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Posts Tagged ‘First Look’

First Look: Florida

Monday, December 28th, 2015


Gator

After a month-long break, Michigan hits the field for one last time this season on Friday in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The Wolverines have a chance to win 10 games in a season for just the fourth time since 2000, as well as a chance to pick up another win over an SEC foe. Michigan faces Florida, a program that has had a very similar past year with an underachieving 2014 that led to the firing of their coach, and then a resurgence under their new coach. Let’s take a look at the Gators.

Florida team stats & Michigan comparison
Florida | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 24.5 | 30.6 98 57
16.5 17.2 8 11
Rushing Yards 1,659 1,832 1,568 1,471
Rush Avg. Per Game 127.6 152.7 113 92
120.6 122.6 17 18
Avg. Per Rush 3.4 | 4.1
3.4 3.6
Passing Yards 2,744 2,812 2,272 1,905
Pass Avg. Per Game 211.1 234.3 78 54 174.8 158.8 11 3
Total Offense 4,403 4,644 3,840 3,376
Total Off Avg. Per Game 338.7 387.0 109 72 295.4 281.3 6 4
Kick Return Average 20.8 28.4 72 3 20.24 20.21 43 | 41
Punt Return Average 13.9 11.4 11 31 3.7 11.5 17 96
Avg. Time of Possession 31:43 | 33:02 29 | 13
28:17 | 26:58
3rd Down Conversion Pct 35.0% | 44.0% 103 26
31.0% | 26.0% 12 | 3
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 43-250 | 18-95
121 | T37
40-294 | 30-226
9 | T34
Touchdowns Scored 43 45
25 | 23
Field Goals-Attempts 7-17 16-20
13-18 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (33-48) 69%|(46-49) 94% 123 6
(25-32) 78%|(26-31) 84% 30 69
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-48) 58%|(33-49) 67% (15-32) 47%|(13-31) 42%

Florida is very similar to Michigan statistically. Both feature one of the nation’s top defenses and middling offenses. Florida is slightly better in scoring defense, allowing 16.5 points per game compared to Michigan’s 17.2. The Ohio State game hurt Michigan in that regard, dropping the Wolverines from sixth nationally to 11th. While Michigan let OSU score 42 points and also gave up 41 to Indiana, Florida allowed more than 30 points just once all season, a 35-28 loss to LSU. However, the Gators didn’t record a shutout and Michigan posted three straight early in the season.

Both teams’ rushing defenses are about the same with Florida allowing two fewer yards per game on the ground. Only three teams eclipsed 200 yards rushing against the Gators, Tennessee with 254, LSU with 221, and Alabama with 233. Alabama’s Derrick Henry likely locked up the Heisman trophy with a 44-carry, 189-yard performance against Florida in the SEC Championship game. LSU’s Leonard Fornett, a Heisman candidate for most of the season, tallied 180 yards on 31 carries against the Gators, while Tennessee had two 100-yard rushers — quarterback Joshua Dobbs (136) and running back Jalen Hurd (102). Unfortunately, Michigan’s rushing game isn’t poised to have as much success on the ground.

Florida’s pass defense, however, is slightly more susceptible, though still ranking among the nation’s best. The Gators rank 11th nationally, allowing 16 more passing yards per game than Michigan. Four opponents topped 200 yards passing, led by East Carolina’s 346 in Week 2. The best passing offense Florida faced all season, Ole Miss, threw for 259 yards. Florida’s corners, Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor, form one of the nation’s best duos and will be a tough match for Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.

Offensively, Florida isn’t nearly as scary. They’re fairly similar statistically to where Penn State and Minnesota were when Michigan faced them this season — in the bottom third nationally in most categories. They score just 24.5 points per game, six fewer than Michigan. A 61-13 throttling of New Mexico State in the season opener inflated the average as the Gators topped 30 points just twice the rest of the way, a 31-24 win over East Carolina the following week and a 38-10 win over Ole Miss in Week 5. Since then, Florida has averaged just 18.3 points in their final eight games. They managed just nine points in a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt, then were held to a measly two in a 27-2 loss to rival Florida State.

The running game is even more nonexistent than Michigan’s, averaging 25 fewer yards per game. The Gators’ best output was a 258-yard performance against Georgia — one of only two times they cracked 200 yards. The other was in the opener against NMSU. They were held below 100 yards four times, most recently 15 yards on 21 carries in the SEC title game against Alabama. Only 14 teams nationally average fewer yards per game than Florida, none of which Michigan faced. The closest, BYU, ranks one spot ahead of Florida, and Michigan held the Cougars to just 50 yards on 22 carries.

The passing game is slightly better, but it was more dynamic under Will Grier, who completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in the first six games before being suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Sophomore Treon Harris replaced him, but has completed just 49.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and five picks since then. He threw for 271 yards in his first start against LSU, but managed 200 yards just once in the final six games. Alabama’s defense held him to just 9-of-24 for 165 yards.

As far as intangibles go, Florida converts just 35 percent of its third downs (103rd nationally) compared to Michigan’s 44 percent. They also have allowed 43 sacks — more than all but six teams nationally. For perspective, Penn State has allowed 39. The Gators gave up five sacks in a game five times, including each of the last three, and allowed three or more sacks in eight of 13 games. On the flip side, the Gators rank 12th nationally in third down defense (31 percent) and ninth nationally with 40 sacks — 10 more than Michigan’s defense has recorded.

On special teams, Florida is an average 72nd in kick returns, averaging eight fewer yards per return than Michigan. However, they are dynamic in the punt return game, averaging 13.9 yards per returns. They’ve returned two punts for touchdowns this season. The Gators are also solid against punt returns, allowing just 3.7 yards per, which ranks 11th nationally. If the game comes down to the kicking game, Michigan should have the advantage as Florida has made just 7-of-17 field goals with a long of 43, and has missed the last five attempts. Three of those 10 misses have been blocked.

Overall, it should be a pretty even game with two great defenses and two average offenses. Michigan has the advantage offensively, but will have to be able to have at least some success on the ground against a very stingy rush defense. It should be a low scoring game, but regardless of the outcome, it’s two tradition-rich programs on the rise and it’s exciting to be playing on New Year’s Day once again.

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 23rd, 2015


Sad urban

The Game lost a little bit of luster when Ohio State lost to Michigan State on Saturday evening, putting the Spartans solely in possession of their Big Ten East destiny. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will have to hope Penn State pulls off an upset in East Lansing; otherwise, the winner of college football’s greatest rivalry will have only bragging rights and a better bowl placement to take away from it. But bragging rights are always enough in this rivalry. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Ohio State team stats & Michigan comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 34.4 | 32.2 T36 | 51
14.1 14.9 2 6
Rushing Yards 2,534 1,775 1,471 1,102
Rush Avg. Per Game 230.4 161.4 14 81
133.7 100.2 30 4
Avg. Per Rush 5.5 | 4.2
3.4 3.1
Passing Yards 2,131 2,505 1,807 1,792
Pass Avg. Per Game 193.7 227.7 100 60 164.3 162.9 T5 4
Total Offense 4,665 | 4,280 3,278 2,894
Total Off Avg. Per Game 424.1 389.1 48 72 298.0 263.1 8 2
Kick Return Average 23.4 30.7 32 2 16.2 20.3 5 | 44
Punt Return Average 12.3 11.4 26 32 3.6 11.5 18 98
Avg. Time of Possession 28:52 | 33:19 83 | 10
31:08 | 26:41
3rd Down Conversion Pct 38.0% | 44.0% 81 34
33.0% | 23.0% T23 2
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 16-88 | 16-84
T33 | T33
32-181 | 29-224
T14 | T25
Touchdowns Scored 51 44
19 | 17
Field Goals-Attempts 7-12 14-18
8-15 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (35-44) 80%|(43-46) 93% 93 | 7
(19-25) 76%|(21-25) 84% 23 64
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-44) 64%|(32-46) 70% (15-25) 60%|(8-25) 32%

Ohio State is averaging 2.2 more points per game than Michigan and 35 more total yards per game. However, in Big Ten play, Michigan leads the conference in points per game (34.7) and Ohio State is second at 34.3, though the Buckeyes still have the edge in total yards.

Through the first 10 games of the season, Ohio State’s rushing game was one to fear with Heisman candidate running back Ezekiel Elliott. But he got just 12 carries against Michigan State on Saturday as Ohio State was held to just 86 yards rushing as a team. Quarterback J.T. Barrett got the majority of the carries with 14 for just 44 yards and that drew the ire of Elliott in his postgame comments.

“How we lost, I just feel like we weren’t put in the right opportunity to win this game, we weren’t put in the right situations to win this game,” Elliott said. “I don’t think Michigan State was better than us. They weren’t. We didn’t execute.”

Whether that earns him a punishment or an extra helping of carries this Saturday remains to be seen, but he’s still one of the best backs in the nation and he still ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 132.5 yards per game. He also leads the conference with 17 rushing touchdowns.

The passing game, on the other hand, has been wildly inconsistent this season. It ranks 100th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten, right in between two of Michigan’s last three opponents: Rutgers and Penn State. Those two managed just 201 combined passing yards against Michigan’s pass defense that ranks fourth nationally. Barrett doesn’t rank among the top 10 quarterbacks in the Big Ten in passing, and Ohio State’s leading receiver, Michael Thomas, ranks 10th in receiving yards per game (59.9).

Defensively, Ohio State is just a hair behind Michigan, ranking 30th nationally against the run and fifth against the pass. The Buckeyes do allow less than a point fewer per game, but that’s negligible. Two main differences between Ohio State and Michigan’s defenses are third down conversion and red zone defense. Ohio State ranks a respectable 23rd nationally, allowing opponents to convert third downs 33 percent of the time compared to Michigan’s 23 percent, which is second nationally. In the red zone, Michigan has done a much better job of forcing opponents to kick field goals. Both teams have allowed 25 opponent trips to the red zone. Ohio State has given up 15 touchdowns, while Michigan has allowed just eight.

Both teams are pretty good on special teams with dynamic return men. Michigan ranks second nationally in kick returns with the trio of Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill Peppers, and Jehu Chesson, all of which is a threat to take it all the way. Ohio State’s Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel rank 32nd in that regard. But Jalen Marshall’s 12.8-yard punt return average has the Bucks slightly ahead of Michigan in that category.

So what can we expect on Saturday? It’s too early for a prediction, but it’s a much more even matchup than any of us thought it would be entering the season. The status of Elliott and the psyche of a team that just suffered its first loss in 24 Big Ten games will play a major part in the outcome. Will they bounce back or will they crumble from their first experience of adversity? We’ll find out at high noon on Saturday.

First Look: Michigan State

Monday, October 12th, 2015


Dantonio

The biggest week of the season to date is upon us with 7th-ranked Michigan State visiting 12th-ranked Michigan on Saturday. ESPN College GameDay will be on hand making the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and in-state bragging rights the game of the week. National pundits have begun jumping on the Michigan bandwagon after Saturday’s 38-0 pounding of Northwestern, and if the Wolverines can pull off a win over rival Michigan State they’ll certainly vault into the top 10 and be in contention for not only a Big Ten title but the College Football Playoff. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare.

Michigan State team stats & Michigan comparison
Michigan St. | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 31.3 | 29.5 55 | 67
21.3 6.3 43 | 1
Rushing Yards 1,050 1,208 781 395
Rush Avg. Per Game 175.0 | 201.3 66 | 33
130.2 | 65.8 34 | 3
Avg. Per Rush 4.4 | 4.8
3.8 | 2.2
Passing Yards 1,334 1,135 1,452 693
Pass Avg. Per Game 222.3 | 189.2 76 | 97 242.0 | 115.5 88 | 2
Total Offense 2,384 2,343 2,233 | 1,088
Total Off Avg. Per Game 397.3 | 390.5 72 | 78 372.2 | 181.3 56 | 2
Kick Return Average 20.0 | 39.0 86 1 21.5 | 18.1 71 | 24
Punt Return Average 1.0 | 8.7 124 | 60 16.1 | 7.5 119 | T58
Avg. Time of Possession 32:26 | 34:48 24 | 4
27:34 | 25:12
3rd Down Conversion Pct 50.0% | 43.0% T8 | 38
38.0% | 19.0% 68 | 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 4-26 | 8-47
T8 | T36
21-135 | 15-106
T7 | 38
Touchdowns Scored 25 22
17 | 5
Field Goals-Attempts 5-97-9
3-6 | 1-4
Red Zone Scores (20-25) 80%|(19-20) 95% T89 | 12
(13-17) 76%|(5-6) 83% T29 | T67
Red Zone Touchdowns (16-25) 64%|(15-20) 75% (10-17) 59%|(4-6) 66.7%

On paper, Michigan State presents an easier matchup than Northwestern did last week, but history tells us that won’t be the case. While Michigan has owned the series rivalry, Michigan State has taken advantage of Michigan’s misfortunes the past seven years, winning six of the past seven. And until Michigan proves otherwise, the Spartans own the state on the football field.

When Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh most expected him to right the ship, but figured it would take a couple of years. It was unfathomable that six weeks into the season Michigan would be the seven point favorite in a top-12 matchup with ESPN College GameDay on hand.

Michigan has looked like the best team in the Big Ten East while Michigan State has struggled with Purdue and Rutgers the past two weeks. And surprisingly, it’s the Spartan defense that has been the Achilles heel so far. Pat Narduzzi built Michigan State’s defense into one of the nation’s best the past few years, but his departure for Pittsburgh in the offseason is certainly being felt in East Lansing. Michigan State ranks just 56th nationally in total defense, 43rd in points allowed per game, 34th against the run, and 88th against the pass.

Much of Michigan’s futility against the Spartans during the past two coaching staffs has been offensively, as the Wolverines haven’t scored more than 21 points since 2007. This year, the tables have turned as Michigan has the nation’s best defense and Michigan State’s offense and defense are both average.

It’s no secret that the winner of this rivalry is the team that wins the running game nearly every time the past few decades. Michigan State’s running game averages 175 yards per game (66th nationally), while Michigan’s averages 201.3 (33rd), but the Wolverines boast the nation’s second best total defense and third best run defense.

When these two teams met last year, Michigan’s running game came in averaging 164.1 yards per game and the Spartans’ 4th-ranked run defense held it to just 61 rushing yards.

In 2013, Michigan’s running game came in averaging 183.9 yards per game and the Spartans’ top-ranked run defense held it to negative-48 rushing yards. In fact, in that 2013 matchup, Michigan State’s defense was very comparable to Michigan’s this year (top three nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rush defense, and pass defense) and Michigan’s offense was far better than Michigan State’s this year (11 more points per game, 50 more total yards per game). And the Spartans’ defense completely shut them down, winning 29-6.

Can we expect a similar outcome — with the roles reversed — this Saturday? It’s hard to imagine, but Harbaugh has this team playing its best football in years, while Michigan State has mounting injuries, so they could be just ripe for the picking.

First Look: Northwestern

Monday, October 5th, 2015


M00N

After last season’s “M00N” game between Michigan and Northwestern — which may have been the worst game of the season to watch as a fan of either team — and both teams’ 5-7 finishes, most didn’t expect such a hyped-up meeting this season. But that’s where we find ourselves five weeks into 2015 as Northwestern stands 5-0, ranked 13th nationally, and Michigan is 4-1, ranked 18th. It’s one of just two games across the country featuring two ranked teams — Utah versus Cal is the other — and the winner gets to make a case for being a major Big Ten title contender. Let’s take a first look at how the two teams compare.

Northwestern Team Stats & Michigan Comparison
Northwestern | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 25.4 | 27.8 89 | 74
7.0 7.6 1 | 2
Rushing Yards 1,244 1,007 587 357
Rush Avg. Per Game 248.8 | 201.4 14 | 35
117.4 | 71.4 26 | 5
Avg. Per Rush 4.4 | 4.9
3.7 | 2.3
Passing Yards 711 956 650 563
Pass Avg. Per Game 142.2 | 191.2 118 | 96 130.0 | 112.6 7 | 3
Total Offense 1,955 1,963 1,237 | 920
Total Off Avg. Per Game 391.0 | 392.6 79 | 77 247.4 | 184.0 5 | 2
Kick Return Average 31.6 | 24.8 3 32 18.7 | 17.8 32 | 19
Punt Return Average 12.0 | 8.7 38 | 62 -1.6 | 7.5 2 | T63
Avg. Time of Possession 33:43 | 34:20 11 | 6
26:17 | 25:40
3rd Down Conversion Pct 49.0% | 42.0% 10 | T46
20.0% | 19.0% 2 | 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 4-24 | 5-43
T13 | T17
9-51 | 11-83
T71 | T45
Touchdowns Scored 14 17
3 | 5
Field Goals-Attempts 10-13 | 6-8
5-7 | 1-3
Red Zone Scores (14-17) 82.3%|(16-17) 94% 74 | 12
(6-10) 60%|(5-6) 83% T6 | T71
Red Zone Touchdowns (5-17) 29.4%|(12-17) 71% (1-10) 10%|(4-6) 66.7%

Michigan and Northwestern are nearly identical statistically so far this season with great defenses and average offenses. Michigan’s offense averages 2.4 more points and 1.6 more total yards per game than the Wildcats, but Northwestern has a seven percent better third down conversion rate. Northwestern gains more of its yards on the ground (47.4 more per game) but Michigan averages 49 more passing yards per game. One area in which Michigan has excelled is putting the ball in the end zone when it’s in the red zone. Michigan has punched it in 12 of 17 times, while Northwestern has done so just five of 17 times. Against good defenses, that might make the difference.

Defensively, Northwester and Michigan are No. 1 and 2 nationally in points allowed per game, with the Wildcats allowing 0.6 points fewer. But Michigan’s defense ranks second nationally in total defense, allowing 63.4 fewer yards per game, and Northwestern’s defense is just 26th nationally against the run, allowing 46 more rushing yards per game than Michigan’s defense does. The two are also the top two defenses in the country in stopping third downs with Michigan allowing just 19 percent conversions and Northwestern 20 percent.

Michigan-Northwestern starters comparison_Offense

While Jake Rudock hasn’t produced much this season, Clayton Thorson has done even less with his arm, throwing for 245 fewer yards. But he’s also thrown for half as many interceptions as Rudock. Northwestern has a workhorse at running back in Justin Jackson, who has nearly doubled De’Veon Smith’s rushing yards — although Smith missed the last game due to injury — but the Wildcats also have three other ball carriers with at least 137 rushing yards. Only Smith and Ty Isaac have that many for the Wolverines. At receiver, Michigan has the advantage, especially with Jake Butt, and on the offensive line, Michigan has a 98 to 61 advantage in career starts.

Michigan-Northwestern starters comparison_Defense

Both teams have great defenses, but Michigan’s defensive production seems to be spread out among more contributors, while Northwestern’s is a bit more centralized to its starters. Almost across the board, Northwestern’s starters have more tackles than their Michigan counterparts, but as a team, Michigan has recorded 40 tackles for loss to Northwestern’s 31 and 11 sacks to Northwestern’s nine. Michigan suffered a huge loss on Saturday when defensive end Mario Ojemudia went down with an Achilles injury, leaving Royce Jenkins-Stone big shoes to fill.

Overall, it’s about an even a matchup as one can find, at least on paper. Michigan opened as a 12-point favorite according to Las Vegas, but that number is sure to come down as Saturday approaches. Stay tuned for more coverage throughout the week.

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 24th, 2014


FirstLook-OhioState

Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win on Saturday, falling to Maryland 23-16. That leaves one final chance to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a losing season. Unfortunately, that game is in Columbus where Michigan hasn’t won since 2000. Normally, the week of the Michigan-Ohio State game is an exciting one that fans on both sides look forward to all week. But it has never felt so hollow than it does now. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Ohio State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 44.3 | 20.3 5 | 111
22.5 | 20.6 30 | 21
Rushing Yards 2,856 | 1,833 1,626 | 1,179
Rush Avg. Per Game 259.6 | 166.6 13 | 61
147.8 | 107.2 41 | 9
Avg. Per Rush 5.6 | 4.7
4.1 | 2.9
Passing Yards 2,769 | 1,791 2,008 | 2,141
Pass Avg. Per Game 251.7 | 162.8 48 | 113 182.5 | 194.6 15 | 23
Total Offense 5,625 | 3,624 3,634 | 3,320
Total Off Avg. Per Game 511.4 | 329.5 10 | 114 330.4 | 301.8 19 | 9
Kick Return Average 23.7 | 19.9 18 | 82 17.8 | 21.7 15 | 81
Punt Return Average 12.0 | 6.8 19 | 85 6.0 | 12.8 44 | 116
Avg. Time of Possession 31:59 | 30:35 20 | 46
28:01 | 29:25
3rd Down Conversion Pct 53.0% | 38.0% 3 | 81
36.7% | 37.0% 40 | 42
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 23-156 | 20-130
T68 | T54
32-219 | 29-248
T18 | T30
Touchdowns Scored 65 | 25
32 | 25
Field Goals-Attempts 10-16 | 15-21
8-13 | 18-22
Red Zone Scores (47-57)82%|(29-33)88% T67 | T30
(27-33)82%|(31-38)82% T56 | 51
Red Zone Touchdowns (40-57)70%|(20-33)61% (22-33)67%|(18-38)47%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .542 | -.241
11 | 94
-.435 | -.295 18 | 35

Ohio State clinched the Big Ten East division with a 42-27 win over Indiana on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes can afford to take this week lightly. Aside from it being The Game, Ohio State still has a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Currently ranked sixth, and with only one team — Florida State — undefeated, the Buckeyes need all the style points they can get. Despite winning by 15 this past Saturday, the fact that they trailed Indiana — the Big Ten’s only winless team — until late in the third quarter, didn’t win them any style points. The Bucks have just two games remaining — Michigan and the Big Ten title game — to jump at least two of Alabama, Oregon, Mississippi State, and TCU and fend off Baylor.

Ohio State’s offense will be the best Michigan has faced this season. Only Baylor (50.0), TCU (45.9), Oregon (45.8), and Marshall (44.9) average more points per game than the Buckeyes (44.3). In fact, they’ve been held below 30 just once and below 40 just three times. The fewest points they’ve scored all season came in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2. Michigan has scored fewer than that in seven of 11 games. Following the Week 2 loss, Ohio State averaged 51.3 points over the next seven games.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 at Navy W 34-17
Sept. 6 Virginia Tech L 21-35
Sept. 13 Kent State W 66-0
Sept. 27 Cincinnati W 50-28
Oct. 4 at Maryland W 52-24
Oct. 18 Rutgers W 56-17
Oct. 25 at Penn State W 31-24 2OT
Nov. 1 Illinois W 55-14
Nov. 8 at #8 Michigan State W 49-37
Nov. 15 at #25 Minnesota W 31-24
Nov. 22 Indiana W 42-27
Nov. 29 Michigan

The catalyst has been redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who ranks 12th nationally in total offense (318.8 yards per game) — one spot ahead of Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The combination of Barrett’s rushing ability and running back Ezekiel Elliott has Ohio State’s run game ranked 13th nationally. Elliott is already over 1,000 yards and Barrett is 151 yards away.

The OSU passing game is slightly less potent — 48th nationally — but has two very talented receivers in Michael Thomas and Devin Smith, a rising star in Jalin Marshall, and a solid tight end in Jeff Heuerman. And despite being a first-year starter, Barrett has 33 touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions.

Put together, Ohio State’s offense ranks 10th nationally in yards per game (511.4). Michigan’s ranks 114th, or 12th-to-last. The Buckeyes convert 53 percent of their third downs, which ranks third nationally.

Defensively, Ohio State is slightly worse than Michigan, but not nearly as bad as last season. The 22.5 points allowed per game are two more than Michigan and rank 30th nationally. Michigan State put up 37 points, which is the OSU has allowed. Only one — Kent State — was held to single digits and only four have been held below 20.

Ohio State’s rush defense ranks 41st, allowing 147.8 yards per game, about 40 more than Michigan allows. Some of that is a result of playing Navy’s triple-option attack that racked up 370 rushing yards in Week 1, but Indiana rushed for 281 last week.

The pass defense is better, ranking 15th nationally with 182.5 yards allowed per game. Again, some of that is a result of playing Navy, which attempted just four passes for 20 yards. But Michigan State passed for 358 and Cincinnati for 352, so the Buckeyes can be vulnerable through the air.

Altogether, Ohio State’s defense ranks 19th nationally. Michigan’s ranks ninth. Despite a defensive line that most considered the best in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country this season, OSU has just three more sacks than Michigan through 11 games. In addition, OSU isn’t as good at keeping opponents out of the end zone once they reach the red zone. The Bucks allow 67 percent of red zone trips to result in touchdowns, compared to 47 percent allowed by Michigan.

Special teams is a big strength of Ohio State as they rank 18th nationally in kick returns and 19th in punt returns. Comparatively, Michigan ranks 82nd and 85th. OSU also ranks 15th in kick return defense and 44th in punt return defense compared to Michigan’s 81st and 116th.

Everything about this game suggests a Buckeye blowout. The way the season has gone many Michigan fans would be okay with that being the final nail in Brady Hoke’s coaching coffin. But perhaps Hoke can rally the troops to make one final stand the way they nearly did a year ago. It’s unlikely, but that’s why they play the game.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
J.T. Barrett 190-293 2,658 33 10 241.6
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Ezekiel Elliott 180 1,061 8 65 5.9
J.T. Barrett (QB) 156 849 9 86 5.4
Curtis Samuel 51 354 4 34 6.9
Cardale Jones (QB) 24 188 0 21 7.8
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Michael Thomas 37 605 8 79 55.0
Devin Smith 25 610 8 80 55.5
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) 25 201 0 22 18.3
Jalin Marshall 24 347 6 57 31.5
Jeff Heuerman (TE) 16 194 2 32 19.4
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Joshua Perry 58 41 99 8.5-31 3.0-18 (1 INT)
Vonn Bell 38 24 62 1.0-2 0-0 (3 INT, 8 PD)
Darron Lee 33 17 50 11.5-48 4.5-34 (2 INT)
Joey Bosa (DE) 27 16 43 18.0-102 11.5-84
Adolphus Washington 18 18 36 7.0-23 2.5-13
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Sean Neurnberger 10 16 49 65 65
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Cameron Johnston 31 1,351 43.6 19 9
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Ohio State in the coming days.

First Look: Indiana

Monday, October 27th, 2014


FirstLook-Indiana

Michigan had two weeks to prepare for Michigan State, but it didn’t matter one bit as the offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense couldn’t hold up. Now Michigan is in must-win mode if it wants to play in a bowl game and avoid a third losing season in seven years. What better remedy could there be than to play Indiana, who allowed Michigan its best offensive performance of the season a year ago? Could that happen again? Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.

Indiana Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Indiana | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 30.1 | 20.4 64 | 110
34.9 | 23.1 105 | 44
Rushing Yards 2,029| 1,210 1,181 | 874
Rush Avg. Per Game 289.9 | 151.2 8 | 74 168.7 | 109.2 73 | 16
Avg. Per Rush 6.4 | 4.4
4.5 | 3.1
Passing Yards 1,193 | 1,356 1,983 | 1,679
Pass Avg. Per Game 170.4 | 169.5 112 | 114 283.3 | 209.9 111 | 41
Total Offense 3,222 | 2,566 3,164 | 2,553
Total Off Avg. Per Game 460.3 | 320.8 32 | 115 452.0 | 319.1 100 | 14
Kick Return Average 18.2 | 19.1 116 | 96 19.1 | 19.9 33 | 51
Punt Return Average 6.6 | 6.2 82 | 89 5.2 | 11.8 T36 | 109
Avg. Time of Possession 28:21 | 30:05 95 | 62
31:39 | 29:55
3rd Down Conversion Pct 36.0% | 41.0% 103 | 60
37.0% | 38.0% 43 | 50
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 13-73 | 17-109
51 | T76
14-93 | 19-158
T68 | T48
Touchdowns Scored 28 | 19
30 | 21
Field Goals-Attempts 5-9 | 9-13
12-14 | 13-15
Red Zone Scores (18-23)78%|(17-19)89% T98 | 22
(25-25)100%|(23-26)88% T123 | 101
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-23)65%|(14-19)74% (17-25)68%|(14-26)54%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .181 | -.126
42 | 74 .615 | -.207 119 | 44

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers trending upward heading into this season. But quarterback transfers and injuries have decimated the once powerful offense leaving true freshman Zander Diamont to be thrown to the wolves midseason. Diamont went 5-of-15 for 11 yards in his first collegiate action in a 56-17 loss to Michigan State two weeks ago. When he starts at Michigan this Saturday, it will be his first time playing in an opponent’s stadium.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 Indiana State W 28-10
Sept. 13 at Bowling Green L 42-45
Sept. 20 at #18 Missouri W 31-27
Sept. 27 Maryland L 15-37
Oct. 4 North Texas W 49-24
Oct. 11 at Iowa L 29-45
Oct. 18 #8 Michigan State L 17-56
Nov. 1 at Michigan
Nov. 8 Penn State
Nov. 15 at Rutgers
Nov. 22 at #13 Ohio State
Nov. 29 Purdue

The Hoosiers offense has certainly taken a step back from a year ago, but is still much better than Michigan’s thanks to a run game that ranks eighth nationally, averaging 289.9 yards per game. Running back Tevin Coleman is currently the nation’s leading rusher, averaging 170.3 yards per game. As a team, Indiana has rushed for at least 200 yards in every game this season, over 300 yards three times, and over 400 yards once.

The passing game, however, is right on par with Michigan’s. The Hoosiers average 170.4 yards per game through the air, which ranks 112th nationally. Comparatively, Michigan averages 169.5 and ranks 114th. In four of seven games, IU has thrown for fewer than 130 yards, including the 11 yards against Michigan State two weeks ago. Michigan won’t hold Diamont to 11 passing yards this weekend, but with Sudfeld out the Hoosiers will stick to the ground game.

Defensively, Indiana is one of the nation’s worst like it usually has been under Wilson. The 34.9 points allowed per game ranks 105th. The only opponent Indiana has held below 24 points was FCS foe Indiana State, which scored 10. Three of seven opponents have scored at least 40 points.

Indiana is allowing 133 more total yards per game than Michigan (59.5 more rushing yards and 73.4 more passing yards). After holding Indiana State to 30 yards on 24 carries in Week 1, IU’s rush defense had been holding up pretty well until allowing Michigan State to rush for 330 yards and five touchdowns two weeks ago. The pass defense, however, has given up over 300 yards in four of seven games, including 395 to Bowling Green and 361 to Maryland.

The Hoosiers are also pretty solid with special teams defense, ranking 33rd on kickoff returns and 36th on punt returns compared to Michigan’s 51st and 109th. They aren’t as good the other way, however, ranking 116th in kick return yardage and 82nd on punt returns.

Indiana presents a great opportunity for Michigan to get back on the winning track, especially offensively. But as we saw last year, a record-breaking performance against Indiana doesn’t ensure continued success. This year it will just be one more step toward bowl eligibility.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Nate Sudfeld (out) 101-167 1,151 6 3 191.8
Zander Diamont 5-15 11 0 0 11.0
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Tevin Coleman 135 1,192 11 83 8.8
D’Angelo Roberts 83 416 5 47 5.0
Devine Redding 25 115 1 16 4.6
Nate Sudfeld (QB – out) 36 98 2 17 2.7
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Shane Wynn 27 424 2 76 60.6
Nick Stoner 18 177 1 47 25.3
Tevin Coleman (RB) 17 140 0 44 20.0
J-Shun Harris II 14 139 2 33 19.9
Simmie Cobbs 5 99 0 34 14.1
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
T.J. Simmons (LB) 24 19 43 2.5-6 1.0-4
David Cooper (LB) 17 18 35 1.0-3 0-0
Forisse Hardin (LB) 18 14 32 3.5-15 1.0-6
Nate Hoff (DT) 10 9 19 5.0-20 2.0-12
Bobby Richardson (DT) 14 3 17 4.5-35 4.0-33
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Aaron Del Grosso 1 4 23 12 12
Griffin Oakes 4 5 58 14 14
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Erich Toth 40 1,652 41.3 11 4
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Indiana in the coming days.

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