, not to mention their after the catch ability.
Notre Dame is at home and while they’re not the Notre Dame of old, it is always a tough place to play. Their fans are passionate and loud and they hate Michigan. The Irish should be playing with a little extra passion and vigor, they’re fresh off a big win over Michigan St. and they’re looking to not make it 4 straight losses to a bitter rival. A feeling we know all too well.
If Notre Dame can control the line of scrimmage it will be a long night for Michigan but I don’t expect them to come out and dominate like they did last week. I don’t expect them to roll over and die either. Last year the Irish lost the game with their numerous mistakes on which Michigan capitalized. Golson has only thrown one INT so far but he only has 5 total TD’s in three games, so I don’t think we’ll see as many turnover opportunities as we did last year.
For me, in the end it comes down to line play for both teams. Whichever team comes out and controls the LOS is going to create opportunities for big plays. This one should be another great game and it could really go either way.
I’m not very confident about this pick but it’s tough for me to pick against the Maize and Blue, at least when they’re evenly or only slightly overmatched. Michigan wins another close one and the Irish’s 4-0 start is derailed.
Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 23
Matt (2): Well here we are. Notre Dame week. And I have to admit, I’m probably more nervous for this game than any other Notre Dame game. It’s a big rivalry, and I have to say, they are tied for my second least favorite college football team alon with Michigan State (obviously Ohio State takes the number 1 spot, but more about them in November).
Michigan started out the season not lookin great. Getting clobbered by Alabama and beating Air Force by only six points. After that we beat up on UMass, but…it’s UMass.
Saturday at 7:30 we play Notre Dame in South Bend. And I tell you, the Fighting Irish look good this season. They gave Navy a good beating. Beat Purdue by three, and last week sort of embarrassed Michigan State. Did I already mention I’m nervous?
Anyway, Denard hasn’t looked terrible, although he is still over throwing wide receivers. Devin Gardner hasn’t had a whole lot of chances to prove how good he is at wide receiver, although I think he is going to prove that this year. One of the biggest offensive weapons we have been surprised with this season, is tight end Devin Funchess. Keep your eye on him in this game. Also keep your eye on Denard (obviously), as I think he’ll break a few nice runs.
It will be hard to follow up last year’s heart attack of a football game last year, and I don’t see it being quite as entertaining, or high scoring. Both team’s defenses have improved.
I think Notre Dame will come out with a couple of scores like last year, and seem to have our number. But I see Brady Hoke rallying the troops, and Michigan coming back for the victory.
Last week I almost hit the score square on the head. Let’s see how I do this week.
Michigan 38 – Notre Dame 31
Sam: For the Michigan Wolverines, this weekend presents a lot of firsts for the season: the first night game, the first (true) road game, and, of course, the first rivalry game. For star quarterback Denard Robinson, however, this Saturday will be the last game of his career against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, the team he has loved playing against more than any other college in the country.
You see, over the past two seasons as a starter, Robinson has absolutely feasted on the Golden Domers, rushing for 366 yards and three touchdowns and throwing for 582 yards and five touchdowns in 28-24 (2010) and 35-31 (2011) Michigan nail-biters. Michigan has won the past three matchups between these bitter rivals, but to extend it to a fourth straight under the lights this Saturday, Denard Robinson is going to have to make one hell of an encore.
Brian Kelly said in his weekly press conference that Shoelace will be the best player on the field, a statement that seems obvious. I’m not sure it’s as clear cut as most would say, however. Notre Dame’s hulking middle linebacker, Manti Te’o, is an All-American who likely would have been a first round NFL draft pick this year before deciding to come back for a final swan song, and perhaps a chance to taste victory against the Maize and Blue. Not only will Te’o be playing to avoid being shut out in his career against Michigan though; he will also be playing with a heavy heart and a head of steam as he continues to mourn the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend, both of whom died last week.
What is obvious is that Notre Dame’s whole defensive game plan will be to stop Denard Robinson at all costs, and that starts by keeping him bottled up in the pocket. It was Robinson’s arm that led Michigan to victory in the fourth quarter last year, and it will have to be his arm once again this year if Michigan is to have any chance. Sure, he will break a couple runs over 10 yards, but Te’o will have his eye on him the whole game.
Luckily for Michigan, Denard has been notably more accurate this season and will be testing a very inexperienced Notre Dame secondary. Kelly has already lost starting corner Lo Wood and starting safety Jamoris Slaughter for the season and will be starting freshmen in their places.
Having said all this, I still think Fitzgerald Toussaint is the key. If he goes for over 100 yards and finds the end zone, Michigan wins. That will not be an easy task, though, as Te’o and company come off a dominating performance against Michigan State in which the Spartans never made it past Notre Dame’s 30-yard-line and put up a total of three points on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately, I think Michigan’s defense has proven to be a bit weaker this season, especially up front. Freshman quarterback Everett Golson has been solid so far, throwing for 611 yards and three touchdowns while completing 58% of his passes through three games and will have weapons Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood in the backfield with him. Notre Dame hasn’t had any standout receivers thus far, but tight end Tyler Eifert is very good over the middle and could present some matchup problems. If Notre Dame’s offensive line is getting half the push Alabama’s did, say goodbye and good night, because Michigan’s not winning. If the Wolverines can at least contain the run, they should be in good position at the end.
Like the past three years, this game is going to be very close and shouldn’t be decided until late in the fourth stanza. And as much as I would love to see Michigan spoil Notre Dame’s night once again and as much as I know Denard Robinson loves playing against the Fighting Irish, I’m worried. Notre Dame pulls it off in the end, 27-24.
Notre Dame 27 – Michigan 24
Katie: I’m predicting a barn burner. Whether or not it will take place in the fourth quarter I cannot say, but for Michigan’s sake I hope that it starts with a few long rally’s early. After watching Michigan State struggle all day on offense last week, I’m confident that Michigan will be able to do better with a fleet footed quarterback, but as for the passing struggles, well, Michigan better not reflect its in state rivals productivity. The Wolverines have been doubling the number of points scored each successive week, but that’s only because the opponents have been lessening in rank each Saturday. As for Notre Dame, whose schedule makes Michigan look like a bit like a bear without teeth, they’ve beat a top ranked Spartan team, and a Leaders Division darkhorse in Purdue. After Michigan the Irish will go on to play at USC and Oklahoma, while playing Stanford at home. If ND is looking for a nine win season, Michigan is the lowest ranked top team they’ll need to beat in addition to the four unranked opponents that fill out the rest of their schedule.
Notre Dame’s starting quarterback is only a sophomore, but he has been the one under center at the beginning of each of the three games. And while his passes completed is only at 58%, he played a tough Michigan State defense that dropped his stat from the first two weeks which hovered around 66%. Really though, I should see this as a potential high note. Denard’s passing stat is a lowly 55%, so if we can keep the youngster Golson to completing around half of his passes it would hopefully lighten the load on the defense which is facing two strong running backs in Theo Riddick, and Cierre Wood. However, Riddick so far has only 190 yards, 107 coming off a thrashing of Navy. As for Michigan, it’s pretty obvious who our leading rusher is. The only issue is that other than Robinson no other rusher has yet broke past the 100 yard mark. In the receiving game Michigan is slightly ahead with four players over 100 yards, ND only has three. So if Denard can hit the broad side of a barn Michigan should be able to put up more points that the Irish, but it will be difficult under the circumstances, a night game in South Bend.
On defense Michigan has twelve players that have made 5 or more solo tackles. The Irish defense in its most recent game had 6 tackles for a loss, they also had a forced fumble and a recovery. They have also given up only 30 points total this season, as compared to Michigan’s 79. Granted, Michigan did get trounced by ‘Bama, but one can’t very well throw out those 41 points, especially given that Notre Dame’s only real holes on defense are in its secondary. Manti Te’o is also healthy and determined, and could cause serious problems for Denard who is not a prolific passer, and is definitely not when on the run. I see this being a pretty even match up, with Michigan having the offensive advantage, and ND the defensive. How much sway the home field crowd will have I’m sure will be tangible rather than negligible. I envision a nail-biter, and most tentatively, a win.
Michigan 33 – Notre Dame 30