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Posts Tagged ‘Bye Week’

Your bye week Saturday viewing guide

Friday, October 25th, 2013


Michigan’s second bye week in four weeks provides another great chance to relax, get your fall yardwork done, and ultimately get ready for the final five-week stretch of the season. All five of the next Saturdays feature big-time matchups for Michigan, each of which is a must win if the Wolverines want any chance of winning the Big Ten this season. This stress-free Saturday sets up nicely to scout each of the five teams Michigan has left on its schedule with a nice slate of games. Here’s your viewing guide.

Early games

At noon, two Big Ten games are worth at least casually keeping your eye on. They won’t necessarily be good games, but three of the four teams involved are among Michigan’s next four opponents. Iowa hosts Northwestern (12pm, Big Ten Network) in a battle of 4-3 squads. The Wildcats began the season 4-0 and battled Ohio State punch-for-punch in Evanston, but a combination of factors including injuries to several of their top playmakers have them reeling with three straight losses. Suddenly, one of the Legends Division favorites from the beginning of the season is now relegated to playing spoiler.

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Following the Iowa game, Northwestern has Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan state in three consecutive games before finishing the season at Illinois, so beating Iowa is a must-win for the Wildcats to be assured of bowl eligibility. But that’s easier said than done in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes won the last matchup at home and are always tough to beat at home, especially in late fall when the wind starts whipping.

Iowa has shown to be pesky this season, playing Michigan State and Ohio State tough each of the last two games, so while neither of these teams is likely to win the Legends, Michigan will have to get through both of them – on the road – to have a chance.

The other noon game to keep an eye on is #24 Nebraska at Minnesota (12pm, ESPN). The Cornhuskers may be the Legends Division favorite at this point, but as Derick described on Wednesday, they have beaten just one team this season that has a winning record (4-3 Wyoming). The other four have come against winless Southern Miss, FCS school South Dakota State, and Big Ten bottom feeders Illinois and Purdue. The one team with a pulse Nebraska has faced, then-16th ranked UCLA, stomped the ‘Huskers 41-21 in Lincoln.

Minnesota is coming off a big win at Northwestern with head coach Jerry Kill taking a leave of absence. The Gophers likely don’t have enough in the tank to hang with Nebraska, but after last weekend’s big road win they’ll at least be playing with confidence.

Outside of the Big Ten there aren’t really any other big early games worth watching. Wake Forest vs #7 Miami (12pm, ESPNU) and #16 Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt (12:21pm, ESPN3) are the only others even remotely good, the latter because the Aggies are a potential bowl opponent.

Afternoon games

The afternoon slate features a few games worth watching, most notably Michigan State at Illinois (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2), only because the Spartans are Michigan’s next opponent. It’s not likely to be much of a battle as MSU’s top-ranked defense should be able to handle Illinois’ offense that was held to just 25.5 points per game against Nebraska and Wisconsin the past two weeks. Conversely, Michigan State’s offense, which hasn’t been much to talk about this season should be able to move the ball and score against the Illini’s 98th-ranked scoring defense which allows over 32 points per game. The Spartans shouldn’t have much trouble beating Illinois, but it will be a good chance to get acclimated with them if you haven’t seen them play yet this season.

Outside of the Big Ten will feature a few solid matchups worth paying attention to. Tennessee visits #1 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS), #2 Florida State hosts NC State (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2) and #9 Clemson visits Maryland (3:30pm, ESPN). Tennessee isn’t likely to pull off the upset in Tuscaloosa, but the Vols have shown some fight this season under Butch Jones, including last week’s win over #11 South Carolina and taking then-#6 Georgia to overtime earlier this month. Similarly, Florida State shouldn’t have trouble dispensing of NC State, but an unranked Wolfpack squad has beaten a ranked FSU team four times since 2005, including a 17-16 upset last season. Florida State is coming off a huge primetime win at Clemson and faces #7 Miami next week, so this could be a classic trap game. Finally, the team that was on the losing end of that Florida State win last Saturday, Clemson is licking its wounds as it travels to College Park to face a 5-2 Maryland squad. The Terps, however, were blasted by FSU (63-0) and last week by Wake Forest (34-10).

Another one to at least flip over to during commercial breaks is #10 Texas Tech at #15 Oklahoma (3:30pm, FOX). The Red Raiders are a surprising 7-0 and the Sooners’ only loss of the season was two weeks ago at the hands of Texas. Both of these teams are potential bowl opponents if Michigan either gets a BCS at-large bid or limps through the rest of the season falling to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Evening games

The evening set of games features several ranked foes squaring off. The one that most pertains to us is Penn State at #4 Ohio State (8pm, ABC). The Nittany Lions had a week off last week after beating Michigan, while Ohio State got an unexpected fight from Iowa. With two weeks to prepare, could Penn State pull off a big upset in Columbus? The big play threat of Christian Hackenberg throwing to Allen Robinson and the rest of Penn State’s receivers is sure to test Ohio State’s beleaguered secondary, but the Buckeyes will look to put pressure on the freshman quarterback. Expect a close game in what’s likely to be Ohio State’s final test before visiting Ann Arbor on Nov. 30.

The biggest battle of the day will be #12 UCLA at #3 Oregon (7pm, ESPN). The Bruins lost to 13th-ranked Stanford last week and will be looking to bounce back in Eugene against the high-powered Ducks.

Two other games feature battles of ranked teams: #21 South Carolina at #5 Missouri (7pm, ESPN2) and #6 Stanford at #25 Oregon State (10:30pm, ESPN). Missouri is the surprise of the SEC this season, but a team many feel is overrated at fifth in the BCS standings. South Carolina is coming off a disappointing loss at Tennessee, looking to pull off an upset of its own and stay in the SEC East race. Stanford got upset by Utah two weeks ago and now finds itself a game behind Oregon State and Oregon in the Pac-12 standings. If UCLA is able to upset the Ducks, this game could either put Oregon State in the conference lead or leave a three-way tie, and both teams still have to play Oregon in the final month of the season.

Your bye week Saturday viewing guide

Friday, September 27th, 2013


Since you don’t have to worry about making the pilgrimage to the Big House or blocking off a chunk of time to watch the beloved Wolverines on TV tomorrow, there are any number of things to do. Yardwork, that home improvement project you’ve been putting off, appeasing your significant other, take the kids to a fall festival, or…maybe watching other games? Without much at stake tomorrow, you may not have paid much attention to the slate of games, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here’s your guide to tomorrow’s games that relate to Michigan.

Early games

There are no noon kickoffs that have any bearing on Michigan’s season so use this time to do any of the aforementioned tasks. Spend the morning and early afternoon with your significant other or getting stuff done around the house before you settle in for the afternoon games. There are three ranked teams in action at noon: #11 Oklahoma at West Virginia (ESPN), #12 South Carolina at UCF (ABC), and #15 Miami at South Florida (ESPNU), so perhaps you could have one of those on in the background.

Afternoon games

LSU and Georgia are potential bowl opponents to keep an eye on (Dale Zanine, US Presswire)

The first big matchup of the day that relates to Michigan is #14 Oklahoma at #22 Notre Dame (3:30pm, NBC). The Sooners are out for revenge after getting throttled by the Irish in Norman a year ago. OU has given up just 27 points in three games this season, and they have had two weeks to prepare for Notre Dame, but this will be their first road test. Quarterback Blake Bell looked good against Tulsa two weeks ago, completing 27-of-37 passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Michigan fans will want to cheer for the Irish in this one since Michigan already beat Notre Dame. The more games ND wins the rest of the season the more it will help Michigan’s BCS chances should the Wolverines keep winning.

Also at 3:30 is a Big Ten matchup between Iowa and Minnesota (ABC/ESPN2). This certainly won’t be the best game on but it’s a chance to scout out two future opponents including next week’s. Minnesota is 4-0 so far and Iowa is 3-1, though neither has beaten a quality opponent. It will be a good early season barometer of how good both of these teams really is before they face the upper tier of the Big Ten in the coming weeks. It’s a rivalry game, played for the Floyd of Rosedale, and two of the last three meetings have been decided by three points or less.

The biggest game on at the 3:30 time slot is one that may or may not be relevant to Michigan: #6 LSU at #9 Georgia (CBS). GameDay will be in Athens in the morning, which might be worth flipping on to see Bubba Watson and Willie Robertson as the guest pickers. You may not enjoy watching SEC football, but one of these teams could very well end up being Michigan’s opponent in January, and it’s sure to be a great game.

Evening games

Wisconsin may be the best chance for Ohio State to lose before Nov. 30 (Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

If you weren’t able to catch any of the games during the day, now is definitely the time to kick back, enjoy a cold one (or a few) and watch some football. At 8pm #4 Ohio State hosts #23 Wisconsin on ABC. While Michigan doesn’t play the Badgers this season, it may be the best chance for the Buckeyes to lose before they come to Ann Arbor on Nov. 30. Wisconsin has one of the nation’s top running games with two very good backs, both of which are on pace for well more than 1,000 yards. Melvin Gordon has 624 yards on 11.8 yards per carry through four games, while James White has 442 on 7.2 yards per carry. Even freshman Corey Clement has more yards than Michigan’s leading rusher, Fitzgerald Toussaint, does (334 on 7.6 yards per carry).

Ohio State has played four cupcakes to start the season and is coming off a 76-0 thrashing of Florida A&M. What’s more is that Braxton Miller is set to start after missing the last two games with a knee injury. He entered the season as a Heisman favorite, but his backup, Kenny Guiton has looked phenomenal the last two weeks. It will be interesting to see how Urban Meyer handles it if Miller struggles.

Two other evening games will be worth checking out similar to the LSU-Georgia game for the potential of Michigan facing them in January. Top-ranked Alabama hosts #21 Ole Miss (6:30 on ESPN) and #10 Texas A&M visits Arkansas (7:00 on ESPN2). Alabama hasn’t been as dominant to this point as it has been the past few years, and Ole Miss is in the midst of a resurgence, so it should be a good one to watch.

Overall, it’s a pretty good slate of games this weekend so enjoy a stress free weekend of football and whatever else is on your agenda.

Rival Rewind hates all the rivals

Thursday, September 27th, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week:

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

Prediction: Ohio State 17 –  Michigan State 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week:

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

Prediction: Ohio State 17 – Michigan State 13

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

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

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

To hell with Notre Dame.