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Archive for the ‘Friday Pick’em’ Category

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

M&GB staff predictions: Oregon State

Friday, September 11th, 2015


Oregon State comes to town tomorrow as Michigan looks to pick up its first win of the Jim Harbaugh era. The Beavers topped Weber State, an FCS school, last week, 26-7 while Michigan fell 24-17 at Utah. While Michigan had to deal with Utah’s altitude last week, the Wolverines get an ancillary advantage this week in the form of time. When toe meets leather at high noon, it will be 9am Oregon time, not normally a time to play football. Michigan, of course, is used to noon kickoffs, so a quick start could put OSU away early.

Let’s get to our picks:

Justin: Harbaugh’s first game in the Big House as head coach of his Alma mater is sure to be a momentous occasion. SportsCenter will broadcast live outside the stadium in the morning and ESPN’s mobile Heisman House will be available for fans to tour. But what the Michigan faithful will really want is to witness Harbaugh’s first win.

Seth Collins’ running ability will test Michigan’s defense early on, but Harbaugh’s experience with Colin Kaepernick could pay dividends in the defensive game plan. The key will be forcing Collins to pass the ball and make him make plays with his arm. Jourdan Lewis will have his hands full with the size of Jordan Villarmon, but the rest of the receiving corps is manageable. Don’t expect Oregon State to score very often.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Oregon St.
Justin 31 12
Derick 38 17
Sam 27 10
Josh 24 21
Joe 27 17
M&GB Average 29 15

Michigan’s offense, meanwhile, will finally get rolling against an inexperienced defense that allowed 31.6 points per game in 2014. The rush defense allowed 158.2 yards per game, and even though Weber State couldn’t mange a ground game last week, Michigan is a much tougher matchup for the Beaver front seven, which is not close to Utah’s level. Jake Rudock will also show more of a comfort level than he displayed last week and take care of the ball.

Michigan won’t blow OSU away, and the game will stay close in the first half, but the Wolverines will pull away in the second half for a comfortable win just like Harbaugh did 29 years ago.

Michigan 31 – Oregon State 12

Derick: After falling short in an upset bid last Thursday, Michigan really needs a win in its home opener against a weaker Oregon State team.

The Beavers are coming off a 26-7 win against Weber State in which they allowed fewer than 200 yards on defense. But Michigan will be a much tougher task on Saturday. Jake Butt and Amara Darboh emerged as the two top targets in the offense last week and will face an easier assignment against the Oregon State secondary.

Jake Rudock won’t throw three interceptions again, and after his disastrous opener, I think he’ll bounce back and take better care of the ball. More importantly, Michigan needs to get some semblance of a running game going against a front seven that’s much less formidable than Utah’s.

I expect the defense to put up another strong performance and lead Michigan to a big win.

Michigan 38 – Oregon State 17

Sam: After a poor showing last week, I think Michigan’s offense (and specifically the line) will bounce back to open some big holes for the running game and Michigan’s stout defense should shut down a freshman-led Beaver attack. Drake Harris records his first catch and a touchdown and De’Veon Smith goes for 100-plus. Give me the Wolverines for Harbaugh’s first win back in Old Ann Arbor.

Michigan 27 – Oregon State 10

Josh: Oregon State won’t pose the same challenge as the stout Utah defense did but their offense might be troublesome. They only return two starters so this team is very young and inexperienced. Michigan traditionally has had issues with mobile quarterbacks and Seth Collins is mobile. The good news is that Oregon State’s spread offense is very run heavy so Michigan should be able to devote an extra man (Peppers) to keep Collins in check. If Michigan devotes too many men to stopping the run they might get exposed with a deep ball or two thrown in Stribling or Clark’s direction. Overall, this offense shouldn’t be too much for Michigan to handle.

The Beavers didn’t look all that great in pass coverage, playing mostly zone, and left a lot of holes underneath against Weber State, who unfortunately didn’t have anyone to exploit that. Michigan should be able to get its pass game going with Butt and maybe Darboh or Perry but the run game still concerns me. The offensive line didn’t do that great of a job against Utah and just looked flat out lost sometimes. Old habits die hard and they should get better as the season progresses. Luckily this Oregon State defense isn’t a world beater.

I expect Harbaugh to win his home debut but not by nearly as much as most people seem to think. Oregon State will get on the board with a big play here and there and I think Michigan’s offense will take time to hit its rhythm.

Michigan 24 – Oregon State 21

Joe: Game two of the Harbaugh era is an important one for me as I want to see how several key players rebound from an opening weekend loss. I expect Rudock to bounce back and have a much better game. I’m assuming his performance in the opener was due to nerves and a some inexperience of several receivers. If he can manage this game and keep the turnovers to a minimum, Harbaugh will have his first win.

I also expect Peppers to play a complete game instead of just one half.  He showed flashes of greatness in the opener with a very strong second half. This kid is a STUD and will only get better as the season progresses. I expect a pick and maybe a big return to help jump start this team.

Jake Butt needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He makes things easier for his quarterback and is the top option in this offense (for now). This kid is fun to watch and could turn into a game changer by years end.  I’m not expecting miracles in the first year, but I do want to see improvement every week. I think we see that and also see a Michigan victory.

Michigan 27 – Oregon State 17

M&GB staff predictions: Utah

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015


Game day is finally here, 247 days after Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor as Michigan’s new head coach. This morning we posted our full game preview and now it’s time to allow each of the writers on our staff to make their prediction.

Justin: There’s no doubt that Harbaugh will have the team well prepared for the first game of the season. The question is how much have they improved since last fall? Expected starting quarterback Jake Rudock should provide an upgrade at the position if only because he will take care of the ball and manage the offense. If the offensive line can give him time, Rudock should be able to test the relatively inexperienced secondary. But the line will have to fend off Dimick and Fanaika. Utah ranked sixth in the Pac-12 against the run last season, so look for Harbaugh to pound his running back committee of De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, and Drake Johnson.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Utah
Justin 23 26
Derick 20 27
Sam 21 13
Josh 19 27
Joe 28 35
M&GB Average 22 26

Utah’s offense will do the same, feeding Booker early and often. If Michigan can stop him the Wolverines will have a great chance to win. Wilson wasn’t flashy last season, but he took care of the ball, so Michigan will need to find a pass rush from its unproven defensive line if it wants to force him to make a mistake.

Special teams will likely play a big factor in this game and the heavy favorite in that category goes to Utah, which has arguably the best kicker and punter tandem in the country. Michigan, meanwhile, will be breaking in a new kicker and punter. In last season’s matchup, Kaelin Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and Michigan may need to return the favor — perhaps from Jabrill Peppers — to get a win.

In a defensive battle where one team has a significant edge on special teams, and that team happens to be the home team, I just have to lean that way.

Utah 26 – Michigan 23

Derick: It’s been a crazy offseason for Michigan, operating under a new president and athletic director, flipping and losing big-name recruits and bringing in the highest profile coach in the country.

But now it’s finally time to hit the field and see what this team can actually do. There’s no doubt Jim Harbaugh inherited a talented roster, but how quickly can he turn around a program that’s been a hot mess for the better part of a decade?

Unfortunately for Michigan, the new system will make its debut on the road against a talented, veteran Utah team that won nine games last season. Running back Devontae Booker runs behind a solid offensive line that will put Michigan’s defensive line depth to the test right out of the gate.

Michigan will improve throughout the 2015 season. Nothing in Harbaugh’s track record suggests otherwise. But I think the Wolverines, behind a new quarterback and a thin group of wide receivers, will struggle to put together a consistent offensive attack in Week 1.

Michigan will battle the Utes in the opener, but fall.

Utah 27 – Michigan 20

Sam: (Sam was unable to provide a full breakdown this week but sent his score prediction)

Michigan 21 – Utah 13

Josh: On the road at night in Rice-Eccels stadium against a team that beat the crap out of you in your own house last year is a tough way to start the season. But thankfully we’ve got Harbaugh this time around. The bad news is it’s probably way too soon for the full Harbaugh effect to have taken place.

Utah is solid defensively and Michigan is probably not going to have a high-octane offense, even IF Drake Harris is who we thought he was. Devantae Booker this year is not the guy who only gained 30-some odd yards on Michigan last year, he’s likely to go over 100 yards and that will open up the pass game for Utah. Michigan has one corner, yes just one, that is proven right now so unless the combo of Stribling and Clark perform up to task they’ll see a lot of balls thrown their way with not so good results for Michigan.

Jake Rudock is a huge upgrade from Devin Gardner, not in talent but in consistency and making the right play-iveness (that’s a new word, mark it down). He won’t turn it over and if the run game can be halfway decent this could be an interesting game. However, I don’t see the run game doing much, and with no threat to take the top off the defense this is going to be a low scoring, defensive battle. That means it’s going to come down to special teams.

While Michigan has gotten an upgrade at special teams coordinator as well, these things take time. Again, Rome was not built in a day (or even one offseason). They’ll play well and we’re guaranteed to see 11 men on the field at all times but if this game comes down to kicking, and it likely will, Michigan is in a heap of trouble. Not one experienced kicker on the roster and no separation among them (word is it’s NOT because no one can miss).

Utah has their cupcakes and eats them too, courtesy of the sports authority publication that is Popular Mechanics. The Harbaugh era starts with a loss but the team does not look lost or too soft or just plain awful. It will get better as the season wears on.

Utah 27 – Michigan 19 (three touchdowns and two failed two-point conversions)

Joe: Game day is finally here and I am officially ready to get this show on the road. I haven’t been able to sleep all week. This has been one heck of an off season and should only get better as this team grows and takes on the coach’s personality. The only question I have is how long will that take to happen?

I think we will have a fundamentally sound team on both sides of the ball with Jabrill Peppers and Joe Bolden leading the way on a solid defense. The offense is led by a solid running backs corps. If Isaac is healthy , the running back threesome will turn some heads. Whoever the starting quarterback is will be asked to manage games and not turn the ball over. This could mean Rudock is the man…ZZZZzzzzzz……… While this doesn’t excite me, it could be for the best. With some “better than average” ball control, this unit can take over some games and surprise some people.

Special teams is still a huge question mark but should be okay with a very good punter in transfer in Blake O’Neill. Did I just reference a punter? Yep, it’s time to get some sleep. I can’t wait for game time, but think we will end up on the wrong side of things in Harbaugh’s debut. At least the tailgate food will be top-notch. Go Blue.

Utah 35 – Michigan 28 

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 28th, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Sam: Ohio State 41 – Michigan 11

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

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

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

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

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 16

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

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

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

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

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 14

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

Ohio State 48 – Michigan 17

M&GB staff predictions: Maryland

Friday, November 21st, 2014


Michigan hosts Maryland tomorrow for the first time since 1990 and for the first time as Big Ten conference foes. Both teams have much to play for — Michigan to become bowl eligible and Maryland to assure a winning season. Twelve seniors will play their final game in Michigan Stadium. Can Michigan pick up its sixth win? Or will Maryland complete the Big Ten newbie sweep of the Wolverines? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Maryland
Justin 17 16
Sam 19 23
Derick 20 17
Josh 13 27
Joe 17 24
M&GB Average 17 21

Justin: Michigan’s defense suffered a huge blow last weekend when Frank Clark was dismissed from the team for a domestic violence incident in an Ohio hotel. Clark was having the best season of his career and recorded the game-saving stop to beat Northwestern (he didn’t actually sack Trevor Siemian, but made the play that caused Siemian to slip). Without the leader of the defensive line, Michigan will have to rely on Taco Charlton and Mario Ojemudia to step up.

Maryland, however, lost its top player to injury when receiver Stefon Diggs suffered a lacerated kidney a couple weeks ago. He leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, so his loss evens out Clark’s.

In normal weather conditions, the offense should be able to have more success against Maryland’s defense than it did against Northwestern’s. The Terps have given up big passing games (511 passing yards by West Virginia) and rushing games (370 yards by Syracuse) this season and rank in the bottom third nationally in both categories.

I expect an evenly matched game, but with cold and rainy conditions — perhaps even freezing rain — expected, it won’t be as high scoring as it normally would be. It’s basically a coin flip, but I’ll give the edge to Michigan at home on senior day.

Michigan 17 – Maryland 16

Sam:  Didn’t have a chance to write up a full prediction, but his score prediction is below.

Maryland 23 – Michigan 19

Derick:  This season has been nothing short of a disaster for Michigan, as its 5-5 record has unthinkably become a secondary story to off-field issues like playing Shane Morris with a concussion, running Dave Brandon out of town and dismissing Frank Clark for hitting his girlfriend.

Losing Clark will certainly hurt the Wolverines’ pass rush, but this defense has been among the best in the country all season, never allowing an opponent to score more than their season average despite spending most of the game on the field thanks to an anemic offense.

Luckily, one of the greatest pretenders in all of college football is coming to town in the form of the Terrapins. Maryland is 6-4 on paper, but their best wins are against bad Iowa and Penn State teams by seven points and one point, respectively. In fact, when Michigan State walked into Maryland’s night game atmosphere and pounded the Terps 37-15, it was the closest contest the new Big Ten team has had against a ranked opponent.

Ohio State and Wisconsin both dropped 52 points on this Maryland team, so when Michigan is on offense it will be a battle of which unit can be less inept. Michigan has yet to score 20 points on a defense with a pulse this season, but matches up with a Terps team allowing 29 points per game.

Michigan needs this win to become bowl eligible, because an upset in Columbus isn’t on the menu. I think Brady Hoke’s squad will pull out one more for their embattled leader and top Maryland.

Michigan 20 – Maryland 17

Josh: I said Northwestern would be Michigan’s last win and I’m sticking to it. Even without Stefon Diggs I expect Maryland to air it out and connect on a few deep bombs. I wasn’t very high on Frank Clark (as a player) to begin with so I don’t think they will miss him much. He was inconsistent at best and rarely made any noise against decent opponents. The pass rush still leaves much to be desired (by which I mean it leaves a lot to be desired) and I think CJ Brown will have plenty of time to toss it to whoever Blake Countess is covering, how did he go from all-conference player to this?

Michigan doesn’t have an offense to speak of and while I’m sure guys like Devin Gardner will play their hearts out they’re just not very good at what they do. Gardner can’t read defenses and/or find the open guy, etc. etc. We all know the story by now. What started as the place Hoke seemingly couldn’t lose (won his first 19 home games) the Big House has become as unfriendly to the Wolverines as the road has been during Hoke’s tenure. I feel bad for the seniors, and even for Hoke, but as Brady once said, “This is Michigan fergodsakes” and at Michigan what has transpired under Hoke’s watch is not acceptable.

Maryland 27 – Michigan 13

Joe: I want to believe that this team will come out fighting for their coach, fighting for a bowl berth and wanting to go out with a win for the home crowd. I want to believe these things but I just have not seen enough of this over the last month. The offense has been dreadful and the defense has been just good enough to keep things interesting. If Michigan is able to establish the run and control the clock, the defense will take care of the roller coaster ride that is Maryland. You never know what they are going to do from one week to the next. I have serious doubts that Michigan will be able to make this happen and have even less confidence in the passing game. I’d love to see a third straight victory and secure a bowl bid but can’t see it happening. Maryland scores late to win at the Big House.

Maryland 24 – Michigan 17

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, November 7th, 2014


Michigan heads to Northwestern tomorrow, the site of their most exciting finish of the season a year ago. The last two meetings between the teams have been controlled by Northwestern, but stolen by Michigan in the closing seconds and overtime. Can Michigan top the Wildcats in regulation this time? Or will Northwestern finally get the best of the Wolverines? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 20 17
Sam 21 20
Derick 28 13
Josh 20 24
Joe 28 24
M&GB Average 23 20

Justin: Neither team features a good offense and the forecast in Evanston tomorrow afternoon calls for high 30s and wind 15-20 miles per hour. This game has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring affair similar to last year’s meeting that closed regulation tied 9-9.

Both teams will look to the ground, Michigan hoping the combination of De’Veon Smith’s power and Drake Johnson’s speed can get something going. Northwestern will hope true freshman Justin Jackson can carry the momentum from his last four games in which he averaged 123 yards against four solid defenses. In reality, neither team will string together many long scoring drives and whichever team limits the turnovers will likely win this one.

Two years ago, Michigan needed a Roy Roundtree circus catch on a bomb from Devin Gardner to get into field position for the game-tying touchdown and then won in overtime. Last season, Michigan needed a fire drill 44-yard field goal at the last second by Brendan Gibbons to force overtime and then won in triple overtime. This year it will probably be a Will Hagerup 100-yard fake punt scramble out of his own end zone for a game-tying touchdown and then Michigan wins in quadruple overtime.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17

Sam: Michigan is on a roll, having won two of their last three games. Or, you can also view it as a free fall, with the Wolverines having lost four of their last six.

I tend to take the latter with a little more weight.

Last week, after Athletic Director Dave Brandon was shown the door by President Mark Schlissel, the Maize and Blue showed some life against the miserable Indiana Hoosiers, putting them away comfortably.

But the road has not been kind, and that’s exactly where Michigan will be this Saturday.

Michigan travels to Northwestern for an afternoon game outside of Chicago looking to inch within one game of bowl eligibility, and the Wildcats are struggling mightily as well, coming off three straight losses – two of which weren’t close – and showcasing a quarterback who simply can’t throw.

It should be another hard-to-watch battle, but give me Michigan.

Michigan 21- Northwestern 20

Derick:  A scheduling reshuffle hands Northwestern a chance to get even for kick-gate on their home turf Saturday with the triple-overtime loss on its mind. The Wildcats’ shocking upset over Wisconsin given way to three straight losses, and Michigan is perking up in recent weeks. The Wolverines have to win the next two games to earn an invitation to a bowl game, and I think the relief that came from the end of the Dave Brandon era has them playing with less on their minds. Michigan will top this offensively-challenged Northwestern squad.

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 13

Josh: I said before the season I felt this was a potential loss. Not because I thought Northwestern would be any good or that Michigan would be so bad but simply because of luck. Michigan has had some incredibly lucky games against Northwestern and they’ve all gone the way of the Maize & Blue. Numerous dropped interceptions by the Wildcats, miracle catches (Roundtree) and sliding field goal holds at the last second are just plain dumb luck. With the way our season has gone so far I think that run ends this year, basically eliminating Michigan from bowl eligibility. Which I think is a good thing; we cannot wait until end of December to fire Hoke and begin a new coaching search for someone not named Jim Harbaugh (no, I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell he leaves the NFL, sorry).

Northwestern 24 – Michigan 20

Joe: And down the stretch they come!!! One thing is for sure. These guys will play hard for their coach, even if it is only for a few more weeks. The goal should be simple. Win two more games and go bowling. I want to believe they have it in ’em to put another solid performance together and get that fifth win, but doing so two straight weeks might be asking a bit much. I think the offense will continue to feed Johnson the ball and see if they can control the clock early. Devin will manage things well throwing the occasional deep ball but will not be able to pull away. This one will be ugly on both sides of the ball and may be tough to watch. Northwestern will slow things down like they did last week and mix in some up tempo every once and a great while. Look for a close game with Michigan pulling it out late.

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 24

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Friday, October 31st, 2014


Two-thirds of the way into the 2014 season, Michigan players, coaches, and fans are relegated to simply hoping to play their way into the postseason and avoid a third losing season in seven years. To do so, Michigan must win three of its last four games and tomorrow presents a great chance to pick up one of those wins. Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Indiana
Justin 34 20
Sam 22 16
Derick 38 31
Josh 17 14
Joe 35 21
M&GB Average 29 20

Justin: Stay tuned for my full game preview later this afternoon, but here’s my brief perdition. Michigan hasn’t lost to Indiana since 1987 and hasn’t lost to Indiana at home since 1967. That’s precisely why this game worries me. It seems that every other streak has fallen over the past few years, so why wouldn’t this one?

If Indiana was at full-speed offensively, I’d say the Hoosiers had a very good chance of outscoring Michigan. But with true freshman Zander Diamont making his first career road start — and second game appearance of his career — Indiana will have trouble making enough big plays to score. Tevin Coleman is the nation’s leading rusher, so head coach Kevin Wilson will make sure he feeds Coleman often and hope for results like Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford against Michigan.

Indiana’s defense is basically the same old Hoosiers, but the way Michigan’s offense has played this season, don’t expect Michigan to come anywhere close to its record-breaking against IU last season. Indiana gives up 35 points per game and ranks 111th nationally against the pass. Look for Devin Gardner to have his best passing game of the season and Michigan to score just enough to make it a comfortable win.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

Sam: I find myself with less and less to say with each passing week. I still do care deeply about this football team, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that when knowing so clearly that the players deserve much better than what they are getting. There is no more room for debate over the level of ineptitude of the coaching staff; they are simply and utterly inept.

It seems at this point, however, that the staff will be in place for the remainder of the season, leaving the players, the fans, and Michigan to suffer for a few more weeks.

This Saturday, it actually seems like there’s a chance to win (every time I write something like this I am simply astounded at how bad this has gotten) over an Indiana team that is about as lost defensively as Michigan is offensively. Over the past two weeks, the Hoosiers have given up more than 100 combined points to Michigan State and Iowa while Michigan continues to languish with the ball, having managed only seven offensive touchdowns while coughing it up 15 times over the course of six games against real competition. And you thought the Penn State game was ugly….

Which units fail worse will decide this game. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 22- Indiana 16

Derick:  Michigan still has a bowl game to play for, but a loss to Indiana would all but eliminate that with the season finale in Columbus looking largely unwinnable for the Wolverines. Michigan and Indiana put on an offensive show in the Big House last season, and the Hoosiers have played with the same pace through seven games this season.

The defense is much stronger for Michigan this season, and should be able to hold Indiana below the 47 points it scored in the matchup last season. The Wolverines will score just enough to keep the bowl hopes alive, winning 38-31.

Michigan 38 – Indiana 31

Josh: I want so badly to predict Michigan to beat IU in a blowout but we all know that isn’t happening. IU is bad on defense, really bad, they start their third string quarterback but have one of the best running backs in the conference behind him. Yes, they are bad, and yet they still managed to put up 17 points against Sparty, which is more than Michigan could muster. That leaves me wondering if Michigan can actually win this one.

Yes, Michigan’s defense in terms of yardage is good on paper but that is meaningless to me, all that matters is they give up more points than they can score. This team remains severely handicapped by their lack of offense. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Tevin Coleman gets darn near close to 200 all-purpose yards, with at least one huge (read: 50-plus yards) touchdown play. I don’t think IU will pass much, or well, but Michigan’s secondary is very beatable. Blake Countess isn’t who we thought he was and while Jourdan Lewis has the makings of a really good cornerback he is still too aggressive in coverage and garners too many pass interference calls which lead to very good field position and easy scores given up.

IU’s defense is bad, like Appalachian State bad, but I don’t think Michigan will move the ball on the Hoosiers the way they did in the opener. These kids may love Brady Hoke but they’ve lost the fire in their guts to win football games for him. Either that or these kids aren’t talented enough to wear the winged helmet, which is quite possible. I can rattle off several names who should never have received Michigan offers yet see playing time nonetheless. Regardless, this team might have one more win in them and IU is their best shot.

I expect this one to be close throughout with the deciding factor being whoever turns it over least will win, but not in the normal ‘win the turnover battle’ sort of way. My over/under on total turnovers is 6.5 and it’s very likely this one comes down to a big mistake like turning the ball over inside your own 20 (I’m looking at you Mr. Gardner) and the other team being gifted a score they likely would not have earned otherwise. Still, I think Michigan should pull this one out and notch their final win of the season. How many days until basketball?

Michigan 17 – Indiana 14

Joe: Finally, a game that does not scare me. And that in itself, really scares me! Indiana has lost their starting quarterback and will leave things up to a true freshman that looked very unprepared against Sparty a few weeks ago. I think we will see a lot handoffs and screens to their star running back Tevin Coleman. They run the spread and will try to move things fast. As long as the Michigan defense keeps Coleman under wraps, we will be fine. If he gets loose, look out. He is that good.

Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball and control the clock. Look for Gardner to run the ball a little more than normal. This will help open up the passing game a little and allow for some big plays. As long as we win the turnover battle, which is a HUGE if, we will be fine. I look for a decent effort from our guys and a nice 35-21 victory. Go Blue.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 21

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Friday, October 24th, 2014


Beating up on Michigan State used to be a yearly occurrence that we looked forward to, but over the past few years we have come to dread Michigan State week as Michigan’s offense continues to score fewer and fewer points against the Spartans than they did the previous year. Tomorrow, Michigan State is the heavy favorite and no one gives Michigan a chance, but there’s a reason they play the games. Can Michigan reverse the trend and roll into East Lansing with a big upset? Or will MSU win for the sixth time in the last seven years? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Michigan State
Justin 13 33
Sam 16 33
Derick 14 35
Josh 0 49
Joe 14 42
M&GB Average 11 38

Justin: Stay tuned for my full game preview later this afternoon, but essentially I think Michigan will stay within striking distance into the second half, but just won’t be able to make enough big plays to take advantage of a Michigan State defense that has been giving them up in droves this season.

Defensively, Michigan will stuff the run and force Connor Cook to beat them with his arm, which he will. Michigan State’s offensive line is great at protecting Cook, so his performance will be more like Gary Nova’s than Christian Hackenberg’s. Michigan State pulls away for a comfortable win.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

Sam: The Paul Bunyan trophy is one of the ugliest rivalry trophies out there, and came about in a very inorganic way – an attempt by Michigan’s governor at the time to try to make Michigan consider Michigan State as more of a rival than a, let’s face it, little brother – but it still belongs in Ann Arbor.

Unfortunately, the lumberjack has had to endure a longer-than-expected stay of late in the town just east of the state’s capital. And it appears that he will have to survive one more year with the younger sibling in this series.

Michigan comes into this weekend’s game with Michigan State off what I suppose you would call a win over Penn State and then a bye last Saturday, but things don’t look pretty. The majority of the fan base has been left to speculate over new head coaching candidates rather than enjoy this season and the team on the field just looks bad.

The Spartans, on the other hand, don’t appear quite as dominant defensively as last season, but still will be licking their chops at a matchup with a Wolverine offense that struggles immense to move the ball. Offensively they will look to assert their run game early and then take to the air against a shaky Michigan secondary.

I don’t anticipate the nightmare that was last year, but I still have no idea why I’m going to this game.

Michigan State 33- Michigan 16

Derick: This rivalry matchup has never looked more one-sided than it does in 2014. Michigan is coming off a tough win to break a losing streak, and the No. 8 Spartans have won five in a row.

Michigan’s trip to East Lansing didn’t go well last season as MSU waxed the Wolverines 29-6. This year Michigan has played much worse, and the Spartan offense is the third best in the country in terms of points per game.

Anything can happen in rivalry games, but Michigan is simply outmatched this weekend. Michigan State will pull away early and cruise to a 35-14 win.

Michigan State 35 – Michigan 14

Josh: Coming into the season I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to beat Sparty. After the first seven games I am convinced that this might be one of the worst beat downs in Michigan’s long history. Considering Sparty took it to Michigan 29-6 and held us to -48 rushing yards last year, and Notre Dame and Utah (of all teams) both kept Michigan out of the red zone earlier this year and I have come up with a predicted score of 732-0. Just kidding, but only slightly.

Sparty’s defense, while still impressive, isn’t quite what they’ve been the past few years. Sadly, as we all know, Michigan’s offense is beyond horrendous and now without its starting running back, Derrick Green. I don’t think MSU will hold Michigan to negative rushing yards but I don’t think we’ll hear “The Victors” much, if at all, during the game. On the other side of the ball, Sparty has somehow managed to be one of the highest scoring teams in the nation. Yes, the NATION. The silver lining here, if there is one, is that Michigan’s defense (at least on paper) hasn’t allowed many yards. However, Blake Countess is still a major fixture on the back end and it’s pretty much a guaranteed touchdown when you throw at him these days.

I don’t think Michigan has a snowball’s chance in hell to win this game. I do, however, think they ‘could’ get hyped up for this one and play well for a while. If they can eliminate turnovers then they can keep it within three touchdowns, but I don’t think that’ll happen so this one is going to get ugly.

Michigan turns it over early and often and Connor Cook has a field day throwing at Blake Countess who has gone from All-Big Ten performer to All-Big Ten…well, whatever the opposite of that is. Sparty wins big and continues their reign of dominance over Big Brother.

Michigan State 49 – Michigan 0

Joe:  No matter how disappointing this season has been and is likely to continue to be, we can usually count on big rivalry games like this one to be competitive. For a half at least. Our guys will be fired up and playing on emotion and will stick with Sparty for the first few series. Devin Funchess should get the gang going early but I think that emotion will start to fade as the green and white running game starts to roll. The Spartans are very impressive up front and will wear our defensive line down over time. Connor Cook will take advantage of this in the second half and open things up, tossing two touchdown passes and running for another. After two close games in their last three, “Little Brother” wants to post some big numbers to sway some voters. I’m not sure we can do anything to stop em from accomplishing this goal. Sparty wins going away.

Michigan State 42 – Michigan 14