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Posts Tagged ‘Devin Funchess’

Just enough: Michigan 10 – Northwestern 9

Saturday, November 8th, 2014


UM-NU(MGoBlue.com)

Nobody expected an offensive shootout in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday afternoon, and Michigan and Northwestern, both of whom feature offenses in the 100s nationally, lived up to that expectation combining for 19 points and 13 punts in a 10-9 Michigan win.

Northwestern crossed midfield on the opening possession of the game, but a converted 3rd-and-1 with a 10-yards Justin Jackson run, got called back for illegal formation and the Wildcats punted.

Michigan got a quick first down on two Drake Johnson runs, but on 3rd-and-8 from the Michigan 43, Devin Funchess dropped a would-be first down. Michigan punted.

And so the game went, neither offense able to put together anything resembling a long drive. Jake Ryan picked off a Trevor Siemian pass at the Northwestern 47 and Michigan quickly moved into the Northwestern red zone. But De’Veon Smith was stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Wildcat 16.

UM-Northwestern-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 10 9
Record 5-5, 3-3 3-6, 2-4
Total Yards 256 264
Net Rushing Yards 147 -9
Net Passing Yards 109 273
First Downs 13 18
Turnovers 3 4
Penalties-Yards 5-50 3-10
Punts-Yards 7-267 6-209
Time of Possession 25:49 31:51
Third Down Conversions 1-of-12 10-of-20
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 6-59 0-0
Field Goals 1-for-2 1-for-2
PATs 1-for-1 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-4 2-of-4
Full Box Score

Midway through the fourth quarter, Michigan took possession at the Northwestern 31 after a short punt and a nine-yard Amara Darboh return. Three plays later, Devin Gardner was intercepted by Matthew Harris. Northwestern gave it right back four plays later when Matt Godin intercepted Siemian at the Northwestern 35. But once again Michigan couldn’t convert. Matt Wile’s 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the teams went to halftime locked in a scoreless game, each offense barely over 100 total yards.

In the second half it was Northwestern’s turn to squander a great opportunity. A Michigan fumbled snap on its first possession gave the Wildcats possession a the Michigan 27. But three plays later, kicker Jack Mitchell pulled a 36-yard field goal to the left.

Michigan finally broke through midway through the third quarter thanks to another Northwestern mistake. Tony Jones fumbled a Will Hagerup punt and Michigan recovered at the Northwestern 21. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards and Smith carried it into the end zone on the next play, putting Michigan ahead 7-0.

After forcing a Wildcat punt, Michigan’s offense looked to add more to the tally, but Gardner was picked off by safety Ibraheim Campbell at the Northwestern six. Campbell rumbled 79 yards to the Michigan 15. But yet again Northwestern’s offense imploded. Frank Clark stopped Jones for a five-yard loss on the first play, then back-to-back sacks by Brennen Beyer pushed the Wildcats out of field goal range. On 4th-and-38, Pat Fitzgeraldn had no choice but to punt.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, after forcing a Michigan punt, Northwestern put together its best drive of the game, marching 95 yards on 19 plays, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal to pull within four at 7-3.

Michigan rode Smith and a 16-yard completion to Jake Butt down the field and Wile kicked a 37-yard field goal to put the Wolverines ahead by a touchdown once again with 3:03 remaining.

But Northwestern wasn’t finished, methodically marching down the field with a series of short passes. On 2nd-and-10 from the Michigan 22, Raymon Taylor was flagged for pass interference giving Northwestern a 1st-and-goal at the seven with less than a minute to play. After back-to-back runs by Jackson failed to reach the end zone, Siemian found Jones for a touchdown with three seconds left. Rather than kick the extra point and go to overtime for the third straight season, Fitzgerald elected to go for the win. On the two-point conversation attempt, Siemian rolled out to his right, but Clark was right there waiting for him. Siemian lost his footing and fell to the ground sealing the Michigan win.

After the game, Michigan coaches and players alike said they were prepared for the two-point conversion play. Hoke credited the coaches in the booth for seeing it and the players credited their preparation during the week.

“I knew it was going to be a sprint out once I saw the double motion, and that’s how I went about it,” said Clark.

Ryan agreed, saying, “”We planned for it all week. We knew what they were doing.”

Michigan finished the game with 256 total yards, 147 of which on the ground. Gardner completed 11-of-24 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions, while Smith led the way with 121 rushing yards on 18 carries (6.7 yards per carry). Darboh led Michigan with four receptions for 41 yards.

Northwestern outgained Michigan with 264 total yards, but the Michigan defense held the Wildcats to minus-nine yards rushing thanks to six sacks. Siemian completed 32-of-49 passes for 273 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. After averaging 123 yards per game in his last four, Jackson was held to just 35 yards on 17 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Kyle Prater was the leading receiver with eight catches for 86 yards.

Ryan finished with 11 tackles, half of a tackle for loss, and one pick. Clark tallied seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack, but was a disruptive force for most of the game. Beyer and Mario Ojemudia each recorded a pair of sacks, while Willie Henry added one.

At 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten, Michigan heads into its final bye week of the season. The Wolverines host Maryland (6-3, 3-2) on Nov. 22. The Terrapins were off this week and host Michigan State next Saturday. A Michigan win over Maryland would make the Wolverines bowl eligible heading into the season-ending trip to Columbus.

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, November 7th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 21- Northwestern 20

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

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 13

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

Northwestern 24 – Michigan 20

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

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 24

Michigan-Northwestern game preview

Friday, November 7th, 2014


Game Preview_Northwestern_banner

With three games left in the season Michigan is reduced to fighting for its postseason life, needing to win two to become bowl eligible and avoid a losing season. Indeed there are some fans rooting for that not to happen if only to speed up the seemingly inevitable coaching change, but there are seniors such as Devin Gardner and Jake Ryan and Frank Clark who are down to the final three games of their careers. Tomorrow is the first of those, and if they take care of business they’ll be one step closer to earning a fourth and final game.

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Quick Facts
Ryan Field – 3:30 p.m. EST – ESPN2
Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (9th season)
Coaching Record: 58-51 (all at Northwestern)
Offensive Coordinator: Mick McCall (7th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (7th season)
Returning 2013 Starters: 17 (9 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (1-7 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 29 – NU 17 3OT (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 55-15-2
Record at Ryan Field: Michigan leads 19-7
Current Streak: Michigan 3
Current Streak at NU:  Michigan 5
Last 10 Meetings:  Michigan 8-2
Last Northwestern Win: 2008 (21-14)
Last NU Home Win: 2000 (54-51)

But while Michigan owns the series history with Northwestern 55-15-2 and has topped Northwestern three years in a row, 11 of the past 15, and 30 of the past 34, the Wildcats have made Michigan really work for it in each of the past two years. In 2012, Michigan needed a Devin Gardner hail Mary to Roy Roundtree in the closing seconds to get into field position for the game-tying field goal and then won in overtime. Last season, it took an improbable last-second 44-yard field goal to tie the game and Michigan won in triple overtime.

This season, Michigan and Northwestern are essentially equals, underperforming their preseason expectations with bad offenses and decent defenses. But while Michigan doesn’t have a quality win Northwestern has beaten then-17th-ranked Wisconsin, and while Michigan doesn’t have a road win Northwestern dominated Penn State in State College. On the other hand, Northwestern has the worst loss, a 23-15 Week 2 home loss to Northern Illinois.

After a 10-3 season in 2012, Pat Fitzgerald had Northwestern the talk of the town. The Wildcats started 4-0 in 2013, moving all the way up to 16th nationally and landing ESPN College Game Day for the Oct. 5 showdown with 4th-ranked Ohio State. But that 40-30 loss kicked off a seven game losing streak that ended with a 37-34 win over Illinois on the final game of the season. Northwestern finished 5-7, which means in the past 16 games, the Wildcats are 4-12 — two games worse than Brady Hoke’s 6-10 in that same timespan.

But Fitzgerald is still beloved in Evanston and has even been thrown around as a possible candidate — if a long shot — to replace Hoke at Michigan. An argument can certainly be made that Northwestern has outplayed Michigan each of the past two years despite losing, and Fitzgerald won’t have to use much to motivate his team tomorrow. Can Northwestern finally finish the game? Or will Michigan get the best of the ‘cats once again? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Northwestern offense: When Northwestern has the ball

Northwestern’s offense ranks 113th nationally in scoring (19.1 points per game), 105th in rushing (124.8 yards per game), 88th in passing (205.2 yards per game), and 114th in total offense (330.0 yards per game). Comparatively, Michigan’s scores about a field goal more per game, rushes for 30 more yards, and passes for 30 fewer. Both teams average the exact same amount of total yards. Northwestern converts third downs at a clip of 38 percent compared to Michigan’s 41, has allowed five more sacks in one fewer game, and has scored three fewer touchdowns.

With Kain Colter gone, senior quarterback Trevor Siemian has attempted just 15 fewer passes than he did all of last season, but is 603 yards shy of last year’s pace and 3.5 completion percentage points behind. He has also thrown just four touchdown passes in eight games and compared to six interceptions. Even so, he has still thrown for more yards than Devin Gardner in one fewer game. He has topped 200 yards passing in four of eight games with a high of 269 on 32-of-50 completions against Minnesota. However, Iowa held him to just 8-of-18 for 68 yards last Saturday.

Siemian doesn’t have a standout receiver, but does have a group of solid pass catchers. The leading receiver is senior USC transfer Kyle Prater, who has 29 catches for 286 yards and one touchdown. At 6’5″, 225, he’s a similar size as Devin Funchess, but lacks the same type of game breaking ability. Junior super back Dan Vitale is the second-leading receiver with 26 catches for 282 yards and a score, while junior Miles Shuler has 23 for 190 yards, but has yet to find the end zone. However, Shuler, a Rutgers transfer, suffered a head injury on Oct. 18 and hasn’t played since. He’s out for tomorrow as well. Senior Tony Jones, a Flint, Mich. native, started the season with a seven-catch, 64-yard game, but has tailed off since then. He has 18 catches for 179 yards. Junior Cameron Dickerson is the only other receiver with double-digit receptions with 11 for 171 and one score.

The backfield has brought Northwestern fans some excitement this season, namely from true freshman running back Justin Jackson, who has been gaining steam as the season has gone along. In Week 1, he received just eight carries for 40 yards, and through the first four games, he averaged just 14 carries for 58.5 yards per game. But in the last four, his workload has increased to 25 carries and 123 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in three of the last four, and the only one he didn’t was a 96-yard performance against Iowa last week. And he did that against four pretty good defenses — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Michigan offense vs Northwestern defense: When Michigan has the ball

Northwestern’s defense ranks 46th in scoring (23.9 points per game), 65th against the run (166.1 yards per game), 53rd against the pass (222.2 yards per game), and 60th in total defense (388.4 yards per game). The Wildcats allow 2.2 more points, 50 more rushing yards, 33 more passing yards, and 83 more total yards per game than Michigan.

Entering the season, the front seven was considered to be a strength, most notably linebackers Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis. Ariguzo, a senior, leads the team with 72 tackles to go along with four tackles for loss and one sack. Ellis moved from strong side to middle linebacker this season, but suffered a concussion against Minnesota and will not play tomorrow. In his place has been redshirt freshman Anthony Walker, who has recorded 24 tackles, two for loss, and one interception. The strong side spot has been split all season between junior Drew Smith and senior converted safety Jimmy Hall. The duo has combined for 55 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and one sack.

The line is led by junior end Dean Lowry, who leads the team with five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. The other end has been a rotation between juniors Deonte Gibson and Max Chapman, who have combined for 20 tackles, six for loss, and two sacks. The interior of the line received a huge setback prior to the season when fifth-year senior Sean McEvilly suffered a season-ending foot injury. Sophomore Greg Kuhar and junior C.J. Robbins have been the stalwarts inside, though senior Chance Carter has also seen quite a bit of time. All three, however, are listed on this week’s injury list, Kuhar and Robbins as probable and Carter as questionable.

The secondary has started junior Nick VanHoose and sophomore Matthew Harris at corner in every game this season. The two rank third and fourth on the team in tackles and lead the team with 11 and nine passes defended, respectively. Senior safety Ibraheim Campbell has missed four straight games with a hamstring injury, and is questionable for tomorrow’s game. Redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike has done well in his stead, leading the team with three interceptions while recording 36 tackles. The other safety is junior Traveon Henry, who ranks second on the team with 56 tackles, including two for loss.

Special Teams: The other third

Sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell has made 7-of-8 field goals this season, but has attempted one field goal longer than 29 yards, a 44-yarder that he missed. Junior punter Chris Gradone‘s average of 37.8 yards per punt does not rank in the Big Ten’s top ten. Shuler is the main return man, averaging 19.8 yards per kick return and 14.0 yards per punt return. The latter would rank second in the conference if he had enough returns, but he has only returned three punts.

Prediction

Michigan and Northwestern are pretty similar and I would expect a close, low-scoring game like saw last year and like we saw three weeks ago against Penn State. Three of the past four opponents have rushed for over 220 yards against Northwestern and Michigan will try to do the same, combining the power running of De’Veon Smith with the speed of Drake Johnson. It could have some success, but don’t expect 200 yards.

With cold and windy weather expected in Evanston tomorrow, neither passing game will have much success, so it will be up to the ground games. As mentioned above, Northwestern has found success against good defenses the past few weeks with freshman Justin Jackson. Michigan’s rush defense, although 16th nationally, has given up big games to running backs this season. It kept Indiana’s Tevin Coleman in check a week ago because the Hoosiers posed no passing threat. Northwestern’s passing threat will be a bit better, but not much considering the weather. It will be an ugly offensive game and whichever team can avoid turnovers will win. Given Michigan’s recent history with Northwestern, I’ll take Michigan ever so slightly.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17, probably in quadruple overtime

Final Look: Indiana

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014


UM vs IU(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan got back on the winning track with a 34-10 victory over Indiana last Saturday thanks to breakout performances by a pair of redshirt sophomores, receiver Amara Darboh and running back Drake Johnson. Michigan now needs to win two of its last three to earn a bowl invitation and avoid a losing season and the Wolverines head to Northwestern this Saturday. But before we turn our full attention to the Wildcats, let’s take a look back at the advanced stats from Michigan’s win over Indiana.

Advanced Statistics
Michigan Stat (National Average) Indiana
64 Total Plays 53
 41.5 Avg. Starting Field Position (29.8) 31.9
12 Possessions 12
6 Scoring Opportunities 3
 5.7 Points per Opportunity (4.69) 3.3
 66.1% Leverage Rate (68.2%) 67.3%
 48.4% Success Rate (41.8%) 34.6%
 57.1% Success Rate Passing Downs (30.5%) 11.8%
 43.9% Success Rate Standard Downs (47.1%) 45.7%
 53.3% Success Rate Passing (40.1%) 40.0%
43.8% Success Rate Rushing (43.4%) 33.3%
1 Turnovers 2
26.3 Equivalent Points 10.4
0.42 Equivalent Points Per Play 0.20

As I’ve said before, I’m working to expand this section in the future, and hoping to put in some work to go back and calculate the previous games this season as well as last season so I can draw comparisons between this year’s offense and last year’s. The stats and formulas used are from Football Outsiders and Football Study Hall.

Unlike the previous two games that we have broken down the advanced stats for, Michigan ran considerably more plays than Indiana, 64 compared to 53. Michigan also had a major advantage in average starting field position, and while both teams had the same number of possessions, Michigan had double the scoring opportunities. Indiana actually had a better leverage rate*, and that’s largely because the Hoosiers did well on first down, but both were slightly below the national average of 68.2 percent.

Michigan had a 14 percent better success rate** (48.4 percent to 34.6 percent). It was Michigan’s second-best success rate of the season, behind the 57.4 percent it achieved in the season opener against Appalachian State. The only other category that Indiana bested Michigan was success rate on standard downs***, and that goes back to the Hoosiers’ success on first down, limiting the third- and fourth-and-longs. Michigan was above the national average on passing downs (57.1 percent), success rate passing (53.3), and success rate rushing (43.8). Michigan’s success rate on passing downs and success rate passing were both also the second-highest of the season behind Appalachian State. Michigan’s one turnover matched its fewest of the season, along with the Appalachian State, Rutgers, and Penn State games. Basically, this was Michigan’s best offensive performance of the season against a Power-5 team and second-best of the season overall.

*Leverage Rate: Standard downs/(Standard downs + passing downs)
**Success Rate: 50% of necessary yards on first down, 70% on second down, 100% on third or fourth down
***Passing Down is considered 2nd & 7 or more, 3rd & 5 or more, 4th & 5 or more

Let’s take a look at the Five Factors.

Five Factors
Michigan Stat Indiana
6.3 Yards Per Play 3.6
 48.4% Success Rate 34.6%
41.5 Avg Starting Field Position 31.9
5.7 Points Per Opportunity 3.3
+1 Turnover Margin -1

Michigan won all five factors. Per Football Study Hall, here are the chances of winning based on each of these five factors:

Yards Per Play (weighted 35%)
- Michigan +2.7 = 95 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 23.9 (Michigan’s was 24).

Success Rate (25%)
- Michigan +13.8% = 91.5 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 17.3 (Michigan’s was 24).

Average Starting Field Position (15%)
- Michigan +9.6 = 78.3 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 15.7 (Michigan’s was 24).

Points Per Opportunity (15%)
- Michigan +2.4 = 82.3 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 18.4 (Michigan’s was 24).
Michigan had more scoring opportunities (six to three) and a better scoring percentage, which equates to a 98.4 percent chance of winning.

Turnover Margin (10%)
- Michigan +1 = 64.5 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 8.1 (Michigan’s was 24).

Michigan won all five — Yards per Play (35 percent), Success Rate (25 percent), Field Position (15 percent), PPO (15 percent), and Turnover Margin (10 percent). Added together, that equates to a 100 percent overall chance of winning, which they did.

Drive Chart
IU
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics, Dash indicates direction of drive, Green dash = scoring play, Grey = punt, Red = turnover, Pink = missed field goal, Black = end of half or turnover on downs, Shaded line = special teams or defensive touchdown

The numbers game

19: Consecutive wins for Michigan over Indiana, dating back to 1988

87-27: Michigan’s all-time record on Homecoming, including 4-0 under Brady Hoke

122: Michigan held Indiana 122 yards below its season rushing average of 289.9 yards

62: Michigan held Indiana running back Tevin Coleman, the nation’s leading rusher, 62 yards below his season average of 170.3 yards

220: Michigan’s 220 passing yards were a season high

7: Jake Ryan’s career forced fumbles after forcing two against Indiana. He moved into a tie with Brandon Graham for second in Michigan history

44: Jake Ryan’s career tackles for loss, moving into a tie for seventh place in Michigan history with Larry Foote (1998-2001)

10: Jake Ryan’s 10 tackles against Indiana were a career high, topping his previous high of eight against Rutgers

6,695: Devin Gardner’s career total yards, which rank fourth place in Michigan history, behind John Navarre (9,031), Chad Henne (9,400), and Denard Robinson (10,769)

Stepping Up: Michigan 34 – Indiana 10

Saturday, November 1st, 2014


Drake Johnson vs Indiana(MGoBlue.com)

A day after Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced the resignation of athletic director Dave Brandon the Michigan football team tuned out the distractions and took care of business on the field. Beating Indiana hasn’t been a major accomplishment for decades, but needing to win three of their final four to gain bowl eligibility, Michigan got a big performance from an unlikely source to clear one hurdle with a 34-10 win over the Hoosiers.

UM-Indiana-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Indiana
Score 34 10
Record 4-5, 2-3 3-5, 0-4
Total Yards 404 191
Net Rushing Yards 184 167
Net Passing Yards 220 24
First Downs 20 10
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 3-25 3-25
Punts-Yards 4-155 6-226
Time of Possession 33:35 26:25
Third Down Conversions 6-of-13 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-14 1-2
Field Goals 2-for-2 1-for-2
PATs 4-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-3
Full Box Score

Indiana gained a first down on its opening possession, but Michigan’s defense forced a punt. Devin Gardner connected with Devin Funchess for eight yards to start Michigan’s first possession, and three plays later found Amara Darboh for 34 yards to the Indiana 23. Michigan’s drive stalled and Matt Wile booted a 35 yard field goal to put the Wolverines ahead 3-0.

On the first play of Indiana’s ensuing possession, Tevin Coleman, who entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher, fumbled and Bryan Mone recovered at the Indiana 27. Michigan capitalized with a six-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to tight end Keith Heitzman.

Michigan got back on the scoreboard a couple drives later when Gardner hit Darboh for a 12-yard touchdown pass to complete a nine-play, 79-yard drive and give Michigan a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

After forcing another Indiana punt, Michigan got the ball back looking to put the Hoosiers away. But on 3rd-and-9, Gardner was intercepted by safety Chase Dutra, who returned it 39 yards to the Michigan 12. The Michigan defense held strong, forcing a 25-yard field goal attempt. Redshirt freshman kicker Griffin Oakes missed it and Michigan averted a swing in momentum.

Michigan opened the second half with a three-and-out and Indiana finally mounted a scoring drive, going 51 yards in 11 plays for a 38-yard field goal by Oakes to pull within 14.

Michigan’s offense punted back to Indiana, but on 3rd-and-5, Ryan Glasgow sacked freshman quarterback Zander Diamont, forcing a fumble and recovering it himself at the Indiana 20. Three plays later, Drake Johnson carried it in from 10 yards out to put Michigan ahead 24-3.

Indiana went three-and-out and Michigan strung together its longest drive of the season, marching 78 yards in 15 plays and eating up eight minutes of game clock. The drive stalled at the Indiana six, but Wile converted a 23-yard field goal.

Indiana finally reached the end zone with a three-yard touchdown run by D’Angelo Roberts that capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive. Diamont started the drive with a 35-yard run. Michigan recovered Indiana’s onside kick attempt and Johnson ran for 32 yards and 16 yards for his second touchdown of the day, putting Michigan on top for the game’s final score of 34-10.

Johnson, who came in after De’Veon Smith got injured in the game, led all rushers with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Darboh had the best game of his career as well with nine catches and a touchdown for 107 yards. Funchess caught seven passes for 47 yards. Gardner finished 22-of-29 for 220 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. It was Gardner’s highest passing total of the season and the first time this season Michigan has eclipsed 200 yards passing against a Power-5 team.

Diamont completed just 5-of-8 passes for 24 yards, while Coleman managed to crack 100 yards for the eighth time in as many games this season, finishing with 108 yards on 27 carries. Indiana’s 191 total yards and 24 passing yards were the fewest allowed by Michigan all season.

Jake Ryan led all defenders with 11 tackles including 10 solo stops and 2.5 tackles for loss, while Joe Bolden and Brennen Beyer each tallied a sack.

Michigan travels to Evanston, Ill. to take on Northwestern (3-5, 2-3) next Saturday. The Wildcats were throttled by Iowa 44-7 this week and are riding a three-game losing streak. With Ohio State looming at season’s end, Michigan must beat Northwestern to inch one step closer to bowl eligibility.

Michigan-Indiana game preview

Friday, October 31st, 2014


Game Preview_Indiana_banner

Michigan got embarrassed by rival Michigan State last Saturday, dropping to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. Michigan now must win its next three to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. All three should be winnable, but with every other record and streak that has fallen this season — shutout streak, largest margin of defeat to Michigan State, and possibly attendance streak — and the past few seasons — first loss to a MAC team, first (and second) losing season in over 40 years — Indiana could be primed to end another one. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers since Bo Schembechler roamed the sidelines, a 14-10 defeat in Bloomington in 1987. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers at home since Bo was at Miami (Ohio), a 27-20 defeat in 1967.

UM-Indiana-small-final
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – Big Ten Network
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (4th season)
Coaching Record: 13-30 (all at Indiana)
Offensive Coordinators: Greg Frey (4th season)
Kevin Johns (4th season)
Defensive Coordinators: William Inge (2nd season)
Brian Knorr (1st season)
Returning Starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 63 – IU 47 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 53-9
Record at Michigan Stadium: Michigan leads 30-5
Current Streak: Michigan 18
Last 10 Meetings:  Michigan 10-0
Last Indiana Win: 1987 (14-10)
Last Indiana Road Win: 1967 (27-20)

But it’s not as if Indiana is a world-bater or anything. Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers on the right trajectory heading into the season, going 1-11 in 2011, 4-8 in 2012, and 5-7 a year ago. But the two-quarterback platoon that he used to great offensive success last season dissolved when one of them, Tre Roberson, transferred to Illinois State in June. That left the other, Nate Sudfeld, to assume the quarterback role by himself. He provided a better arm, but not the dual-threat ability that Roberson brought to the table, and while Indiana’s offense started the season pretty good, it was clear that it was a step behind last season’s.

After beating Indiana State in Week 1, IU lost at Bowling Green, 45-42. But they responded the following week with a 31-27 upset of 18th-ranked Missouri on the road, giving Wilson more road wins over top 25 teams than Brady Hoke. The euphoria would be short-lived as Indiana returned home to get throttled by Maryland, 37-15. They rebounded with a 49-24 win over North Texas, but dropped back-to-back conference games to Iowa (45-29) and Michigan State (56-17).

All but the last one were with Sudfeld behind center, but Wilson’s hopes for a winning season became extremely difficult when Sudfeld went down against Iowa with a separated shoulder. Suddenly, a position that was considered a strength three months ago was left with a true freshman with no college experience.

Does Indiana have the ability to come to Ann Arbor and steal a victory the same way it did in Columbia, Mo.? Or will Michigan’s defense prove too much for the unseasoned signal caller? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Indiana offense: When Indiana has the ball

Indiana’s offense ranks 32nd nationally in total offense (460.3 yards per game), 64th in scoring (30.1 points per game), eighth in rushing (289.9 yards per game), and 112th in passing (170.4 yards per game). It also ranks 103rd in third-down conversions (36 percent) and 98th in red zone offense (78 percent).

The main reason for the success Indiana has had is running back Tevin Coleman, who leads the nation with 170.3 rushing yards per game. He has rushed for at least 122 yards in every game this season with a high of 247 against Indiana State. He also rushed for 219, averaging 14.9 yards per carry, against Iowa’s stout run defense and 132, averaging 8.8 yards per carry, against Michigan State.

The passing game is a different story, however. The Hoosiers average 170.4 yards per game through the air. In fact, Coleman has rushed for more yards (1,204) by himself than the Hoosiers have passed for (1,193). Sudfeld completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions before his injury. His replacement, true freshman Zander Diamont, completed just 5-of-15 for 11 yards in his first game action against Michigan State two weeks ago.

Shane Wynn is the leading receiver with 27 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns. He caught two touchdowns against Michigan last season. Senior Nick Stoner has 18 catches for 177 yards and one score, while Coleman is the team’s third-leading pass catcher with 17 for 140 yards. Freshman J-Shun Harris II is the only other Hoosier with double-digit receptions with 14 for 139 and two scores.

Michigan offense vs Indiana defense: When Michigan has the ball

Defense has never been a specialty of Wilson’s in Bloomington. A year ago, Indiana’s scoring offense ranked 16th nationally, but its scoring defense ranked 115th. Only nine teams in the nation allowed more points per game. But this offseason Wilson brought in Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr to change from a 4-3 to the 3-4 that he ran at Wake. Knorr elevated Wake’s defense from 91st in 2012 to 31st in 2013, but that kind of success at Indiana is a much tougher task.

The line consists of sophomore tackle Darius Latham — a former four-star recruit –, redshirt junior nose tackle Adarius Rayner, and senior end Bobby Richardson. Richardson has 4.5 tackles for loss, while Latham and Rayner each have two. Richardson leads the team with four sacks. Redshirt sophomore tackle Ralph Green III ranks second on the team with four tackles for loss.

Converted defensive end Nick Mangieri plays the bandit linebacker spot and has 25 tackles, two for loss, and two sacks. SAM linebacker Forisse Hardin has 32 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a sack. Middle linebacker T.J. Simmons leads the team with 43 tackles to go along with 2.5 for loss and one sack, while fifth-year senior David Cooper has 35 tackles and one for loss.

The secondary has been picked on all season, allowing 283.3 yards per game through the air, which ranks 111th nationally. The corners are senior Tim Bennett and redshirt junior Michael Hunter. Bennett ranks second on the team in tackles with 38 and leads the team with eight pass breakups. The safeties are sophomore Antonio Allen and senior Mark Murphy. Allen is the team’s third-leading tackler.

Special Teams: The other third

Redshirt freshman kicker Aaron Del Grosso has made just 1-of-4 field goals, but fellow redshirt freshman Griffin Oakes has supplanted him by converting 4-of-5 with a long of 58. Redshirt junior punter Erich Toth ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 41.3 yards per punt. Wynn is the main returner, averaging 22 yards per kick return, which ranks eighth in the conference, and 5.8 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Michigan’s offense has scored just 14.4 points per game in the last five, but it shouldn’t have any troubles against Indiana’s defense that has allowed just one team all season to score fewer than 24 points — FCS Indiana State in Week 1. The Hoosiers’ defense was the cure for Michigan’s struggling offense last season and that should follow suit on Saturday. It certainly won’t be the record-setting performance that we witnessed a year ago, but it should look a little bit more like a normal offense.

Defensively, Michigan will look to pressure the inexperienced Diamont into mistakes. Coleman will get his yards like he does every game and like Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford did to the Wolverines. But as long as Michigan’s defense can prevent him from breaking long touchdown runs, it should be able to hold IU low enough to outscore them.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Friday, October 31st, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

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

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

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

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

Michigan 22- Indiana 16

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

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

Michigan 38 – Indiana 31

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

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

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

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

Michigan 17 – Indiana 14

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

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

Michigan 35 – Indiana 21

Overmatched: Michigan State 35 – Michigan 11

Monday, October 27th, 2014


Michigan-MSU(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan went to East Lansing as the heavy underdog Saturday afternoon hoping to pull off a big upset the way Michigan State did from time to time over the past few decades. But while the Wolverines remained close on the scoreboard into the second half, the game was far from being closely contested and Michigan fell 35-11.

Michigan won the coin toss, but that would prove to be the only thing it would win all day. Michigan State made an early statement, taking the opening possession right down the field for an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The drive was highlighted by a pair of long passes, a 24-harder from Connor Cook to Tony Lippett on the second play, and a 28-yarder to Keith Mumphery on 3rd-and-8. Two plays later, Cook scrambled for 13 yards, bowling through Michigan safety Delano Hill in the process. Hill was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for shoving Cook after the play. Jeremy Langford got the touchdown from two yards out. Message sent.

UM-MichiganState-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Michigan State
Score 11 35
Record 3-5, 1-3 7-1, 4-0
Total Yards 186 446
Net Rushing Yards 61 219
Net Passing Yards 125 227
First Downs 13 22
Turnovers 3 2
Penalties-Yards 4-27 8-88
Punts-Yards 6-254 4-150
Time of Possession 26:14 33:46
Third Down Conversions 5-of-14 6-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 1-8 2-13
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 0-for-0 5-for-5
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-of-2 3-of-4
Full Box Score

The Michigan offense went three-and-out, but the defense held strong on State’s second possession. On the first play of Michigan’s second possession, Devin Gardner fumbled the exchange with De’Veon Smith and State recovered at the MSU 38. The Spartans strung together 12 plays, moving down to the Michigan 5-yard line before Cook was stopped in the backfield and then sacked on consecutive plays. Michael Geiger missed a 36-yard field goal.

Needing to find some offense, Doug Nussmeier dialed up an end-around to Dennis Norfleet on the first play, but he was tackled in the backfield for a four-yard loss. A false start backed Michigan up five more yards. On second down, Gardner threw a screen pass to Justice Hayes that had potential for a big gain, but MSU linebacker Ed Davis got by two Michigan linemen to stop Hayes for just a 4-yard gain. On 3rd-and-15, Gardner connected with Amara Darboh for 24 yards and a first down. But the Michigan drive stalled at the 45-yard line.

The two teams traded punts, neither offense able to get much going until Michigan got the break it needed. Jarrod Wilson forced tight end Josiah Price to fumble and Michigan recovered at Michigan State 31-yard line. But the Michigan offense was unable to gain a yard and Matt Wile booted a 48-yard field goal.

Michigan State took possession with 3:22 remaining in the first half and immediately got to midfield thanks to a 24-yard Langford run. The Spartans punched it in eight plays later to take a 14-3 lead into the locker room. It was the fifth time this season that Michigan’s defense has given up a touchdown in the final two minutes of the first half and although it was only an 11-point deficit, it felt unreachable.

Michigan started the second half with possession and a chance to make a statement like State did to start the game, but after gaining one first down, Michigan was forced to punt. Michigan State punted it right back, but on 3rd-and-11, Gardner was intercepted by R.J. Williamson, who raced 29 yards for a touchdown. After another Michigan punt, Cook found Lippett along the sideline and he beat Hill for a 70-yard touchdown to break open the game at 28-3.

Michigan managed to avoid a third straight game against the Spartans without a touchdown after Frank Clark recovered a Langford fumble to give the Wolverines the ball at the MSU 33. On 3rd-and-10, Gardner connected with Funchess for 24 yards to the 9-yard line. Gardner then found Freddy Canteen for eight yards and Smith ran it in on the next play. Michigan completed the two-point on a pass from Gardner to Jake Butt.

A failed onside kick attempt gave MSU the ball at the Michigan 48. Needing only to run out the clock with a 17-point lead, Michigan State pounded the Michigan defense with Langford. In seven plays, he rushed for no gain, eight yards, three yards, 27 yards, two yards, three yards, and on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line, a five-yard touchdown.

Michigan State racked up 446 total yards compared to Michigan’s 186. The Spartans had a balanced attack with 227 yards passing and 219 rushing, while Michigan managed just 121 passing and 65 rushing. As it has done all season, Michigan State controlled time of possession, 33:46 to 26:14. Gardner completed 13-of-28 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions. Funchess had five catches for 64 yards while Darboh caught two for 41. Smith rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Langford rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries for the Spartans, while Cook went 12-of-22 for 227 yards and a touchdown.

At 3-5, Michigan returns home to face Indiana (3-4, 0-3) next Saturday. With Ohio State looming at season’s end, the Wolverines have to beat Indiana to have a chance to become bowl eligible and avoid a third losing season in seven years.

Michigan-Michigan State game preview

Saturday, October 25th, 2014


Game Preview_Michigan State_banner

Ten years ago current Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was a part of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, but wearing the other colors. He felt the sting of one of the best Michigan wins in the history of the rivalry, on the losing end of what Michigan fans affectionately refer to as ‘Braylonfest’. Now he hopes to help Michigan recapture that magic.

But Michigan will need to reverse a disturbing trend that started on the day of that epic comeback. In each of the past 10 years, Michigan has scored fewer points against Michigan State than the previous year. From 45 in 2004 to 34 to 31 to 28 to 21 to 20 to 17 to 14 to 12 to six. The first four of those resulted in wins, as did the 12 points scored two years ago. But if that trend continues Michigan will lose for the sixth time in the last seven years.

UM-PennState-small-final
Quick Facts
Spartan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – ABC
MSU Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (8th season)
Coaching Record: 88-47 (70-30 at MSU)
Offensive Coordinators: Jim Bollman (2nd season)
Dave Warner (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi (8th season)
Returning Starters: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense)
Last Season: 13-1 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: MSU 29 – UM 6 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 63-33-5
Record at Spartan Stadium: Michigan leads 17-13-1
Current Streak: Michigan State 1
Last 10 Meetings:  Tied 5-5
Last Michigan Win: 2012 (12-10)
Last Michigan Road Win: 2007 (28-24)

Michigan State has taken advantage of the instability of Michigan’s program since Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season. Since then, the Spartans have been the Big Ten’s most stable program, winning two of their eight all-time conference titles and three straight bowl games, including last year’s Rose Bowl.

This season has been no different as Michigan State leads the Big Ten East division with a 6-1 record overall and 3-0 record in conference play. The only blemish was a 46-27 defeat at third-ranked Oregon in Week 2. But aside from the Ducks, Michigan State’s schedule has been pretty light thus far with non-conference wins over Jacksonville State (FCS), Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming, and conference wins over #19 Nebraska, Purdue, and Indiana.

The Nebraska win was certainly a quality one as it stands as the Cornhusker’s only defeat to date. In that game, Michigan State held a commanding 27-3 lead at the end of the third quarter before allowing Nebraska to pull within five points after three straight fourth quarter touchdowns. Nebraska actually had the ball at the Michigan State 37 in the final minute, but Tommy Armstrong Jr was picked off to end the game.

Since then, the Spartans have struggled against two of the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders. Purdue scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to pull within seven points with six minutes remaining, and like Nebraska, had the ball in the closing minutes with a chance to tie it up. But Michigan State intercepted quarterback Austin Appleby and returned it for a touchdown to inflate the final score. Last week against an Indiana squad starting a true freshman quarterback in his very first collegiate action, Michigan State allowed the Hoosiers to hang around for the first half thanks to running back Tevin Coleman’s 132 yards on 15 carries. MSU pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win, but Indiana exposed some gaps in the Spartan defense.

So what does that all mean? For one, Michigan State isn’t as invincible as it seems. But can Michigan actually go into East Lansing and pull out a victory? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

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

The most surprising aspect of Michigan State this season has been its offense. Even MSU writers can’t believe how much progress has been made since the first half of last season when the Spartans offense looked much like Michigan’s has looked at times this season. Through the first seven games this season, Michigan State ranks third nationally in scoring (47 points per game), 12th in total offense (525.1 yards per game), 15th in rushing (260 yards per game), and 42nd in passing (265.1 yards per game). It also ranks first nationally in time of possession (36:22), first in sacks allowed (four), and 17th in third-down conversions (47 percent).

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

The main reason for the success of the MSU offense is the development of junior quarterback Connor Cook. While his completion percentage is down 2.7 percent from last season, Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and fourth in passing yards per game with 234.4.  He has thrown for at least 230 yards in five of seven games, and the only two he didn’t — against Eastern Michigan and Wyoming — he attempted fewer than 10 passes and backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry each saw extended action.

It certainly helps that Cook has a talented receiving corps to throw to, led by 6’3″, 185-pound senior Tony Lippett, who has caught 39 passes for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s the only receiver in the Big Ten averaging over 100 yards per game (112.3) and he leads the conference in touchdown receptions and yards per catch (20.2). He has scored in every game except last week and he also had a 32-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. Sophomore tight end Josiah Price is the second-leading receiver with 15 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns, while five other receivers have over 100 yards and at least one touchdown: Junior Aaron Burbridge (158 yards and one touchdown), junior Macgarrett Kings Jr (142 and one), senior Keith Mumphery (123 and one), sophomore R.J. Shelton (102 and one), and junior A.J. Troup (100 and two).

The backfield is led by talented senior running back Jeremy Langford who ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 94.9 rushing yards per game, though he’s a far cry from the top four. But Langford has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the last four games and scored three touchdowns last week. Unlike the four ahead of him, he shares the backfield, and while it’s not a complete share, his backfield mate, senior Nick Hill, has 76 carries for 465 yards and six touchdowns. Last week he recorded the first 100-yard performance of his career with 178 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Sophomore Delton Williams also plays a role as a home run threat, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and five touchdowns on just 33 carries.

The offensive line had to replace three starters from last season, but the unit has done a great job of protecting Cook. The Spartans lead the nation in sacks allowed with just four in seven games. The only lineman to start every game at the same position this season is sophomore left tackle Jack Conklin. Fifth-year senior Travis Jackson has started six games at left guard and one at center, while regular center Jack Allen has started five and should return from an ankle injury this week. Junior Donovan Clark has started every game, six at right guard and one at right tackle, and sophomore Kodi Kieler has started six at right tackle.

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

Defense is how Mark Dantonio built Michigan State into a power over the past few years, and while this year’s version is good, it’s not quite at the elite level it has been recently. Pat Narduzzi’s defense ranks 34th nationally in scoring (21.6 points per game), ninth in total defense (292.7 yards per game), eighth in rush defense (100.3 yards per game), and 19th in pass defense (192.4 yards per game). Statistically, it’s very comparable to Michigan’s defense which most Michigan fans have been down on. The two areas that are considerably better than Michigan’s are third-down defense (25 percent compared to 36) and sacks (26 compared to 18).

Narduzzi had to replace seven full-time starters, but returned a solid core including junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, senior end Marcus Rush, and senior linebacker Taiwan Jones. Calhoun and Rush have combined for 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. The interior of the line is new this season, but juniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas have held up well, but have given up some big runs up the middle the past few weeks.

Jones leads the linebacking corps with 30 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and three sacks, but junior SAM linebacker Ed Davis leads the team with six sacks and eight tackles for loss. Junior Darrien Harris rounds out the group at the STAR spot with 25 tackles, 1.5 for loss, half a sack, and an interception.

The secondary is led by senior safety Kurtis Drummond, whose 33 tackles, six passes defended, and two interceptions lead the team. The strong safety, freshman Montae Nicholson, is young and prone to mistakes, while junior safety R.J. Williamson, ranks second with 30 tackles to go along with five passes defended and a pick. Junior cornerback Trae Waynes is a star and definitely one of the top corners in the Big Ten. He has 23 tackles, two for loss, one sack, six passes defended, and two interceptions. The field corner is sophomore Darian Hicks and he’s much more vulnerable than Waynes.

Special Teams: The other third

Sophomore kicker Michael Geiger is solid, having converted 7-of-11 this season with a long of 42, although he’s just 2-of-5 from 40-plus. Senior punter Mike Sadler has been around forever and ranks 10th in the Big Ten with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. He has downed 11 of 31 inside the 20 while only two have gone into the end zone.

The return game is pretty lackluster, ranking 60th nationally on kicks and 89th on punts. Shelton ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 22.2 yards per kick return, while Kings Jr ranks fifth with an average of 6.9 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Of course the most vulnerable Michigan State defense in several years gets to face the worse Michigan offense in several years. On Thursday, Spartan Tailgate writer Chris Vannini told us that he thinks Michigan will be able to make some big plays as teams have done on MSU this season. Apparently he hasn’t watched Michigan much as the Wolverines have struggled to make big plays against anyone other than Appalachian State.

Michigan’s defense will be one of the best Michigan State has faced this season, similar to Nebraska’s which held MSU to just 27 points, their fewest of the season. But unlike last week when Michigan was able to pressure Christian Hackenberg all day, the Spartan offensive line will protect Cook. That will allow him to pick apart the secondary just like Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Rutgers’ Gary Nova did.

Expect Michigan to hang around through the first half, but with the inability to make big plays Doug Nussmeier’s offense will have a hard time stringing together enough scoring drives. Michigan State will pull away in the second half with efficient, time consuming drives and keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy in East Lansing for the sixth time in seven years.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Friday, October 24th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

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

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

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

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

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan State 33- Michigan 16

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

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

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

Michigan State 35 – Michigan 14

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

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

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

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

Michigan State 49 – Michigan 0

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

Michigan State 42 – Michigan 14