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Posts Tagged ‘Brady Hoke’

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Notre Dame

Monday, September 1st, 2014


Five-SpotChallenge_Banner1

Congratulations to the first Five-Spot Challenge winner of the season, BigHouseBrandon. His deviation of 141 blew away the field, 104 points better than second-place tooty_pops. BigHouseBrandon was a two-time winner last season, winning the Penn State and Ohio State weeks. In Week 1, he was the closest to Michigan’s rushing total (350), just 35 yards away. His prediction of 25 yards was the closest to Jabrill Peppers’ total return yards (six). He was also consistent on the other three questions, and he wins a $20 M Den gift card.

Tooty_pops was just two away from Devin Gardner’s passing yards (173), while Chris12qb was the closest to correctly predicting Appalachian State’s total yards (280), just five away, and Michigan’s longest field goal made (18 yards), just 12 away. He came in fourth in Week 1, just two points behind last year’s season-long winner, Maizenblu62, who had a total deviation of 266. Only one contestant, MichiganMack, underestimated Gardner’s total passing yards. Everyone else thought he would throw for more. No one predicted Michigan to rush for as many yards as they did. In fact, after last season’s rushing performance, the average prediction was just 212 yards. Everyone also overestimated Peppers’ total return yards, though his injury and the fact that he didn’t play the second half limited his chances.

UOfMWhitson was the closest to correctly predicting the final score, just three points short on Michigan’s end with a prediction of 49-14. The average score prediction of the 22 contestants this week was Michigan 44 – Appalachian State 10. Click here for the full Week 1 results.

This week, Michigan travels to South Bend for the final scheduled showdown with Notre Dame. The Irish looked impressive in beating Rice 48-17 on Saturday. Quarterback Everett Golson threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for three more scores.

Here are this week’s questions:

Not this time: Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 14

Sunday, August 31st, 2014


Funchess TD vs App State(MGoBlue.com)

Seven years ago one of the best collections of senior talent in recent Michigan history suffered the most embarrassing loss in program history. This time around, a Michigan squad entering the season with plenty of questions made sure it didn’t suffer the same fate. Football was back in the Big House and Michigan left no doubt, sending Appalachian State back to Boone, N.C. in a much different fashion than it did in 2007 with a 52-14 loss.

After forcing a three-and-out on App State’s first possession, Michigan didn’t take long to find the end zone. Devin Gardner pitched the ball out to Devin Funchess for 11 yards on the first play, and nine plays later, found Funchess in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. On the opening drive, Dennis Norfleet caught a 10-yard pass and Jehu Chesson caught a 19-yard pass.

Michigan’s defense forced another App State punt and the second drive began and ended just like the first. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards, and after four De’Veon Smith runs, Gardner hit Funchess for a 34-yard catch and run touchdown to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

Michigan’s offense stalled a bit at the beginning of the second quarter. The Wolverines forced another punt, but couldn’t do much on their third possession of the game. Derrick Green busted a 19-yard run on the possession’s second play, but Gardner was sacked two plays later and Michigan punted. After another App State punt, Gardner hooked up with Amara Darboh for 26 yards to the App State 30. The drive stalled and Matt Wile missed a 48-yard field goal.

UM-AppSt-small-final-final
Final Stats
Michigan App State
Score 52 14
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 560 280
Net Rushing Yards 350 153
Net Passing Yards 210 127
First Downs 24 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 4-44 8-69
Punts-Yards 1-46 8-287
Time of Possession 30:08 29:52
Third Down Conversions 5-of-8 5-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 2-9 1-8
Field Goals 1-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 7-for-7 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-2
Full Box Score

App State still couldn’t muster any offense, punting it right back to Michigan and the Wolverines’ offense finally clicked once again. Green ripped off a 59-yard run on the first play and Gardner found Funchess for nine yards on the second. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the ASU 8-yard line and Gardner lobbed up a jump ball for Funchess in the back of the end zone on the next play. Funchess leaped over two defenders, caught the ball, and got a foot down to give Michigan a 21-0 lead.

Michigan’s next possession was all on the ground as Smith rambled for 61 yards on the first play and a 12-yard touchdown on the next and it appeared that Michigan would take a 28-0 lead into the half. But the special teams had different plans. After forcing App State to punt once again, Mike McCray blocked the punt and Ben Gedeon picked it up and raced 32 yards for the score. Through one half of play, Michigan had out gained Appalachian State 334-74.

In the second half, Michigan picked up right where it left off, this time letting Green do the work. Green carried the ball on all six plays, yet again breaking a big one, this time for 62 yards, and finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown run.

Appalachian State finally got in on the action, putting together its first extended drive of the day. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in 11 plays, capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Bryant to Simms McElfresh. The scoring drive was aided by a 34-yard pass from Bryant to Jaylan Barbour.

App State fooled Michigan with an onside kick recovery, but the kicker inadvertently touched the ball before it went 10 yards and Michigan took over at the ASU 44-yard line. Gardner led off the drive with a 17-yard pass to Norfleet, then rushed twice for three and eight yards. After a three-yard pass to Chesson, Smith punctuated the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 49-7.

Michigan forced another App State punt and Shane Morris came in to relieve Gardner. On the drive’s third play, Morris connected with Keith Heitzman for 26 yards, but on the following play, Morris was intercepted at the App State 4-yard line.

The Mountaineers took advantage, marching 96 yards in 19 plays. Marcus Cox carried it in from a yard out for App State’s second touchdown of the game. Matt Wile kicked an 18-yard field goal on Michigan’s next possession and the Wolverines won 52-14.

Gardner passed Tom Brady for seventh on Michigan’s career touchdown list, going 13-of-14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Funchess caught seven passes for 95 yards and three scores, becoming the first player in Michigan history to score three touchdowns in the season opener. Green led Michigan with with 170 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (11.3 yards per carry), while Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries (14.4 yards per carry).

As a team, Michigan amassed 560 total yards and averaged 10.2 yards per play, while holding Appalachian State to just 280 total yards — mostly with the second-team defense in. Michigan converted 5-of-8 third downs and held App State to just 5-of-17. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley each recorded a sack, while Desmond Morgan and James Ross led the team with six tackles apiece.

Michigan travels to South Bend next Saturday for the final meeting with Notre Dame. The Irish beat Rice 48-17 in Week 1.

Notes: 

Devin Funchess switched from No. 87 to No. 1 prior to the game, marking the first time the number has been worn since Braylon Edwards in 2004.

 The Michigan Stadium attendance of 106,811 was the 252nd consecutive game with more than 100,000 fans.

 Michigan is now 111-21-3 all-time in season openers and Brady Hoke is now 9-3 (4-0 at Michigan).

 The game captains for Michigan were Brennen Beyer, Frank Clark, Devin Gardner, Desmond Morgan, and Jake Ryan.

 Jabrill Peppers was injured in the first quarter, but played the rest of the half. He did not play the second half. Hoke said afterward that he could have gone if needed, but they wanted to keep him healthy for next week.

 Gardner’s 92.8 completion percentage was second in program history with a minimum of 10 completions, behind only Tate Forcier’s 100 percent (12-of-12) versus Bowling Green on Sept. 25, 2010.

• Gardner also passed Tom Brady for ninth in career passing yards (5,280).

 Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith both eclipsed 100 yards, the 38th time two backs have done so in the same game in program history. It was the first time since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor did so against Minnesota on Oct. 27, 2007.

 Michigan’s streak of 15 consecutive games with a forced turnover ended.

New in Blue: Defensive lineman Darian Roseboro

Friday, August 29th, 2014


Darian Roeboro(Lincoln Times-News)

Darian Roseboro – DL | 6-4, 283 | Lincolnton, N.C. – Lincolnton
ESPN: 4-star, #20 DT Rivals: 4-star, #6 DT 247: 4-star, #6 SDE Scout: 4-star, #14 DT
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Clemson, UCLA, Texas

A day before Michigan begins its season against Appalachian State, the coaching staff received good news from a 2015 recruit. Lincolnton, N.C. defensive lineman Darian Roseboro announced his commitment to the Wolverines via an ESPN.com live stream.

Roseboro is a consensus four-star, ranked in the top 200 nationally by all of the major recruiting services. Rivals lists him the highest at 42nd overall and the sixth-best defensive tackle. 247 Sports has Roseboro as the sixth-best strong-side defensive end and 157th overall, while Scout has him 14th and 151st and ESPN ranks him 20th and 165th. His size is pretty similar across all four. Scout lists him at 6’3″ but the other three have him at 6’4″. His weight ranges from 283 to 293.

Scout’s Chad Simmons had this to say about Roseboro: “A versatile defensive lineman who can move around depending on the scheme. Growing into likely a defensive tackle. Plays with a good motor. Does a sound job playing his gap, doing his job. Can set the edge at end and be disruptive up the field. More of a power player that is very successful when playing with good pad level. Can play high and needs to improve his moves and explosion off the ball. Plays with good balance.”

Last season, Roseboro tallied 125 tackles and 10 sacks. In 2012, he recorded 107 tackles, 30 for loss, eight sacks, forced four fumbles, and recovered four fumbles. As a freshman in 2011, he had 107 tackles, 12 for loss, and seven sacks.

Roseboro had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Clemson, UCLA, and Texas to name a few. He also spurned home-state North Carolina and N.C. State to commit to Michigan. Roy Manning, who landed Jabrill Peppers, was the main recruiter for Roseboro.

Roseboro is the 11th commitment in the 2015 class, joining quarterback Alex Malzone, receiver Brian Cole, running back Mike Weber, tight end Chris Clark, offensive linemen Grant Newsome and Jon Runyan Jr, defensive backs Tyree Kinnel and Garrett Taylor, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr, and kicker Andrew David. The commitment pushes Michigan ahead of Alabama in Scout’s average star rankings, though Alabama has 21 commits.

With only one or two scholarships left — perhaps more depending on attrition between now and February — the coaches can be very selective in filling out the class. Another defensive end, five-star Keisean Lucier-South, has an official visit set for Oct. 10 and will likely come down to Michigan or his home-state UCLA.

Michigan-Appalachian State game preview

Friday, August 29th, 2014


Game Preview_AppSt_banner

The last — and only — time Appalachian State visited the Big House, the Mountaineers gained a lot of new fans from Columbus and East Lansing. Michigan fans would love to forget that day ever happened, but thanks to tomorrow’s rematch we all get to talk about it yet again. After tomorrow, unless lightning strikes twice, we can all move on to bigger and better things, but for now the focus is on App State.

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Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12 p.m. EST – ESPN2
Appalachian St. Head Coach: Scott Satterfield (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 4-8 (all at App State)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Dwayne Ledford (2nd season)
Frank Ponce (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Nate Woody (2nd season)
Returning Starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 4-8 (4-4 SoCon)
Last Meeting: ASU 34 – UM 32 (2007)
All-Time Series: App State leads 1-0
Record in Ann Arbor: App State leads 1-0
Michigan vs Sun Belt Conf: 0-0 (First meeting)
Michigan in season openers: 110-21-3

Raise your hand if you’re excited about this rematch. Anyone? The only positive of playing this game is bringing the all-time series out of the red — a rare position for a Michigan opponent. Appalachian State is one of just 14 current Division 1 opponents with a winning record against Michigan. Only two of those 14 — Cornell (12-6) and USC (6-4) — have more than a one-game lead over the Wolverines all-time. Beating App State tomorrow would eliminate one of the 14, and while that may not seem like a big deal, it means something because of our classic Michigan arrogance. Another one of those can be eliminated next season when Michigan hosts Brigham Young.

That 2007 game of which we don’t want to discuss marked the beginning of the fall for Michigan, and while no one could have seen it coming, it took a disgustingly perfect confluence of events. That App State team was an FCS powerhouse, beginning a third-straight FCS championship run with the type of explosive quarterback Lloyd Carr defenses could never stop.

The current version of Appalachian State is far less proven and talented as it makes the transfer to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference. Jerry Moore, the coach at the time, and a member of this year’s College Football Hall of Fame class, has since retired. The Mountaineers are coming off of a 4-8 season in which they ranked 76th in FCS in scoring offense (23.6 points per game) and 69th in scoring defense (28 points per game). Two of those wins came against Elon and Western Carolina, which had a combined record of 4-20, and 2-14 in the Southern Conference. Sixteen starters do return, but as App State makes the move to FBS this fall, the talent isn’t where it was seven years ago. Let’s take a look at the Mountaineers.

Michigan defense vs Appalachian State offense: When Appalachian State has the ball

Marcus Cox App St.

If healthy, Marcus Cox will be a good early test for Michigan’s run defense (Keith Cline, Appalachian State Athletics)

Eight starters are back, including the quarterback, a breakout running back, and the entire offensive line. But head coach Scott Satterfield needs to find replacements for his top two receivers, Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington, who combined for 142 catches for 1,645 yards, and six touchdowns.

The leading returning true receiver is Malachi Jones, who caught 31 passes for 293 yards. The only other returning receivers that caught a pass are a pair of all-name contenders, Simms McElfresh (20 for 269 and two touchdowns) and Bobo Beathard (three for 28). Tight end Barrett Burns is also back after catching 22 passes for 205 yards and a score last season. One player to watch is former four-star recruit Tacoi Sumler, who started his career at Oregon before transferring to ASU in 2012. He was ranked as the 11th-best receiver in the 2011 class and redshirted in his only season at Oregon. He played some in 2012, but missed last season with a knee injury.

Running back Marcus Cox is the leading returning receiver in terms of receptions (43), yards (559), and touchdowns (six). He also led the team with 1,250 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. To top it all off, the 5’10″, 180-pound Dacula, Ga. native was just a true freshman. He has been hampered by a knee injury, but should be ready to go. If he’s not up to full speed, look for junior Ricky Fergeson, who was the only other running back over 100 yards last season, with 215 on 55 carries, to carry the load.

Quarterback Kameron Bryant had a solid sophomore campaign, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards and 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions in eight starts. He also scored three rushing touchdowns, though he’s nowhere near the runner Edwards was. The job is his full-time after the graduation of Jamal Londry-Jackson, who started the other four games a year ago.

The offensive line has 143 career starts between the eight returning linemen, including left tackle Kendall Lamm, a first-team All-SoCon selection in 2013.

Michigan offense vs Appalachian State defense: When Michigan has the ball

In addition to giving up 28 points per game, Appalachian State’s defense allowed 220.2 rushing yards per game, which ranked 105th nationally in FCS, and an average of 4.9 yard per rush. The pass defense was much better — 17th nationally — with an average of 180.2 yards allowed. But, because the rush defense was so porous, opposing offenses didn’t need to throw very much, attempting an average of 24 passes per game. In fact, only nine teams in FCS had fewer passes attempted against them, and three of those were in fewer games played.

Just like the offense, eight starters return. Leading tackler, linebacker Karl Anderson, who tallied 113 tackles — 40 more than the next best — is gone. But two other starting linebackers are back. John Law and Kennan Gilchrist combined for 130 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, three interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery as true freshmen.

Defensive end Deuce Robinson led App State with seven tackles for loss last season (Keith Cline, Appalachian State Athletics)

Defensive end Deuce Robinson led App State with seven tackles for loss last season (Keith Cline, Appalachian State Athletics)

Along the defensive line, virtually everyone is back return with the exception of end Adam Scott. Senior defensive end Deuce Robinson and junior end Thomas Bronson combined for 51 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles, but Scott, who graduated, led the team with 8.5 tackles-for-loss. The Mountaineers recorded just eight sacks all season, so getting to the quarterback will be a big area for improvement. There are plenty of bodies back on the interior, most notably 6’2″, 325-pound nose tackle Tyson Fernandez.

Free safety Alex Gray, who led the secondary with 73 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and is the only member of the secondary to record a sack, is gone. Two other safeties, Doug Middleton and Kevin Walton are back, however. The pair combined for 102 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and three interceptions. Cornerback Joel Ross, who started nine games in 2013, is also back, as is Dante Blackmon, who started six. In addition, ASU received a junior college transfer, Jordan Ford, from Monroe College (N.Y.) who should factor into the discussion.

The other third: Special teams

Field goal kicker Drew Stewart has moved on, but junior Zach Matics had a good spring and is in line to win the job. Sophomore punter Bentlee Critcher ranked second in FCS with a 45.9 average. He also downed 15-of-51 (29.4 percent) inside the 20, compared to just five touchbacks, and booted 18 over 50 yards. ASU must replace main kick returner Tony Washington, but Beathard averaged 22.1 yards on seven returns last season. Washington also handled punt return duties, so that role will need to be filled. Sumler should factor into the return game if he’s fully recovered from his knee injury.

Prediction

Maize and Go Blue wasn’t around back in 2007, but if it would have been, we would have predicted a big Michigan win, because at the time, who wouldn’t? This time around we’re still going to predict a big Michigan win. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will want to flex his muscles a bit and get the offense rolling. And while tomorrow’s performance won’t really prove anything for the rest of the season, it will be important to develop some confidence with the offensive line, get Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith going on the ground, and find some chemistry between Devin Gardner and his talented but largely unproven receiving corps. Opposing offenses ran at will on Appalachian State and Michigan will do the same.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on shutting down Cox and the Mountaineer running game, forcing Bryant to try to make big plays with his arm. He’s certainly capable of doing so, but without his top two receivers from last season, Michigan’s secondary could be in for a big day. It will also be the first look at Greg Mattison’s new aggressive defense. Look for the line to put plenty of pressure on Bryant and force several turnovers.

Just like last year’s season opener against Central Michigan, look for Shane Morris and the second team to play much of the fourth quarter as Michigan takes care of business and moves on to Notre Dame.

Michigan 52 – Appalachian State 10

Big Ten power rankings: Preseason

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

Three days from now we’ll be settling into our seats at the Big House or our favorite couch or chair getting ready to watch the Maize and Blue run out of the tunnel, leap up and touch the banner, and begin their quest toward a Big Ten championship. The bad news is that we all still have to make it through three more days. Welcome to our first Big Ten Power Rankings of the season, where we rank each team in the conference. Since no games have been played yet, this week’s power rankings are essentially predictions of where each team should be ranked. Beginning next week, and continuing throughout the season, the power rankings will be reflective of each team’s performance in the game(s) they have played.

As the dawn of college football season draws ever nearer, the Big Ten finds itself facing low expectations once again. Largely considered a three-team league, the Big Ten suffered a huge blow with the news that Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller would miss the entire 2014 campaign.

Now, teams on the brink of breaking through have to step up and help the Big Ten resurface as a power conference. Gone are the days when the automatic bid to the Rose Bowl would give the Big Ten a chance to shine on the national stage, because now the four-team playoff will act as the means by which conference strength is measured. Teams like Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan have to take that next step and give the conference the boost it needs to send a representative into that playoff.

If the Big Ten gets left out of the playoff this season, it will set the tone for a format that figures to rule the sport for the foreseeable future. At least six teams have a realistic shot at winning the Big Ten, and the conference needs each of them to perform in 2014.

East Division
1. Michigan State
Last Week: N/A This Week: Friday vs Jacksonville State, 7:30pm, BTN

The defending Big Ten champions became heavy favorites to repeat in 2014 after Ohio State’s Braxton Miller went down for the season. Michigan State lost plenty of talent to the NFL, but that defense still figures to be the best in the league.

2. Ohio State
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Navy, 12pm, CBS Sports Network

Miller’s season-ending injury put a damper on Ohio State’s championship aspirations, but Urban Meyer’s team is still strong enough to compete for the first Big Ten East Division championship. The Nov. 8 game in East Lansing is the biggest speed bump on the Buckeyes’ road to Indianapolis.

3. Michigan
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs. Appalachian State, 12pm, ESPN2

If Michigan finishes outside the top three in the division, then things need to change in Ann Arbor. Four straight years of strong recruiting has left Brady Hoke with a talented enough roster to win nine or more games. An underrated defense should give Michigan a chance in all 12 games.

4. Penn State
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs UCF, 8:30am, ESPN2

The Nittany Lions still can’t play in a bowl game this season, but new head coach James Franklin managed to hang on to talented quarterback Christian Hackenberg and a team that won seven games last year. Penn State could make a big splash in the standings on Oct. 25 when Ohio State visits Happy Valley, one of the hardest places for visiting teams to win at night.

5. Indiana
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Indiana State, 12pm, ESPNews

Much like they were last year, the Hoosiers are expected to be a group led by an elite offense. Unfortunately, the Big Ten is a difficult conference to win without a strong defense, and the Hoosiers gave up 38.8 points per game last season, good for 117th in college football.

6. Maryland
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs James Madison, 3:30pm, BTN

Maryland joins the Big Ten after a mediocre 7-6 record in the ACC last year. The Terrapins’ 85th-ranked offense will have a tough time scoring enough points in the Big Ten against defenses like that of Michigan State and Michigan, so don’t expect Maryland to compete for a division title in year one.

7. Rutgers
Last Week: N/A This Week: Thursday at Washington State, 10pm, FoxSports1

A 2-6 finish to the 2013 season will set the tone for Rutgers’ first season in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights lost six games by double digits last year during an average year in the ACC, so the powerful Big Ten East could be a rude awakening in 2014.

West Division
1. Wisconsin
Last Week: This Week: Saturday vs LSU, 9pm, ESPN

With Ohio State moving over to the East Division, Wisconsin sits firmly in the driver’s seat to represent the West in Indy this year. Melvin Gordon became the top Heisman candidate in the Big Ten after Miller’s injury and should lead a prototypical Wisconsin running attack that will tear apart opposing defenses.

2. Iowa
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Northern Iowa, 12pm, BTN

Iowa played good enough defense in 2013 to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl, but an inconsistent offense held the team to an 8-5 overall record. If the Hawkeyes post another top-10 defensive effort this season, they could find themselves matching up with Michigan State in Indianapolis in a low-scoring game.

3. Northwestern
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Cal, 3:30pm, ABC

Every season Northwestern looks primed for a breakout, but this year their talent is nowhere near the level of teams like Wisconsin or Iowa. The Wildcats lost four games by one possession last season, so they were close to living up to the preseason hype. But the loss of Venric Mark and a tough conference schedule will make things tough on Northwestern this year.

4. Nebraska
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Florida Atlantic, 3:30pm, BTN

The nation is expecting big things out of Nebraska after finishing a disappointing finish to the conference season last year. If this offense can rush for over 200 yards per game again this season, it has a chance to put the Cornhuskers in the hunt for the title.

5. Minnesota
Last Week: N/A This Week: Thursday vs Eastern Illinois, 7pm, BTN

Minnesota was one of the quietest surprises in the country last season, starting 8-2 before three hard-fought losses to end the year. This season will be a real test for the Gophers as they try to build off of what they started in 2013 and break a decade-long streak of irrelevance.

6. Illinois
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday at Youngstown State, 12:05pm, BTN

It could be another tough year for Illinois after finishing 4-8 with just one conference win last season. After a nonconference schedule that features three easy wins, the Fighting Illini will only be favored in one conference game: at home against the Purdue team they beat in 2013.

7. Purdue
Last Week: N/A This Week: Saturday vs Western Michigan, 12pm, ESPNU

2013 was an abomination for Purdue, as it went 1-11 with a six-point victory over a division 1-AA opponent. Illinois was the only team that Purdue was within 10 points of beating. It won’t get any easier for the Boilermakers in conference this year.

First Look: Appalachian State

Monday, August 25th, 2014


FirstLook-AppState

It’s finally here. The week we’ve all been both looking forward to and dreading for the past seven months. On one hand, it’s finally game week, which means there are just a few more days until Michigan football gets underway for the 135th time in school history. On the other hand, we have to endure a few days of highlights from that dreadful 2007 game that none of us wants to ever talk about again.

Since we have to talk about Appalachian State, we’ll just focus on this year’s version, which will be playing its first ever game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision on Saturday. Do the Mountaineers have a shot to pull off the unthinkable once again? Or will Michigan take care of business, put the past behind them, and move on quickly to the final showdown with Notre Dame? Let’s take a look at how App State fared in 2013 and who they have returning this fall.

Appalachian State 2013 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
ASUMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 23.6 | 32.2 N/A | 46 28.0| 26.8 N/A66
Rushing Yards 1,6561,634 2,643 | 1,822
Rush Avg. Per Game 138.0 | 125.7 N/A | T102 220.2 | 140.2 N/A | 29
Avg. Per Rush 3.9 | 3.3 4.9 | 3.8
Passing Yards 3,2613,221 2,163 | 3,007
Pass Avg. Per Game 271.8247.8 N/A | 51 180.2 | 231.3 N/A | 51
Total Offense 4,9174,855 4,806 | 4,829
Total Off Avg. Per Game 409.8 | 373.5 N/A | 86 400.5 | 371.5 N/A | 41
Kick Return Average 21.4 | 22.1 N/A | 49 23.5 | 23.3 N/A | 101
Punt Return Average 3.7 | 6.7 N/A | 89 6.4 | 6.4 N/A | 40
Avg. Time of Possession 29:22 | 31:17 N/A | 34
30:38 | 28:38
3rd Down Conversion Pct 43.0% | 39.0% N/A | 73
46.0% | 40.0% N/A | 65
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 20-150 | 36-270 N/A | 105
8-38 | 25-182 N/A | 66
Touchdowns Scored 35 | 52 44 | 40
Field Goals-Attempts 13-18 | 18-25 10-13 | 24-31
Red Zone Scores (32-40) 80% | 48-56 86% N/A | 43
(39-49) 80% | (39-45) 87% N/A | 94
Red Zone Touchdowns (24-40) 60% | 37-56 66% (31-49) 63% | (24-45) 53%

Comparing Michigan’s 2013 stats to Appalachian State’s is apples to oranges because the Mountaineers were in FCS last season, and thus, the competition was much different. But then again, App State was playing competition relative to itself, so let’s compare the stats just for the fun of it.

Statistically, Michigan and Appalachian State were pretty similar on offense, although Michigan played one more game. App State finished the season with 22 more rushing yards than Michigan and 40 more passing yards, though the per-game averages are better with 12 games as opposed to 13. The main difference, however, was that Michigan scored 8.6 more points per game. It’s no secret that Michigan had no run game, but App State’s wasn’t much better, averaging 3.9 yards per rush. The Mountaineers converted third downs four percent better than Michigan did and allowed 20 sacks compared to Michigan’s 36. Basically, App State had a slightly better offense, but Michigan’s was more efficient.

Defensively, the two were opposites. Michigan’s rush defense ranked 29th nationally, allowing 140.2 yards per game, but the pass defense gave up 231.3. Conversely, Appalachian State’s rush defense allowed 220.2 rushing yards per game, but just 180.2 passing. Overall, Michigan allowed 23 more total yards in one more game and the Wolverines allowed 1.2 fewer points per game. App State only got to the quarterback eight times all season — less than once per game — while Michigan recorded 25 sacks. Additionally, the Mountaineers allowed opponents to convert third downs 46 percent of the time and score touchdowns 63 percent of the time in the red zone.

Obviously, looking at last season’s stats only tells a small part of the story and doesn’t weigh heavily into this season’s forecast, so let’s take a look at how much of that production is returning compared to how much was lost.

Passing Yards (QB only)
Returning Lost
Kameron Bryant 2,713 Jamal Londry-Jackson 548
2,713 548
83.2% 16.8%
Rushing (RB/QB only)
Returning Lost
Marcus Cox 1,250 Jamal Londry-Jackson (QB) 23
Ricky Ferguson 215 Rommel Andre 13
Kameron Bryant (QB) 158 Paul Magloire 9
Logan Hallock (QB) -3
1,620 45
97.3% 2.7%
Receiving
Returning Lost
Marcus Cox (RB) 559 Andrew Peacock 706
Malachi Jones 293 Tony Washington 939
Barrett Burns (TE) 205 Sean Price 237
Simms McElfresh 269 Jacob McCann (TE) 7
Ricky Ferguson (RB) 30
Bobo Beathard 28
Kameron Bryant (QB) -12
1,372 1,889
42.1% 57.9%
Scoring
Returning Lost
Marcus Cox (RB) 126 Drew Stewart (K) 71
Kameron Bryant (QB) 18 Tony Washington (WR) 24
Simms McElfresh (WR) 14 Andrew Peacock (WR) 12
Barrett Burns (TE) 6 Sean Price (WR) 6
Karl Anderson (LB) 6
164 119
58.0% 42.0%

The majority of the production from Appalachian State’s backfield is returning, most notably quarterback Kameron Bryant, who completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions, and running back Marcus Cox, who rushed for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. Those are good pieces to build around and the entire offensive line is back as well, bringing 130 career starts to the table. But like Michigan, more than half of last season’s receiving production is gone, including the top to receivers, Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington. In fact, the top returning pass-catcher is Cox, a running back.

Given that information, it appears that Michigan’s game plan will be to load the box to shut down the run game and force Bryant to try to test their secondary with a group of unproven and inexperienced receivers. That’s a pretty good opportunity for Jabrill Peppers to make his mark on his first career game.

Defensively, Appalachian State returns a good amount of experience, but does have to replace their leading tackler, linebacker Karl Anderson, whose 113 tackles were 40 more than the next-best. The two returning linebackers, John Law and Kennan Gilchrist, were true freshmen last season and combined for 130 tackles, 6.5 for loss, one sack, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery. The line also returns most of its production except for end Adam Scott, who led the team with 8.5 tackles for loss. The secondary lost its top tackler, free safety Alex Gray, but returns three other starters.

Like the offense, App State’s defense was very young last season and will benefit from a year of experience. But the rush defense was so bad last year that considerable improvement will need to be made, and that’s a lot to ask in the season opener. In fact, only nine teams in all of FCS had fewer passes attempted against them, which is why ASU’s pass defense looked so good on paper.

As we saw with Central Michigan in last year’s opener, the success Michigan has against an inferior opponent has little to do with the rest of the season. But App State’s poor rush defense will allow Michigan’s offensive line to tune up and try to make a statement with the running game. Like the game in general, if it works, there will be nothing more than a pat on the back and move on to Notre Dame. If Michigan’s running game struggles, however, there will be plenty of cause for concern about the rest of the season.

Stay tuned for further game coverage as the week goes on, including our full game preview on Friday.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Appalachian State

Monday, August 25th, 2014


Five-SpotChallenge_Banner1

Week one is finally upon us and with that comes the kick off of our Five-Spot Challenge. Now in its fourth year, we have secured our first Five-Spot Challenge sponsor, We Know Tickets, which will provide the prize to the season-long champion: a pair of ticket to the 2015 season opener against Oregon State. If you’re looking to purchase tickets, make sure to check out their listings for each of Michigan’s games this season, or for any other concert or sporting event you want to go to (and type in code ‘goblue’ for 10 percent off your order). And of course, we will still award $20 gift cards to The M Den for each Five-Spot Challenge weekly winner.

If you’re new to the game, here’s how it works. Each Monday throughout the season, we list five questions, such as “How many passing yards will Devin Gardner record?” If you guess 200, but he throws for 250, you get 50 points. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest score possible each week, meaning you want to be as close to correct as possible for each answer. The points for each of the five questions will be added to determine the weekly low score.

The spot you finish relative to the rest of the competitors will be added up throughout the season to determine the overall winner. For example, in Week 1 if you are first out of 20 participants, you will be awarded 20 points. Second would get 19, third would get 18, and so on. For the full season, you want the most points, so you’ll want to make sure to participate each and every week.

There will also be a bonus question each week, which will be a simple score prediction. In this, you must specify which team is which. If you simply put 14-10, it won’t count. You must say Michigan 14 – Appalachian State 10. This is the Hail Mary pick. If you pick the score exactly, your largest single differential from the other questions will be reduced to zero.

In 2011, umichfan1 won a pair of tickets to the season opener against Air Force. In 2012, crp12qb won a round of golf at the U of M golf course with former Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin. Last season, Maizenblu62 won a pair of tickets to this year’s opener against Appalachian State.

The weekly results will be announced in the same post as the following week’s questions, while the overall standings will live in the right sidebar so you always know where you stand. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them in the comments below. Good luck!

Here are the Week 1 questions. All answers must be submitted by 11:59 a.m. EST on Saturday.

M&GB season preview roundtable

Friday, August 22nd, 2014


Roundtable-banner

It has become our tradition at the beginning of each season to preview the upcoming season via a staff roundtable. We answer several questions with our predictions and expectations for what the season will bring. Drew has moved on, but we still have Justin, Sam, Derick, and Josh. We also invited our partner at MmmGoBluBBQ, Joe, to join us for the roundtable. We also invite you to give your answers in the comments below. Tell us what you agree with or disagree with. Next week we will begin our game week coverage.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: I’m most excited about what should be a very good defense. With so much talent and experience returning, it should be one of the top defenses in the Big Ten and may have to carry the team, at least in the early going. The best Michigan teams in recent history have featured stifling defenses — most notably 1997 and 2006 — and I think I can speak for most Michigan fans when I say I miss the days of Michigan having a dominating defense. It’s a major stretch to say this year’s unit could be as good as the 1997 one, but anywhere close would make for a very good season.

Michigan's defense won't be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

Michigan’s defense won’t be as good as the 1997 version, but it is one to be excited about

With most of the big questions on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is going to need to be very good, and if it is we have two recent examples that could foreshadow the upcoming season: Notre Dame in 2012 and Michigan State in 2013. Notre Dame’s offense ranked 80th nationally in scoring, 38th in rushing, and 72nd in passing that year but still made it to the national title game thanks to its defense. Last season, Michigan State’s offense ranked 63rd in scoring, 59th in rushing, and 84th in passing but still won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl thanks to its defense. I’m excited for the possibility that Michigan’s defense, which should be more aggressive this fall, could carry the Wolverines to a special season.

Sam: I’m most excited about…football! After last year’s dreadful, seemingly never-ending season, I never thought I’d be so excited to see the Maize and Blue on the field just a season later, but I suppose hope reigns eternal right now. As far specific excitement about this team goes, I am really looking forward to seeing the whole defense working to live up to its enormous expectations. Every single position has an extremely strong two-deep, and every unit has at least one potential game-changer. With names like Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, James Ross III, and Jabrill Peppers, there’s no telling how good this defense could be. A consistent pass rush could mean a top-10 or even top-five defense nationally.

Derick: The most exciting storyline has to be the beginning of Jabrill Peppers‘ career in Ann Arbor. The No. 2 overall recruit has a chance to be a difference maker on defense and revive a kick return game that has been dormant since Steve Breaston left Michigan.

Josh: The defense and its personnel and scheme changes. I’d much rather see an aggressive, menacing defense with an average offense than an average defense with a high octane/high scoring offense. Luckily for Michigan it appears as though we just might get that menacing defense in 2014. That is something to be very excited about after we had to watch last year’s ‘bend but don’t break’ defense sit back and give up big gain after big gain.

Joe: I have a feeling that Coach Nussmeier will focus on building a strong run game with Green and Smith and help control the ball a little more than in recent years. Michigan has the horses to build an above avg. run game with these 2 and it will be fun to see if we can get back to a little smash mouth football at the big house. I’m also looking forward to some great BBQ on “Tailgate Tuesdays”.

What worries you most entering the season?

Justin: Okay, so this question is pretty rhetorical this year. The offensive line has to be the answer after last year’s meltdown and the loss of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. If it’s as bad as last season, even a high-caliber defense won’t save the team. But I really don’t think it will be. Do I expect it to be a mauling, classic Michigan offensive line? Absolutely not. But I do think it will be more cohesive than last season and more sound with a simplified playbook. Even so, until we see it in action, the worry is there.

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O'Haren, USA Today Sports)

The huge question obviously lies with Erik Magnuson and the rest of the line (Matthew O’Haren, USA Today Sports)

Sam: If anyone’s biggest concern at this point is not the offensive line, he or she may want a quick crash course in foot-ball (American style). I can say with a straight face that Michigan has some sort of chance of having a First Team All-Conference player at every single position on the field (yes, this is still optimistic, but it’s at least feasible in some universe) besides the offensive line, where Michigan may not have a single Third Team-caliber performer, feasibly. The line is replacing two senior tackles who will most likely start one day in the NFL; even with those stars, Michigan’s big uglies up front last year were atrocious. Most people have been taking the glass-half-full approach in saying that there’s no way it can get any worse; it’s hard for me to look at the names on paper and wonder how in the world it could get any better.

Derick: After watching the spring game and the ‘Under the Lights’ scrimmage, how can the offensive line not be the No. 1 concern? Michigan’s defensive line was average for much of 2013, but looked like an elite unit against their offensive teammates. If Doug Nussmeier can’t improve this group, it won’t matter how much Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith have progressed.

Josh: The entire offense. They say that on defense 10 guys can fail as long as one guy makes the play. But on offense 10 guys can be doing their job and if one fails, then the play is lost. While the o-line clearly needs to be a cohesive unit that plays well, it’s not all on them and there are too many variables to work out before they can be a solid unit. Devin Gardner needs to be consistent and the running backs (whomever they may be) need to run with vision and be decisive. I see Michigan in a similar situation as Michigan State was coming into 2013; a potentially great defense that would be enough to carry them but no identity on offense. Last year the defense played well but faded late in the season as it was completely worn down after carrying the offense all year and it really showed in losses to Ohio State and Kansas State I fear we’ll see more of the same this year.

Joe: The offensive line is a HUGE concern due to the loss of both Schofield and Lewan. It wasn’t exactly a strong point last year and now it looks even more troubling. This group needs to gel quickly and improve on the “tackles for loss” that plagued them last year. 114 is way too many!

Who will be the breakout player on offense?

Justin: I would absolutely love to look into the crystal ball and pick a lineman that breaks out and puts together an all-conference season, and while it’s certainly possible, it’s impossible to predict. I also think Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith will split the workload, keeping either from truly breaking out. Therefore, it has to be a pass-catcher, and I’m going to go with Jake Butt. He’s out for the first couple of games at least, but is progressing very well in his return form a torn ACL. We got a taste of what he’s capable of last season — 20 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns — and once he returns, he could put up some solid numbers.

We all know Devin Funchess will be the go-to receiver for Devin Gardner, but he’s going to have to find others to distribute the ball to so opposing defenses can’t simply game plan Funchess out. It’s very likely that either Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh breaks onto the scene, but as a tight end, I see Butt becoming a crutch for Gardner. Butt fits right into Nussmeier’s offensive system and could be primed for a big season as long as he fully recovers from his injury.

Sam: This one is pretty easy for me. I don’t think the offensive line is going to be good enough for Michigan to have a star running back, so I immediately look to the outside. There I find Amara Darboh, a gentlemanly sized 6’2″, 211-pound redshirt sophomore wide receiver who was held out all of last season with a foot injury. Devin Funchess is the closest thing the Wolverines have to a sure thing this year, so Darboh should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of cheating defenses, and his nice hands, solid size, and football IQ should make him a favorite of Devin Gardner.

Derick: Freddy Canteen will probably have one of the greatest impacts on the offense, but I think Devin Gardner will be the breakout player. Gardner struggled for much of the 2013 season, but pressure from the defense and a non-existent rushing attack made his job much harder. A healthy Gardner should take advantage of a deeper receiving core and become the quarterback fans saw for a few games at the end of 2012.

Josh: I’m really down on the offense heading into this season. True, I’m not in Schembechler Hall, but nothing I’ve seen or read since last season has given me any indication that this offense will be any better than last year’s. A simplified system and zone blocking schemes will help but they haven’t had much time with Nussmeier and development takes time and many reps. Plus the mere fact that a TRUE freshman is in line to start at left tackle tells me that this line is still in shambles and that could derail the entire offense, again. That said, I think Jake Butt (once he returns) is prime for a breakout season. I foresee Gardner looking for a safety valve as he runs for his life behind an inept line and Butt should be that safety valve. We saw glimpses of what Butt could do late in 2013 and I expect him to pick up where he left off.

Joe: I am hoping that an in shape and focused Derrick Green turns into the five-star tailback we recruited two years ago. If he can pound the ball and help control the clock, this offense can put up some big numbers. An effective Green would free up some young receivers and an elite Funchess down field.

Who will be the breakout player on defense?

Justin: Yeah, it’s a pretty generic answer that I’m sure others will give, but I’m going with Jourdan Lewis. The hype coming out of the spring and fall camp is too much to ignore. The coaching staff has talked about being more aggressive defensively, and Lewis fits that mold at corner. If he truly has beaten out either experienced corners like Raymon Taylor or Blake Countess, he’s earned it and it will only make the secondary better.

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Can Jourdan Lewis live up to the hype he has garnered throughout the offseason?

Sam: Defensive breakout players are a little bit harder for me to predict, and I admittedly don’t even know who would rightfully qualify as a “breakout” player this year. Would a senior Frank Clark, who has been solid but never great, qualify? How about a junior linebacker who has been playing plenty of snaps for two full seasons? I’ll assume I’d get picked on for taking either of those guys, so let me go with Jourdan Lewis, a 5’10″, 175-pound sophomore cornerback from Cass Tech. If preseason reports and practices are to be believed, it seems that Lewis has managed to wrestle away a starting spot from either senior Raymon Taylor or redshirt junior Blake Countess, both of whom were pretty solid contributors a season ago. The coaches have been emphasizing increased physicality and aggressiveness on defense, particularly from the cornerbacks, which fits right into Lewis’s strengths. If he indeed plays the first snap on defense against Appalachian State next week, Jourdan Lewis must have something going for him.

Derick: It has to be Jabrill Peppers. If he can’t contribute in the secondary then Michigan will be vulnerable to the pass all season, since Blake Countess is the only proven cornerback that can cover Big Ten recievers.

Josh: Jourdan Lewis, and it’s not even close. Yes, I do think Jabrill Peppers will show us why he was one of the best incoming recruits in recent memory but my money is on Lewis to really make massive strides from last season. He got his feet wet last year while relying on great athletic ability but now he has the technique and mental aspect to add to it. I fully expect him to be an All-Big Ten performer, and one of the best defenders in the conference, by season’s end.

Joe: Can I say Jake Ryan as my breakout player? I know he is a team captain and a stud at linebacker, but after missing five games last year due to a torn ACL, he will shine all season if healthy. He is a must for this team to keep pace defensively.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: The offensive line improves to simply average and the defense is as good as advertised. The defense will have to carry the team early on while the offense finds its feet, but I truly believe this is a team that has a lot of potential. It will all rely on improvement from the offensive line, but like I said above, if the defense lives up to the hype, a 2012 Notre Dame or 2013 Michigan State season is not out of question.

Sam: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the defense doesn’t allow a single point. In all seriousness, the defense has to be elite (probably allowing 15 or fewer points a game in Big Ten play) and the offensive line has to be above-average for Michigan to compete for their first conference championship since 2004. I think the defense can be elite, but I still think the offensive line is going to struggle a little bit too much for the team to reach Pasadena or beyond.

Derick: Michigan will win the Big Ten if the quarterback pressure we saw throughout camp was actually because of the elite defensive line Greg Mattison has assembled. If the offensive line can actually protect Gardner and create holes for the running game then the rest will fall in place.

Josh: Michigan State and Ohio State completely implode and each have multiple conference losses, a miracle happens with the offensive line’s development early on, Devin Gardner finally becomes the consistently good QB we know he can be all while Jabrill Peppers exceeds the hype, plays both sides of the ball and becomes the first true freshman to win the Heisman (read: I don’t think it’s even remotely possible for Michigan to win the B1G Ten this year). I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, Michigan won’t be ready to legitimately compete for the B1G Ten until 2015.

Joe: We can get strong and smart play up front, as well as from our quarterback position. We must eliminate the untimely sack or tackle for loss that killed us on important drives last season. C’mon O-line, make it happen!

What’s your prediction for the season? Record, who will Michigan lose to, what bowl game will Michigan play in?

Justin: Regardless of how much improvement the offensive line shows, I don’t see Michigan winning less than eight games this season. But I think they’ll win more than that and finish the regular season 10-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State. I don’t think Notre Dame will be that great this year, but early on Michigan will still be trying to get its offense up to speed, and despite a valiant effort from the defense, bad things just happen in South Bend. The latter because Michigan State is still the team to beat in the Big Ten this season and, while Michigan will play closer than they have the past two years, it will be extremely tough to pull one out in East Lansing.

I do think Michigan will go into Columbus at season’s end and pull off a big win, leaving a three-way tie atop the East Division, but Michigan State will get the nod into the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan will go to the Capital One Bowl. I never predict the outcome of bowl games before the season because so many variables come into play about who the opponent will be.

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

Our predictions range from 8-4 to 10-2 with the Capital One Bowl being the most likely destination

I’m optimistic about this season and think this team will be very close to having a really special season that will surprise some people, but in the end it will come up just short, setting up big expectations for 2015.

Sam: My final prediction for the 2014 Michigan football season is as follows:

Record: 10-2, losses at Michigan State and at Ohio State
Bowl game: Wherever generic 10-2 Big Ten teams end up this season (too many to keep track of).

I think it will be a successful season overall that falls just short of the ultimate goals of conference and national championships. Michigan State’s defense should be able to wreak havoc on the offensive line yet again, and though Ohio State will be without Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller all season, their backup will have enough time to gel by the end of the season that the Buckeyes will edge the Wolverines once again at home.

Derick: I think Michigan’s season should be pretty straightforward. The Maize and Blue are great in Ann Arbor, so an easy home schedule should translate into seven wins. But tough road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State make me shudder, and Brady Hoke’s resume on the road should turn all three games into losses. Michigan should take care of Northwestern and Rutgers on the road, giving it a 9-3 record for the season. Two Big Ten losses isn’t going to cut it for a trip to Indy, so Michigan will end up in the Capital One Bowl. Could Michigan win every single game on its schedule? Absolutely. But until fans see this team play solid football, there’s little reason to believe that more than nine wins are on tap.

Josh: My heart wants to be optimistic but my gut says this team’s lack of sufficient development spells doom in 2014. The offense has too many question marks for me to feel comfortable about having anything but very low expectations for them, which in turn puts more pressure on the defense to carry the team, again. The schedule does not set up in Michigan’s favor, with both MSU and OSU on the road (both of which are all but guaranteed losses in my mind). And as we’ve seen in the past Hoke’s teams consistently lose games they shouldn’t, mostly on the road (at Iowa in ’11, at ND and Nebraska in ’12 and atPSU, Nebraska and Iowa last year). They’ve gotten incredibly lucky against Northwestern the past two seasons and something tells me that luck may run out in 2014. Notre Dame, while losing several key players, is still on the road and that tilts the odds slightly in favor of the Irish. Utah could be a very dangerous trap game, sandwiched Miami (Ohio) and perennial bottom feeder Minnesota. Throw in the perennial inexplicable loss we’ve come to expect from Hoke’s Michigan teams and we’re sitting at 4 or 5 losses.

Right now I don’t see this team being better than 8-4, and not in the hunt for the East division. I see losses to MSU, OSU and then two more out of Notre Dame, Utah, Penn St. and Northwestern. They’ll still end up in a decent bowl because they’re Michigan, so something along the lines of the BWW Bowl like last year. Of course, I hope I’m completely wrong and the offense can come together and prove me horribly wrong but I won’t hold my breath.

Joe: I am predicting a 9-3 record for the Maize and Blue with losses at MSU, Northwestern and Ohio. Don’t ask me to explain the Northwestern loss, I just have a bad feeling. This will put them in the Outback bowl on Jan 1. 

The Michigan Medley says goodbye

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014


The past few days have held plenty of news, so it’s time to bring back our weekly news roundup feature, The Michigan Medley. This feature discusses the top news items from the past week, what they mean for Michigan, and my take on them. Today’s theme is saying goodbye, although for different reasons.

York dismissed

Csont'e York

(Daniel Mears, Detroit News)

On Monday afternoon, Michigan released a statement from Brady Hoke that sophomore wide receiver Csont’e York had been dismissed from the team as a result of an incident that occurred outside Scorekeepers Bar and Grille on July 18.

“Csont’e York has been dismissed from the Michigan football program,” Hoke said in the statement. “Representing the University of Michigan is a privilege and, while second chances are certainly deserved, sometimes it’s better for everyone if that happens somewhere else. Overall, I have been proud of how responsible our team has been this offseason and how hard they’ve worked to prepare for the season.”

On Aug. 3, Hoke suspended York indefinitely while he let the legal system play out, but last week Ann Arbor police released a grainy video of the incident showing York sizing up a victim and punching him in the side of the face. The victim didn’t appear to see it coming and collapsed immediately, ultimately resulting in a broken jaw and lost tooth. Once the video was released, it was only a matter of time before York was dismissed, even as he awaits arraignment on Sept. 8.

York was with teammate Da’Mario Jones that night and admitted to the cheap shot, but said he did it out of nervousness because the victim was threatening he and Jones. York and Jones fled the scene immediately afterward. Jones was not charged and remains on the team.

York is the second player to be dismissed from the team under Hoke and the second Hoke recruit to leave the team. Hoke dismissed Darryl Stonum, a Lloyd Carr recruit, in 2012 following a third alcohol-related driving offense. The only other Hoke recruit to leave the program was linebacker Kaleb Ringer, who voluntarily transferred to Ferris State after a knee injury kept him out for the 2012 season.

York played in just one game at receiver as a freshman in 2013 and did not record a catch.

My take: Once the video was released, Hoke absolutely made the right call to dismiss York, but I hope the Harper Woods, Mich. native can learn from his mistake, grow as a person, and lead a successful and productive life. Whether another school chooses to give him a second chance — and whether he makes the most of it — depends on how he grows and learns from his mistakes. Some, like Frank Clark, do make the most of their second chance, but some, like Stonum, don’t.

From a pure football standpoint, this isn’t a huge loss. Jones and Jaron Dukes were also receivers in the same class as York, while a trio of current freshmen — Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris, and Mo Ways — carry high expectations, so Michigan has plenty of young talent at receiver.

Miller hurt

Miller hurt

On Monday evening Columbus Dispatch reporter Tim May tweeted a report that Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller had re-injured his shoulder in afternoon practice. ESPN’s Austin Ward confirmed the news and Buckeye blog Eleven Warriors reported that Miller left the practice facility with his arm in a sling.

Miller originally hurt his throwing shoulder in Ohio State’s loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl and had surgery to repair it in February. He had been held out of spring practice and was limited to begin fall camp. Miller reportedly reinjured the shoulder while throwing a routine pass during Monday’s practice and laid on the turf being tended to by trainers for several minutes. The senior will undergo an MRI on Tuesday morning to determine the severity of the injury, but judging by the lack of optimism coming out of Columbus, it doesn’t sound good. The school has yet to comment, but did cancel its media availability with coaches and players Tuesday morning.

If the injury does keep Miller out for the season, the Buckeyes will turn to J.T. Barrett, who has yet to throw a collegiate pass. The redshirt freshman from Wichita Falls, Texas completed 17-of-33 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Barrett was a four-star recruit, rated as the third-best dual threat quarterback in last year’s class by 247 Sports. But he hasn’t played a down of competitive football in two years. He missed his senior year of high school due to a torn ACL.

Miller was the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year each of the past two seasons. He also won the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football trophy, given annually to the conference’s most valuable player. The news of his injury already sent shockwaves through the betting industry. Bovada downgraded Ohio State’s national title odds from 10-1 to 18-1, while 5Dimes dropped the Buckeyes’ odds to win the Big Ten to 3-1, behind Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Given Ohio State’s schedule, the injury shouldn’t have much of an effect early on. The Buckeyes open the season with Navy, and while the spread for that game has dropped since the news, it is still at 16.5. Virginia Tech, Kent State, and Cincinnati are the other non-conference foes and Ohio State opens the conference slate with Maryland and Rutgers with both bye weeks sprinkled in that six-game stretch. We likely won’t know how much Miller’s loss will affect the Buckeyes until they travel to State College on Oct. 25.

My take: I hate to see anyone get injured, especially a player with such a talent as Miller. It doesn’t matter if he plays for Michigan’s top rival or not, this is sad news, and any Michigan fan celebrating the injury should reexamine his or her priorities. The injury won’t change The Game much anyway. Barrett surely won’t be as explosive as Miller, but he’ll have 11 games under his belt by the time Michigan comes to town. If Michigan’s defense is as good as many hope this season, it will present quite the challenge for Barrett playing in his first Ohio State-Michigan game. But I’d rather both teams be at full speed. Here’s to hoping Miller can recover and continue his playing career, either at Ohio State next season or at the next level.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Coaches (part two)

Friday, August 15th, 2014


Big-Ten-position-rankings-header-Coaches

This week, as part of our summer-long preview of Michigan football in 2014, we at Maize and Go Blue are ranking who will be the top head coaches in the Big Ten this upcoming season. This may be bending the definition of “position,” but this series has already listed who will be the best offensive, defensive, and special-teams players in the Big Ten in 2014. The head coaches included in this top 10 are whom we believe have been the best coaches recently and will be next season, not necessarily those who have had the best overall careers. Yesterday, we revealed the Big Ten head coaches ranked No. 6 through No. 10. If you missed it, we encourage you to catch up here. Done? Perfect! On that note, let’s unveil who will be the five best head coaches in the Big Ten this fall.

Previously

Quarterbacks: Part One, Part Two | Running Backs: Part One, Part Two | Wide Receivers: Part One, Part Two
Tight Ends: Part One, Part Two | Offensive Line: Part One, Part Two | Defensive Line: Part One, Part Two
Linebackers: Part One, Part Two | Cornerbacks: Part One, Part Two | Safeties:Part One, Part Two
Special Teams: Kicking Specialists, Return Specialists | Coaches: Part One

5. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin | Overall Record: 39-35 (6 yrs) – Record at Wisconsin: 9-4 (1 yr)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 9-4 6-2 2nd (Leaders) Capital One (L)
Career Totals 9-4 6-2   0-1
(Brian Ebner, AP)

(Brian Ebner, AP)

Of all the head coaches in the Big Ten, Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen probably is the toughest to peg. Until this past season, Andersen had no experience coaching in a Power Five conference. He made his head-coaching debut at Southern Utah, a Division I-AA program, in 2003. He departed after the season to become an assistant at Utah—before it joined the Pac-12—where eventually he was promoted to defensive coordinator. He held that position when the Utes’ undefeated squad upset Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Andersen utilized that success to land the head-coaching gig at a floundering Utah State program. The Aggies had not won more than seven games in a season since 1979. Andersen’s first two years there were no different, but, thereafter, he took Utah State to unforeseen heights. The next two seasons, the Aggies totaled an 18-8 record, which included a program-best 11 wins in 2012. No longer was Utah State some bottom-of-the-barrel program. It now was a legitimate “mid-major” power.

Andersen’s achievements in college football’s lower levels were noticed after 2012 as Power Five schools with head-coaching vacancies came calling. One such school was Wisconsin, whom former head coach Bret Bielema had stunned by ditching the Badgers for Arkansas in the SEC. Bielema left behind a Big Ten powerhouse that won a share of the conference crown and appeared in the Rose Bowl each of his final three seasons in Madison. With Bielema no longer in the picture, someone needed to step in and maintain Wisconsin’s success; Andersen was tabbed to be that person. He did well in his first season with the Badgers last year, too. Although their streak of Big Ten championships ended, Andersen coached them to a 9-4 record and national rank of 19th in the F/+ Combined Ratings—a set of rankings which combines two advanced statistical algorithms. It was an encouraging sign that Wisconsin experienced little drop-off with Andersen holding the reins.

Yet this will be the season that really tests whether Andersen deserves to be considered one of the five best coaches in the Big Ten. While Wisconsin will benefit from possessing what should be one of the nation’s most explosive rushing attacks and a weak conference slate, the Badgers still must replace their entire starting front seven on defense and find answers—any answer—for their depleted receiving corps. The talent and depth that has bolstered Wisconsin in years past does not seem to be quite there in 2014. This means that Andersen’s coaching ability will need to be at the top of its game because Wisconsin will not be able to afford as many errors. Then, after the season, we will be able to evaluate Andersen’s performance and finally peg exactly where he should fall on this list.

4. James Franklin, Penn State | Overall Record: 24-15 (3 yrs) – Record at Penn State: 0-0 (0 yrs)
Record at Vanderbilt Overall W/L SEC W/L Standing Bowl
2013 9-4 4-4 4th (East) BBVA Compass (W)
2012 9-4 5-3 4th (East) Music City (W)
2011 6-7 2-6 T4th (East) Liberty (L)
Career Totals 24-15 11-13   2-1
(Matthew O'Haren, USA Today Sports)

(Matthew O’Haren, USA Today Sports)

James Franklin has been a collegiate head coach for only three seasons, but he has taken the nation by storm in that short span. Franklin made his head-coaching debut at Vanderbilt in 2011. Vanderbilt always has been one of the toughest coaching jobs in America due to its small enrollment, academic focus, and SEC membership. Since 1982, the Commodores had recorded only one winning season—a 7-6 record in 2008—prior to Franklin’s arrival and consistently found themselves near the bottom of the F/+ Combined Ratings. They were perennial losers, a team SEC powerhouses viewed as an automatic conference win. But Franklin changed all of that the instant he stepped on the Vanderbilt campus.

Under Franklin, the Commodores were no longer pushovers. In his first season in 2011, he coached Vanderbilt to a 6-7 record and only its second bowl appearance since 1982. The record was not flashy, but, unlike previous seasons, Vanderbilt actually was competitive against its tougher opponents, losing to Georgia, Arkansas, and Florida by a combined 13 points. It is no surprise that advanced statistics really liked what the Commodores offered in 2011, ranking them 39th in the F/+ Combined Ratings just one year after placing 101st. It was significant progress in just one season with Franklin in charge, but he was not finished. In each of the next two seasons, the Commodores posted a 9-4 record and no less than four SEC victories. The last time they had a nine-win season? 1915. And Vanderbilt just accomplished the feat two years in a row. In three seasons at Vanderbilt, Franklin tallied 24 wins overall, which tied the best three-year stretch in school history. Franklin’s stint at Vanderbilt was an overwhelming success as he was able to achieve things there that no one had done in decades and decades.

This translated into instant stardom for Franklin and made him a hot commodity as the coaching carousel spun and spun. Initially, it seemed like Franklin would remain at Vanderbilt for a fourth season. But, then, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien left Happy Valley for a shot at the NFL with the Houston Texans. The Nittany Lions, hoping to appease its disappointed fan base with a popular hire, traveled into SEC territory and persuaded Franklin to join them in the Big Ten. Since then, Franklin and Penn State have torched the recruiting trail. According to 247 Sports, Penn State already has 19 commits in the 2015 class, 12 of which are four-stars, and the sixth-best class in the nation. While Franklin’s recruiting prowess certainly has been noted, the real question is how Franklin will do on the sidelines in his first season at Penn State. The Nittany Lions still are dealing with the scholarship reductions and postseason ban handed to them in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Will Franklin continue to be a star and have immediate success at Penn State like he did at Vanderbilt? Or will the lack of talented depth at multiple positions be too much to overcome? My guess: Franklin’s star may not shine as bright after a 2014 season that will be a tougher challenge than most expect.

3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern | Overall Record: 55-46 (8 yrs) – Record at Northwestern: 55-46 (8 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 5-7 1-7 6th (Legends)
2012 10-3 5-3 3rd (Legends) Gator (W)
2011 6-7 3-5 5th (Legends) Meineke Car Care (L)
2010 7-6 3-5 T7th Ticket City (L)
2009 8-5 5-3 T4th Outback (L)
2008 9-4 5-3 T4th Alamo (L)
2007 6-6 3-5 T7th
2006 4-8 2-6 T8th
Career Totals 55-46 27-37   1-4
(US Presswire)

(US Presswire)

Similar to Penn State’s James Franklin, Pat Fitzgerald has built his coaching reputation by transforming what has traditionally been a down-in-the-dumps football program with lofty academic standards and limited resources into a respectable one. In 2006, Fitzgerald, a former All-American linebacker at Northwestern, was promoted by his alma mater from an assistant to head coach. Prior to Fitzgerald assuming the top spot on its coaching staff, Northwestern had managed an eight-plus-win season only three times since it had joined the Big Ten in 1953. Yet it took the Wildcats only the first seven seasons of Fitzgerald’s tenure to accomplish the same feat, recording nine wins in 2008, eight in 2009, and a program-best 10 in 2012. Not every season has been such a triumph for Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, but no longer are they an easy out for Big Ten opponents.

For example, many may question Fitzgerald’s spot at No. 3 on this list following Northwestern’s underachieving 2013 campaign. Entering last season, the Wildcats were projected to build off their 10-win season in 2012 and possibly contend for a Big Ten championship. However, after sweeping its four non-conference foes, Northwestern suffered one bad break after the other. There was quarterback Kain Colter’s bobbled snap on fourth-and-one as Northwestern was driving for a game-winning score late in the fourth quarter against Ohio State. Then, there was the Hail Mary the Wildcats allowed to Nebraska on the final play of the game to lose by three points. There was also the hurried field goal Michigan somehow managed to kick before time expired to force overtime, which led to Northwestern losing in the third extra frame. And none of this bad luck even accounts for the countless number of Northwestern players that went down with injuries all season. Essentially, everything that could go wrong went wrong. Should Fitzgerald be responsible for some of this? Possibly. But most of the reasons why Northwestern had a 5-7 record last season were out of his control.

This is why Fitzgerald still is considered one of the best coaches in the Big Ten. He put Northwestern in a position to potentially contend for a Big Ten title before bad karma struck and struck hard. Do you know how many other coaches could put Northwestern in such a position? Very, very few. Fitzgerald very likely would experience much more success and more wins if he chose to leave Northwestern for a blue-chip, top-of-the-line college football factory that has exponentially more resources. But he has chosen to stay in Evanston and sustain Northwestern’s new reputation as a respectable program. This fall, even after the recent news that playmaker Venric Mark will transfer and top wideout Christian Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Wildcats still have an outside shot at winning what will be a weak Big Ten West. And this is all possible because of Fitzgerald.

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State | Overall Record: 128-25 (12 yrs) – Record at Ohio State: 24-2 (2 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 12-2 8-0 1st (Leaders) Orange (L)
2012 12-0 8-0 1st (Leaders)
Career Totals 24-2 16-0   0-1
(Bradley Leeb, USA Today Sports)

(Bradley Leeb, USA Today Sports)

There is no doubt that Urban Meyer has the best resume of any head coach in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation.  Meyer won at an astonishing level at each of his first three stops. When he was first hired as a head coach by Bowling Green in 2001, he took over a program that went 2-9 the previous season. But this did not prevent the Falcons from earning 17 wins in Meyer’s two seasons at the helm. Meyer then moved to the Mountain West Conference to become Utah’s head coach. Just like at Bowling Green, he was there for only two seasons. This time, though, Meyer coached the Utes to a 22-2 record and two conference championships, including an undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl victory in 2004. Meyer experienced the same type of success once he departed for Florida prior to 2005 and joined the “big leagues,” so to speak. In his six years with the Gators, he compiled a 65-15 record, three 13-win seasons, and two BCS national championships (2006 and 2008). In just a short decade, Meyer’s status skyrocketed from being a nobody to being considered one of the best coaches in the country.

After a one-year “reprieve” from college coaching in 2011 to “spend more time with his family,” Meyer dove back into it by taking the head job at Ohio State. The Buckeyes needed a new coach to guide the program after Jim Tressel resigned amid NCAA violations resulting from a tattoo-parlor scandal that saw the NCAA allege that Tressel had knowingly withheld information to maintain his players’ eligibility. Meyer decided he was the man to replace Tressel as the face of the prestigious program. His first two seasons have seen him win just like he has at every other stop he had as a head coach. The Buckeyes won their first 24 contests under Meyer and achieved a perfect season in 2012. Their only two losses were to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl last season. Given Ohio State’s current recruiting and Meyer’s astounding track record of winning, Ohio State does not seem like it will be slowing down any time soon.

Accordingly, you are probably wondering why Meyer is at No. 2 on this list rather than in the top spot given the accolades he has received throughout his head-coaching career. Once again, the purpose of this list is to rank who will be the best head coaches in 2014, not necessarily the ones who have had the best careers. There is no doubt that Meyer has had the best career among Big Ten coaches. No other Big Ten coach can claim winning a national championship, let alone two. And no other Big Ten coach can claim to have won 24 consecutive contests at any point of their head-coaching career. Nonetheless, there is another Big Ten coach who has been more impressive than Meyer recently, turning a mediocre program into a consistent contender despite having far less to work with in the cupboard.

1. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State | Overall Record: 82-46 (10 yrs) – Record at Michigan St: 64-29 (7 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 13-1 8-0 1st (Legends) Rose (W)
2012 7-6 3-5 4th (Legends) Buffalo Wild Wings (W)
2011 11-3 7-1 1st (Legends) Outback (W)
2010 11-2 7-1 T1st Capital One (L)
2009 6-7 4-4 T6th Alamo (L)
2008 9-4 6-2 3rd Capital One (L)
2007 7-6 3-5 T7th Champs Sports (L)
Career Totals 64-29 38-18   3-4
(AP)

(AP)

Before Mark Dantonio left Cincinnati to assume command of the Michigan State football program in 2007, the Spartans were in a funk. Since the 1987 season, which had been the last time they had participated in the Rose Bowl, the Spartans had managed to win more than eight games only once—a 10-2 record in in 1999 with Nick Saban as head coach. Not only was Michigan State failing to win enough games to contend for conference championships, it also was struggling mightily against its premier rival Michigan. During that two-decade span, the Spartans were only 5-15 against the Wolverines from Ann Arbor. Accordingly, Michigan State was looked down upon by the Big Ten’s best, seen only as a middle-of-the-pack program that caused a minor inconvenience.

When Dantonio first arrived in East Lansing, there was not much to write home about. In his first three seasons at Michigan State, Dantonio’s Spartans put together only a 22-17 record, even though they did beat Rich Rodriguez-led Michigan twice. It was unclear whether Dantonio could take them to the top. It is not fuzzy anymore. In the past four seasons, Michigan State has been one of the best programs in the Big Ten. The Spartans have attained a 42-12 record and 77.8-win-percentage in those four years, which is second in the Big Ten only to Ohio State in that span, and won at least 11 games in three of those years. This increase in wins has brought the Spartans a share of two Big Ten championships—their first since 1990—and their first Rose Bowl victory since 1987. The Spartans now are surging under Dantonio.

So why is Dantonio slotted in the top spot ahead of Meyer? Michigan State’s win against Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game could be used as evidence, but let’s move that to the side for a minute. In the past four seasons, both Michigan State and Ohio State have 42 wins. Ohio State has a better winning percentage only because it has two fewer losses. It is that close. And, yet, Dantonio has achieved this with either loads of recruiting gems or less talented players than Ohio State. From 2009 to 2013, Michigan State’s recruiting classes’ average national ranking was 30.6 according to 247 Sports. Ohio State’s? 7.6. The Buckeyes have had much more raw talent at their disposal than the Spartans, but this has not stopped Dantonio, with the help of defensive wizard Pat Narduzzi, from putting out an equivalent product. No, Meyer has not been at Ohio State for the past four years, but he had much more to work with the moment he stepped foot in Columbus. And, despite this, Michigan State is on the same playing field as Ohio State, which is why Dantonio currently is the best head coach in the Big Ten.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with our list? Is Mark Dantonio currently the best head football coach in the Big Ten? Or should that honor belong to Urban Meyer? And what about Brady Hoke? Does he deserve to be in the top five? Please leave your thoughts below in the comments section.