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Archive for the ‘Rivals’ Category

Rival Rewind still won’t admit Irish are the best

Monday, November 26th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#1 Notre Dame 22 – USC 13
Record: 12-0
This Week: Regular season over

Notre Dame took the final step towards the BCS title game by downing USC in its season finale. Despite the Trojans missing their record setting quarterback, Matt Barkley, and replacing him with a freshman, I may be ready to change my tune on the Irish. All season long I have been reluctant, to say the least, to give Notre Dame full credit for being a top team. The rankings may say they are the No. 1 team in the land, but my football knowledge says they are far from the top team in the land. They struggled against Purdue, BYU and Pitt – none of whom are good teams. They barely beat Michigan despite being given the ball six times on turnovers. On Saturday night they beat a USC team with two future NFL receivers on offense (possibly the best receiver tandem in college football no less); but they did it against a freshman quarterback making his first start.

Theo Riddick celebrates the undefeated season (Danny Moloshok, AP)

However, Notre Dame has beaten all comers and I will not take anything away from their defense. They’ve held strong when they needed to and when it matters the most, like in the red zone. They have finally found their coach in Brian Kelly and he is poised to become yet another Irish head coach to win a national title in his third season.

Charlie Weiss may have recruited these seniors but Brian Kelly has turned them into winners. This Notre Dame team is good and given what they’ve done they deserve to play in the BCS title game. I will not concede they are the best team in all the land, yet. Nor will I proclaim they are back; I need to see consistency, not just one magical season. Regardless, they will be a worthy opponent for the SEC in the BCS title game, unlike Ohio State has proven to be against them in title games.

And now on to the game. The Irish took their opening drive and went straight into the heart of Trojan territory. However, they were held off inside the 10-yard line and held to just three points. USC and its redshirt freshman took the field and ran the ball four straight times with Curtis McNeill. With the “pressure” off their young QB, Lane Kiffin let the kid air it out. He missed on three straight attempts and USC was forced to punt. Notre Dame used a heavy dose of Theo Riddick through the air and on the ground as they made way for a Cierre Wood 2-yard touchdown run.

Up 10-0 ten minutes into the game and it looked like the Irish might run away with it. But as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend. Max Wittek regained his composure and went 5-of-5 for 48 yards and a touchdown to Robert Woods to get the Trojans back within three points. Notre Dame mounted another long drive but managed only a field goal. USC added another field goal their next time out, and then forced the Irish into a three-and-out to get the ball back with just over a minute and a half remaining and a chance to take the lead before halftime. The Irish defense had other ideas as they picked off Wittek’s first pass attempt; ultimately setting up Kyle Brindza for a career long 52-yard field goal, which he nailed. The Irish led 16-10 at the half, but it was far from over.

Max Wittek’s first pass of the second half was also picked off, but this time the Irish could not capitalize. It went back and forth until about the six minute mark in the third when Brindza hit his fourth field goal of the day to give Notre Dame a two possession lead at 19-10. USC added a field goal on their next drive to cut the lead back to six but that would be as close as they got.

Aided by a 60-yard kick return by George Atkinson III, the Irish were set up in great field position and used it to their advantage. They quickly marched inside the Trojan 10-yard line but were held out of the end zone. It didn’t matter because Kyle Brindza’s fifth field goal of the night proved to be the nail in USC’s coffin.

Next:

At 12-0 and the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings, Notre Dame is set up for the BCS title game against the winner of this weekend’s SEC Championship game, Georgia or Alabama. Both teams sport stout defenses and good quarterbacks. I’d give Georgia the edge in the passing attack (which could cause ND fits if they cannot get pressure) and Alabama the edge in the rushing attack. Regardless of which team emerges out of Atlanta we should have a great title game on our hands.

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Michigan State 26 – Minnesota 10

Dan Conroy's four FGs clinched a bowl bid for MSU (Paul Battaglia, AP)

Record: 6-6, 3-5 Big Ten
This Week: Regular season over

Michigan State was looking to get bowl eligible against a Minnesota team that just cannot catch a break. Le’Veon Bell made sure the Spartan offense did its part, rushing for 266 yards and a touchdown, while Dan Conroy made four field goals.

On defense, they looked like the Sparty of last year, holding the Golden Gophers to a mere 96 yards of total offense, 92 of which came through the air.

The Gophers took the lead 7-3 in the first on the heels of a pick six by Aaron Hill but that would be the only time they found the end zone. Conroy added a field goal, then Andrew Maxwell found Bennie Fowler for a 41-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes later to go up 13-7. Sparty picked off four passes and made the most of them as they held off a Gopher team without its head coach in the second half.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill suffered yet another seizure during halftime and did not return. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Next:

With the win Michigan State became bowl eligible. It wasn’t quite what they expected but they should be thankful to be going bowling at all. At this point we don’t know for sure who they’ll play but it won’t be a New Year’s day bowl, we know that much. We will find out the matchup on Sunday evening.

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Ohio State 26 – Michigan 21
Record: 12-0
This Week: Season over

We won’t rehash the tragedy that struck on Saturday, but Ohio State’s season ends before December due to NCAA sanctions. In true Buckeye fashion, they honored the man who put them on probation during the first quarter of Saturday’s game, giving him a standing ovation and lifting him onto their shoulders. That’s all you need to know about our rivals to the south.

A thousand words (Jay LaPrete, AP)

Rival Rewind is ready for the big one

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#3 Notre Dame 38 – Wake Forest 0
Record: 11-0
This Week: at USC (7-4, 5-4 Pac 12) | 8pm | ABC

For the first time this season Notre Dame actually looked like a top ranked team should against an inferior opponent as they pounded Wake Forest 38-0. The Irish scored on their first three drives, all in the first quarter, and never looked back. Everett Golson had quite a day going 20-of-30 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Cierre Wood added 150 on the ground and a TD.

Notre Dame is one win away from playing for a national title (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Notre Dame opened the scoring on a 68-yard touchdown run by Wood. Wake proceeded to cough up the ball on its first possession and the Irish took advantage as Golson got his first touchdown pass of the day, a two-yarder to Tyler Eifert. Eifert’s six catches gives him 130 for his career, a Notre Dame record. Wake couldn’t get anything going, they only managed barely more than 200 yards, but it wasn’t expected that they would put up much of a fight.

The Irish defense held Wake Forest to a paltry 209 yards total and kept them to 4-of-15 on third downs. Despite looking lackluster against inferior opponents earlier in the year, the Irish really came out strong and asserted themselves as a legit title contender.

With the top two teams both losing Notre Dame is the de facto No. 1 team, in the rankings anyway. Whether they are the best team is very debatable.

This Week:

Notre Dame heads to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans on Saturday night, sans Matt Barkley, and it is unlikely they do not take care of business. If Barkley was playing I’d give the edge to USC, especially given Notre Dame’s struggles in the secondary, but with a back up quarterback I feel confident that the Irish will finish the season 12-0 for the first time since…well, in a long time.

Prediction: Notre Dame 21 – USC 16

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Michigan State 20 – Northwestern 23
Record: 5-6, 2-5 Big Ten
This Week: at Minnesota (6-5, 2-5 Big Ten) | 3:30pm | Big Ten Network

Michigan State must beat Minnesota to become bowl eligible (Al Goldis, AP)

Michigan State lost…again. This time to a good Northwestern team. This is obviously not the season the Spartans and their fans had envisioned. MSU never led but did keep it close throughout. In the end, the Wildcats held off Sparty, who coughed up the ball four times. Michigan State now needs a win next week to become bowl eligible.

Northwestern opened the scoring with a field goal in the first quarter and led 6-5 after one. The momentum swung in the Wildcats’ favor moments into the second quarter when David Nwabusi returned a pick 43 yards for a touchdown. Michigan State was not ready to lay down and die quite yet, however. Andrew Maxwell found outstanding freshman receiver Aaron Burbridge for a 15-yard score only minutes later. But Northwestern added another touchdown before the half to go up 20-13. Standout running back Venric Mark did not play in the second half for the Wildcats with an upper extremity injury.

Northwestern showed MSU a mix of both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian to stymie the Spartan defense. Each threw a touchdown pass.

This Week:

Michigan State travels to Minnesota looking to become bowl eligible on Saturday. The Gophers are not a very good team and this Spartan team will be playing as if their lives depend on it. They probably thought they’d be heading to at least the Rose Bowl in the beginning of the season, and now they’ll be lucky to even get to one.

Prediction: Michigan State 24 – Minnesota 14

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Ohio State 21 – Wisconsin 14 OT
Record: 11-0, 7-0 Big Ten
This Week: Home vs #19 Michigan (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten) | 12pm | ABC

Were it not for TatGate we might be talking about Ohio State being in the BCS title game. But sadly, for them anyway, they are still reeling from their NCAA sanctions. Nonetheless, these Buckeyes are a good team and they are playing some great football right now. It pains me to say that.

Wisconsin bottled up the OSU offense, perhaps providing the blueprint for Michigan (Andy Manis, AP)

For once, Braxton Miller did not amaze with his stats; 10-of-18 for 97 yards passing and 23 rushes for 48 yards. He did not find the end zone. However, the Buckeyes held off the Wisconsin Badgers in overtime to move to 11-0. Wisconsin will be playing for the Big Ten title despite a lackluster 4-3 conference record, due to the ineligibility of both OSU and PSU in the Leaders division.

Ohio State did not play a great game and I’d say they didn’t even play a good game. Montee Ball ran for 191 yards and added his NCAA record-tying 78th career touchdown in the process against the Buckeye defense. However, he fumbled what would have been the record-breaker, and potential game winner, with just under three inutes to go in the fourth as he attempted to stretch the ball over the goal line. Wisconsin eventually scored with eight seconds remaining to tie the game.

The Badgers held the Buckeyes’ prolific offense to just 236 yards, and they only crossed midfield ONCE after halftime. Overall, Wisconsin bottled up Braxton Miller and kept the whole offense in check. Now I know we throw out the records when it comes to The Game, but what Michigan did last week with Devin Gardner at quarterback and Denard at running back/receiver, and what Wisconsin did to OSU’s offense does make the story lines a bit more intriguing.

If you remember correctly, in our preseason predictions I picked the OSU game as a loss. Much has happened since then – for both teams – and recent events are beginning to erode my original inclinations. I’ll save my prediction for our weekly staff picks, so make sure to check back on Friday.

Rival Rewind is throwing it back to 1993

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#4 Notre Dame 21 – Boston College 6
Record: 10-0
This Week: Home vs Wake Forest (5-5, 3-5 ACC) | 3:30pm | NBC

Boston College has traditionally been a thorn in the side of the Fighting Irish but not this year as Notre Dame trounced them 21-6.

Notre Dame is 10-0 for the first time since 1993. The year widely regarded as the last time the Irish have been relevant on the football scene.

Tyler Eifert helped ND stay unbeaten (photo by Jared Wickerham, Getty Images)

Everett Golson was 16-of-24 through the air for 200 yards and two scores and added another score on the ground. Golson has been improving as the season has progressed and the Irish fans have a lot to look forward to in the future if he stays healthy. Theo Riddick added 104 on the ground and caught a whopping six passes for 67 yards. Manti Te’o's sixth interception of the season sealed the game in the fourth quarter. Prior to this season Te’o had not notched a single turnover, he know has a school record six picks (for linebackers) to go along with one fumble recovery.

This game was never in question as Notre Dame dominated from start to finish. The Irish went on two long drives, a 95-yarder to open the game and an 87-yarder right before the end of the first half. Notre Dame converted their first ten third down attempts and were 11-of-14 overall, an impressive stat against anyone. Somewhat concerning were the two lost fumbles, both inside BC territory, and the eight penalties for 65 yards.

With the upset of Alabama by Texas A&M, Notre Dame moves that much closer in their bid for the BCS National Championship game. They have a lot of ground to make up, either Oregon or Kansas State will need to lose. Anything is possible, but the way Oregon and Kansas State have been playing I’d be surprised if those two teams didn’t meet in the BCS title game. Barring a complete collapse in the next two weeks ND will still end up in a major BCS bowl for the first time since 2007. They have yet to win a BCS bowl in their three attempts.

This Week:

The Irish take on the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest in what should be a cake walk against an anemic offense and a less than stellar defense. It will be a good tuneup before the season finale at USC. We’ll talk more about the USC match up next week though.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24 – Wake 13

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Ohio State (Bye)
Record: 10-0, 6-0 Big Ten
This Week: at Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) | 3:30pm | ABC

Ohio State was off last week after an impressive 10-0 run to start the season. Urban Meyer is still unbeaten in Columbus and the final two weeks will be the toughest tests yet. The Bucks head to Madison on Saturday to face a Wisconsin squad that has all but wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten Championship game. However, the Badgers could still win a share of the Leaders Division title with a win and an Ohio State loss to Michigan next week. Ohio State would wrap up the title with a win on Saturday. The Buckeyes can win the division title but can’t participate in the championship game as part of the NCAA sanctions.

Ohio State is the better team and should win this one, but it is on the road and Michigan is looming, so Meyer will have to keep his crew focused and not looking ahead.

Prediction: Ohio State 37 – Wisconsin 31

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Michigan State (Bye)
Record: 5-5, 2-4 Big Ten
This Week:  Home vs Northwestern (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) | 12pm | ESPN2

Michigan State was off last week after getting hosed against Nebraska two weeks ago. The Spartans host Northwestern, needing a win in one of the final two games to assure a non-losing season and a bowl bid. Who thought prior to the season starting that we would be saying that? Northwestern is coming off a tough overtime loss to Michigan in a game the Wildcats should have won. Bug that seems to be the theme of the season for Pat Fitzgerald’s squad.

Prediction: Northwestern 24 – Michigan State 16

Rival Rewind finally gives Notre Dame some credit

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#5 Notre Dame 30 – #8 Oklahoma 13
Record: 8-0
This Week: Home vs. Pittsburgh (4-4, 1-3 Big East) | 3:30pm | NBC

I did not expect Notre Dame to win Saturday night, nor did I expect it to be as wide a margin as it was. Yet, the Irish are now sitting at 8-0 with USC the only remaining opponent of note. The score might lead one to think the game wasn’t very close but up until the latter half of the fourth quarter it was anyone’s game.

Boomer Sooner was no match for the Irish (photo by Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

The game was back and forth for the first three plus quarters before Notre Dame pulled ahead with 17 unanswered. The Irish dominated on the ground, taking advantage of Oklahoma’s weak rush defense to the tune of 215 yards. No single player went over 100 yards but Riddick, Wood and Golson all found the end zone. Landry Jones was 35-for-51 for 356 yards, exposing the Irish secondary, but he failed to put the ball in the end zone and was picked off by Manti Te’o late in the game.

Oklahoma tied the game at 13 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game on a Blake Bell run, and it looked like this one was going to go down to the wire. The Irish, however, had other ideas as Everett Golson capped off a 73-yard drive with a touchdown run. Manti Te’o sealed the Irish victory as he picked off a Landry Jones pass with 4:27 remaining. Notre Dame added a field goal and the Sooners turned the ball over on downs on their own 20, leading to another Irish touchdown.

The Irish defense stifled Oklahoma on 3rd downs (5-of-14) and have yet to allow more than 17 points in any one game. I think it’s safe to say the Irish are making their way back to national relevance, but I will hold off any praise until I see a BCS bowl appearance in back to back seasons of at least 10 wins.

This Week:

The Irish head back home to take on an average Pitt team. I expect to see more of the same solid Irish defense we have seen thus far as Notre Dame continues its quest towards the BCS title game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27 – Pitt 12

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Michigan State 16 – Wisconsin 13 OT
Record: 5-4 (2-3 Big Ten)
This Week: Home vs. #20 Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) | 3:30pm | ABC

Wisconsin, barring a complete collapse and some miracles, is heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. They experienced a little hiccup Saturday as Michigan State stunned them in overtime, giving the Badgers their first home loss since 2009, snapping a streak of 21 straight.

MSU celebrates the fact that it's no longer in danger of missing a bowl (photo by Andy Manis, AP)

It was a typical Big Ten battle as the Spartans bottled up Montee Ball and held the Badgers to 190 yards of total offense. Michigan State was nothing special on offense as their normally stout rushing attack was held to 61 total yards. Neither team looked good in this one but MSU managed to get the game into overtime and won on an Andrew Maxwell touchdown pass.

It was a bit surprising to see Montee Ball held to such a low total but the Spartans have proven to be solid against the run. William Gholston and Max Burrough combined for eight tackles for loss as they again led the Michigan State defense.

This Week:

Sparty heads back home to take on a Nebraska team fresh off its upset win over Michigan. I was not that impressed with Nebraska last week, despite their win, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see MSU frustrate Taylor Martinez into some bad decisions and come away with the win, which would be great for Michigan. But we shall see what happens.

Prediction: Michigan State 24 – Nebraska 21

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Ohio State 35 – Penn State 23
Record: 9-0 (5-0 Big Ten)
This Week: Home vs. Illinois (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten) | 3:30pm | ESPN

Braxton Miller exploded – surprise surprise – for three touchdowns as Ohio State ran away with the game against Penn State. His passing left something to be desired as he was only 7-for-19, but his legs got the job done again with 25 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

OSU won the "Probation Bowl" or the "Ineligibowl" as some were calling it (photo by Gene J. Puskar)

The outcome was never in doubt after half as OSU rattled off 21 points in the third, kicked off by a pick six from Ryan Shazier. Penn State attempted to come back but couldn’t close the gap. Once again, Ohio State gave up a ton of yards through the air as Matt McGloin went 27-for-45 for 327 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick.

The Buckeyes used their ground game to pound Penn State into submission, racking up 234 yards and three touchdowns.

This Week:

OSU looks primed to win its next two games against Illinois (on Saturday) and at Wisconsin, setting up a great game against Michigan. Michigan will be fighting for a shot at the Big Ten title game and OSU will be playing its last game of the season. Michigan’s defense has been stout against the run and pass but its offense has been incredibly one-dimensional. We’ll touch more on that as the game approaches, but needless to say it should be a great game. Illinois won’t put up much of a fight, and OSU should win easily.

Prediction: Ohio State 42 – Illinois 17

Rival Rewind is glad Braxton is ok, Paul is home, and ND will lose

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#7 Ohio State 29 – Purdue 22 OT
Record: 8-0 (4-0)
This Week: at Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) – 5:30pm – ESPN

They say a win is a win, but if I were an Ohio State fan (though I’d rather not consider what that is like) I wouldn’t be so cocky these days. Consider their games against Cal, UAB and Indiana; they almost lost all three, and a loss to Indiana is almost as bad as a loss to an FCS school. They have “resolve,” some Buckeye fans will say, “they never quit and always pull it out.” A close call is to be expected as the season wears on, but four close calls against four subpar teams is not resolve, it’s just plain awful.

That’s what happened again to THE luckiest team in college football this season. After almost losing to bottom feeder Indiana, OSU looked to right the ship and send Purdue back to West Lafayette with yet another conference loss. Record aside, Purdue is a good team and OSU made them look even better. After giving up a rushing touchdown to Braxton Miller to go down 7-6, Purdue took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the touchdown. It went back and forth in the third and Purdue answered back every time OSU scored.

Despite our hatred, we're glad it wasn't as bad as it looked (photo by Jay LaPrete, AP)

Braxton Miller suffered a scary moment for Buckeye fans near the end of the third quarter as he was dragged down hard by Josh Johnson. Miller was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and has since been cleared to go home and practice in preparation for this week’s game. The tackle was as about as close to a horse collar as you can get without being flagged. Head injuries are no joke and all hatred to our rivals to the south aside, I’m glad the kid is apparently okay.

With no Braxton Miller to work his magic it looked to be over with 10:11 in the fourth when OSU was flagged for an illegal block in the end zone, giving Purdue a 22-14 lead. After a Purdue punt, OSU converted a 4th-and-short and looked to be on the move until back up quarterback Kenny Guiton threw a pick and Purdue took over on its own 18 with 2:40 left in the game. All the Boilers had to do was run the clock out and victory was all but assured.

Sadly for Boilermaker fans, a false start dug them in a hole they could not get out of, and they punted the ball back to the Buckeyes with 47 seconds remaining. If Miller was in the game their improbable march down the field wouldn’t have been so surprising, but the fact that it was Guiton who led them down the field for six is quite impressive. Of course, if you take into account this should never have come down to the wire it is not impressive at all.

Oh, I forgot to mention that OSU was “aided” by a pass interference call on 3rd-and-10, giving them 1st-and-goal at the two instead of 4th-and-10 at the 11-yard line. For a game’s outcome to essentially hinge on an iffy call late in the game is nuts – pun intended, as this has benefitted OSU before. Remember the 2002 BCS title game? Regardless, OSU earned the right to force overtime and set the tone with a touchdown on its first possession. Purdue proceeded to throw four straight incomplete passes and once again OSU walked away with another close win.

This Week:

It has yet to be determined if Braxton Miller will be available for next week’s game against Penn State in State College, but as long as he’s cleared I’m sure Urban Meyer will roll with Miller. Speaking of next week, it should be a great game as these two teams mired in seasons of meaninglessness. Penn State’s punishment had nothing to do with its players while OSU’s, well, we all know about that already.

After dropping their first two games, the Nittany Lions have rattled off five straight and look to be a pretty good team. These aren’t JoePa’s Lions but they’re a tough team that has come together both on and off the field. I think this will be the week the Buckeyes’ luck finally runs out. Just look at their defense, depleted or not, it’s just not very good. OSU is giving up an astounding 396 yards per game, with most of those (272) given up in the passing game.

Contrast that to the Michigan defense: No. 10 overall giving up just 286 total yards per game and No. 4 against the pass giving up 143 yards per game. And the media wants to give love to OSU and hate on Michigan, go figure.

Penn State is a fairly balanced team, putting up 257 yards per game in the air and 149 per game on the ground, while hanging 28 points on the board and giving up just 15.7. If OSU allows the Nittany Lions those types of numbers it’s going to be tough for them to head back to Columbus sitting at 9-0. Happy Valley is a tough place to play and for two teams with nothing to play for this one should be a battle.

I expect Penn St. to pull off the upset in the “Ineligi-Bowl” and give Nittany Lion fans some hope for next season.

Prediction: Penn State 31 – Ohio State 24

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# 5 Notre Dame 17 – BYU 14
Record: 7-0
This Week: at #8 Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) – 8pm – ABC

Notre Dame faced a classic letdown/look-ahead game against a tough defensive BYU team in South Bend on Saturday. Justin was there in body if not in spirit to witness the Irish improve to 7-0, setting up a monumental showdown at Oklahoma this weekend.

Coming off an overtime win over Stanford that featured a goal line stand on fourth down – which Stanford actually scored – Notre Dame had to keep itself from looking ahead to the Sooners. The Irish got off to a good start, scoring first with a minute and a half left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. But BYU answered with two straight touchdowns, a six-yard pass from Reilly Nelson to Cody Hoffman and a two-yard pass from Nelson to Kaneakua Friel. ND hadn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in 17 quarters before surrendering the two in the span of less than three minutes.

Trailing 14-7 to begin the second half, Notre Dame continued to run the football and inch closer. With 2:25 remaining in the third, Kyle Brindza hit a 24-yard field goal to bring the Irish within four. It didn’t take long for ND to score again as George Atkinson III ran it in from two yards out just two minutes into the fourth quarter to put the Irish ahead 17-14.

BYU couldn't stop Theo Riddick (photo by Robin Alam, IconSMI)

BYU wasn’t done, however. The Cougars put together a 13-play drive to the Irish 31, but a nine-yard sack took them out of field goal position. The sack wouldn’t have happened had Nelson been able to connect with a wide open Hoffman for a sure touchdown just three plays earlier. It was a moment that nearly gave ND fans a heart attack, but Nelson’s pass was nowhere close. BYU had to punt on 4th-and-13 from the Irish 34 and never got the ball back.

Notre Dame rushed for 270 yards, led by Theo Riddick’s 143 on just 15 carries and Cierre Wood’s 114. Tommy Rees, starting in favor of an injured Everett Golson, completed 7-of-16 passes for 117 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

It was by no means a dominant performance, but once again, the Irish found a way to get it done.

This Week:

Notre Dame travels to Norman, Oklahoma for a primetime face-off with the eighth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. College GameDay will be there and the Sooners will be eager to improve their 1-8 all-time record against the Irish. Oklahoma would be ranked among the top five if not for a 24-19 loss to current No. 3 Kansas State. In the five victories, the Sooners have outscored their opponents 249 to 68. They have the nation’s fifth best scoring offense and ND has the second best scoring defense. What sets the two apart, however, is Oklahoma’s defense isn’t too shabby either, ranking 12th nationally, while ND’s offense is just 77th.

It will surely be a defensive battle, but Oklahoma’s offensive firepower is better than anything the Irish have faced to date and they have a defense to back it up. Sorry Irish fans, but this is finally the week your luck falls short.

Prediction: Oklahoma 23 – Notre Dame 13

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Michigan State 10 – #23 Michigan 12
Record: 4-4 (1-3 Big Ten)
This Week: at #25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) – 3:30pm – ABC

We all know what happened in the Big House on Saturday as Michigan ended its four year futility at the hands of the Spartans and brought home Paul Bunyan. While it wasn’t pretty and Michigan was held without a touchdown for the second time this year, the Wolverines defense shut down Le’Veon Bell and limited big plays, holding the Spartans to just 10 points – their second lowest total of the season. Bell gained just 68 yards on 26 carries (an average of just 2.6 yards per carry) and Andrew Maxwell completed 21-of-34 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Most importantly, Michigan won.

Welcome home

This Week:

Michigan State now has to travel to Madison to face an improving Wisconsin squad that has been perhaps the Spartans’ toughest rival the past couple of years. To make matters worse, a loss would drop Michigan State below .500 overall and put Mark Dantonio’s squad in danger of missing a bowl game. State would have to win two of its final three against Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota to even get to six wins. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

MSU and Wisconsin are pretty evenly matched. Despite four losses, Spartans’ defense is still one of the best in the country and Wisconsin’s offense hasn’t exactly been lights out. Both teams feature solid running games with top-flight running backs in Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball. Ohio State and Michigan both showed the blueprint for stopping Bell and Wisconsin will do the same.

Prediction: Wisconsin 20 – Michigan State 16

Rival Rewind is ready for Sparty and still thinks Stanford scored

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

Michigan State 16 – Iowa 19 2OT
Record: 4-3 (1-2 Big Ten)
This Week: at Michigan (4-2, 2-0) – 3:30pm  - Big Ten Network

Perhaps Michigan State was looking ahead to its trip to Ann Arbor, or perhaps the Spartans just aren’t that good this year, but Mark Dantonio’s crew laid another egg last Saturday, losing to Iowa 19-16 in double overtime.

Michigan State looked as if it was going to run away with the game early on, jumping out to a 10-0 lead on a 14-yards LeVeon Bell touchdown run and a 24-yard field goal. Iowa finally got on the board just before the half with a 23-yard field goal to head into the locker room trailing 10-3.

Was Michigan State looking ahead to Michigan? (photo by Al Goldis, AP)

Nobody could muster any offense in the third quarter until an Iowa field goal early in the fourth cut the deficit to 10-6. But State answered with a 22-yarder of its own to push the lead back to seven. Iowa faced 2nd-and-26 from its own 16 late in the fourth, but got a pair of big plays, a 35-yard pass from James Vandenberg to Kennan Davis and a 37-yard run by Mark Weisman, to set up the game-tying touchdown run with 55 seconds left.

In the first overtime, the teams traded field goals. Iowa kicked another field goal on the first possession of the second overtime and then forced an interception to seal the game.

Bell had another solid performance with 140 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, while Andrew Maxwell completed just 12 of 31 passes for 179 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. The Spartan defense allowed Weisman to rush for 116 yards on 26 carries, though 37 came on that late fourth quarter run.

This Week:

Michigan State invades Ann Arbor looking for its fifth straight win in the rivalry. The Spartans’ Big Ten title hopes are hanging by a thread and Michigan has a chance to cut that thread for good. However, State would love nothing more than to put a big dent in Michigan’s own hopes. Stay tuned in the next few days for our analysis and predictions.

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#7 Notre Dame 20 – #17 Stanford 13 OT
Record: 6-0
This Week: Home vs BYU (4-3) – 3:30pm – NBC

The  hype surrounding the Irish was taken up a notch following Notre Dame’s overtime victory over Stanford, but it wasn’t without controversy. After scoring a touchdown on its first possession of overtime, Notre Dame stopped Standford at the goal line on fourth down to win the game. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor seemed to have thrust the ball across the goal line on his second effort, but the call on the field stood and the Irish remained undefeated.

The game started out slow with Notre Dame getting on the board at the end of the first quarter with a 29-yard field goal. Stanford took the lead halfway through the second quarter with an Everett Golson fumble recovery in the end zone. The Cardinal added a field goal just before the half to take a 10-3 lead into the locker room. It was Notre Dame’s first deficit of the season.

But the Irish answered back at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a 24-yard pass to Tyler Eifert. Stanford responded with a 27-yard field goal, but ND came right back with a 22-yarder to tie the game with 20 seconds remaining.

Notre Dame improved to 6-0 on the season and No. 5 in the first BCS standings of the year, which has the Irish on pace for a BCS bowl and potentially a spot in the national title game if a few things work in their favor. But some big games remaining and this weekend provides a classic letdown/look-ahead game.

This Week:

Notre Dame hosts BYU which is coming off a tough 42-24 loss to No. 10 Oregon State. The Cougars have also lost to Utah (24-21) and then-No. 24 Boise State (7-6). Despite allowing 42 points to Oregon State, BYU’s defense ranks seventh nationally in points allowed (13.6) and have held four opponents – Boise State, Utah State, Washington State, and Hawaii – to seven or fewer. It’s safe to say Saturday will be a defensive battle as Notre Dame’s ranks second.

The Irish have a huge road battle with Oklahoma looming next weekend, so Brian Kelly will need to keep his squad from looking ahead to the Sooners. I think it will be close, but the Irish should win the field goal battle.

Prediction: Notre Dame 16 – BYU 9

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#8 Ohio State 52 – Indiana 49
Record: 7-0 (3-0)
This Week: Home vs Purdue (3-3, 0-2) – 12pm – ABC/ESPN2

When Ohio State beat Nebraska 63-38 a week ago, it seemed as if the Buckeyes had turned the corner following a few lackluster performances against lesser teams. But on Saturday, Ohio State had to fend off a furious charge from the Indiana Hoosiers to pull out the 52-49 win.

Ohio State jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 12-yard Philly Brown run and a 35-yard Drew Basil field goal, but Indiana got on the board with a 59-yard run by Stephen Houston. The Hoosiers wasted no time taking the lead as Houston carried it in from seven yards out.

Ohio State added a pair of touchdowns to close the half with a 24-14 lead. Indiana kicked a field goal on its first possession of the second half, but Braxton Miller broke loose for a 67-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 31-17 lead. The teams traded touchdowns once again before Indiana ended the third quarter scoring with a field goal. At the end of three, Ohio State led 38-27.

OSU allowed Indiana to rack up 481 total yards (photo by Sam Riche, AP)

And then the fun began. Carlos Hyde carried it in from a yard out to put the Bucks ahead 45-27 and Indiana answered right back with a one-yard TD run of its own. With just under seven minutes remaining, Miller found Devin Smith for a 46-yard touchdown pass to seemingly put the game out of reach at 52-34. But Indiana scored twice and converted a two-point conversion in the final two minutes to pull within three. An onside kick was recovered by the Buckeyes and that was the game.

On Monday, Urban Meyer called a pow-wow with his defense to try to set things straight as the Buckeyes surrendered 481 total yards and 49 points just a week after giving up 437 yards and 36 points. This isn’t your Buckeyes defense of old.

Braxton Miller, however, continued to impress, completing 13-of-24 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns, and one interceptions, while rushing 23 times for 149 yards and a touchdown. Without Miller, it’s hard to imagine where this team would be, but the Bucks have a good shot at remaining undefeated until The Game. But first, a team that has been a thorn in Ohio State’s side in recent years comes to town.

This Week:

Ohio State hosts Purdue at noon on Saturday, a team it has lost to two of the last three years. But this year’s Purdue squad is hemorrhaging after a good start. Its offense was high-scoring until Michigan and Wisconsin held the Boilers to 13 and 14 points, respectively. Even so, another high scoring affair is likely given OSU’s porous defense. But Purdue’s defense, which had no answer for Denard Robinson, won’t be able to slow down Miller either and OSU will win.

Prediction: Ohio State 55 – Purdue 33

Rival Rewind still doesn’t believe in Notre Dame

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

Michigan State 31 – Indiana 27
Record: 4-2 (1-1)
This Week: Home vs. Iowa  (3-2, 1-0) – 12pm – ESPN

Last week I predicted Michigan State would roll over Indiana. They won, but the Hoosiers almost pulled off the upset. Indiana opened up the game with a 17-point first quarter while holding the Spartans scoreless. MSU bounced back with 14 straight points to cut it to 17-14 but IU rattled off another 10 before halftime to go up 27-14. Things were not looking well for MSU.

Indiana pushed Michigan State to the brink last week (photo by Darron Cummings, AP)

In the second half the Hoosiers showed why they are bottom dwellers in the Big Ten as they gave up 17 points and put up zero. MSU scored its last 14 (two touchdowns) within a minute and a half of each other midway through the fourth to go up for good.

When I looked back at the box score the thing that stood out to me most was the 33-for-48, 282 yard, three touchdown performance by Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman. MSU’s defense is not what it was last year and has some serious issues against the pass. The Spartans’ pass offense, however, is picking up as Andrew Maxwell gets more comfortable with the system and the players around him. As of right now I’d say State is prime for the picking as we look down the road a bit to the matchup next week.

This Week:

On Saturday, State gets an underwhelming Iowa at home this week before making the short trip south to Ann Arbor. If the Spartans are not careful they could wind up with two conference losses before meeting Michigan, effectively killing their chances of winning the Legends division.

Prediction: Michigan State 24 – Iowa 20

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#9 Notre Dame 41 – Miami 3
Record: 5-0
This Week: Home vs. #17 Stanford (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) – 3:30pm – NBC

Miami versus Notre Dame – an epic battle between two once proud and dominating programs. Or that’s how it was supposed to be. Yet it was everything but epic. Notre Dame rocked the Hurricanes (yes, that was a vague Scorpions reference) 41-3 to further fuel the idea the Irish are back. I tend to disagree.

George Atkinson led the Irish in rushing against Miami (photo by Nam Y. Huh, AP)

I’ll concede they are back when they post back-to-back ten-win seasons and win a BCS bowl game against a BCS school. Regardless, the Irish are playing well thanks to their front seven. The Irish scored all five of their touchdowns on the ground. It didn’t look like they were running up the score in the second half though. Miami just failed to stop them.

George Atkinson III led Notre Dame with 123 yards and a touchdown while Cierre Wood added another 118 and two TDs. Notre Dame ran the ball for a staggering 376 yards and added 211 through the air in a combined effort of Everett Golson and Tommy Rees. Miami just looked awful. Its one bright spot was that the Hurricanes didn’t commit any turnovers.

Notre Dame is now in the position Michigan was in before the season started. Top 10 team that just isn’t one. Based on expectations and the overreaching hyperbole of the media (it’s Notre Dame after all) they sit at No. 7 in the country, despite barely beating a Michigan team everyone wants to hate on despite being given six gifts. I’m not bitter; I’m just saying people need to take it easy with all the love for Notre Dame already.

This Week:

The Irish welcome the Stanford Cardinal into South Bend on Saturday afternoon in what could very well be the wake up call the Golden Domers need. Stanford is a tough team that has already upset a very good USC team and will look to hand the Irish their first loss of the season. Stanford might be the best team Notre Dame has faced all year and if they win I guess they are for real, but I just don’t see it happening.

Prediction: Stanford 23 – Notre Dame 17

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#12 Ohio State 63 – #21 Nebraska 38
Record: 6-0, 2-0 Big Ten
This Week: at Indiana (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) – 8pm – Big Ten Network

Ohio State welcomed the Nebraska Cornhuskers into town, and for the first 32 minutes, it was a back and forth battle of the offenses as one couldn’t stop the other. But something clicked with the Buckeyes after Taylor Martinez hit Ben Cotton for a three-yard score to make it 35-31 OSU. Carlos Hyde ran for a score then Philly Brown returned a punt 76 yards to effectively put the game away.

Carlos Hyde rushed for four touchdowns against Nebraska (photo by Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

OSU added another two touchdowns, both on good sized runs, and made it appear to be an absolutely dominating performance as the Buckeyes put up 63 points. Shockingly, it was once again the Braxton Miller show as the sophomore quarterback threw a measly 14 times, connecting on only seven of them, for 127 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 186 yards and another score. However, the bigger story was Carlos Hyde’s 140 yards and four touchdowns. Yes, four rushing touchdowns.

Nebraska did themselves no favors as they turned the ball over four times (three picks and a lost fumble). Rex Burkhead had a good game with 119 yards on only 14 carries for a nice 8.5 yards per carry, though 73 of those came on one play. Ohio State continues to look impressive and has a fairly easy road before November. The Bucks could conceivably head to Wisconsin sitting at 10-0 and quite possibly be undefeated welcoming Michigan to town for an epic showdown. Normally it irks me when OSU wins, but when they keep beating teams in the Legends division I don’t mind. It makes Michigan’s road to Indianapolis all the more smooth (provided the Wolverines take care of their own business).

This Week:

Ohio State travels to Bloomington, Ind. next week and I can almost guarantee it will not turn out as close as the Spartans-Hoosiers game did. Look for more of the same – Braxton Miller and then some more Braxton Miller. You have to hand it to Urban, he is using his quarterback the way he should: by running him a lot and only passing when necessary. I hate to say it but Al Borges could learn a lot from this strategy.

Prediction: Ohio State 52 – Indiana 30

Rival Rewind helped Michigan last week

Thursday, October 4th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

Two bitter rivals did battle last Saturday as Ohio State invaded East Lansing to take on the Spartans. I don’t like either team at all, but I dislike the Spartans less despite their inclination for dirty play. However, due to the conference divisions, it was in Michigan’s best interest that Ohio State win and so I reluctantly rooted for the Buckeyes. But ONLY for the sake of our beloved Wolverines.

Ohio State came out on top, 17-16, in a classic Big Ten battle. It was once again the Braxton Miller show for the Buckeyes as he accounted for 315 yards of total offense and one touchdown. He also accounted for several turnovers but none fortunately for him, none affected the outcome of the game. Miller was injured twice and had to leave the game but he returned both times.

Ohio State kept the MSU run game in check, holding Le’Veon Bell (who, per ESPN, was hit within two yards of the line of scrimmage on 15 of his 17 carries) and the rest of the Spartan attack to 34 total yards – a paltry 1.5 yards per carry. Despite the extremely poor play of the Spartan run game (or was it the exceptional play of OSU’s defense?) Andrew Maxwell played fairly well. He threw for almost 300 yards, adding one touchdown and no picks, though he was 22-for-42 for a less than stellar passing percentage of 53 percent.

"Please never get hurt" (photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

MSU looked as though it would pull off the upset when Keith Mumphrey took a short pass from Andrew Maxwell and evaded/carried several Buckeyes on his way to the endzone and a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter. But in the end, only down 1 point, MSU failed to convert a third down on its last possession after having forced OSU into a three-and-out with over five minutes remaining. The Spartans never got the ball back and OSU ran out the clock.

Thus far, MSU has lost to both Notre Dame and Ohio State, teams they should have beaten. Ohio State has “almost” lost to Cal, UCF, and UAB, and barely eeked out a win over MSU. To me, this says neither of these teams is as good as they thought they would be and both are winnable matchups for Michigan. OSU gives up a ton of yards through the air and is a one-man show. MSU has a stout running game that we’ve seen can be shut down and an improving passing game that still leaves a lot to be desired.

Playing Ohio State in Columbus will be tough, but after watching these two teams so far this season I can say there is not much that scares me about either team. At least not in a way that would make them an unbeatable opponent. Braxton Miller does scare me, but as he goes so go the Buckeyes and as we know all too well, it is very possible to shut down an athletic quarterback and force a team into bad plays. After Michigan’s rough start, though the Alabama game was hardly a shocker, I think they still have a bright future as the season progresses. The Big Ten title is well within grasp and Michigan still controls its destiny.

This Week:

Ohio State does battle with Nebraska at The ‘Shoe on Saturday night. It should be a good game as the Huskers are coming off an incredible 30-27 victory over Wisconsin in which they were down by 17 points, twice. The Huskers are running the ball very well, averaging over 305 yards per game and Taylor Martinez doesn’t quite look as erratic with his passes as he has the past couple of seasons. But we’ll keep an eye on him as Columbus can be a very hostile place to play. Once again, it is in Michigan’s best interest for OSU to win, as Nebraska is in the Legends division.

Prediction: Nebraska 27 – Ohio State 23

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Michigan State travels to the mecca of college football, err basketball, as they take on Indiana in Bloomington. I don’t wanna say IU is bad, but the Hoosiers did lose to Ball State 41-39 a couple weeks ago and they’re just not a team you worry about in the Big Ten. Remember, this is a team that went winless in the Big Ten conference schedule last year. I expect Michigan State to exorcise some demons after the last two weeks and it probably won’t be pretty when the dust has cleared.

Prediction: Michigan State 48 – Indiana 17

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Notre Dame had the week off after barely beating Michigan despite the six gifts it was given. The Irish travel a short distance up I-90 to Soldier Field in one of my favorite cities, Chicago, to do battle with Miami. Now, while this probably won’t be an epic Notre Dame versus Miami game, it should be rather exciting nonetheless. Miami is starting to come into its own and is currently 15th in the nation in passing offense, averaging just under 330 yards per game. Pass defense has been a weak spot of the Irish defense, but with some good push from their front seven they could make it a long night for Stephen Morris and the ‘Canes.

Prediction: Notre Dame 23 – Miami 21

Rival Rewind hates all the rivals

Thursday, September 27th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#21 Michigan State 23 – Eastern Michigan 7
Record: 3-1
This Week: Home vs. #14 Ohio State (4-0) – 3:30pm – ABC

The Spartans faced a trap game, sandwiched in between a tough loss to Notre Dame and the impending matchup with Ohio State. But a winless Eastern Michigan squad shouldn’t have put up much of a fight, right? Wrong. It was the Spartans that didn’t put up much of a fight – at least for three quarters of the game.

Mark Dantonio can't be happy about the way the Spartans are playing, but is he ever happy? (photo by Al Goldis, AP)

Eastern held a 7-3 halftime lead before MSU kicked a pair of field goals to take a 9-7 lead with 1:11 remaining in the third. The fourth quarter was all Spartans as Dion Sims caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Maxwell and Le’Veon Bell ran in a 1-yarder with two minutes left to seal the deal.

Bell continued the season-long trend as being the Spartans’ only offense. This time he carried the ball 36 times for a career high 253 yards and a touchdown. The fact that it took that kind of performance to beat Eastern Michigan is the main takeaway. Michigan State’s defense was stout as usual, holding EMU to just 183 total yards – the fourth straight opponent the Spartans have held under 300 – but that should be expected against a team that ranks near the very bottom nationally in every offensive category.

Maxwell completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards, the majority of the yardage coming in the fourth quarter. The touchdown pass to Sims with 7:19 remaining in the game ended a seven quarter streak without a touchdown dating back to the previous week’s 20-3 loss to Notre Dame. It was the closest loss the Eagles have had against a ranked team since losing to Ball State by 16 points in 2008.

This Week:

Michigan State hosts Ohio State in a cross-division battle of traditional heavyweights. ESPN’s College Game Day will be live from East Lansing in what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere. Last season was a defensive struggle as Michigan State pulled it out 10-7 in Columbus. Ohio State’s lone score of the game was a 33-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining. This year, Ohio State is virtually a one-man show with Braxton Miller and he will have to face MSU’s stingy defense.

Prediction: Ohio State 17 –  Michigan State 13

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#16 Ohio State 29 – UAB 15
Record: 4-0
This Week: at #20 Michigan State (3-1) – 3:30pm – ABC

For the second straight week, Ohio State struggled against an inferior opponent. Perhaps the Buckeyes were looking ahead to the trip to East Lansing, but the winless Blazers shouldn’t have been anywhere close to the Bucks.

UAB got on the board first, returning a blocked punt for a touchdown, but missed the subsequent extra point. A 47-yard field goal early in the second quarter put the Blazers ahead 9-0, but Ohio State answered with an eight-play, 75-yards scoring drive to pull within two. UAB responded with another field goal to take a 12-7 lead, but once again Ohio State came right back, this time with a four-play, 63-yard touchdown drive. On the drive, Miller connected on passes of six, 20, and 25 yards before rushing it in from 12 yards out to put the Buckeyes ahead for good. After a UAB fumble, Ohio State scored in three plays to put the game away just before the half.

UAB's blocked punt resulted in their lone touchdown (photo by Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

UAB opened the second half by recovering an onside kick, but failed to do anything with it and neither team did anything the rest of the third quarter. On UAB’s first possession of the fourth, the Blazers kicked another field goal to pull within 21-15 and forced an Ohio State punt to get the ball back with a chance to take the lead. But a 47-yard field goal was missed and OSU marched down the field for the game-clinching touchdown.

UAB outgained the Buckeyes 403 to 347 and held the ball for over 33 minutes, but just like last week against Cal, Ohio State found a way to win. Miller went 12-for-20 for 143 yards and carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly for the Buckeyes, running back Jordan Hall, who returned from injury, rushed for 105 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. If he can do so against Michigan State’s defense this week, folks should take notice.

This Week:

Ohio State travels to Michigan State in the battle of underperforming rivals. Both feature one-man-show offenses, but Ohio State’s is arguably better because it’s less one-dimensional. Michigan State has the better defense and it will be interesting to see if the Spartans are able to bottle up Miller like they did to Denard Robinson last season. Regardless, a low scoring game should be expected and an Ohio State win would help Michigan in the conference.

Prediction: Ohio State 17 – Michigan State 13

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#11 Notre Dame 13 – #18 Michigan 6
Record: 4-0
This Week: Bye

We don’t need to relive what happened last Saturday, but we can talk about what happened right before the game and was revealed earlier this week. Dave Brandon revealed that Notre Dame has opted to discontinue the series effective following the 2014 game. I, for one, love the yearly battle with the Irish and wish it would continue every year. Regardless of how good each team is, it serves an early season measuring stick before conference play begins and it gives us fans a game to get excited about early on. But now it appears it will be put on hold for at least six seasons. The contract was set to take a three-year break after 2017, but ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick served Brandon the divorce papers three years early.

It leaves Michigan scrambling for an opponent for 2015, 16, and 17 at a time when most schools have at least the 2015 schedules in place. MGoBlog put together a nice breakdown of potential opponents to fill those slots. Oregon is intriguing, although Michigan just played, and got beat by, the Ducks a few years ago. Auburn or Georgia would be fun since they’re SEC schools, and a Oklahoma State home and home would be fun to watch as well. None of the other possibilites do much for me. I would love to see matchups with Florida State, Clemson, LSU, or Tennessee, but as Brian points out, they’re pretty much full at this point.

To hell with Notre Dame.

Rival Rewind sees Ohio survive, ND thrive, and is Sparty alive?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#20 Notre Dame 20 – #10 Michigan State 3
Record: 3-0
This week: Home vs. #18 Michigan (2-1) – 7:30pm – NBC

Notre Dame and Michigan State made it easy on us this week by playing each other. The outcome was not even close to what I expected. In fact, it was just about the opposite. The Irish snapped a six game losing streak to ranked teams and had their best defensive showing against a top ten team since beating Texas A&M 28-3 in 1993, per ESPN. Oddly enough, 1993 is largely regarded as the last year ND football was actually relevant, but who’s keeping score?

Notre Dame deflated the Spartans and pumped the Irish hype to full volume (photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Notre Dame opened the scoring with Everett Golson rolling right and throwing across the field to receiver John Goodman, who one-handed it in the end zone. For those of you not keeping track, it was the first touchdown scored against the Spartan defense this season. Golson scored with his feet early in the second quarter to make it 14-0. Overall, Golson’s numbers were nothing to admire, 14-of-32 for 178 yards and one TD. As a team, the Irish pounded the rock for 122 yards on 34 carries. But the key was the return of Cierre Wood, a tough nosed runner who gave the Golden Domers some spark in the run game.

The big story of the night was the line play. Notre Dame absolutely dominated the vaunted State defensive front, made lanes for their running backs and gave Golson enough time to make some big plays. On defense, the Irish applied constant pressure (mostly without use of the blitz) on Andrew Maxwell, holding him to 23-of-45 for 187 and no touchdowns, while breaking up eight passes and sacking him four times. The Spartans had not given up a sack in their previous two games.

Perhaps an even bigger story than ND’s line playing so well against the Spartan d-line was the Irish defense stepping up and holding State to 50 yards rushing as a team, although Le’Veon Bell had 77 yards. But not all that glitters is gold, so to speak. Notre Dame was 1-for-14 on third downs, and while Golson made some big plays when he needed to, he was still held under 50 percent passing. Wood had a good game – he missed the prior two – managing 56 yards on 10 carries, which something he will likely build on going forward.

Were it not for some MSU miscues – such as a dropped pass in the end zone – and failing to stop Notre Dame on third down and later on a fourth down conversion, the Spartans may have come away with the win. Regardless, ND fans are pumped up and buying more and more into the delusion that they are a great team. The line play for ND was outstanding and it worries me a little bit heading into next week’s matchup, but more than anything I think last Saturday showed us that MSU is not the MSU of 2011 and that bodes well for Michigan’s Big Ten Title shot.

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This week:

Notre Dame hosts Michigan. Stay tuned for our previews later in the week.

#10 Michigan State 3 – #20 Notre Dame 20
Record: 2-1
This week: Home vs. Eastern Michigan (0-3, 0-1) – 3:30pm – Big Ten Network

See recap above

This week:
This week MSU takes on Eastern Michigan in East Lansing and it shouldn’t be close. EMU is 0-3 and has given up over 560 yards in two of those contests. This should be a nice bounce back game for State as they prepare for opening the Big Ten schedule against the Ohio State Buckeyes the following week.

Prediction: Michigan State 37 – Eastern Michigan 9

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#12 Ohio State 35 – California 28
Record: 3-0
This week: Home vs. Alabama-Birmingham (0-2) – 12pm – Big Ten Network

Devin Smith scored the game-winner with three minutes left (photo by Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

The Buckeyes were once again led by Braxton Miller, but the outcome was in question until the final minute of the game. After tying the game up at 28 midway through the fourth, Cal was looking like they were going to pull off the upset. Miller threw a pick on the Bucks’ next drive but Cal faltered and missed its third field goal attempt of the day. On the ensuing Buckeye possession, Miller capped a 72-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Devin Smith, and Ohio State intercepted Zach Maynard’s pass with just under a minute to go to seal the game. Miller had another big day, with 249 through the air to go along with 4 touchdowns and one pick, but was barely over a 50 percent completion rate. He added another 75 yards on the ground and another TD, accounting for all five Buckeye scores.

Cal running back Brendan Bigelow had a MONSTER game, rushing for 160 on 4 carries (two of them going for six), including and 81-yarder that was the longest in the history of the Horseshoe. Maynard torched the Buckeye secondary for 280 yards on 26-of-37 passing and a touchdown. Cal put up over 500 yards on OSU, 288 in the air and 224 on the ground, but couldn’t quite seal the deal. Three missed field goals and an inopportune pick at the end of the game was just enough for the Buckeyes to hang on and grab a win they didn’t really deserve. As they say, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

This week:

Ohio State faces UAB this week in the ‘Shoe before heading to East Lansing the following week. UAB is fresh off a losses to Troy and South Carolina and is giving up 44 points per game, while putting up only 17.5. This shouldn’t be much of a test for the Buckeyes, but I thought the same thing last week and they almost lost. The Blazers don’t possess much of a rushing attack. They rank 114th in the country at 80 yards per game but could find some success against the Buckeye defense that has been getting torched thus far in 2012. In the end it will probably be the Braxton Miller show and he is going to be too much for the Blazers to handle.

Prediction: Ohio State  34 – UAB 13