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Posts Tagged ‘First Look’

First Look: Northwestern

Monday, November 11th, 2013


Two straight losses in which Michigan’s offense looked completely inept have left Michigan fans wondering where another win is going to come from. This week, the Wolverines hit the road to face the only other Legends Division foe that is in worse shape – Northwestern.

The Wildcats have dropped five straight since starting the season 4-0. Heading into their Oct. 5 matchup with Ohio State, Northwestern was ranked 16th. ESPN College Gameday made the trip to Evanston and billed the game as the one that could trip up the Buckeyes. Instead, Ohio State won 40-30 and Northwestern has continued to slide ever since. A 35-6 defeat to Wisconsin the next week was comparable to Michigan’s loss to Michigan State. The three games since have all been close: a 20-17 loss to Minnesota, a 17-10 overtime loss to Iowa, and a 27-24 loss to Nebraska on a Hail Mary.

Neither team has any conference title hope remaining, but there is still plenty on the line. Northwestern must win two of its final three to become bowl eligible and with a showdown with Michigan State next week this is the better opportunity to pull one out. Michigan is already bowl eligible but with a trip to Iowa, where Michigan always struggles, and then a home tilt with Ohio State remaining, the Wolverines likely see this as the best opportunity to at least secure a winning season. So what’s more likely? Let’s take a look at how the Wildcats compare.

Northwestern Statistics & Michigan Comparison
N’westernMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 28.0 | 35.1 T73 | 31 26.0 | 25.9 62 | 61
Rushing Yards 1,7001,218 1,513 | 969
Rush Avg. Per Game 188.9 | 135.3 47 | 97 168.1 | 107.7 70 | 13
Avg. Per Rush 4.5 | 3.2 4.1 | 3.2
Passing Yards 1,8942,250 2,248 | 2,185
Pass Avg. Per Game 210.4250.0 82 | 51 249.8 | 242.8 97 | 88
Total Offense 3,5943,468 3,761 | 3,154
Total Off Avg. Per Game 399.3 | 385.3 74 | 83 417.9 | 350.4 81 | 22
Kick Return Average 22.4 | 22.6 51 | 44 18.9 | 22.0 28 | 73
Punt Return Average 7.3 | 6.9 76 | 82 3.8 | 7.6 15 | 58
Avg. Time of Possession 28:2632:28 95 | 21 31:34 | 27:32
3rd Down Conversion Pct 40% | 42% 66 | 55 43% | 41% 92 | T76
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 32-166 | 26-190 118 | 105 19-127 | 18-132 T51 | T57
Touchdowns Scored 30 | 40 30 | 26
Field Goals-Attempts 14-16 | 12-18 9-15 | 18-23
Red Zone Scores (34-35)97% | (32-38)84% 2 | T55 (27-30)90% | (26-30)87% 107 | 91
Red Zone Touchdowns (21-35)60% | (26-38)68% (19-30)63% | (16-30)53%

Much of Northwestern’s downturn has been a result of injuries. During their bye week this past Saturday, head coach Pat Fitzgerald said that if they would have played they would have been without 13 injured players and several others would have been limited. No team in the Big Ten has been hit harder by the injury bug.

A large part of Northwestern’s success last season was a result of just the opposite: avoiding injuries. Only two teams in the country (Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State) had fewer starters miss games due to injuries than the Wildcats. This season, they’re making up for it.

Electric running back Venric Mark has played just one full game all season and is likely headed for a medical redshirt. Versatile quarterback/running back/receiver Kain Colter has missed time. The Wildcats lost starting cornerback Daniel Jones to a season-ending knee injury and the team’s best defensive tackle, Sean McEvilly has played only three games. Linebackers Collin Ellis and Jaylon Prater, safety Jimmy Hall, cornerback Nick VanHoose, defensive tackle Will Hampton, defensive ends Tyler Scott and Dean Lowry, receiver Tony Jones, and running backs Treyvon Green, Mike Trumpy, Stephen Buckley and Warren Long all would not have played this past Saturday.

Pat Fitzgerald has had to deal with a rash of injuries that have derailed Northwestern's season (NUSports.com)

Their statuses for the Michigan game will be determined in the coming days, but it’s safe to say Michigan won’t be facing the same Northwestern team that started the season.

With the injury disclaimer in mind, there isn’t much that this Northwestern team is very good at this season. The running game ranks 47th nationally and that’s the highest-ranked unit on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. And even that ranks just eighth in the Big Ten with an average of 188.9 yards per game on the ground. Heading into the Michigan State game two weeks ago Michigan’s running game ranked 49th nationally, averaging 183.9 yards per game and no one considered it to be anything to write home about.

The Northwestern passing game is even worse, ranked 82nd nationally and sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 210.4 yards per game. In five of nine games, Northwestern has finished with less than 200 passing yards, four of those with less than 140. Against Nebraska two weeks ago Northwestern completed just 8-of-21 passes for 81 yards.

Northwestern averages 28 points per game which ranks 73rd nationally and ninth in the Big Ten. But since conference play has started, the Wildcats have averaged just 17.4 points per game. The primetime showdown with Ohio State was surprisingly one of Northwestern’s best offensive showings of the season. The Wildcats scored 30 points and racked up 437 yards of offense including 343 through the air. But that was before many of the injuries.

Defensively, Northwestern hasn’t fared well in either phase, but has been slightly better against the run. The Wildcats give up 168.6 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 70th nationally and ninth in the Big Ten. Ohio State rushed for 248 yards and Wisconsin gained 286 on Northwestern’s run defense.

The pass defense is one of the worst in the country, ranking 97th nationally and 11th in the conference. Only two opponents, Minnesota and Iowa, have thrown for fewer than 200 yards against Northwestern and the Gophers threw it just 14 times all game.

As far as intangibles go, Northwestern is second in the nation in red zone scores, having scored on 34 of 35 red zone trips. The Wildcat defense, however, is 107th nationally in the red zone, allowing opponents to score 90 percent of the time. Northwestern converts 40 percent of its third downs (compared to Michigan’s 42 percent) and ranks 92nd nationally by allowing a 43 percent conversion rate on third downs (compared to Michigan’s 41 percent). If you think Michigan’s 26 sacks allowed are bad consider the 32 that Northwestern has given up, which is the most in the Big Ten and 118th nationally.

Perhaps the best phase of the game for Northwestern this season is its kick and punt coverage units which rank 28th and 15th in the nation, respectively. By comparison, Michigan ranks 73rd and 58th.

Northwestern will be hungry for its first conference win of the season and looking to avenge last season’s improbably loss to Michigan in which Devin Gardner found Roy Roundtree on a bomb in the closing seconds to set up a game-tying field goal. Michigan then won in overtime. But depending on which injured players are able to suit up Michigan could be facing a shell of the Northwestern team that started the season.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Rating
Trevor Siemian 102-181 1,349 7 6 125.1
Kain Colter 58-74 545 4 3 150.0
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
Treyvon Green 94 612 8 55 6.5
Kain Colter 94 409 4 33 4.4
Mike Trumpy 61 270 2 28 4.4
Venric Mark 31 97 0 23 3.1
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Tony Jones 38 492 4 47 61.5
Christian Jones 31 389 2 36 43.2
Rashad Lawrence 19 307 0 67 38.3
Dan Vitale (FB) 26 298 2 53 33.1
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Damien Proby (LB) 48 32 80 5.0-16 (1INT) 1.0-6
Chi Chi Ariguzo (LB) 50 29 79 4.5-6 (4INT) 1.0-2 (1FR)
Tyler Scott (DE) 24 10 34 9.0-48 (1INT) 5.0-33 (1FR)
Deonte Gibson (DT) 9 10 19 6.0-24 2.0-15
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Jeff Budzien 16 14 43 30 30
Punting Punts Yds Avg. TB In 20
Brandon Williams 50 1,856 37.1 5 14
Full Stats

First Look: Nebraska

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013


The season of ups and downs continued on Saturday with an embarrassing and punishing loss to rival Michigan State. But the best way to get over it is to move on to the next one, and with Nebraska coming to town Michigan can’t afford to dwell on the loss. The Big Ten title and Legends Division title are for all intents and purposes out of reach at this point, but Nebraska does still have a shot.

The Cornhuskers needed a last second Hail Mary to knock off Northwestern on Saturday and remain in contention with a 3-1 Big Ten record and the conference leader, Michigan State, still to play in Lincoln. But to have any shot they’ll have to beat Michigan this Saturday.

Brady Hoke said from day one that his success was measured by winning Big Ten titles first and foremost and anything less was a failure. Now three years in he has yet to reach the title game and his Wolverines are now playing simply for pride the rest of the season. That’s not a welcoming notion with so many uncertainties at this point and a hungry team that does have something to play for on deck.

Confidence in Hoke and his staff and the direction of the program are at a three-year low, which means the next four weeks will either win back some sentiment among the Michigan fan base or shorten the rope, whether justified or not.

Let’s take a look at how Michigan and Nebraska compare heading into this week’s matchup.

Nebraska Statistics & Michigan Comparison
NebraskaMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 38.2 | 37.9 21 | T23 24.0 | 27.0 46 | 68
Rushing Yards 2,0931,239 1,461 | 841
Rush Avg. Per Game 261.6 | 154.9 13 | 79 182.6 | 105.1 85 | 14
Avg. Per Rush 5.4 | 3.7 4.5 | 3.2
Passing Yards 1,6482,054 1,738 | 2,040
Pass Avg. Per Game 206.0256.8 89 | 44 217.2 | 255.0 T39 | 96
Total Offense 3,7413,293 3,199 | 2,881
Total Off Avg. Per Game 467.6 | 411.6 29 | 64 399.9 | 360.1 70 | 28
Kick Return Average 22.9 | 23.0 41 | 38 18.4 | 22.3 15 | 82
Punt Return Average 3.4 | 6.8 113 | 79 7.0 | 7.5 53 | 60
Avg. Time of Possession 30:5932:26 41 | 23 29:01 | 27:34
3rd Down Conversion Pct 46% | 45% 36 | 39 28% | 41% 3 | 80
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 11-79 | 19-147 T33 | T83 22-165 | 17-119 T27 | T49
Touchdowns Scored 41 | 39 23 | 24
Field Goals-Attempts 7-8 | 10-15 10-14 | 17-22
Red Zone Scores (33-37)89% | (30-36)83% 20 | 62 (22-24)92% | (23-27)85% 112 | T-81
Red Zone Touchdowns (27-37)73% | (25-36)69% (15-24)63% | (14-27)52%

Michigan failed to score a touchdown against Michigan State’s ferocious defense last week, but thankfully Nebraska is more like the previous week’s foe, Indiana, than the Spartans. The Cornhuskers boast one of the top offenses in the Big Ten, averaging 38.2 points per game (fourth), 467.6 total yards per game (fourth), and 261.6 rushing yards per game (third).

Nebraska’s non-conference portion of the schedule was similar to Michigan’s in that it featured one good opponent, UCLA. However, the ‘Huskers lost that game in a runaway, 41-21. The others, Wyoming, Southern Miss, and South Dakota State, have combined records of 9-16 and when you remove SDSU of the FCS, the two FBS schools are a combined 4-12. Nebraska also had the luxury of opening Big Ten play with Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, and a reeling Northwestern squad.

Ameer Abdullah leads the Big Ten in rushing, averaging over 138 yards per game (Eric Fancis, Getty Images)

In the six wins, Nebraska has averaged 43.7 points, but in the two losses, the ‘Huskers have averaged just 22. Against UCLA, Nebraska held a 21-10 lead at the half, but was shut out in the second half, gaining just 120 yards in the process. Against Minnesota two weeks ago, Nebraska’s offense was held to just 328 total yards – 140 below its season average – while managing just 23 points in a surprising loss to the Gophers.

Last week, the Cornhuskers narrowly avoided their third loss of the season, converting a Hail Mary as time expired to pull out the win, and sending Northwestern to a brutal 0-5 in the conference. The ‘Huskers had just 21 points before the last-second touchdown.

Much of the inconsistency on offense has to do with injuries to senior quarterback Taylor Martinez who missed the South Dakota State, Illinois, and Purdue games, returned with a hobbled performance against Minnesota, and then missed the Northwestern game. He has also been ruled out for this week’s contest.

While Nebraska’s offense can put up a lot of points when it’s on, its defense hasn’t been much to write home about. While it ranks fifth in the Big Ten in points per game – allowing three fewer than Michigan – the total defense ranks eighth and rush defense ranks ninth. Half of Nebraska’s eight opponents have totaled more than 400 total yards, two of which went over 500 and one over 600. In Big Ten play, however, the ‘Husker defense is giving up 128 fewer total yards than it did in non-conference play. But part of that has to do with the offenses it has faced. The four Big Ten offenses that Nebraska has faced each rank in the bottom half of the conference and have an average national ranking of 89 in total offense.

After holding Purdue (which averages just 70 rushing yards per game) to just 32 yards rushing on Oct. 12, Nebraska has given up 271 rushing yards to Minnesota and 245 to Northwestern. Those are the two worst games of the season for Nebraska’s rush defense, which ranks 85th nationally.

The pass defense on the other hand ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 39th nationally, giving up 217 yards per game. But the pass defense mirrors the total defense. In the four non-conference games, Nebraska allowed an average of 284 passing yards, while in the four Big Ten games, Nebraska is giving up just 150. But again, the four Big Ten passing offenses have an average national rank of 84th in pass offense, while the three FBS non-conference foes average 43rd. Michigan’s pass offense currently ranks 44th, which bodes well for the Wolverines.

It’s safe to say that given the way Michigan has played this season, this game could go either way. On paper, Michigan’s offensive weakness (rushing) matches up with Nebraska’s defensive weakness (rush defense), while the strengths (pass offense vs pass defense) go head to head. On the other side, it’s the reverse. Nebraska’s offensive strength (rushing) faces Michigan’s 14th-ranked rush defense, while Nebraska’s 89th-ranked pass offense goes up against Michigan’s 96th-ranked pass defense.

Neither team has an outright advantage and both need wins for vastly different reasons – Nebraska to still have a shot at a Big Ten title and Michigan to simply improve its bowl standing, quiet some of the critics, and preserve Brady Hoke’s unblemished home record. Stay tuned for more coverage leading up to the game.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Taylor Martinez (out) 69-110 667 10 2 42
Tommy Armstrong Jr. 41-75 520 4 6 37
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
Ameer Abdullah 157 1,108 6 62 7.1
Imani Cross 68 349 9 31 5.1
Terrell Newby 51 293 2 23 5.7
Tommy Armstrong Jr. (QB) 39 153 2 15 3.9
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Quincy Enuwa 34 467 8 35 58.4
Kenny Bell 29 341 3 42 42.6
Jordan Westerkamp 14 194 1 49 24.2
Ameer Abdullah (RB) 20 174 0 40 21.7
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Corey Cooper (S) 24 31 55 3.0-17 (1INT) 2.0-16
David Santos (LB) 27 28 55 2.0-8 1.0-8
Randy Gregory (DE) 21 14 35 10.0-53 (1INT) 3.5-34 (1FR)
Avery Moss (DE) 12 15 27 7.0-25 (1INT) 3.5-21
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Pat Smith 7 6 45 32 30
Punting Punts Yds Avg. TB In 20
Sam Foltz 37 1,528 41.3 3 13
Full Stats

First Look: Penn State

Monday, October 7th, 2013


It took a little while to get going but Michigan beat Minnesota on Saturday just like it was supposed to. It was a welcome departure from the previous two games but it still doesn’t really tell us much about where this team stands. This week, Michigan gets a chance to set the tone for the rest of the season with a road win over a (somewhat) quality opponent.

Michigan hasn’t won at Penn State since 2006 and has lost the last three in the series overall, all under Rich Rodriguez. The two schools haven’t played since 2010, Rodriguez’s final season. Prior to his tenure, Michigan had won nine straight and Brady Hoke hopes to get back to those days. Can Penn State keep their current streak alive, or will Michigan go into Happy Valley and return unbeaten? Let’s take a look at what the Nittany Lions look like this season.

Penn State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Penn StateMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 31.4 | 38.8 56 | 27 20.4 | 19.4 31 | 27
Rushing Yards 858890 557 | 452
Rush Avg. Per Game 171.6 | 178.0 67 | 63 111.4 | 90.4 20 | 9
Avg. Per Rush 4.2 | 4.4 3.2 | 3.1
Passing Yards 1,3971,095 1,069 | 1,073
Pass Avg. Per Game 279.4219.0 35 | 77 213.8 | 214.6 4345
Total Offense 2,2551,985 1,626 | 1,525
Total Off Avg. Per Game 451.0 | 397.0 44 | 75 325.2 | 305.0 18 | 13
Kick Return Average 21.9 | 23.0 48 | T-38 22.6 | 22.5 88 | 86
Punt Return Average 10.9 | 7.0 T-38 | T-68 6.0 | 7.2 T-48 | T-62
Avg. Time of Possession 30:5231:25 45 | 34 29:08 | 28:35
3rd Down Conversion Pct 30% | 54% 111 | 11 29% | 41% 18 | 78
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 11-88 | 7-54 T-84 | T-42 11-70 | 10-65 T-46 | T-54
Touchdowns Scored 19 | 26 12 | 10
Field Goals-Attempts 8-10 | 4-5 5-8 | 9-12
Red Zone Scores (17-18)94% | (20-22)91% T-13 | T-26 (12-14)86% | (11-15)73% T-71 | T-26
Red Zone Touchdowns (13-18)72% | (18-22)82% (7-14)50% | (6-15)40%

Penn State opened the season with a pair of wins over Syracuse and Eastern Michigan, but has lost two of the last three including a 44-24 dismantling at the hands of Indiana on Saturday. The more surprising, however, loss was a 34-31 home defeat by UCF on Sept. 14.

Statistically, Penn State is having a decent season. The passing game ranks 35th nationally and third in the Big Ten behind Indiana and Illinois even with a true freshman starting at quarterback. The Nittany Lions are averaging 279.4 yards per game through the air with two 300-plus yards passing games. They  have thrown the ball 28 or more times in all five games. By comparison, Michigan has thrown it that many times in just two of five games. In Saturday’s loss to IU, Penn State threw it 55 times for 340 yards.

Penn State will live and die with talented freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg this season (Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

On the flip side, the Penn State running game hasn’t been as effective, averaging 171.6 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. Running back Zack Zwinak has just one 100-yard game, a 128-yards performance against UCF in Week 3 and was held to just 2.5 yards per carry on 24 attempts in the season opener against Syracuse. His backfield mate, Bill Belton also has a 100-yard game, a nine-carry, 109-yard performance against Eastern Michigan, which included a 51-yard gain.

Penn State averages a touchdown per game less than Michigan, averaging 31.4 points, and is slightly more efficient in the red zone with a 94 percent conversion rate on 18 trips. The Nittany Lions are atrocious at converting third downs, having moved the chains just 22 times on 74 third downs. The 30 percent conversion rate ranks 111th nationally. Michigan, meanwhile, has converted 54 percent of its third downs, which is good for 11th nationally.

On the defensive side, Penn State is almost a clone of Michigan statistically. PSU is giving up 20.4 points per game – one more than Michigan – ranks 20th nationally in rushing yards allowed (111.4 per game) and 43rd nationally in passing yards (213.8). Michigan ranks 9th and 45th, respectively.

Indiana piled up 486 total yards, including 336 through the air on Saturday, and UCF gained 507 with a balanced attack. In the three wins, Penn State has allowed an average of just 211 total yards per game. That’s a pretty stark contrast. Indiana is somewhat understandable with an offense that ranks 9th nationally, but UCF ranks 64th. For what it’s worth, Michigan’s offense currently ranks 75th.

One area in which Penn State is considerably better than Michigan defensively is stopping third downs. Opponents have only converted 23-of-78, or 29 percent, against the Nittany Lions. That ranks 18th nationally. Michigan’s defense is allowing opponents to convert at a 41 percent clip.

Special teams-wise, Penn State and Michigan are pretty comparable. Penn State averages 21.9 yards per kick return and 10.9 per punt return. Michigan averages 23.0 and 7.0, respectively. Defending the returns, Penn State gives up 22.6 yards per kick compared to Michigan’s 22.5 and 6.0 yards per punt compared to Michigan’s 7.2.

On paper, and especially when home field advantage is added in, these two teams look pretty evenly matched. It will surely be a hostile environment for Michigan’s young team, but if UCF can go into Happy Valley and pull out a win there’s not reason Michigan can’t. If the Wolverines can emerge victorious, it will be a great preparation for the trip to Northwestern next month.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Christian Hackenberg 109-182 1,367 8 4 54
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
Zack Zwinak 84 369 8 38 4.4
Bill Belton 43 284 2 51 6.6
Akeel Lynch 35 270 1 43 7.7
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Allen Robinson 38 621 5 51 16.3
Kyle Carter (TE) 11 147 0 29 13.4
Brandon Felder 16 135 0 23 8.4
Bill Belton (RB) 5 60 2 21 12.0
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Glenn Carson (LB) 18 21 39 3.5-9 0.5-3
DaQuan Jones (DT) 19 11 30 6.5-25 2.0-16
Jordan Lucas (CB) 14 10 24 4.5-20 1-7
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (S) 15 8 23 1.0-8 (1 FR) 1.0-8 (1 INT)
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Sam Ficken 8 10 54 19 19
Full Stats

First Look: Akron

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013


(GoZips.com)

While Michigan has opened its season with a pair of wins, Akron has already matched its win total from each of the past three seasons. The Zips posted a third straight 1-11 season in Terry Bowden’s first campaign, but the former Auburn head coach had the offense running a high octane spread that will surely improve as he recruits more talented players into the program. After opening the season with a 38-7 loss to Central Florida, Akron topped FCS heavyweight James Madison 35-33 this past Saturday.

This Saturday marks the first meeting between Michigan and Akron, though you can be sure at least one Akron school administrator will be hoping for an Appalachian State-style upset. Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel serves as the Vice President of Strategic Engagement for the university and teaches a “Principles of Coaching” class this fall. No word yet on how far up the list of principles lying, covering up for your players, and providing improper benefits to players rank, but he’s there and probably the future university president nonetheless.

But the game takes place on the field and unless Akron hires Gene Smith or Gordon Gee as Athletic Director in the next few days, Tressel won’t be involved, so let’s take a look at how the Zips compare to Michigan through the first two weeks of the season.

Akron Statistics & Michigan Comparison
AkronMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 21.0 | 50.0 88 | 10 35.5 | 19.5 T-100 | 44
Rushing Yards 203408 345 | 162
Rush Avg. Per Game 101.5 | 204.0 101 | 47 172.5 | 81.0 78 | 15
Avg. Per Rush 3.4 | 4.7 3.8 | 3.4
Passing Yards 403515 629 | 458
Pass Avg. Per Game 201.5257.5 82 | 48 314.5 | 229.0 112 |27
Total Offense 606923 974 | 620
Total Off Avg. Per Game 303.0461.5 106 | 46 487.0 | 310.0 111 | 31
Kick Return Average 19.5 | 26.3 T-80 | 25 21.4 | 26.3 T-74 | T-102
Punt Return Average 9.8 | 8.0 42 | T-52 2.7 | 18.0 38 |112
Avg. Time of Possession 24:3034:10 116 | 16 35:30| 25:50
3rd Down Conversion Pct 55% | 59% T-19 | 14 53% | 41% 111 | T-85
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 5-34 | 2-11 T-92 | T-18 7-42 | 5-31 T-10 | T-34
Touchdowns Scored 6 | 13 9 | 3
Field Goals-Attempts 0-0 | 3-3 3-3 | 6-6
Red Zone Scores (4-4)100% | (11-11)100% T-1 | T-1 (10-10)100% | (6-8)75% 73 | T-30
Red Zone Touchdowns (4-4)100% | (10-11)91% (7-10)70% | (2-8)25%

It’s painfully obvious from the stats and rankings that Akron simply isn’t very good at the game of football right now. That’s not to say that Bowden isn’t seeing improvement or that the Zips won’t work their way towards the top of the Mid-American Conference in the near future, but at this point the squad ranks near the bottom nationally in nearly every major category. The one positive thing that sticks out, however, is the 4-for-4 red zone touchdown rate through the first two games, which is very Devin Gardner-like. Something tells me that will change this week considering Michigan’s defense has given up touchdowns on just 2-of-8 red zone trips.

Terry Bowden set his goal to double last season's win total and is already halfway there (GoZips.com)

The Akron defense allowed 38 points in Week 1 to Central Florida and then 33 to James Madison last Saturday. Both teams did most of their damage through the air, CFU passing for 319 yards and JMU for 310. What’s more is that they did it by completing 69 percent of their passes, which suggests a big game for Gardner and the rest of the Michigan pass offense that shredded Notre Dame.

The run defense is slightly better if only because the pass defense is so bad. James Madison did rush 51 times for just 3.7 yards per carry and Central Florida carried 39 times for 4.0, but UCF also struggled rushing against Florida International, so I wouldn’t crown the Zips’ rush defense great just yet. Michigan’s running game outside of Gardner didn’t do much in the way of big plays on Saturday, but it was effective enough to keep the chains moving and allow the passing game to be effective.

Akron has sacked the opposing quarterbacks seven times so far, with ranks 10th nationally, but it hasn’t faced an offensive line as big and talented as Michigan’s, which surrendered just one sack against Notre Dame’s ferocious front.

Offensively, Akron has been two-third passing to one-third running in terms of yardage, though it is balanced with 57 pass attempts and 60 rushes. Last season, the Zips’ offense as a pretty good through the air with three times as many passing yards as rushing, but that top passing duo, quarterback Dalton Williams and top receiver Marquelo Suel, has moved on.

With a coach of the pedigree of Bowden, there’s no question Akron is heading in the right direction. He did go 47-17-1 at Auburn in the mid-1990s after all. He runs a spread passing attack, but has a pretty good running back in Jawon Chesholm who led the team with 953 yards on 5.3 yards per carry last season. It just won’t be able to hold up against a Michigan team that suddenly has its sights set on the BCS and beyond after an impressive first two weeks of the season. Bowden will likely at least double last season’s win total, but it’s a good thing he has nine games left to do it after this week.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Kyle Pohl 30-43 241 2 2 29
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average
Jawon Chisholm 22 97 0 55 4.4
DJ Jones 7 62 0 23 8.9
Conor Hundley 15 61 0 13 4.1
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average
Andrew Pratt 3 118 1 68 39.3
Fransohn Bickley 6 61 0 19 10.2
LT Smith 3 41 0 16 3.7
Zach D’Orazio 5 23 2 10 4.6
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Justin March (LB) 9 6 15 1-7 0-0
Emmanuel Lartey (CB) 7 5 12 0-0 0-0
Johnny Robinson (S) 5 7 12 0-0 0-0
Jatavis Brown (LB) 9 2 11 1.5-2 0-0
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Robert Stein 0 0 N/A 6 6
Full Stats

First Look: Notre Dame

Monday, September 2nd, 2013


Notre Dame and Michigan both opened the season with wins over lesser opponents on Saturday, setting up the first big game of the season for both teams. First games are always difficult to gauge with new starters being broken in, rust being shaken off, and plays and formations being tested against actual competition. Add in the quality of opponent and there isn’t a whole lot that can be gleaned from Michigan and Notre Dame’s first games.

But there is a game to be played in Week 2, and it’s a remarkably important one for both teams, regardless of how Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly views the rivalry. The reality is that it is college football’s most historic rivalry, dating back to 1887, and the two teams rank first and second in all-time wins. This week’s matchup will be the last in Ann Arbor for at least the near future, which means, aside from this season’s implications, both teams have a lot at stake in terms of bragging rights.

Let’s take a look at how Michigan and Notre Dame compare through the first week of the season.

Notre Dame Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Notre DameMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 28.0 | 59.0 T-59 | 7 6.0 | 9.0 11 | 22
Rushing Yards 188252 134 | 66
Rush Avg. Per Game 188.0 | 252.0 50 | 29 134.0 | 66.0 49 | T-12
Avg. Per Rush 5.4 | 5.1 4.6 | 2.3
Passing Yards 355221 228 | 144
Pass Avg. Per Game 355.0221.0 13 | 57 228.0 | 144.0 65 |21
Total Offense 543463 362 | 210
Total Off Avg. Per Game 543.0463.0 T-18 | 42 362.0 | 210.0 T-50 | 10
Kick Return Average 20.0 | 26.5 63 | 23 29.3 | 21.6 102 | 66
Punt Return Average 7.7 | 10.0 37 | 30 2.0 | 0.0 T-47 | T-7
Avg. Time of Possession 31:5334:16 35 | T-13 28:07| 25:44
3rd Down Conversion Pct 38% | 67% T-61 | 10 40% | 29% T-62 | T-30
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 1-5 | 1-3 T-21 | T-21 1-4 | 4-22 T-59 | T-9
Touchdowns Scored 4 | 8 1 | 0
Field Goals-Attempts 0-21-1 0-2 | 3-3
Red Zone Scores (1-2) 50% | (7-7) 100% T-96 | T-1 (1-3) 33% | (3-3) 100% T-1 | T-41
Red Zone Touchdowns (1-2) 50% | (6-7) 86% (1-3) 33% | (0-3) 0%

Three stats stand out most from Notre Dame’s first game of the season. First, the 355 passing yards against Temple, 346 of which were put up by quarterback Tommy Rees. What’s more is that he did it on just 16 completions, averaging 21.6 yards per, and he completed 70 percent of his throws. The past three seasons, Rees completed 63.6 percent of his throws and averaged 11 yards per completion. It’s impossible to tell whether the increase in completion percentage and yards per completion are indicative of Rees’ progression or the quality of opponent, but we will get a much better idea this Saturday.

Tommy Rees threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns against Temple (Matt Cashore, USA Today Sports)

Second, the Notre Dame defense gave up 228 passing yards and 362 total yards to a Temple team that averaged just 120.8 passing yards and 322 total yards per game last season. Temple quarterback Reilly Connor threw it 46 times, completing half, and was sacked just once. Last season, Notre Dame’s defense was one of the best in the nation, allowing just 305 yards per game, and recording 34 sacks. With most of the starters returning, it’s a little troubling that Temple, which went just 4-7 in 2012, was able to move the ball so well against the Irish.

Finally, Notre Dame’s special teams were underwhelming. The Irish missed both field goal attempts, a 39-yarder by Nick Tausch in the second quarter and a 44-yarder by Kyle Brindza in the fourth. In addition, the kick coverage unit gave up an average of 29.3 yards per return, including a long of 39. In a rivalry like Michigan-Notre Dame, when three of the last four meetings have come down to the final minute, a missed field goal or a big return given up could make the difference. Michigan has a kicker who is currently tied for the school’s consecutive field goals made record, and if the Irish can’t shore that up before Saturday, Dennis Norfleet could give Michigan great field position all day.

With all the yards the Irish accumulated in the opener, the ND offense put up only 28 points against a team that allowed 31 in 2012. Maryland, USF, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cincinnati, Army and Syracuse each put up more points against the Owls. In fact, after Notre Dame’s first two possessions, which covered 164 yards in just six plays, the Irish offense went punt, punt, missed field goal, touchdown, touchdown, missed field goal, punt, punt, fumble. Nine possessions that resulted in two touchdowns. Rees’ big numbers through the air are a little bit hollow, but even so, the Notre Dame faithful is giddy about a 28-6 win over a team that likely won’t reach a bowl game again this season.

Regardless, we’ll find out a lot about both teams by the time midnight hits on Saturday. A Michigan win will likely catapult the Wolverines up the polls, while a Notre Dame win will set up a big showdown with Michigan State two weeks later. Michigan has won the last three in Ann Arbor and three of the last four (and five of the last seven) overall.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Tommy Rees 16-23 346 3 0 66
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average
Amir Carlisle 7 68 0 45 9.7
Cam McDaniel 12 65 0 18 5.4
George Atkinson III 8 34 1 14 4.2
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average
TJ Jones 6 138 0 51 23.0
DaVaris Daniels 3 69 2 32 23.0
Chris Brown 3 57 0 33 19.0
Troy Niklas (TE) 1 66 1 66 66.0
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Dan Fox (LB) 5 5 10 1-2 0-0
Carlo Calabrese (LB) 2 7 9 0-0 0-0
Jarrett Grace (LB) 4 3 7 0-0 0-0
Stephon Tuitt (DE) 2 1 3 1-4 1-4
Full Stats

Ohio State: first look

Monday, November 19th, 2012


Read our preseason Ohio State preview here.

With a dominating win over Iowa on Saturday, Michigan kept itself in contention for the Big Ten title. Unfortunately, Nebraska also won and plays Iowa this weekend, so the hopes are slim. But they are still alive. Now, it’s a one game season as Michigan travels to Columbus for The Game. You don’t need to be told how big it is, but Michigan will be looking for its first win in Columbus since 2000.

Ohio State comes in undefeated for the sixth time in the last 20 years. Michigan won three of the previous five (1993, 1995, 1996), although Ohio State has won the last two (2002, 2006). The Buckeyes played a weak non-conference schedule of Miami (OH), UCF, California, and UAB and struggled against the latter two. In Big Ten play, Ohio State eked out a one-point win over Michigan State, throttled Nebraska, hung on against Indiana, survived overtime to top Purdue, beat Penn State, thumped Illinois, and hung on in overtime to beat Wisconsin.

So yes, Ohio is unbeaten, but the Bucks are anything but unbeatable. Can Michigan win its second straight in the series and end Ohio State’s AP national title hopes? Or will OSU continue its home dominance of Michigan? Let’s take a look at the Buckeyes.

Ohio State 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Ohio State Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 38.2 | 30.8 18 | 48 23.0 | 18.1 34 | 17
Rushing Yards 2,700 | 2,140 1,285 | 1,665
Rush Avg. Per Game 245.5 | 194.5 9 | 36 116.8 | 151.4 17 | 51
Avg. Per Rush 5.3 | 5.0 3.5 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,989 | 2,206 2,751 | 1,673
Pass Avg. Per Game 180.8 | 200.5 100 | 95 250.1 | 152.1 84 | 1
Total Offense 4,689 | 4,346 4,036 | 3,338
Total Off Avg. Per Game 426.3 | 395.1 45 | 67 366.9 | 303.5 38 | 12
Kick Return Average 19.7 | 22.2 87 | 52 20.8 | 23.1 54 | 90
Punt Return Average 10.9 | 9.3 28 | 54 6.8 | 7.6 44 | 66
Avg. Time of Possession 29:31 | 30:06 72 | 58 30:29 | 29:54
3rd Down Conversion Pct 43% | 52% 44 | 8 33% | 37% 23 | 39
Sacks By-Yards 26-230 | 15-127 34 | 97 26-151 | 11-80 88 | 14
Touchdowns Scored 58 | 42 30 | 21
Field Goals-Attempts 4-6 | 15-18 14-23 | 17-23
Red Zone Scores (40-45) 89% | (37-40) 93% 17 | 4 (25-35) 71% | (29-35) 83% 15 | 70
Red Zone Touchdowns (36-45) 80% | (25-40) 63% (17-35) 49% | (16-35) 46%

The main thing that stands out with OSU’s stats and national rankings is the number of touchdowns versus the number of field goals. Ohio State has scored 58 touchdowns and attempted just six field goals all season. The offensive efficiency is outstanding. The Bucks have scored on 89 percent of their red zone trips and 80 percent have been touchdowns. Michigan’s red zone percentage is slightly better (and ranks fourth nationally), but many of those scores have been field goals.

On the flip side, while Ohio State’s defense has given up a lot of yards and points this season, it has clamped down in the red zone, holding opponents to just a 71 percent conversion rate, which is 15th nationally.

There’s no secret who Ohio State’s main man is. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller has garnered some Heisman talk this season and has had a Denard-like impact on OSU this season. He has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,850 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, but where he has done the most damage is with his feet. Miller leads the Buckeyes with 207 rushes for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has become a slightly better passer this year than he was last year, but has still had his struggles.

Urban Meyer faces Michigan for the first time as OSU head coach (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

In a two-game stretch against Purdue and Penn State, he completed just 16-of-39 passes for 256 yards, a touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also struggled against Wisconsin on Saturday, throwing for 97 yards on 10-of-18 passing. On the ground, however, Miller has eclipsed 100 yards in six of 11 games with a high of 186 in the win over Nebraska.

Bruising back Carlos Hyde has been his co-star in the offense with 159 carries for 824 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdowns. And he missed two games at the beginning of the season. However, Penn State held him to just 2.5 yards per carry on 22 carries.

The receiving corps is basically a two-man show, Devin Smith and Philly Brown. Smith leads in yards (555) and touchdowns (six) on 28 receptions, while Brown leads with 48 receptions for 526 yards. Tight end Jake Stoneburner has 15 catches for 260 and four TDs. The only other guy with double digit receptions is Evan Spencer with 11.

Make no mistake about it, the Buckeyes are a run-first team and they do it out of the spread with the zone read, allowing Miller to make the reads. The rushing offense is second in the Big Ten (behind Nebraska) and ninth nationally, averaging 245.5 yards per game, while the passing offense is eighth in the conference and 100th nationally.

Defensively, Ohio State is very vulnerable. They allow 23 points per game, but over the last six weeks, the Buckeyes have given up an average of 28. The run defense is pretty good, allowing 116.8 yards per game, which is third in the Big Ten and 17th nationally. But the pass defense is the weak point, giving up 250.1 yards per game, which is second to last in the Big Ten, in front of only Northwestern. Yes, even worse than Iowa. The Bucks have given up nearly 700 total yards more than Michigan has on the season.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier ranks second in the Big Ten with 110 tackles, while defensive end John Simon leads the conference with nine sacks. Both lead the Big Ten with 14.5 tackles for loss apiece. Defensive back Bradley Roby also leads the conference with 19 pass breakups and Travis Howards leads with four interceptions.

It will be the first matchup between Brady Hoke and new OSU head coach Urban Meyer. Hoke won last year’s meeting 40-34. Since Ohio State is ineligible for the postseason, the Buckeyes will be playing their final game of the season and would love nothing more than to end Michigan’s chances of winning the Big Ten. There’s still an outside chance the Buckeyes could be named national champions by the AP, so Michigan would love to ruin those hopes. Stay tuned for our continued coverage throughout the week.

Iowa: first look

Monday, November 12th, 2012


Read our preseason preview here.

Michigan escaped Northwestern on Saturday, keeping its slim Big Ten title hopes alive. Unfortunately, Nebraska did the same with a 32-23 win over Penn State. Two games remain for both team, one of which is a common opponent – Iowa. The Hawkeyes are ready for the season – and perhaps Kirk Ferentz’s job – to end after four straight losses, the most recent of which at the hands of the hapless Purdue Boilermakers.

Iowa sits at 4-6 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten. The only wins are a one-point win over Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Minnesota, and a double-overtime victory at Michigan State. Since then, Iowa has lost to Penn State, Northwestern, Indiana, and Purdue and also lost to Iowa State and Central Michigan. If you can’t tell, Iowa is not a good football team by any stretch of the imagination. However, the Hawkeyes will be fighting for the postseason this week, needing to beat both Michigan and Nebraska to earn a bowl bid. Let’s take a look at Iowa.

Iowa 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Iowa Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 20.8 | 29.7 102 | 56 22.0 | 18.2 29 | 17
Rushing Yards 1,240 | 1,941 1,546 | 1,537
Rush Avg. Per Game 124.0 | 194.1 98 | 35 154.6 | 153.7 60 | 59
Avg. Per Rush 3.7 | 5.0 4.1 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,976 | 1,892 2,257 | 1,492
Pass Avg. Per Game 197.6 | 189.2 94 | 98 225.7 | 149.2 50 | 1
Total Offense 3,216 | 3,833 3,803 | 3,029
Total Off Avg. Per Game 321.6 | 383.3 106 | 81 380.3 | 302.9 51 | 11
Kick Return Average 22.5 | 22.6 52 | 49 19.8 | 22.9 31 | 89
Punt Return Average 5.4 | 10.0 95 | 43 5.1 | 7.2 27 | 62
Avg. Time of Possession 29:42 | 30:04 67 | 58 30:18 | 29:56
3rd Down Conversion Pct 36% | 50% 93 | 12 42% | 36% 84 | 38
Sacks By-Yards 11-60 | 13-120 111 | 100 19-143 | 11-80 62 | 18
Touchdowns Scored 23 | 36 25 | 19
Field Goals-Attempts 16-19 | 15-18 16-20 | 16-22
Red Zone Scores (26-32) 81% | (33-36) 92% 63 | 7 (32-41) 78% | (26-31) 84% 34 | 76
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-32) 47% | (21-36) 58% (20-49) 49% | (14-31) 45%

What stands out most is how bad Iowa’s offense is. The Hawkeyes rank 102nd out of 120 teams in points per game and 106th in total offense. Ferentz’s squad has scored more than 30 points just twice all season – one in a loss to Central Michigan and the other a win over Minnesota. In five games, Iowa has scored 19 points or fewer. In fact, over the last five games, Iowa is averaging just 19 points.

Anthony Hitchens has emerged as a probable All-Big Ten linebacker

Quarterback James Vandenberg is completing just under 57 percent of his passes for 1,976 yards, which is fourth in the Big Ten. But is pass efficiency isn’t even in the top 10 in the conference. His worst game of the season came against Penn State, when he completed just 47 percent for 189 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

The run game is worse, ranking second-to-last in the Big Ten, ahead of only Illinois. Running back Mark Weisman had four good games in a row in the middle of the season, including a 217-yard performance against CMU, but he has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. Damon Bullock started the season with a 150-yard performance against NIU, but suffered a concussion in Week 3 that kept him out for four games, which is when Weisman emerged. Bullock returned three weeks ago to rush for 107 yards against Northwestern. But against Purdue on Saturday, he was held to just 1.9 yards per carry.

Defensively, Iowa is about average, ranking 29th in points per game, and 51st in total defense. Purdue was able to rack up 490 total yards on Saturday, 279 through the air and 211 on the ground, and still won despite committing 10 penalties. In fact, each of the past four opponents have lit up the Hawkeye defense. Northwestern piled up 433 yards, Indiana 473, and Penn State 504.

Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads the Big Ten with 114 tackles, which is 16 more than the next closest. Fellow linebacker James Morris ranks third with 96, while a third linebacker, Christian Kirksey, is 12th with 76. All three of them have more tackles than Michigan’s leader, Desmond Morgan (67).

Tackle Joe Gaglione leads the team with five sacks and nine tackles-for-loss, while no other player has more than two sacks. Iowa as a team has the fewest sacks in the Big Ten and is also allowing opponents to convert a conference worst 42.3 percent of third downs.

During the offseason, Ferentz replaced his coordinators in an attempt to save his own job, but the Hawkeyes are headed toward their worst record since 2000. Meanwhile, Michigan has lost three straight to Iowa and is still fighting to win the Legends division.

Nebraska: first look

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012


Read our preseason preview here.

When Nebraska joined the Big Ten at the start of last season, the Cornhuskers were expected to compete for the Big Ten title right away. Instead, they went just 9-4 with three losses in the conference and a third place Legends division finish. Michigan handled the ‘Huskers easily in Ann Arbor, winning 45-17 and outgaining them 418 to 260.

This season, Michigan has to travel to Lincoln for the first time in 101 years. It has traditionally been a tough place to play – Nebraska has won 18 of its past 20 home games including a come-from-behind win over Wisconsin last month. Michigan is just 3-3 on the road during the Brady Hoke era. How tough will the ‘Huskers be? Let’s take a look.

Nebraska 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Nebraska Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 43.7 | 30.7 12 | 53 27.7 | 16.4 71 | 16
Rushing Yards 1,752 | 1,558 1,135 | 1,001
Rush Avg. Per Game 292.0 | 222.6 6 | 18 189.2 | 143.0 90 | 49
Avg. Per Rush 6.2 | 5.5 4.4 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,292 | 1,279 1,067 | 996
Pass Avg. Per Game 215.3 | 182.7 58 | 106 177.8 | 142.3 10 | 4
Total Offense 3,044 | 2,837 2,202 | 1,997
Total Off Avg. Per Game 507.3 | 405.3 12 | 61 367.0 | 285.3 43 | 10
Kick Return Average 23.0 | 22.4 60 | 51 24.1 | 20.6 93 | 49
Punt Return Average 15.5 | 13.4 20 | 19 15.9 | 6.3 112 | 55
Avg. Time of Possession 30:13 | 30:38 54 | 53 29:47 | 29:22
3rd Down Conversion Pct 49% | 49% 35 | 18 34% | 35% 30 | 41
Sacks By-Yards 21-120 | 9-85 8 | 98 12-100 | 5-38 76 | 10
Touchdowns Scored 34 | 26 21 | 12
Field Goals-Attempts 8-13 | 11-13 6-10 | 10-15
Red Zone Scores (27-31) 87% | (23-26) 88% 19 | 23 (15-21) 71% | (16-19) 84% 28 | 73
Red Zone Touchdowns (22-31) 71% | (14-26) 54% (10-21) 48% | (9-19) 47%

The main thing that jumps off the page is Nebraska’s defense. If you’ve watched any Nebraska games this season, it’s not hard to see that they’re not Alabama, Notre Dame, or Michigan State. The “Blackshirts” of old have been replaced by figurative redshirts. Bo Pelini’s squad is giving up nearly 28 points per game and ranks 90th nationally in rush defense, allowing 189.2 yards per game on the ground. The pass defense is good – 10th nationally – but much of that is a result of a very weak non-conference schedule and the ability of opposing teams to run the ball down their throat.

Taylor Martinez is dangerous with his arm and legs, quirky throwing motion or not

The other item that pops out is special teams. Nebraska ranks 93rd and 112th nationally in kick and punt return coverage, respectively. Michigan’s return units have been pretty good – 19th nationally in punt returns and Dennis Norfleet is going to break a kick return sooner or later. In addition, Nebraska kicker Brett Maher has converted just 8-of-13 field goal attempts, though he does have a long of 54. Maher is also the punter and he’s averaging just 41.8 yards per punt, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten. Needless to say, special teams is a clear advantage for Michigan in this one.

So what is Nebraska good at? Well, running the football, for one. Currently the nation’s sixth-best rush offense, Nebraska is led by a talented trio in Ameer Abdullah, Rex Burkhead, and quarterback Taylor Martinez. Two others, Imani Cross and Braylon Heard, each have over 30 carries and two touchdowns as well. Abdullah is the leader with 105 carries for 615 yards and seven touchdowns. Burkhead is the bruiser with 405 yards on 8.9 yards per carry, and three touchdowns, while the speedy Martinez (not Speedy Gonzalez) has 403 yards and six touchdowns.

As a passer, Martinez has been much more efficient this season than last. He is completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards, 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Five receivers have caught 13 or more passes and nine different players have caught a touchdown pass. The offense is diverse and dynamic to say the least.

But this is exactly the type of team that Michigan can beat. Michigan struggled with Alabama, Notre Dame, and Michigan State because all three had top-tier defenses. With the exception of the game against Alabama, who nobody in the country has been able to slow down, and the quirky offense of Air Force, Michigan’s defense has shut down everybody. We’ll get into this more later in the week.

Despite a porous defense, Nebraska has been able to get to the quarterback quite a bit. The 21 sacks are 12 more than Michigan has recorded and have the ‘Huskers eighth nationally. Additionally, Nebraska’s defense has held opponents to just a 71 percent scoring rate in the red zone which is third in the Big Ten. So while Michigan should be able to move the ball quite well on the Husker defense, it will need to protect Denard, which it has been great at this season, and convert red zone opportunities.

Fifteen years removed from the split national championship of 1997, Michigan looks to go into Lincoln and keep its Big Ten title hopes alive. Stay tuned the rest of the week for much more coverage.

Michigan State: first look

Sunday, October 14th, 2012


Read our preseason preview here.

There’s no denying the fact that Michigan State has had Michigan’s number the past few years. The Spartans were expected to be the class of the Big Ten once again this season with a dominant defense, but they enter this weekend’s matchup with three losses, two of them in conference. Those three losses were to Notre Dame (20-3), Ohio State (17-16), and Iowa (19-16 in double overtime). With the conference title likely out of reach, Michigan State will come to Ann Arbor looking to spoil Michigan’s chances. Can they? Let’s take a look.

Michigan State 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Michigan State Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 21.0 | 33.8 102 | 37 15.7 | 17.5 14 | 23
Rushing Yards 1,008 | 1,395 639 | 889
Rush Avg. Per Game 144.0 | 232.5 84 | 17 91.3 | 148.2 8 | 55
Avg. Per Rush 3.8 | 5.6 3.1 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,654 | 1,116 1,252 | 804
Pass Avg. Per Game 236.3 | 186.0 59 | 104 178.9 | 134.0 17 | 3
Total Offense 2,662 | 1,575 1,891 | 1,693
Total Off Avg. Per Game 380.3 | 418.5 80 | 55 270.1 | 282.2 7 | 10
Kick Return Average 22.3 | 22.5 52 | 48 26.2 | 22.3 111 | 79
Punt Return Average 7.2 | 11.6 76 | 30 7.4 | 5.4 62 | 44
Avg. Time of Possession 33:41 | 30:59 6 | 46 26:19 | 29:01
3rd Down Conversion Pct 37% | 52% 89 | 9 28% | 35% 8 | 46
Sacks By-Yards 6-43 | 8-75 111 | 95 10-58 | 5-38 40 | 13
Touchdowns Scored 15 | 26 11 | 11
Field Goals-Attempts 14-19 | 7-9 11-11 | 9-13
Red Zone Scores (21-24) 88% | (21-24) 88% 26 | 27 (15-17) 88% | (14-17) 82% 92 | 64
Red Zone Touchdowns (13-24) 54% | (14-24) 58% (6-17) 35% | (8-14) 47%

Entering the season, Michigan State’s defense was expected to be the best in the Big Ten and one of the top nationally. Everybody knew the Spartans offense would regress a little bit with the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins and receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. Well, the offense has trouble scoring and the defense has been good, but not great.

Led by quarterback Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State ranks 102nd nationally in points per game with just 21. The Spartans have scored more than 23 just twice – 41 against Central Michigan and 31 against Indiana – and have been held to 20 or fewer points four times.

No words necessary

Maxwell has thrown the ball a lot in the first half of the season. His fewest number of passes in a game were 29 against Eastern Michigan and he has chucked up 40 or more passes three times. Despite ranking second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, Maxwell doesn’t make the top ten in pass efficiency. His completion percentage is a half percentage point worse than Denard’s (54.3) and he has just six touchdowns and four interceptions.

The running game is a one-man show with LeVeon Bell, who has rushed for 916 yards on 200 carries (4.6 yards per carry). In the season opener, he carried the ball 44 times for 210 yards, and in Week 4 against Eastern Michigan, he toted it 36 times for 253. Aside from those two games, whose rush defenses rank 66th and 120th, respectively, Bell has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. He ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing average behind Denard, but has carried the ball 99 more times and accumulated just 112 more yards.

Defensively, Michigan State has been solid, but not nearly the level it was expected to be. The loss of defensive tackle Jerel Worthy has been felt more than anticipated as the Spartans have just six sacks, which is last in the Big Ten. But they’re still giving up just 15.7 points per game and have the conference’s top rush defense. State has held four of its opponents to 72 or fewer total rushing yards, but two of the last three (Ohio State and Iowa) have averaged 163.5 yards per game and featured 100-yard rushers in Braxton Miller and Iowa’s Mark Weisman – the most relevant being Miller who is similar to Denard. He carried the ball 23 times for 136 yards (an average of 5.9 yards per carry) and also completed 16-of-23 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. That along should give Michigan confidence heading into Saturday’s battle.

The defensive leader when it comes to hype is William Gholston. You will remember him for his dirty antics depicted above in last season’s matchup. However, he has just 28 tackles, five for loss, and one sack this season.

Last season, Michigan got the Ohio State monkey off its back, and this weekend, the Wolverines have a chance to end Michigan State’s four-game streak. It won’t be easy, but Michigan State has already lost three times this season and is more beatable than any of us thought they would be before the season started. Stay tuned for much more coverage the rest of the week.