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Archive for the ‘Friday Pick’em’ Category

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 27th, 2015


Michigan hosts Ohio State at noon tomorrow in the 112th meeting between the two rivals. For the first time in years a Big Ten championship game appearance is still within reach for the winner. Here are our predictions.


Ohio State laid an egg against Michigan State last week and it’s hard to imagine them doing so two weeks in a row. That’s the bad news for Michigan. The good news is the Wolverines have played well at home all season and have plenty of motivation with a potential Big Ten Championship Game appearance on the line. The weather calls for a perfect late November Saturday with cloudy skies, 42 degrees, and no precipitation, so the scene will be set for a classic Ohio State-Michigan game. And I think that’s exactly what we will get.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 27 24
Derick 28 24
Sam 21 24
Josh 27 23
Joe 28 27
M&GB Average 26 24

Make no mistake about it; Ohio State is the better team. But the gap that has separated the two teams for the last decade will be as narrow as it has been since the last time the two faced off as top 10 teams in 2006. Michigan will need to break out its bag of tricks, but won’t need to fully rely on them like they have the past several meetings. Michigan has a legitimate chance to win. The biggest key will be giving Jake Rudock time to throw. It’s unlikely that Michigan will be able to move the ball consistently on the ground, since it hasn’t done so against anyone since early in the season. But Rudock has been as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten during conference play, and especially the last three weeks when the passing game has taken off. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh will have trouble getting open against Conley and Apple, and Jake Butt will meet his match against Bell, so if Rudock is constantly under pressure, it will be a long day for Michigan’s offense.

Fortunately, I believe Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will pull out all stops with Jabrill Peppers. Harbaugh hinted at using the dynamic sophomore more at running back earlier this week, and with a month off between this game and a bowl — barring a Michigan State loss — there’s no need to hold Peppers back. I could see a running back rotation of Peppers and De’Veon Smith with Peppers getting the majority of the snaps in a variety of looks to not only get the ball to him in space, but use him as a decoy to get others open. That’s really the best shot Michigan has at being able to move the ball with any consistency.

On defense, Michigan will have to stop Elliott. That’s really what it comes down to. The chance of him getting just 12 carries is about as likely as Rudock running the triple option. Elliott may get 12 carries in the first quarter until Michigan proves it can stop him. Remember the Indiana game when Jordan Howard ran and ran and ran again? That’s what Ohio State’s game plan will be. If Michigan’s front seven can rise to the occasion and slow him down, Ohio State’s offense is much more containable. Miller is a threat when he gets the ball in space and has the ability beat the defense deep, but the rest of the offense isn’t as dangerous as anyone else Michigan has faced and Jourdan Lewis can lock down Thomas.

If Elliott is gashing through Michigan’s defense for six to eight yards a pop, Michigan will lose. If Michigan’s defense is holding him in check like Michigan State’s did, and forces the Buckeyes to rely on Barrett’s arm and legs, I like Michigan’s chances. I think the latter will happen. Michigan will sell out to stop Elliott and may give up a big play or two to Miller or Barrett, but will gladly take that over getting the ball rammed down its throat play after play after play. Peppers puts together a performance for the ages in all three phases of the game, reminiscent of his idol, Charles Woodson’s, performance 18 years ago, and leads Michigan to a thrilling narrow win.

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 24


After watching them lay an egg in their first competitive game of the season, it’s difficult to know what to expect from the Buckeyes on Saturday. That said, I expect Urban Meyer’s team to come out angry and desperate to bounce back.

Michigan just might be a better all-around football team than Ohio State this season, which is wild when you think about how both teams finished last season. Ohio State was off winning a national title with its third-string quarterback while Michigan lost to Maryland at home to fall short of a bowl game.

But the Wolverines’ defense really bounced back in a tough road game against Penn State last weekend and looks to be trending in the right direction after disappointing efforts against Minnesota and Indiana. Can it bully the Buckeyes in the trenches like the Spartans’ defense did? If so, the Wolverines should win the game.

I think J.T. Barrett will be much more comfortable in the driver’s seat of the offense Saturday as it should be a much clearer day in Ann Arbor. He’ll have to be very careful behind the wheel of that OSU offense and avoid turning the ball over to a hot Michigan offense. Blake O’Neill will be critical in forcing Barrett to drive the length of the field against a solid secondary. If Barrett puts his foot on the gas pedal and rushes for over 100 yards, the Wolverines will be in big trouble.

Michigan’s linebackers — Desmond Morgan, James Ross III and Joe Bolden — will be critical in containing Barrett and defending the middle of the field. If they can put together their best performance of the season, I really like Michigan’s chances.

I think it’ll be a close game, but it’s one that Jim Harbaugh really wants. Michigan will hold off a late Ohio State push and win The Game.

Michigan 28 – Ohio State 24


Ohio State 24 – Michigan 21


Last week Michigan held up their end of the bargain, defeating Penn State on the road. Ohio State, however, did not. You can never count on the Buckeyes. This causes two problems for me, 1.) we need Penn State to beat Sparty for us to get a shot at the Big Ten title game and, 2.) after a very flat, uber-conservative game plan OSU is sure to be even more fired up this week.

To do what Harbaugh has done this year is nothing short of incredible, he’s way ahead of schedule (though he won’t ever say he had a schedule to bring Michigan back) but the sad fact is Ohio State is arguably the most stable football program in the country, and hasn’t experienced any talent dips for as long as I can remember. The Buckeyes are loaded with more talent than Michigan at the moment and feature a read-option quarterback/running back combo that can do a lot of damage.

On offense: While the running game has all but vanished the past few weeks Jake Rudock and the passing game has come on strong. They will face a challenge in OSU’s defensive line but it’s not something that cannot be overcome. Joey Bosa will find his way to Rudock on numerous occasions but if the offensive line can just give him enough time to find his receivers more often than not then Michigan should be in good shape. The lack of running game concerns me because a one-dimensional offense will be easy for OSU to stop. However, we have Harbaugh and this guy named Jabrill Peppers, who I expect to see at least 15-20 snaps on offense, namely at running back. He’s the most explosive athlete on the team and our best running back by far. Harbaugh will hold nothing back and unleash Peppers’ fury all over the field. He tops 100 offensive yards and two touchdowns.

On defense: The aforementioned read-option quarterback/running back duo will be a test for this defense but with the new front alignment it should be mitigated. Make no mistake, Barrett and Elliott will get yards and they will score but Michigan should be able to keep them from breaking the game wide open allowing our offense to keep pace. Especially if Michigan can keep the passing game in check, which they should. Barrett is deadly with his legs but not so elite with his arm, yes he can beat you through the air but he hasn’t faced a secondary like Michigan’s all year. Even accounting for Cardale Jones getting in the game at certain points, and I’m sure Urbs throw out all the stops, Michigan shouldn’t get gashed through the air like they did against Minnesota and Indiana.

This will be a close, back and forth game that comes down to the 4th quarter. Ohio State has a better roster top to bottom but Michigan has Jim Harbaugh. OSU has Urban Meyer battling a hangover from a dream season, and doesn’t seem to have control of the entitled/selfish attitude that has overcome his team as of late. Michigan has Jim Harbaugh, a man who probably does race himself as he ties his shoes. OSU is coming off a dreadful performance. Michigan is aching to finally get its seniors a win over their No. 1 rival. Did I also mention Michigan has Jim Harbaugh?

I thought this was a guaranteed loss coming into the season, now I think it’s an even match-up with Harbaugh making up for the current talent disparity. In what should be an incredible game I give the edge to the good guys. Michigan wins a close one at home and keeps alive their hopes for a New Years Six bowl game while sending Ohio State to back to back losses and solidifying shutting them out of the playoff and Rose Bowl. Go Blue!

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 23


THE GAME is finally here and things are very interesting.  It appears that Michigan is rolling again and the guys from down south are reeling a little. Now is the time for Michigan to assert themselves and reestablish elite status. We’re not there yet, but well on our way. I think this is a low scoring battle to start but will get going once each team gets comfortable and settles down.  Look for the big names to carry the day for both teams with Peppers leading the way. Rudock will have a good day and protect the ball. Michigan wins this one in a close one.

Michigan 28 – Ohio State 27

M&GB staff predictions: Penn State

Friday, November 20th, 2015


It’s simple, really. The winner of tomorrow’s Michigan-Penn State matchup remains in the Big Ten title hunt for at least another few hours, while the loser is relegated to playing spoiler next Saturday. Both teams know what they have to do and what’s on the line. Penn State got an extra week to prepare and gets the benefit of home field advantage. Michigan gets a red-hot quarterback-receiver tandem and a chance to play a meaningful Ohio State game for the first time in years. Let’s take a look at our picks.


While the more high profile Big Ten game with title implications is expected to be played in a cold Columbus rain, State College calls for no precipitation, a light breeze, and 47 degrees. In other words, a perfect mid-November Saturday for football.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn St.
Justin 23 20
Derick 30 24
Sam 22 19
Josh 24 27
Joe 27 24
M&GB Average 25 23

Michigan’s newfound passing game will be put to the test against a strong Penn State defense that hasn’t allowed more than 251 passing yards in a single game this season. Will the loss of Lucas provide a weak link for Jake Rudock to exploit? It all depends on how well the Michigan line holds up against one of the best defensive lines in the country. If he doesn’t have time to throw Michigan will have trouble moving the ball consistently.

The good news is I don’t expect Penn State’s offense to be able to move the ball consistently either. Michigan will place an emphasis on stopping Barkley on first and second down, forcing Hackenberg into third and long situations where the Nittany Lions have struggled mightily all season.

Remember last year’s 18-13 Michigan win? This one will be similar to that. Not many sustained drives, low scoring, and good defense both ways. Michigan will need its dynamic return game to give its offense good starting field position as it has done so well this season and that will make the difference against a Penn State kick return defense that ranks 118th nationally.

In my season preview back in August I predicted that Michigan would finish 9-4 with losses to Utah, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State. The first two of those have come true, but 11 weeks into the season I’ve had a change of heart. Michigan pulls it out and then has to hope the team down south can beat the team up I-96.

Michigan 23 – Penn State 20


For the second straight week, Michigan hits the road to play an extremely dangerous team. In the final road game of the season, Michigan will play against a 7-3 Penn State team that has no wins against winning power five teams. On paper, Michigan has been much better than PSU this year, but road games have really given Jim Harbaugh’s team trouble.

Penn State is a much better team than Minnesota or Indiana, two teams that easily could have beaten Michigan over the last month. The Nittany Lions are also undefeated at home, and Saturday will be the final game in Happy Valley for Christian Hackenberg and the seniors.

Unlike last weekend, this should be a defensive battle, though probably not of the magnitude we expected three weeks ago. Hackenberg is the X-factor for Penn State. If the future first-round draft pick plays one of his best games of the season, he will torch a Wolverine secondary that’s been exposed throughout the conference season. And if the defensive line gives Hackenberg as much time as it gave Nate Sudfeld, Michigan will need another 40 points to win the game.

I think Michigan can stop the run and make Penn State’s offense one-dimensional. The question becomes whether or not Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers can make enough plays to keep Jake Rudock and company out front. If Michigan runs the ball at all and plays with a lead, I like its chance to close things out and pick up a fourth road win. Michigan will escape Happy Valley with a narrow victory.

Michigan 30 – Penn State 24


The tables seem to be turning themselves of late for the Wolverines, as the once-dominant defense has slipped up lately behind a banged up defensive line while the once-shaky offense is rounding into form with back-to-back marvelous performances from Jake Rudock. At the same time, the tale of the opponents’ tape is also pulling a 180-degree turn over a course of two weeks. The good news for Michigan is that Penn State’s offense is not run nearly at the pace of Indiana’s, and their offensive line is mediocre. The bad news is that the Nittany Lions boast an impressive defense that should make things much more difficult on Rudock. I think Michigan’s defense will bounce back just enough to hold on at the end and give themselves a shot at the conference championship in The Game. Give me the Wolverines.

Michigan 22 – Penn State 19


Wow, what a scare last week was but we pulled out the win! Now on to Penn State, who presents a different challenge. Thankfully, it’s not at night. State College is a very intimidating venue at night, I love noon kickoffs.

On offense: Jake Rudock and the passing game has come on very strong as of late, and just in time since the run game seems to be lacking for whatever reason. However, Penn St. has an excellent front four and if they can pressure Rudock it will be a very long day with very little scoring. While I didn’t hold my breath for Rudock’s ability to complete some long balls it was apparent last week that he is more than capable, given time. I’m not so sure he’ll have that luxury against the Nittany Lions. If Michigan is to win this game they’ll need to keep Rudock upright, at least long enough to get some passes off, and that will be tough against guys like Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib. I’d expect 2-3 sacks by Penn State, maybe more. That said, they will be without stud safety Jordan Lucas, leaving a hole in the back of the defense, limiting the blitzing package that they usually employ.

I think Jake Rudock will lead Michigan in rushing, again. For whatever reason the run game has been stagnant, part of that is the offensive line not opening holes and part of it is our running backs not being able to find the holes. Against a very stout defense I expect another lackluster run game again. But at least now we know we can count on Rudock to win the game with his arm. Then again, this isn’t the Rutgers or Indiana defense.

On defense: Indiana, yes Indiana, absolutely gashed us on the ground last week to the tune of 300-plus yards. Yet that doesn’t concern me against a team like Penn State, despite having one of the top three backs in the Big Ten in Saquon Barkley. Why? Because Penn State is a slow pace team. A very slow pace team. Part of the reason IU had such success, aside from missing Ryan Glasgow, was their tempo was such that it didn’t allow Michigan to substitute as much as they may have wanted, leading to very gassed defensive linemen as the game wore on. That won’t happen with PSU. Sure, they’ll try to run temp to take advantage of that but they’re not built to run a tempo offense so I don’t think that will be much of an issue. That said, I still think Barkley approaches 150 yards on the ground, he’s just too good not to get those yards and our linebackers haven’t shown the ability to get to the edge quickly enough.

As far as Hackenberg is concerned I think he’s better than we’ve seen but he’s still susceptible to sacks, and lots of them. I’m pretty sure no one else in the Big Ten has been sacked more than him. If Michigan can get a good pass rush, and be able to rotate their line to keep them fresh, then expect to see more #SACKenberg than Hackenberg. The Penn State offense wouldn’t normally worry me but the last few games have exposed some massive holes in this defense and has shown it to not be an elite unit. Couple that with a big loss in Ryan Glasgow (this defense is only average without him IMO) and Penn State’s odd proclivity for big plays with Saquon Barkely and receiver Chris Godwin and you have a recipe for an upset.

I said in my season preview that I thought Michigan would lose to Utah, MSU, OSU and then one of the 50-50 games. PSU was one of those. After needing a last second goal line stand (made even easier with the Hoke-ian clock mismanagement) and double overtime to beat Minnesota and Indiana, respectively, I think Michigan’s late game luck finally runs out in Happy Valley. Penn State makes a few big plays (which they are very good at despite all their other struggles) and pulls off the upset. Sorry folks, but Michigan won’t be playing for a Big Ten East division title against the Buckeyes next week.

Michigan 24 – Penn State 27


This is a huge week H U G E ! ! !  I will assume that coach will have this team geared up and ready on both sides of the ball along with special teams. There is no way they start peeking ahead. This unranked PSU team is 7-3 and has the potential to put up some big numbers. Defensively, we have a big advantage and should control them up front. Rudock has progressed each week and will limit his mistakes. I think Butt will get his along with Chesson and Darboh. I have no idea who will get the bulk of carries as long as we mix in some Jabrill along the way. He is a GAME CHANGER and GAME BREAKER that we have not seen in a very long time. I think this one is closer than we all would like, but the good guys will come out on top. I have Michigan winning by three.

Michigan 27 – Penn State 24

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Friday, November 13th, 2015


Michigan travels to Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday to face a Hoosiers squad that has had some near upsets behind the Big Ten’s best offense. With a chance at a winning season slipping away, could Michigan finally be the one? Let’s take a look at our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Indiana
Justin 47 21
Derick 35 27
Sam 34 13
Josh 41 17
Joe 45 21
M&GB Average 40 20

Michigan’s defense held Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano in check last week, but will have its hands full with Sudfeld and Indiana’s offense. Rutgers was able to use some traps to spring a couple big runs, but Howard may be the best back the Wolverine defense has faced all season, so the defense will have to focus more on him. Indiana is surely the most balanced opponent so far in terms of threats in both the run game and passing game, so it will be interesting to see how the defense fares when it can’t focus primarily on one facet.

Regardless of how well the Hoosier offense does, I just don’t see its defense being able to hold Michigan’s offense out of the end zone enough to win. Almost without fail when a high-powered offense faces a formidable defense, the defense wins, and that’s going to be the case here as well.

Jake Rudock will build upon a great game last week with another big passing game against the Big Ten’s worst pass defense. Drake Johnson will lead the way on the ground and Michigan will near 500 total yards of offense. The defense will give up some yards and points, but it won’t be enough to seriously challenge. Michigan pulls off win number eight and stays in the title hunt for another week.

Michigan 47 – Indiana 21


Indiana is winless in the Big Ten, riding a five-game losing streak and blew a 25-point 2nd half lead to Rutgers a few weeks ago. Only 0-5 Maryland has been as bad as Indiana since thr start of October.

So why does this feel like such a dangerous game?

Remember the Hoosiers’ conference opener against Ohio State. They held a two-score lead over the Buckeyes in the second half before losing their two best players: Running back Jordan Howard and quarterback Nate Sudfeld. If their dangerous passing attack exposes Michigan’s secondary like Mitch Leidner and Minnesota did, this could turn into a 2013-esque shootout.

It took a 369-yard effort from Jeremy Gallon to save Michigan that time. This version of the Wolverines doesn’t have the offensive firepower to put up over 60 points.

Jim Harbaugh’s team struggled in each of its first three road games, despite pulling away in the second half against Maryland. Now it needs to get back on track in Bloomington, where the Hoosiers have flirted with upsets all season.

If Michigan plays like it did against Minnesota, Indiana will win this game. But I think the pass defense and the running game will do just enough to give Michigan the win.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 27


Indiana has an offense that could keep up for a quarter or two, but Michigan has a defense that will prevail. And Indiana’s defense is a sieve. Michigan wins.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 13


While most Michigan fans are playing out scenarios where we win out and make the playoff I’m saying not so fast my friend. There are some big games left and we’d be crazy to discount Indiana this weekend.

The Hoosiers have a high octane offense with a veteran quarterback and seemingly out of nowhere they also have a pretty good run game, crazy right? Add to that that they’ve played MSU, OSU and Iowa all very closely and that worries me just a bit. We almost lost to a ‘bad’ Minnesota team, and probably would have were it not for poor clock management, so we cannot take the Hoosiers lightly.

On offense: Indiana has a bad defense, not Rutgers bad but still pretty bad. In fact, it’s pretty much the defense’s fault they couldn’t pull off any of those upsets. They can’t seem to cover anyone and they definitely fade as the game wears on. I don’t think we’ll see a career day out of Rudock but he has begun to master the offense more and more each week. As Jedd Fisch said (paraphrasing here) he’s gone from first read, second, check down to one, two, three, checkdown or even one, two, three, four, check down. To me that is a huge step at just the right time, and it showed last week and should be evident again this week in Bloomington. As for running the ball, I’m not sure what to expect anymore. Smith looks banged up and Johnson still doesn’t look 100 percent and the staff has all but written off Ty Isaac (so it seems) now that Sione Houma is the 3rd RB on the depth chart. I don’t think we’ll see a 100-yard game from anyone but they’ll mix it up as usual with the jet sweeps and general trickery that Harbaugh loves.

On defense: This is what worries me the most. Connor Cook had a field day against Michigan’s defense. Okay, he’s a likely first-rounder. But then Mitch Leidner had a huge day on us as well. Enter Nate Sudfeld. He’s not Connor Cook but he might be the second best quarterback in the conference in an offense that likes to pass. Our safety play, outside of Wilson, has left much to be desired and I’m not too high on Stribling or Clark opposite Lewis. I think Sudfeld will gash this defense for some big plays. Hell, if Leidner can do it then Sudfeld sure as hell will too. Add to that the running game that has come on this season and Michigan could be in for much more of a battle than most expect. Jordan Howard is a big back, 230-plus, and while he’s not the most elusive guy he has some wiggle. Michigan looks like they’ll be without Ryan Glasgow and while the depth is great and there won’t be a drop off where I do see this hurting Michigan is there is now one less guy to rotate in, so how will these guys hold up late in the game having played more snaps than usual and against a higher temp offense?

I think this game is ripe for an upset pick. Michigan has only played one legit quarterback and he tore them apart, Sudfeld should do the same and if Indiana can get a lead and force Michigan to play catch up I don’t like our chances there. Then again, this is a team that let Rutgers, yes RUTGERS, drop 55 on them so I guess I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.

Indiana keeps this a lot closer and puts up more points than we’d like but Michigan will be too much in the end.

Michigan 41 – Indiana 17


We’re down to the last three games of the season and it appears that things are back on track. This week will be a test against a decent Indiana offense. These guys can move the ball and put some points on the board. They are extremely tough and have lost some close games. The key is getting up early and letting the defense do what they do best. Smother the quarterback.  I expect Rudock to have his two touchdown game with no picks and a 65 percent completion percentage along with managing the clock. Butt will get his third down, chain moving catches and the wideouts will haul in a few touchdowns.  The defense will get after the quarterback and force some turnovers as usual. As long as we do tho early in the game and not let them stick around, we are ok.  Michigan wins this one going away.

Michigan 45 – Indiana 21

M&GB staff predictions: Rutgers

Saturday, November 7th, 2015


Michigan hosts the only college football program older than itself on Saturday when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights come to town. Here are our picks.


Michigan is going to win. The only question is by how much, and that depends on whether or not Carroo plays. If he does, and is at full strength, I’ll give Rutgers a touchdown or two. But I don’t expect him to be at full strength if he plays at all, and Jourdan Lewis has the edge if that’s the case.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Rutgers
Justin 37 3
Derick 34 10
Sam 31 3
Josh 34 13
Joe 38 17
M&GB Average 35 9

Michigan’s defense will look much more like the one that shut down BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern in three straight weeks than it did against Michigan State and Minnesota the past two times out. Michigan State possessed the best passing quarterback in the league and a very good stable of receivers, while Minnesota gained many of its big plays off of fluky tipped passes or underthrown balls that fell into a receiver’s hands. Sooner or later, Michigan’s secondary is going to make those plays, and without Carroo, Rutgers doesn’t have the deep threat to challenge Michigan’s secondary. The defensive line will pressure Laviano into mistakes and the front seven will keep the run game in check.

Offensively, Michigan will focus on De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson pounding the rock against a rush defense that has allowed 490 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry in the past two weeks. But when Jake Rudock — assuming he’s healthy enough to play — does pass, Rutgers’ secondary is as vulnerable as any the Wolverines have faced so far. Look for Jake Butt and Amara Darboh to have success underneath where the Scarlet Knights’ baby back four been most vulnerable.

Michigan 37 – Rutgers 3


Michigan’s defense is too good to let last week happen again, and the Scarlet Knights’ porous defense should see the Wolverines start to move the ball a little more consistently – regardless of who’s calling the plays. I expect a shutout to be very much in play as Michigan rolls.

Michigan 31 – Rutgers 3


I’ll be honest, after looking like a near elite defense early on this season last week’s scare against a bad team has me more than a little worried about Rutgers (they did torch us last year with a quarterback who wasn’t any good). So how much of Leidner’s success last week was luck and how much was just poor play by Michigan? I don’t know but it’s probably a combination of both. Were it not for some Hoke-ian clock (mis)management on the penultimate play Minnesota would have won. Then again, were it not for the most flukish play in college football history two weeks prior, Michigan would have beat Sparty.. so call it the football gods evening things out for us, karma if you will.

That said, all teams suffer let downs and close games against teams that shouldn’t be in it so I’ll try not to be too pessimistic this week. It’s hard to get past it after the last seven years but I’m just gonna keep repeating ‘Harbaugh’ to myself over and over…

On offense: Look for Drake Johnson to shoulder the bulk of the load as it seems Smith is still dealing with his ankle injury, and that is OK with me. Johnson is the best running back on the roster and were it not for his injury rehab in the spring/fall I’m 100 percent sure he’d have be the true No.1 guy. At this point we all know what Jake Rudock is as a quarterback, so lose any notion (read: wishful thinking) that he will finally connect on a deep ball this season. It ain’t happening, sorry. In an attempt to keep the defense honest I think we’ll see more jet sweeps, TE levels routes and general Harbaugh-trickery (hopefully not too much Jabrill Peppers cuz I don’t want to see him burned out). Still, it’s hard to see the offense alone scoring more than 24 points (which does not bode well against Indiana and OSU going forward). They’ll need a defense or special teams score to help out and I think this is a game they could get one, or both.

On defense: Rutgers is bad, but so was Minnesota, and it looks like Leonte Carroo might be out. If Carroo is indeed out then this offense lacks a big time playmaker and will struggle to get those chunk plays like Minnesota found.The Scarlet Knights don’t score much, but neither does Michigan and with the blueprint for stopping the Wolverines out there for all to see (stop the run and make them pass) I expect Rutgers to load up in the box and force Jake Rudock to beat them with his arm. Luckily for us we have Harbaugh, who unlike previous staffs, knows the limitations of his team and plays to their strengths.

I did not expect the defense to come out flat against Minnesota (I want to chalk that up to bye week jet lag and Halloween voodoo, or something, but I just can’t shake it off as a fluke yet). BUT, Jim Harbaugh and his staff are too good to let that happen again. They will come out fired up, especially at home, and play lights out like we saw the first half of the season. For me this all comes down to whether Carroo suits up, if he does he’s gonna make some big plays and get Rutgers on the board a few times causing all of us to ‘freak out’ and it remains a closer than need be game. But if he doesn’t then it’s gonna be hard for Rutgers to get past 13/14 points.

I don’t think Michigan will suffer a let down like they did last week, but I also think they are still very susceptible to big plays and will likely surrender a few more this week, especially if Carroo plays and I’m banking on him being out there. Rutgers won’t keep this game interesting for very long and while the offense could still struggle, Michigan’s D will be too much and should be able to force a couple turnovers putting this one out of reach by halftime.

Michigan 34 – Rutgers 13


I’m hoping this week will be less “Beer Intensive” as last week was way too stressful and my liver can’t take it. I’m sure we all thought last week would be a little easier and the Maize and Blue would run over the Gophers and not look back. Not so much, but this week will be different. Rutgers is a solid offensive team but gives up big plays on defense and should wear down against a bigger Wolverine line.  I’m expecting a decent offensive game plan, no matter who is under center.  I also think the “Peppers Show” rolls on as we work him into more offensive situation. He will find some space and get loose for a few big runs. Johnson will get the ball in the backfield and gain close to 100 yards. The defense will do their usual and dominate limiting the Knights to two scores.  This one will be fun with Michigan pulling away in the second half.

Michigan 38 – Rutgers 17


M&GB staff predictions: Minnesota

Friday, October 30th, 2015



Michigan returns to action on Halloween night looking to bring home the best treat of the night: the Little Brown Jug. Let’s take a look at our picks.


Michigan will come out focused and determined to reclaim the Little Brown Jug and stay in the Big Ten title hunt. Minnesota’s defense is just average against the run and allowed 203 yards on 5.3 yards per carry to Nebraska, which managed just 82 rushing yards last week against Northwestern. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson, who should finally be healthy.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Minnesota
Justin 35 6
Derick 30 6
Sam 27 10
Josh 27 9
Joe 31 3
M&GB Average 30 7

Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Michigan, so the main question will be whether or not Michigan’s defense can record its fourth shutout of the season. Northwestern shut Minnesota out 27-0 and the Gophers managed just 10 points against Kent State, who is just 3-5 at this point and has given up at least 10 points in every other game.

It won’t be a pretty or exciting game, but it will be classic Jim Harbaugh as Michigan pounds the ball on the ground and wears down the Gopher defense. Jake Rudock has a classic Jake Rudock day and Michigan wins and returns the jug to its rightly place.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 6


(Full disclosure, having a bye week after a loss like that completely sucked)

There’s a lot more to this Michigan-Minnesota game than it appears at first glance. For starters, Saturday’s winner will hold the Little Brown Jug for over two years, as the Golden Gophers aren’t on Michigan’s 2016 schedule. After Minnesota embarrassed the Wolverines, 30-14, in Ann Arbor last season, and pranced around the field with the Jug well after the final whistle, I fully expected Jim Harbaugh to run this ‘rival’ into the ground.

But on Wednesday, Minnesota’s widely beloved head coach Jerry Kill made the startling announcement that his health is forcing him to retire from football immediately. Kill battled health issues over the past several years, but he said the seizures have reached a point where he risks permanent mental damage if he doesn’t leave the sideline and get the proper care. I think Kill’s announcement takes some of the venom out of the contest and will likely rally the Golden Gophers, who’ve been awful since the start of conference play.

Minnesota’s only chance to steal this game will come in the passing game. Michigan’s passing game, to be more specific. The Gophers allow only 177.3 passing yards per game — 18th best in the country — and Michigan has been one of the worst passing offenses in the entire country. If Minnesota can focus entirely on shutting down Michigan’s running game and force Jake Rudock to win the game through the air, it’ll at least give the home team a fighting chance.

I don’t think that’ll happen.

Michigan owns the best defense in the country, and Mitch Leidner isn’t going to move the ball against a secondary that needs to bounce back from an awful week against two-man wrecking crew Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge. That means Michigan will dominate time of possession and wear down the Minnesota defense with battering rams like De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson (who’s been fully cleared to play).

There’s a realistic chance Michigan will post another shutout in Minneapolis, but I’ll toss the Gophers a pair of field goals in a Michigan win.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 6


After a tough loss and a week of improvement, Michigan is ready to take the field on a chilly, spooky Halloween night against a Minnesota team that is sure to play inspired ball after losing its coach, Jerry Kill, to sudden health-induced retirement earlier this week. I’m sure the Golden Gophers will be giving it all they have, but Michigan’s defense should dominate what’s been a very mediocre offense so far. I’ll take the Wolverines to bounce back.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 10


After a much needed bye, er improvement, week Michigan looks to get back on track versus the Gophers this week. With the news of Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement one would expect the Gophers to play with a little extra umph. Sadly, for them anyway, this won’t do much to help them win the game. Michigan’s defense has been firing on all cylinders, no one can run on them and the only quarterback to have success in the air is a likely first-round NFL pick. Minnesota’s defense has been banged up but appears to have benefited from their bye as well and should be closer to full-strength.

On offense Michigan will continue to employ what former Buckeye Joey Galloway calls a boring offense; but he’s just too stupid to understand all the complexities of various alignments and personnel though, credit that ‘quality’ OSU education. Anyway, Michigan will keep up its ground and pound style and with Drake Johnson looking to get back in the mix I think we’ll see a rebound performance against a lackluster run defense. The one thing that worries me, or would if Minnesota was any good on offense, is that the Gopher’s pass defense is their strength and if Rudock is called upon to win the game with his arm that could make for a very close, and uncomfortable game for Michigan. I don’t see that happening unless there is a complete collapse of the Michigan defense and a complete shut down of the run game.

On defense Michigan will pick right up where they left off; stifling the run and causing fits in the passing game. Mitch Leidner isn’t a great passer and I don’t expect him to try and test this secondary all that often, so the game rests on the legs of two true freshman running backs to help the Gophers get things going. Unfortunately for them Michigan’s run defense doesn’t let anyone run on them, I don’t see this changing this weekend. Nor do I see great play calls by Minneosta, like the 74-yard pass to the fullback last week, or any coverage busts, like the same fullback play last week. I don’t want to say they’ll be shut out but I don’t see them hitting double digit points, aside from any garbage time points anyway.

Michigan should roll over Minnesota and reclaim the Little Brown Jug, and keep it for quite some time. This one starts slow with the Gophers getting some extra energy from playing for the former coach and what should be a raucous night crowd at TCF. But Michigan’s defense will quiet the crowd and take complete control of the game.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 9


Big week in Minnesota. Big..Big…Big. We will see which team is tougher, mentally. Minnesota lost their coach and we all know what the Maize and Blue lost two weeks ago. I’m pretty sure that Harbaugh will have this team geared up and ready to finish the season strong. Rudock will need to be smart and keep the turnovers to a minimum. Minnesota’s defense can be tough and will be looking for the upset in honor of their retiring leader. The offense will keep the ball moving with big plays from the rotating backfield while the defense will look to create turnovers and continue pressuring the quarterback. The Minnesota offense is not exactly a powerhouse and can be pressured into making huge mistakes. I look for Michigan to create pressure and therefore get a few interceptions. One or more may get taken back to the house.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 3

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Friday, October 16th, 2015



After losing six of seven to Michigan State, Michigan made a huge splash when it hired Jim Harbaugh last December. That, coupled with MSU’s loss of defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, has flipped the script as the two teams meet at 3:30pm tomorrow. It is Michigan that features the top defense in the nation and the better running game — the two biggest keys to the annual showdown for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Can Michigan turn that into a victory? Here are our picks:


If Michigan’s passing game featured Chad Henne, Braylon Edwards, and Jason Avant going up against this Michigan State secondary it would be easy to pick Michigan to win big. But Jake Rudock has yet to show he can throw deep, and it won’t matter if Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh get behind the safeties if Rudock can’t hit them. Yet history tells us that this rivalry is won on the ground. In the last 45 meetings, the team that rushed for more yards has won 42 of them and that’s another advantage Michigan has in this game.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Michigan St.
Justin 31 13
Derick 24 21
Sam 24 7
Josh 28 24
Joe 24 14
M&GB Average 26 16

De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson can take advantage of Michigan State’s aggressive defensive line, allowing Michigan to sustain drives and keeping the Spartans from loading the box. That should give Rudock time to hit the short and intermediate routes that he has done a pretty good job of so far.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan State is essentially a three-man team: Cook, Smith, and Burbridge. Fortunately, Michigan’s defense matches up really well. Jourdan Lewis has become one of the best corners in the nation and will lock down Burbridge. Michigan’s front seven hasn’t allowed anyone to run on it all season, ranking third nationally against the run. That means Shelton and Kings are going to have to come up big against Jabrill Peppers, Jeremy Clark, and Channing Stribling if he’s healthy enough to return from injury. That’s a big if to rely on.

Michigan’s defense will control the line of scrimmage against a banged up MSU offensive line, and although the shutout streak will end, Michigan State won’t be able to put up enough points to keep up. Michigan’s offense will be effective enough to grind out yards, move the chains, and test the shaky secondary. Michigan wins going away and puts Ohio State on notice.

Michigan 31 – Michigan State 13


This is the biggest matchup between Michigan and Michigan State since 1999, when both teams were ranked in the top 11. Saturday’s game holds implications for the state, the conference and maybe even the country. The winner will, in some form, enter the College Football Playoff conversation while the loser will probably play for second place in the East.

The biggest matchups will come in the trenches. Michigan’s offensive line has given Jake Rudock more than enough time on pass plays and opened holes for the entire running back unit in the rushing attack. But Shilique Calhoun and Malik McDowell lead a defensive that already has 21 sacks on the season and hope to disrupt that rhythm. Whoever wins that battle will likely come away with a win.

Michigan appears to have the more well-rounded team on the field, as Jim Harbaugh tighened up the special teams and offense after a tough loss to Utah. MSU has also surrendered two kick returns of over 70 yards this season, so Jehu Chesson could play a huge role in the return game, which establishes field position in this type of defensive battle. Field position will be everything.

Rudock also has to take care of the ball and put the defense in good position to succeed. If Connor Cook has a short field, he’ll find a way to put points on the board. This is the first real test for the defense and Rudock has to do his part in keeping the scoreless streak alive.

I find myself giving Michigan a strong edge in special teams and the secondary, but Michigan State has a stronger defensive line and passing game. The Spartans have played in so many big games under Cook, but does Michigan have the experience to win a close game on a stage of this magnitude.

My instincts tell me that Michigan State might find a way to win this game, but nothing we’ve seen in the field through six games supports that idea. I’ll go with Michigan, at home, in front of 111,000 fans.

Michigan 24 – Michigan State 21


When this season began, most Michigan fans had already penciled in losses in the Wolverines’ two biggest home games of the year. My, how things change. Michigan State has dominated this series of late, but their control over the series is in serious jeopardy with the way Jim Harbaugh has his team clicking on all cylinders. And with a severely banged up offensive line – perhaps their biggest strength heading into the season – the Spartans have to be shaking in their boots at the prospect of Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry, Taco Charlton, and company living in their backfield all evening. Connor Cook is a great quarterback – but I don’t think he’s better than this collective Michigan defense. De’Veon Smith should be healthier and ready to roll while Jake Rudock’s safe but efficient throws will rip apart a porous Michigan State secondary; pair that with another dominant defensive performance, and I’ll take Michigan again.

Michigan 24 – Michigan State 7


Who would have thought this game would be a battle of top 15 teams and Michigan would not only have a chance to win but actually be favored? Not me, until last week’s performance. Complete domination by the defense, it really speaks to the staff we now have in place and their ability to teach and prepare these kids week in, week out. But this week offers a new test, something this defense has not seen yet; an NFL-caliber quarterback/receiver combo in Cook and Burbridge. As Harbaugh noted, Cook is 29-3 as a starter (let that sink in for a moment) so he will not be rattled by mere pressure and he won’t waver in the pocket like Tanner Mangum, Caleb Rowe, and Clayton Thorson did. He is a veteran quarterback on a veteran team and while they may not have lived up to the hype as of late they will be prepared and bring their A++ game to Ann Arbor (don’t look at this game and think ‘escapes against Purdue and Rutgers’, think along the lines of ‘Michigan vs OSU in 2013’). Make no mistake about it (injury riddled or not) this is the best team Michigan has faced thus far, and it’s not close.

On defense: I have full confidence that our defensive line will completely shut down the run on just about everyone in the Big Ten outside of maybe Ezekiel Elliot, so I expect this weekend to be no different than the past few; little to no big plays and a general stifling of the run game. However, what does worry me is Connor Cook and I think his play is the key to the game. Just hurrying him won’t get the job done, he needs to be hit and sacked, period. If Michigan can’t put him on his butt multiple times he has the ability to move the ball and put some points on the board.

Yes, Sparty’s offensive line is riddled with injury (and that is going to be their excuse if we beat them; but give them the RR/Hoke awful coaching excuse and its not valid but anyway) but this is still a team that has a mountain-sized chip on its shoulder, despite their past success against Big Brother. Dantonio will NEVER live down that Mike Hart quote, so disrespectful.

Cook and Burbridge will test this secondary, and they will put points on the board, but how many will be determined by how much pressure the defensive line gets. If they can get to Cook and hit him, not just hurry, then it makes the secondary’s job all the easier, but if they cannot then it will truly test how good these guys are. Opposite Lewis I’m not so sure Stribling/Clark can give enough to consistently get the job done. Speaking of Jourdan Lewis, while playing great so far, has not seen a receiver half as good as Aaron Burbridge and he will be tested. If he can keep Burbridge in check and not allow anything over his head or much YAC then we’ll be in good shape. This week will show us if this Michigan defense truly is elite. I’m close to buying in but not quite yet, if they win then I’m on board but until they beat a team with a better than average quarterback I just can’t say they’re elite.. elite is the 1997 defense and that will always be my measuring stick.

Takeaway: hit Cook frequently and we win, let Cook stand in ‘clean’ pockets and throw wherever he wants, we probably don’t win.

On offense: This is where I still have some concern, if you can call it that, about this team. Sparty will not let us run the ball down their throats (just based on their base defense they essentially ‘stack’ 9 in the box on all downs) so that makes Jake Rudock all the more important to this game than he has been all season. Can Rudock beat this defense with his arm? I am not so sure he can. Yes, he can hit the short/medium routes but you’re likely not going to dink and dunk this defense all afternoon and score enough points to win. Without the threat of the deep ball Michigan’s offense becomes much easier to stop. I’m not going to go so far as to say Sparty is gonna whoop on us but I am concerned that the offense is just not dynamic enough yet to beat a team of this caliber. Of course, each week we’ve seen new wrinkles in the offense and the genius that is Jim Harbaugh. If Rudock can get just enough help from the run game and plays a clean game without any turnovers then Michigan will be in good shape to win this one.
Takeaway: Don’t make Rudock win this game with his arm, if that’s the case it’s going to be very tough to beat Sparty.

Prediction: Wow, I’m not sure about this game. Sparty hasn’t looked good all year, but that doesn’t mean much to me because I know they’ll be prepared for this one. Michigan hasn’t seen a QB/WR this good all year, on the other hand Sparty hasn’t seen a defense like this all year AND their O-line is decimated with injuries… ugh, this is a tough call but in the end the difference is going to be coaching/preparation. The #HarbaughEffect is going to be in full, well, effect. Good guys win and let the (legitimate) talk of the playoff begin! Go Blue, Beat State!

Michigan 28 – Michigan State 24


This just keeps getting better and better. The best part about watching this team week after week is the overall improvement we are seeing. Not only are they gaining confidence every time they take the field, these wolverines are dominating solid opponents. The defense is swarming to the ball and beating teams up. Once we get to the 2nd half, the opposition is playing for “PRIDE”. This week will be much different as MSU is solid across the board. I don’t care that the last few games have ended closer than everyone thinks they should. Dantonio will have them geared up and will match Michigan in the toughness department. This will be a battle in the trenches and an old school “slobber-knocker”. This could come down to which QB makes the least number of mistakes. Connor Cook is extremely dangerous and Rudock is like a Rudock. Not flashy, but not explosive. Manage this thing and let the defense do their thing. Michigan pulls this one out in the trenches.

Michigan 24 – Michigan State 14

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, October 9th, 2015


Pat Fitzgerald

Michigan hasn’t allowed a touchdown in more than two games and one of the Big Ten’s worst offenses comes to town tomorrow. Unfortunately, so does one of the best defenses. So what will give? Here are our predictions.

Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 17 6
Derick 20 13
Sam 17 7
Josh 24 10
Joe 17 7
M&GB Average 19 9

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Everyone is expecting a low-scoring battle between the top two defensive teams in the nation, and I’m not different.
Michigan’s elite front seven is complemented with a lock-down secondary and should have little trouble with Northwestern’s average offense. But on the other hand, Jake Rudock and the offense are still learning and trying to form an identity. If Rudock takes care of the ball, the Wolverine defense will make a few plays and put the rushing attack in position to score enough points.

If Michigan coughs up the ball three times, the Wildcats will probably walk away from Ann Arbor with a perfect 6-0 record. But I think De’Veon Smith and Amara Darboh will make enough plays to escape with a victory.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 13

Last year, the Michigan/Northwestern game was nothing more than an embarrassing pile of ineptitude that devolved into the notorious “M00N” game. This year, while N00M might be in play, it will be for different reasons, as both defenses are coming off impressive shutouts and appear to be the legitimate class of the conference in that regard. Neither offense has caught fire yet, but I like Michigan’s defense a little more versus Northwestern’s inexperienced offense than vice versa. The Wolverines will put up just enough points to keep the win streak rolling. Give me Michigan by 10.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

The M00N game will now become N00M, at least to start off anyway. I expect this to be a lower scoring game, not as low as last year but it won’t be a shootout by any stretch of the imagination.

From what I can glean off the internet and in limited viewings of Northwestern they are a spread to run team that seems to go to empty sets on 3rd downs (again, this is just what I’ve gathered from other blogs and very limited actual game viewings so I could be way off). They have a decent RB but he isn’t a bruiser so don’t expect any De’Veon Smith type running but he does have some speed and wiggle so look for Michigan to keep him from getting to the outside, especially on RJS’s side (if our D has a weak link it’s gonna be the BUCK spot until someone can prove their worth, until then expect teams to test that side of the field).

They have a RS Frosh QB who’s stats are pretty decent but they are probably misleading as he’s not asked to do much other than dump it off, or so it seems anyway. I don’t think they’ll be able to pound the rock all day against a stout Michigan front so they’ll have to be creative and might take some downfield shots. Unlike in years past I am not too worried about our DB’s getting beat deep all that often so IF the Wildcats manage to hit one deep I doubt they’ll replicate that magic again.

However, I do expect that the quick read offense will help them get some quick, short yardage on numerous occasion as they try to negate the beast that is the Michigan defensive line. While his offense is not scary in the slightest and I don’t think they’ll be able to put up more than 10-13 points, they do have a ‘secret’ weapon in SuperBack (H-back/FB/TE) Dan Vitale and he can move, as well as block. Michigan will need to keep him check as he’s one of those ‘too fast for a LB and too big for a DB’ types, but hey Jabrill Peppers is basically a hybrid SS/LB and dude will hit you, so maybe we don’t worry about Vitale, too much.

Michigan’s offense, while not as exciting as many of us would like, is still hands down better than Northwestern’s so I expect the Wolverines to put up at least 20 points with a good mix of what we’ve grown accustomed to; Smith and Johnson pounding it up the middle (sidenote: I don’t think we see much of Ty Isaac, if any, after his double fumble week against Maryland) and I think this week is the week of Butt. Hm, that sounded weird but whatever. After having been somewhat absent from the offense after a hot, hot start I think the coaches will have more than a handful of plays for Jake Butt and hopefully that will open up the deep ball for Chesson and Rudock. Each week they attempt one or two downfield, so if Northwestern stacks the box to stop our bruising rushing attack this would be an ideal time to FINALLY connect on a deep bomb.

This will be an epic battle til the end between two excellent defenses and two less than stellar offenses. I think the final score won’t be as close as the game was though. In the end the Michigan offense gives them enough and the D holds the NW offense in check. Michigan pulls away in the end and we all look forward to Sparty.

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 10

We are finally getting to the “meat” of the schedule (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Michigan is rolling along and improving each and every week. The defense has quickly become one of the best in the country and will go head to head with another top ranked defense. This should be an old fashioned battle that will be fun to watch.

The stars will need to shine in this one to pull out the big W. Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers will be huge on the back end as they make life difficult for the redshirt freshman quarterback, Clayton Thorson. They have been getting better each week and will continue to dominate. I don’t see them giving up much more than a touchdown in this one.

The offense will need to be careful and control the clock. Jake Rudock has been careful with the ball and should continue to hand the ball off to whomever is in the backfield. Keep the chains moving by using the tight ends and Amara Darboh when it’s available. We can rule out the long ball as that has been nonexistent due to his accuracy issues. Just don’t turn the ball over on offense and make life difficult on the freshman quarterback and we go to 5-1.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

M&GB staff predictions: Maryland

Friday, October 2nd, 2015


Maryland(Greg Flume,

Michigan and Maryland had very different outcomes last weekend. Michigan simply dominated a BYU squad that had already taken out Nebraska and Boise State and nearly knocked off UCLA. Maryland got blown out by a West Virginia squad that had only played Georgia Southern and Liberty prior to the meeting. Tomorrow, the two meet in College Park before the weather turns nasty and Jim Harbaugh will try for his first road win since taking over as head coach of his alma mater. Here are our predictions.

Justin: The noon kickoff will allow Michigan and Maryland to avoid the bad weather that Hurricane Joaquin will bring, but the forecast still calls for rain and around 20 mile per hour wind. One conventional mode of thinking would say that should even up the matchup, making up for Michigan’s superiority. However, Michigan’s offense is predicated on the run game and Maryland’s defense has allowed all three FBS teams it has played to top 200 yards rushing. Bowling Green rushed for 201, USF for 240, and West Virginia 304.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Maryland
Justin 30 10
Derick 35 14
Sam 24 10
Josh 31 3
Joe 27 9
M&GB Average 29 9

Even if De’Veon Smith isn’t fully recovered from the ankle injury he suffered in the second half of last week’s game, expect Ty Isaac and Drake Johnson to carry the load and Michigan to still have success against an overmatched front seven. Maryland will, of course, stack the box and try to force Jake Rudock to make plays with his arm, but he has been slowly improving and as long as he avoids turnovers, will be able to do just enough to manage the game and let the running game do the work.

Maryland’s offense hasn’t seen anything close to Michigan’s yet. West Virginia ranks 26th in total defense, South Florida 45th, and Bowling Green 111th. Michigan’s defense is allowing just two-thirds of the total yards West Virginia has allowed per game and the Mountaineers have played just Georgia Southern, Liberty, and Maryland. In addition, Maryland currently leads the nation with 14 turnovers and the wet and windy conditions won’t help in that regard.

Michigan wins a soggy, boring game and racks up 250 rushing yards in the process. The offensive line will wear down Maryland’s defensive front, allowing for one back — Smith or Isaac depending on the former’s health — to top 100 yards. Michigan’s defense shuts down Maryland’s offense, takes advantage of some turnovers, and Jabrill Peppers gets his first career interception as Jim Harbaugh picks up his first road win.

Michigan 30 – Maryland 10

Derick: There’s a hurricane brewing on the Atlantic coast as Michigan makes its first trip to Maryland since the Big Ten’s expansion to 14 teams. But even Hurricane Joaquin can’t save the Terps from the beat down that’s coming.

Michigan is coming off the program’s biggest win in over three years behind a defense that expects to pitch shutouts every Saturday. In fact, the Wolverines have won their last three games by a total score of 94-14. It’s not the wind and rain Maryland should be worrying about.

Maryland’s home field advantage was just enough to keep the Terrapins within 21 points of Bowling Green in Week 2. Michigan has yet to win a road game under Jim Harbaugh, but if the defense continues to dominate against a team with quarterback and turnover problems, Saturday could get ugly.

I don’t expect Michigan to be as perfect as it was in the first half against BYU, but if Rudock takes care of the ball and Michigan’s defense (along with some near-hurricane strength winds) stifles Maryland, the Wolverines should coast to their fourth straight win.

Michigan 35 – Maryland 14

Sam: Michigan’s defense has been performing at an elite level, while Maryland’s offense is struggling mightily. As long as Michigan’s run game continues to truck forward behind an ever-improving line, I’m not sure Rudock will have to throw one pass to secure a win. Give me the Wolverines with their fourth straight win,

Michigan 24 – Maryland 10

Josh: Well, after last week’s game and my prediction of a Michigan loss I ate a large plate full of crow, and boy was it delicious! I love being wrong when it means Michigan wins. Clearly I underestimated the #HarbaughEffect.

It occurred to me that perhaps Michigan’s lackluster offense against Oregon State and UNLV in the second halves was not because it sputtered and died, but rather because Harbaugh is the ultimate tactician and did not want to give any future opponents any additional scouting material once the game was in hand.

It’s been so long since we’ve had that kind of coaching. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that in my lifetime. Carr and Moeller weren’t exactly master manipulators and I didn’t really get into football until after Bo retired. But I digress.

Maryland is a bad team, a very bad team with ZERO passing offense and a run game that isn’t anything to write home about. They’ve lost to a MAC team and got obliterated by West Virginia, their only wins came against an FCS school (is that still a term now since both divisions technically have playoffs?) and a very bad USF team. Let’s just say Hurricane Joaquin isn’t the only storm rolling into Maryland this weekend (sorry, I had to).

I fully expect this to be a blowout, maybe not another shut out but it won’t be close. Caleb Rowe is a turnover machine. Thank God he’s on the other team, and I think this Michigan defense is due to force a couple more turnovers. It’s what good teams do to bad teams, and we’re a good team. Wormley and Co. have a field day and force Rowe into some very bad decisions that are ultimately capitalized upon by the secondary and make for a very long night for the turtles. Dare I say we should be on pick-six watch? Yes, I do.

On offense we’re gonna see more of the same: pound the rock and then pound it some more. Mix in a few wrinkles, like the sweet double fake pass to Khalid Hill last week, and Michigan should easily top 30 points again. Maybe we’ll even see Rudock hit on a deep ball, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

The one bright spot for Maryland is their return game and Will Likely. However, Harbaugh is well aware (FULLY aware) of this aspect and like the past few weeks Michigan will be prepared for it. Michigan teams are well prepared and well coached, it feels so good to say that.

I’m not ready to anoint this defense as elite but they’ve far exceeded my expectations thus far and Maryland shouldn’t be any different.

Michigan wins going away and prep begins for what should be a very good game against Northwestern.

Michigan 31 – Maryland 3

Joe: I did not see that last game coming. While I saw some big improvements during the first three games, the fourth sent me into a whole new stratosphere of GO BLUE excitement. This defense is for real and will keep us in games all year. I don’t care who we are playing, this group is big time. Ryan Glasgow is a beast on the line and Jabrill Peppers is…well, he’s Jabrill Peppers. I expect these guys to get better each week. It will be fun to watch.

If this game gets the weather expected, the defense will take control and never let go. I expect a game where the opposition has trouble reaching double digits.

The offense was a pleasant surprise last week and mainly because of Rudock. If we get this Rudock every week, look out. A healthy dose of Butt (giggle), Darboh and Smith/Isaac/Green/Johnson combo should help control the clock. Add a few short fullback carries for first downs (love those) along the way just to keep us old-schoolers happy. I’m hoping we are able to build on the last three weeks and keep this train rolling along. The good guys win it convincingly.

Michigan 27 – Maryland 9

M&GB staff predictions: BYU

Friday, September 25th, 2015



After winning 10 games or more in five of his first seven seasons in Provo, Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougars have finished 8-5 in each of the last three seasons. A 3-1 start in a very tough September schedule very well could set BYU up for 10 wins this fall since the remainder of the slate features UConn, East Carolina, Cincinnati, Wagner, San Jose State, Missouri, Fresno State, and Utah State. A loss to Michigan would mean winning out to reach 10.

For Michigan, meanwhile, BYU provides a good measuring stick before heading into Big Ten play. The season-opening loss at Utah showed that despite a heralded new coach, there are still missing pieces. Wins over Oregon State and UNLV showed some promise, but Michigan was expected to win both of those. BYU gives Michigan a chance to beat a ranked team for the first time since topping Notre Dame in 2013. It’s a swing game for both teams, but BYU’s swing is higher and Michigan’s swing is lower.


Staff Predictions
Michigan BYU
Justin 20 16
Derick 24 20
Sam 27 24
Josh 17 27
Joe 27 25
M&GB Average 23 22.4

The most terrifying matchup tomorrow is Jake Rudock against BYU’s pass defense. Although the Cougars rank just 86th nationally in passing yards allowed, they lead the nation with seven interceptions. Rudock has already matched his 2014 season total with five. Nebraska and Boise State were able to take advantage of the Cougar secondary, combining for 616 passing yards. But UCLA, with freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, managed just 106 yards and three picks on 23 attempts.

The good news, however, is that UCLA showed the path to success on the ground, rushing for 296 yards with an average of 7.8 yards per carry. But Mendenhall is sure to stuff the box to stop the run and force Rudock into obvious passing situations and then try to take advantage of his miscues. The quick outs and receiver screens will be big for Michigan’s receivers to gain yards, and I predict this will be the game in which Rudock finally connects on a deep throw, giving Amara Darboh a nice American citizenship present.

Defensively, Michigan will likely give up a scoring drive early on and then settle in. Jourdan Lewis, who leads the Big Ten with six pass breakups, will have his hands full with Mitch Mathews and Mitch Juergens, but Michigan’s defensive line should be able to keep enough pressure on Tanner Mangum to keep him out of rhythm. UCLA got to him four times, Boise State five, and Nebraska three. The 13 sacks allowed are the most in the nation and that’s where Michigan has the advantage.

In a low-scoring game, Michigan will win the special teams battle, finally get a big play from Rudock, and hold Mangum in check. Kenny Allen hits a field goal late to make BYU have to drive the field for a touchdown, and the defense prevents another Hail Mary.

Michigan 20 – BYU 16

Derick: Finally, after Michigan hosted a pair of West Coast cupcakes to open the home schedule, the fans will see this team put to its first test as No. 22 BYU makes the trip east to the Big House. Michigan rolled over Oregon State and UNLV thanks to a defense that surrendered just 14 total points.

But BYU is already battle-tested. The Cougars lost starting quarterback Taysom Hill and didn’t miss a beat as Tanner Mangum took over and led the offense to last-second wins over Nebraska and Boise State. BYU nearly went into the Rose Bowl and beat No. 10 UCLA, but a late push fell short as the Cougars suffered their first loss, 24-23.

Magnum will battle a Michigan defense that ranks seventh in the country with just 237 yards allowed per game. Unfortunately for BYU, the offense has been largely one-dimensional this season, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, and matches up poorly against a Michigan defense that allows just 92.7 rush yards per game. In order to move the ball consistently against the Wolverines, Mangum will have to be extremely efficient in the passing game. The freshman is completing over 60 percent of his passes, but played against the 126th, 85th and 40th ranked passing defenses in Weeks 1-3, respectively.

BYU’s defense is slightly more susceptible to the pass (240.7 yards per game — 86th) than the run (162 yards per game — 74th), but Michigan will have some success running against this front seven. Drake Johnson has been cleared to play and De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac offer strong, physical options out of the backfield for the Wolverines. Look for Michigan to set the tone through the ground attack, as it did in each of the last two games.

The Cougars are underdogs for the fourth straight game to start the season, but this could be Michigan’s toughest test of the nonconference schedule. BYU hung with UCLA on the road and there’s no reason to expect it can’t do the same in Ann Arbor. But Mangum won’t see another defense of this caliber all season and the Wolverines should take care of business at home for the third straight week. I’ll take Michigan in a dogfight.

Michigan 24 – BYU 20

Sam: I don’t feel too confident about this game after seeing BYU’s generally favorable results over the first three weeks paired with Michigan’s extra vanilla with a dash of more vanilla offense last week, but I also am not as good at predicting outcomes as Vegas, which has the Wolverines favored by nearly a touchdown at home now. Perhaps the strong defense will slow Tanner Mangum just enough for the Rudock-led offense to outscore the Cougars. I’ll begrudgingly take the home team for three straight.

Michigan 27 – BYU 24

Josh: I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the odds makers had Michigan a favorite over BYU. Then I went back and watched some BYU tape and saw why. BYU is a boom or bust offense. They’re either getting big plays downfield or dinking and dunking it, but not moving the chains. Nine of their 11 touchdown drives had at least one play over 20 yards. So now the key to this game becomes can Michigan stop the big plays? I’m not so sure they can. The stats say that Michigan has been pretty good at preventing big plays over the past couple years, but lost in that is the fact that they don’t really play many explosive offenses.

I don’t think Michigan will get beat deep a lot, but they’ll get beat deep a few times and it could yield a good deal of points. Which will be a major issue for the Michigan offense, one who is not built on explosive plays and hasn’t shown they can go downfield with their passing game yet.

That said BYU isn’t a top 10 team and they haven’t been very consistent, on either offense or defense. If Michigan can take advantage of turnover opportunities, continue to run it consistently and not turn it over themselves then they’ll win this game handily. But I don’t think that’s what is going to happen. I think BYU goes up early on some deep balls (two of their receivers are over 6-foot-5 and will be damn near impossible for Lewis and Stribling to cover consistently, not to mention their slot ninja is pretty good too) and Michigan has to pass more as they play from behind. Rudock tosses an interception, or maybe two, and BYU adds a few more points.

While it’s been nice seeing Michigan beat up on bad teams the past two weeks they haven’t done anything to impress me or make me think they can beat a decent team, and one who has played in three tough venues each week thus far. The pass game is meh, the run game is decent but it’s not conducive to big plays and the defense still can’t get to the quarterback with just four. Michigan is just not a team that can beat anyone that is going to put points on the board and I think that’s exactly what BYU is going to do.

BYU edges out a game that feels closer than the score indicates and Michigan fans around the world finally realize that not only was this team poorly coached in the near past but also these kids aren’t as good as we thought they were (save for a few like Butt, Peppers and Lewis). Of course, I hope I’m wrong and Michigan just throttles them.

Michigan 17 – BYU 27

Joe: This is a huge game for the growth and development of the Wolverines. It’s a chance to battle a top 25 team in the Big House and show the nation that this team is on the rise. I hope the offense can establish a strong running game right off the bat and control the clock. The last two weeks were confidence boosters in both the run game and the overall defense. We will not be able to dominate defensively against BYU as we did the last two weeks, but we should hold them under to under 28 points. This team will go as far as the defense takes them. Peppers will have them pumped up and should create a few turnover opportunities early. If Rudock can “dink and dunk” without losing the ball, this team will control things with Butt and Smith doing the heavy lifting. I think the good guys pull this one out.

Michigan 27 – BYU 25

M&GB staff predictions: UNLV

Friday, September 18th, 2015


Jim Harbaugh picked up his first win last Saturday as head coach of his Alma mater, and now he looks to get above .500 for the first time when UNLV comes to town. Here are our predictions:

Justin: Work called me to Baltimore for the week and client obligations have taken up most of my time, so in lieu of a full game preview this week, we’re only going to do our staff predictions.

How great was it to see Michigan’s running game just ground and pound right through Oregon State’s defense in the second half last week? Well, the running game should gain even more steam this weekend given that UNLV’s defense is one of the worst in the nation. Out of 127 teams, the Rebels rank 120th nationally in total defense, 114th in rush defense, 105th in pass defense, and 114th in scoring defense. Expect to see a lot of De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, Derrick Green, and perhaps a few more carries for Drake Johnson as he continues his return from his second ACL tear.

Staff Predictions
Michigan UNLV
Justin 42 9
Derick 41 10
Sam 42 6
Josh 45 10
Joe 45 7
M&GB Average 43 8

Defensively, Michigan faces an offense that ranks 114th nationally in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game. UNLV lost to Northern Illinois 38-30 in Week 1, then got plowed by UCLA 37-3 last week. The Rebels were held to just 56 passing yards, while UCLA racked up 526 total yards.

It will be a boring game, resembling the Michigan of old with a lot of running and a strong defense. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will look to refine the running game before a big matchup with BYU and then the Big Ten schedule. Michigan tops 300 yards rushing and wins big.

Michigan 42 – UNLV 9

Derick: Michigan added a new wrinkle to its offense during a 35-7 dismantling of Oregon State last weekend: a running game! De’Veon Smith led the charge with 126 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and the Wolverines averaged 4.7 yards per rush as a team.

Expect to see more of the same Saturday as a terrible UNLV team makes an appearance at the Big House. In two losses to open the season, the Rebels have given up a total of 1,071 yards — 437 of those on the ground. Michigan will jump out to a big lead and Smith will be asked to pace the offense again and keep the clock rolling. Drake Johnson is also expected to earn a few touches as he works his way back from injury, and don’t be surprised if Ty Isaac and Derrick Green approach double digit carries for the second straight week.

In his final tuneup game before a dangerous BYU squad comes to town, Jake Rudock will have to squash the turnover bug that’s bitten him in each of his first games in the Maize and Blue. Rudock threw three picks in Utah and added a fumble and an interception last Saturday against Oregon State. UNLV picked off three passes against UCLA over the weekend, so Rudock will have to focus on taking better care of the ball.

Michigan shouldn’t have any trouble with UNLV at home, especially if the offensive and defensive lines put in similarly dominant efforts in the trenches. Against the Wolverines’ staunch run defense, the Rebels will have to rely on a passing attack that managed just 56 yards against UCLA — a trend that makes it difficult to sustain drives with any consistency. This is a good matchup for Michigan, which will cruise to a big victory.

Michigan 41 – UNLV 10

Sam: If Oregon State couldn’t do too much to stop Michigan’s run game, I don’t see any way UNLV could. The Rebels, led by first-year college coach Tony Sanchez, figure to have a long ways to go to match the success of Sanchez’s Bishop Gorman High School teams, especially after surrendering 38 and 37 points in their first two outings. De’Veon Smith should run like a rodeo bull again while Jake Rudock finally has a game with no turnovers. I like the Wolverines in this one.

Michigan 42 – UNLV 6

Josh: UNLV’s offense is bad, very bad. And they’re likely without their starting quarterback. I’m hesitant to say we could be on shut out watch, so I won’t say it. Or maybe I will, I’m not sure yet. UNLV’s backup, Kurt Palandach, had a less than stellar stat line of 4 of 15 for four yards and a pick-six. Yes, you read that right. He’s not mobile either and he fumbled twice, one of which was just him flat out dropping the ball. Chris Wormley should have a field day. But with that said, Devonte Boyd is a pretty good athlete at receiver, and if UNLV is to score it’s likely gonna be him getting it into space far away from Jabrill Peppers then outrunning everyone else.

Oh, did I mention that UNLV’s head coach, Tony Sanchez, was coaching high school football last year? Yes, Bishop Gorman is a powerhouse at that level, but college ball is a whole new ball game.

On offense I expect Michigan to continue to do what they want to do; impose their will at the line and let De’Veon Smith churn his way to 100 yards at 4-5 yards per clip. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rudock test UNLV deep a few times, as this is a great chance to work out the kinks in the deep passing game against a bad team. Getting that timing down will pay dividends as we get into the meat of our schedule.

I think the defense will force a few turnovers and maybe even take one back. This is also the time where I mention that while we all felt (or maybe it was just me) that Dennis Norfleet was always just one block away from six, I actually think Peppers is going to take a kickoff or punt return to the house and it’s gonna be glorious! Remember Steve Breaston? Yeah, those were the days. Anyway, Michigan will win and win big…. as far as a shut out, I’m not going to go that far but it won’t be close at all.

Michigan 45 – UNLV 10

Joe: I love the way last week’s game took shape and started to resemble Michigan games of old. It’s been years since we dominated in the run game like we did against an overmatched Beaver team. This week should be even more lopsided as UNLV has serious issues on the defensive line. UCLA put up huge numbers last week and the Wolverines will do the same. A huge dose of Smith with some Johnson sprinkled in will keep things moving and allow the lines to take control. Rudock will manage things easily enough and play catch with Butt anytime he wants. This is duo will be fun to watch over the course of the season.  The defense will have no problems containing a UNLV offense that has quarterback issues as well as offensive line problems. The 35 point spread is the largest in years and will still not be enough.

Michigan 45 – UNLV 7