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The Michigan Medley analyzes Michigan’s bowl outlook

Thursday, November 29th, 2012


With an 8-4 record and a second place finish in the Big Ten Legends Division, Michigan is obviously headed to a bowl game. Since Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for postseason play, Michigan’s bowl destination will be better than it would have been had the 12-0 (8-0) Buckeyes and 8-4 (6-2) Nittany Lions been able to go bowling.

Games to watch on Saturday
Atlanta, Ga. Indianapolis, Ind.
#2 Alabama #3 Georgia #12 Nebraska Wisconsin
11-1 11-1 10-2 7-5
4pm on CBS 8:17pm on FOX

Michigan will fill the Big Ten’s second or third bowl slot behind the winner of Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin. The winner will get the conference’s guaranteed BCS bid, while the loser is unlikely to receive a BCS at-large due to the conference’s weak showing all season. There is a chance Nebraska could still get one if it loses, but the bowl committees won’t look to kindly on an end-of-season loss to a 7-5 team.

If Nebraska wins and heads to the Rose Bowl, the Capital One Bowl will choose between Michigan, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. A 7-6 Wisconsin squad is likely the odd man out despite playing in the Big Ten title game because the Badgers wouldn’t have been there if Ohio State was eligible. Michigan will travel far better than Northwestern will, and a matchup between the Wolverines and a top-tier SEC school is far more appealing than one involving the Wildcats.

If Wisconsin beats Nebraska and goes to Pasadena, Nebraska will likely get slotted into the Capital One Bowl, pushing Michigan down to the Outback Bowl in Tampa. In the previous two decades, Tampa was a familiar sight for Michigan, but the Wolverines haven’t been there since beating Florida in 2003. The bowl committee would love to get a Michigan vs. SEC matchup in Raymond James Stadium. So who will Michigan face? Depending on the outcome of the Big Ten title game as well as the other conference championships, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, and LSU are most likely. Let’s take a look at each team.

Likely Bowl Opponent Comparison
Points/Game 38.0 26.8 44.8 30.2
Scoring Defense 17.7 12.9 22.5 16.9
Rush Avg 190.1 194.5 235.1 179.9
Rush Def. Avg 163.4 97.0 140.9 101.8
Pass Avg 273.6 143.9 317.2 207.2
Pass Def. Avg 174.4 186.4 248.4 194.3
Total Yds Avg 463.7 338.4 552.3 387.2
Total Def. Avg 337.8 283.4 389.3 296.2
Turnovers 16 12 20 16
Takeaways 25 29 15 31
Time of Poss 28:39 33:07 28:33 31:09
3rd Down Conv. 69/150 (46%) 62/168 (37%) 102/184 (55%) 75/181 (41%)
3rd Down Def. 64/180 (36%) 49/173 (28%) 58/189 (31%) 51/167 (31%)
Sacks by/allowed 24/22 25/36 30/23 30/26
Field Goals 8-for-12 23-for-28 13-for-22 20-for-28
PATs 54-for-58 34-for-35 64-for-71 41-for-41
Red Zone pct. 35/41 (85%) 35/42 (83%) 56/64 (88%) 42/50 (84%)
Red Zone Def. 25/35 (71%) 23/32 (72%) 31/40 (77%) 24/31 (77%)
Red Zone TD pct. 30/41 (73%) 22/42 (52%) 47/64 (73%) 25/50 (50%)
Red Zone TD Def. 18/35 (51%) 15/32 (47%) 24/40 (60%) 19/31 (61%)

Georgia faces Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday in what is essentially the BCS National Championship play-in game. Notre Dame awaits the winner. The loser will still probably get a BCS at-large bid because of the strength of the conference, especially if Alabama is on the losing end. But there’s a slight chance that if Georgia is blown out by the Crimson Tide, the Dawgs would fall to the Capital One Bowl and Florida will gain a BCS at-large bid.

Georgia has quietly put together an impressive season, beating then-No. 2 Florida in Athens, and outscoring opponents by an average of 38-17. But if there is a knock on the Dawgs it is the fact that the SEC scheduling allowed them to skirt playing LSU and Texas A&M and they didn’t play anybody of note in the non-conference. The only loss was a 35-7 thrashing by South Carolina on Oct. 6. The Gamecocks were the only other ranked team Georgia played all season. We will find out on Saturday whether they are for real or merely benefited from a favorable schedule.

Florida and Georgia would both present stern tests for Michigan (Sam Greenwood, Getty Images)

Florida won’t get to play in the SEC Championship game because of a 17-9 loss to Georgia. It was the Gators’ only loss of the season, although they had several close wins. Thanks to the SEC’s wacky scheduling, Florida got to face Texas A&M in Week 2, before super freshman Johnny Manziel took off, and beat the Aggies 20-17. They beat LSU 14-6, hung on against Missouri 14-7, and needed some late magic to hold off Louisiana-Lafayette 27-20. Like Georgia, the Gators didn’t play much of a non-conference schedule save the annual matchup with rival Florida State. Bowling Green, Jacksonville State, and Louisiana-Lafayette were the other opponents. If both Alabama and Georgia earn BCS bowl bids, Florida will likely be slotted into the Capital One Bowl.

Texas A&M finished the season 10-2 and 6-2 in the SEC with losses to Florida (20-17) and LSU (24-19). The Aggies feature one of the best players in college football, likely Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. They rank fourth nationally in points per game (44.8) and shook up the BCS standings by beating Alabama on Nov. 10 (29-24). Since they were in the SEC West, they didn’t have to face Georgia or South Carolina, and their non-conference schedule featured SMU, South Carolina State, Louisiana Tech, and Sam Houston State. The Aggies will likely go to the Cotton Bowl, but bowl committees would love to get a matchup of two of college football’s most exciting players, Manziel and Denard Robinson.

LSU put together a good season, going 10-2 with losses to Florida (14-6) and Alabama (21-17). In the game against Alabama, LSU moved the ball with relative ease and led the Tide 17-14 late in the fourth before A.J. McCarron hooked up with T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass that went 28 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds left. The Tigers beat Texas A&M 24-19 on the road and South Carolina 23-21. Like the Florida and Georgia, LSU didn’t play much of an out-of-conference schedule of North Texas, Washington, Idaho State, and Towson. LSU is probably the most unlikely opponent among the group, but if Wisconsin beats Nebraska and Michigan slides to the Outback, it’s possible.

Florida and Georgia are probably the most likely, depending on the outcome of the SEC title game, which will be played Saturday at 4pm on CBS and the Big Ten title game, which will be played Saturday at 8:17pm on FOX. I would much rather face Florida than Georgia or Texas A&M. While A&M doesn’t quite have the defense the other two feature, Florida’s offense is not very good. The Gators are pretty comparable to Notre Dame with a really good defense and a lackluster offense, and Michigan hung with Notre Dame for most of the game, falling due to a cacophony of turnovers. Regardless of the opponent, it will be a tough bowl game to win for Michigan this season since they will essentially be playing up a slot or two. If Ohio State and Penn State were eligible, Michigan would probably be playing in the Gator Bowl against someone like Mississippi State.

The Fifth Season Begins: Breaking Down Meechigan’s Schedule

Friday, September 3rd, 2010


Each year during the week leading up to the first Michigan game of the season, I dust off my Bob Ufer “Maximum Meechigan” album and put it on repeat. As the goose bumps spread across my forearms I’m instantly transported back to the golden era of Michigan football eagerly anticipating the return of college football.

Perhaps Ufer put it best when he said, “There are five seasons across this country every year: winter, spring, summer, fall, and football. Football season makes the barber cut hair just a little bit better, and it makes the butcher slice the steak a trifle thicker. The shoe-shine boy pops his rag with more gusto, and the landlord doesn’t mention the overdue rent.”

Bob Ufer thrilled Michigan fans with his narrative and passionate enthusiasm for 37 years

Bob Ufer's soundbites live on for Michigan fans even 29 years after his death

While the quote may be a bit outdated, its meaning certainly holds true today. As we reach the start of the country’s fifth season, Michigan looks to start a new golden era, and it all begins on Saturday when UConn invades the Big House.

September 4 – UConn

Randy Edsall’s Huskies return eight starters from an offense that averaged 31.2 points per game a year ago. Fortunately for Michigan, the strength of the offense is the running game, led by Jordan Todman. Both receivers are new, affording Michigan’s weakness, the defensive secondary, a chance to get its feet wet for next week’s battle at Notre Dame.

Conversely, Michigan should be able to put up plenty of points against a very young and inexperienced UConn secondary. All signs point to a shootout, but Michigan should be able to come out on top with an explosive offense led by the duo of Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier.

Michigan 37 – UConn 31

September 11 – at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has a new coach at the helm in Brian Kelly who plans to spread the ball around in an up-tempo offense. Though the Irish will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback, Dayne Crist, he has some experienced weapons in receiver Michael Floyd, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Armando Allen. Michigan fans are already having nightmares of Crist to Floyd in the same way that Michigan State felt about Henne to Edwards. In other words, it could get scary.

The one saving grace for Michigan is that Notre Dame’s defense is similar to its own: strong up front, weak in the secondary. Just like the UConn game, this figures to be a shootout, but Notre Dame will have too much firepower for Michigan to keep up with on the road.

Notre Dame 33 – Michigan 27

September 18 – UMass

Michigan gets a bounce-back game to get the offense firing on all cylinders and this should be similar to last season’s Football Championship Subdivision opponent, Delaware State.

UMass returns just eight total starters and will be no match for Michigan. Devin Gardner will likely get his first action running the offense as Michigan pounds the Minutemen.

Michigan 52 – UMass 17

September 25 – Bowling Green

Much like UMass, Bowling Green won’t put up much of a fight for Michigan. The Falcons return just eight starters. Senior running back Willie Geter is good, but won’t be able to make up for the loss of the school’ second all-time quarterback and receiver.

If there’s a common theme among Michigan’s non-conference schedule, it’s lack of depth and experience in the secondary. Bowling Green doesn’t have much to work with on a defense that gave up just under 28 points per game last season.

Indiana QB Ben Chappell looks to lead one of the conference's top offenses

Indiana QB Ben Chappell looks to lead one of the conference's top offenses

Michigan 46 – Bowling Green 20

October 2 – at Indiana

Last season, Indiana gave Michigan a scare in Ann Arbor. This season, Michigan needs to avoid a trap game on the road before entering the meat of its conference schedule.

Indiana is led by senior quarterback Ben Chappell, who pioneers one of the conference’s most dynamic offenses. Receiver Tandon Doss tore Michigan up a year ago and could be a tough matchup again this year for Michigan’s weak secondary.
Defensively, Indiana returns just three starters, all in the front seven. Michigan should once again light up the scoreboard in a close one.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 31

October 9 – Michigan State

Michigan State has won two straight in the rivalry and is licking its chops for a chance to make it three. Led by junior quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Spartans have one of the top offensive attacks in the Big Ten.

On defense, Michigan State has depth in the secondary but its weakness is up front. The leader on defense is All-American linebacker Greg Jones and he’s a force to be reckoned with, but Michigan should be able to move the ball on the Spartans. With the home field advantage, Michigan pulls it out.

Michigan 28 – Michigan State 24

October 16 – Iowa

The Hawkeyes could be the most complete team in the Big Ten with a senior-loaded offense and eight starters returning from one of the Big Ten’s top defenses. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi won’t be confused for Peyton Manning, but is efficient at running the offense.

Iowa’s defense gave up just 15.4 points per game last season and ranked fourth nationally in pass defense. The entire defensive line returns and should give Michigan’s offense fits for the first time this season.

Iowa 23 – Michigan 17

October 30 – at Penn State

Michigan gets the fortune of having its bye week prior to traveling to Happy Valley, which should help relieve the sting of the Iowa loss. Penn State has been one of the top teams in the Big Ten the past few years, but will be starting a true freshman quarterback, Robert Bolden, this season.

Taking a page out of Rich Rodriguez's playbook, Joe Patern elected to start true freshman Robert Bolden at quarterback this season

Taking a page out of Rich Rodriguez's playbook, Joe Paterno elected to start true freshman Robert Bolden at quarterback this season

Last season’s top scoring defense returns just five starters and has to replace five of its front seven. A primetime “white-out” game in Happy Valley, however, is a recipe for a Penn State win.

Penn State 26 – Michigan 21

November 6 – Illinois

With Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn gone, Illinois head coach Ron Zook finds himself squarely on the hot seat. He will likely be relying on redshirt freshman Nate Scheelhaase to guide the offense that ranked last in the Big Ten last season in conference play.

On the other side of the ball, seven starters return from the worst scoring defense in the conference in 2009. Michigan will be able to score against the Illini and bounce back from two straight losses to become bowl eligible for the first time in three years.

Michigan 33 – Illinois 17

November 13 – at Purdue

Purdue seems to be a dark horse candidate to surprise some in the Big Ten this year, but the Boilermakers face two key issues: rebuilding on offensive line and in the secondary. Head Coach Danny Hope will rely on Miami transfer Robert Marve to lead the offense, but the Boilers suffered a huge loss when running back Ralph Bolden tore his ACL in the spring.

On defense, Purdue surrendered a conference worst 173.4 rushing yards per game last season, but returns most of the front seven. The secondary is void of experience, so the defense should yield plenty of points.

Michigan 31 – Purdue 21

November 20 – Wisconsin

Like Iowa, Wisconsin features a very experienced team on both sides of the ball from a team that finished 10-3 last season and upset Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien returns, as does junior running back John Clay. The Badgers offense ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring (31.8), rushing yards (203.9) and total yards (416.9) last season, and it only has to replace one receiver. This offense should be hard to stop with the combination of Clay on the ground and receiver Nick Toon in the air.

The defense gave up a Big Ten best 88.2 yards on the ground last year but has to replace three defensive linemen. If the replacements can hold up, Wisconsin should challenge Ohio State and Iowa for the Big Ten title. They should be too much for Michigan though.

Wisconsin 28 – Michigan 20

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor looks to break out this season

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor looks to break out this season

November 27 – at Ohio State

The final game in the Big Ten as we know it could be ugly for Michigan. Ohio State figures to be firing on all cylinders with junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor expected to break out like former Texas quarterback Vince Young did in his junior season. Pryor has senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, a virtual clone of Anthony Gonzalez, to throw to, and speedster Brandon Saine in the backfield. Four of five offensive linemen return including Michigan transfer Justin Boren.

While this should be the best offense Ohio State has had since Troy Smith graduated in 2006, the defense has some holes to fill. The defensive line needs to be retooled, but the linebackers all return, including seniors Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, the top two tacklers from a year ago.

Pryor could be looking to wrap up the Heisman with a big performance, and unless Michigan’s secondary grows up fast, it could be a long day for Michigan.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Many outside the program (and some of the Michigan fanbase) will say that 7-5 isn’t good enough for Michigan, but it’s just what Rich Rodriguez needs at this point to ramp up expectations for 2011. Getting back to a bowl game is the first step and anything more than 7-5 will be considered a huge success this year as Michigan will return 19 starters to challenge for the innagural Big Ten Championship next season.