photo Michigan-Display-Ad-728x90-Die-Hard-Fans-only_zpskcnarkrk.jpg  photo MampGB header 2015 v6_zpsdluogxnr.jpg

Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

#3 Michigan 41 – Illinois 8: Michigan allows points, wins by 33

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016


In front of a homecoming crowd on Saturday afternoon, Michigan picked up right where it left off prior to last week’s bye, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions of the game to kickstart a 41-8 win over Illinois.

Michigan got the ball to start the game and looked like it hadn’t missed a beat, marching down the field in 10 plays and scoring on a 3-yard drag to Jake Butt after lining up in the “train” formation that Jim Harbaugh debuted against Wisconsin. On the drive, Jabrill Peppers lined up at quarterback, running back, and receiver, running for five yards and catching a five yard pass.

Final Stats
Michigan Illinois
Score 41 8
Record 7-0, 4-0 2-5, 1-3
Total Yards 561 172
Net Rushing Yards 270 77
Net Passing Yards 291 95
First Downs 29 6
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 5-41 5-45
Punts-Yards 2-65 7-287
Time of Possession 41:23 18:37
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 2-of-10
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 1-13 2-17
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 5-for-5 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 5-of-5 0-of-0
Red Zone Scores-TDs 3-of-5 0-of-0
Full Box Score

The defense forced a three-and-out and Michigan started its second possession at the Illinois 44-yard line. Three plays later, Wilton Speight found Tyrone Wheatley Jr. for a 21-yard touchdown pass.

After another Illinois punt, Michigan moved the ball right down the field for yet another touchdown, this time going 81 yards in 10 plays. Khalid Hill capped off the drive with a 1-yard scoring run.

Although Illinois crossed midfield, the defense held strong yet again and had a chance to pin Michigan’s offense deep. But this time Khaleke Hudson got a hand on the punt and Michigan got to start on its own 38. Eight plays later, De’Veon Smith found the end zone to put Michigan ahead 28-0.

Michigan’s next possession stalled at the 42 after 10 plays, but on the first play after a Kenny Allen punt, Dymonte Thomas intercepted Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr. Smith got five straight carries as the first half clock ran down and Allen booted a 23-yard field goal to send Michigan into the half with a 31-0 lead.

The second half was much different as Michigan didn’t play with the same precision or intensity, but on their third possession of the half, they got on the scoreboard once again. Speight connected with Amara Darboh for 30 yards and Butt for 22 on the drive, and after stalling in the red zone, Allen kicked a 27-yard field goal.

Early in the fourth quarter, Illinois finally broke Michigan’s shutout streak after Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon fumbled a fake punt attempt near midfield. The Illini capitalized on the great field position with a 43-yard strike from George Jr. to Malik Turner. After Michigan committed a penalty on the extra point try, they went for two and got it.

Michigan responded quickly with a 3-play, 61-yard touchdown drive as Karan Higdon raced 45 yards for the score to reach the final score of 41-8.

Michigan racked up 561 total yards and held Illinois to just 172. Speight completed 16-of-23 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, looking poised and making accurate throws most of the game. Higdon led all rushers with 106 yards and a score on just six carries, while Smith added 76 yards Darboh caught five passes for 99 yards. Thirteen different Wolverines carried the ball and 11 different players caught a pass.

Defensively, Michigan limited Illinois to just 77 rushing yards — 45 coming on one run — and 4-of-15 passing for 95 yards — 43 coming on the one touchdown pass. Gedeon and Taco Charlton led the way with five tackles apiece while Maurice Hurst recorded the team’s only sack.

Michigan visits Michigan State (2-5, 0-4) next Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
This week’s game ball could have gone to Karan Higdon for his 6-carry, 106-yard, one touchdown performance, but Speight got the chance to throw the ball around and he did it well. He averaged 15.8 yards per completion and was right on the money most of the afternoon. He did get sacked twice, but didn’t turn the ball over. Harbaugh said after the game that he thought it might have been Speight’s best performance of the season. Statistically, the one against UCF was better, but it was good to see the first-year starter perform well in a conference game midway through the season and it bodes well for the Big Ten title hunt.

Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)

Game Ball – Defense

Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Not one single player stood out on the vaunted Michigan defense this week, but the unit performed well collectively. If there was one player that was memorable more than others, it was McCray. He put pressure on George Jr., burst into the backfield to stop Illinois running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn for a 7-yard loss, and dove on a fumbled snap in the third quarter when Illinois was in field goal range.

Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)

M&GB staff predictions: Illinois

Friday, October 21st, 2016


Fresh off a bye week, Michigan hosts Illinois in front of a homecoming crowd for the teams’ first meeting since 2012. Last week, Illinois beat Rutgers despite being outgained by 65 yards and being held to just 10 first downs. We all know what Michigan did to Rutgers the week before that. With Michigan favored by nearly 40 points in this one, it’s likely to get ugly early.

Joe won our weekly predictions four the fourth time in six games two weeks ago with his prediction of Michigan 54 – Rutgers 3. Here are this week’s picks:

Staff Predictions
Michigan Illinois
Justin 56 7
Derick 63 6
Sam 47 0
Josh 56 3
Joe 48 7
M&GB Average 54 5

Given Illinois’ inability to defend the run — they allow 224.2 yards per game against FBS competition and Rutgers rushed for 203 yards last week — another big day on the ground should be expected for a Michigan offense that ranks second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally in rushing. Will the Wolverines break 400 rushing yards like they did against Rutgers? Probably not, but they should top 300. I also think we’ll see a little more of Wilton Speight than we did against Rutgers when he threw just 13 passes. Having a strong ground game is great, but we can’t forget that Michigan only rushed for 130 against Wisconsin. The passing game needs to be strong as well, especially as the Big Ten title hunt enters the home stretch. Finally, I expect the offense to show a few new plays or formations that they worked on over the weekend specifically to set up plays for the Michigan State game next Saturday.

Defensively, Michigan will shut down the Illinois offense, but surrender one touchdown on a big run. If Lunt starts, he’s not a threat to run and Michigan’s defensive line will tee off on him. If Crouch starts, the Illini will have the dual-threat option and he’ll pull off a couple of first down runs on broken plays, but he won’t be able to do enough to cause concern. Jourdan Lewis will shut down Turner, rendering the Illinois passing game useless, and the rush defense will hold them under 100 yards.

Michigan is favored by 38.5 points and I expect them to cover. I think this game will be very similar to the Rutgers game two weeks ago, but to a lesser degree. Michigan won’t score 78 for the second straight game, they won’t top 600 total yards, and Illinois will get more than 39 total yards. But Michigan will still win big.

Michigan 56 – Illinois 7


The biggest blowout in this game’s history is 57-0, and that might be in jeopardy Saturday.

If Harbaugh wants to really get Jabrill Peppers into the Heisman conversation, he’ll make Peppers more of a factor on offense in the second half of the season. That doesn’t bode well for Illinois.

Michigan might not have the same motivation it did against a chirpy Rutgers team, but I still think this will be a blowout. Michigan wins big once again.

Michigan 63 – Illinois 6

Sam (1)

Another Big Ten game, another snoozer. At least, that’s why I’m expecting when the Wolverines welcome a woeful Illinois team for Homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor. With each passing week, the Big Ten looks like a two-team conference (okay, we’ll give Wisconsin and Nebraska a combined 0.5 worth of a team as well), and the Fighting Illini are certainly not in that conversation. This should be another game where the running game is dominant and Wilton Speight merely has to manage the offense and watch as Wormley, Taco, Peppers, Gedeon, McCray, Glasgow, Gary, Hurst, Lewis, and company dominate. The Maize and Blue rolls to 7-0 behind 350 rushing yards and plus-3 in the turnover game.

Michigan 47 – Illinois 0

Josh (1)

Illinois isn’t all that great, but they’re better than Rutgers. Michigan should win with relative ease but I do expect the Illinois pass rush to give Michigan some issues. Wilton Speight has been decent but not consistent this year. If Michigan wants to compete for a B1G Ten title and more he needs to clean up some stuff. Illinois should provide a good test for Speight’s pocket presence and quickness in decision making. The running back by committee will continue, perhaps with an appearance by Drake Johnson, and De’Veon Smith is likely to sit out most of the game as other guys get reps. A deep pass or two and this one will be over by halftime.

Illinois is a better running team than passing, so I don’t expect a ton of tackles for loss or sacks. What I do expect is a lot of three and outs and short fields for Michigan’s offense. Hopefully we can see Lavert Hill and David Long get some more solid game action as 2017 demands these guys are well seasoned.

As mentioned in this week’s The Numbers Game, Illinois is very similar (numbers wise) to Penn State and Michigan handled them quite easily, I expect a similar result.

Michigan 56 – Illinois 3

Joe (4)

I like this matchup versus Illinois on several fronts. The run game will see plenty of holes should get rolling early. The offensive line will dominate a less experienced and smaller defensive front for Illinois. The defense will continue to get better after a week off and will be very hungry. We are starting to get to the MEAT of the schedule and should start seeing more consistency from everyone. Look for Speight to go for 250 and three touchdowns while Peppers returns one to the house in his growing Heisman push. Michigan wins pulling away.

Michigan 48 – Illinois 7

The Numbers Game: Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

chris-evans-vs-rutgers(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace, U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1
Related: Midseason comparison: Michigan’s 2016 offense vs 2015 offense, Midseason comparison: Michigan’s 2016 defense vs 2015 defense

As promised, we’ve got a ton of new information to add to our regular explosive play stats. But first let’s quickly recap where Michigan stands after the bye week with some updated rankings.

Michigan’s offense is averaging eight explosive run plays per game (12th nationally) and 3.67 pass plays (38th) for 11.67 total explosive plays (9th) with a big play percentage of 15.77 percent (10th).

On defense they are surrendering 3.67 explosive run plays per game (24th) and 1.33 pass plays (2nd) for a total of just five explosive plays given up per game (1st) and their big play against percentage is 8.4 percent (11th).

Their big play differential is 7.36 percent (4th) and their toxic differential is 46, good for fourth on a per game basis.

Through six games in 2015 Michigan averaged 4.5 explosive run plays per game and 2.33 explosive pass plays, for a total of 6.83 explosive plays per game. Their big play percentage for was 9.58 percent, their big play differential was 1.97 percent, and their total toxic differential was just 13.

Michigan’s defense was giving up 3.5 explosive run plays per game and one explosive pass play per game for 4.5 total explosive plays per game, with a total big play against percentage of 7.61 percent.

After the bye week Michigan is currently fifth nationally in total sacks (24) but still first in sacks per game (four). They are also third with 59 total tackles for loss, which is good for second on a per game basis (9.83).

Now, on to some new stuff. It’s all well and good that Michigan has been stellar at putting up explosive plays and preventing them, but when exactly is Michigan most likely to have an explosive play, or give one up on defense? Here’s what I found.

Michigan has had 70 total explosive plays on offense — 48 run and 22 pass.

Michigan’s 2016 big run plays by down – Offense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 24 18.96 yards 50.00%
2nd 20 20.50 yards 41.67%
3rd 4 21.75 yards 8.33%
Michigan’s 2016 big pass plays by down – Offense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 8 32.25 yards 36.36%
2nd 8 25.63 yards 36.36%
3rd 6 32.50 yards 27.27%

An explosive run play has happened 24 times on first down with an average gain of 18.96 yards, 20 times on second down with an average gain of 20.5 yards and just four times on third down with an average gain of 21.75 yards.

An explosive pass is equally as likely on first and second downs (eight on each down), with first down passes gaining more yards than second (average gain 32.25 vs 25.63 respectively) and just behind on third down (six) with the highest average gain of 32.5 yards. Overall, 85 percent of Michigan’s explosive plays occur on either first (45.71%) or second downs (40%).

On defense Michigan has given up 30 total explosive plays — 22 run and 8 pass. An explosive run play has happened seven times on first down with an average gain of 17.86 yards, 11 times on second with an average gain of 19.91 yards and just four times on third down, with an average gain of 23.75 yards.

Michigan’s 2016 big run plays allowed by down – Defense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 7 17.86 yards 50.00%
2nd 11 19.91 yards 41.67%
3rd 4 23.75 yards 8.33%
Michigan’s 2016 big pass plays allowed by down – Defense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 5 40.60 yards 62.50%
2nd 1 37.00 yards 12.50%
3rd 2 22.00 yards 25.00%

Of the explosive passes Michigan has allowed, 62.5 percent (five) have occurred on first down with third down (two) and second down (one) hardly ever yielding explosive pass plays.

Overall, Michigan gives up 8o percent of their total explosive plays on first down and second down combined (both 40 percent) and just 20 percent on third. Their lowest gain per play is on second down at 21.33 yards. Michigan averages 24.1 yards per explosive play given up.

To sum it up, Michigan’s offense is most likely to have an explosive run play on first down, and an explosive pass play is equally likely on first or second down. On third down they are three times more likely to have an explosive pass than a run. Most of their explosive plays occur on first (45.71%) or second downs (40%).

On defense Michigan is most likely to give up an explosive run on second down and an explosive pass on first down. They are equally as likely for any explosive play to happen on first or second down. Without comparing these numbers to other teams it’s a little hard to tell how good, or not, they are. However, it is probably a good thing that Michigan gives up the fewest percent of their big plays on third downs. Luckily for them they give up so few big plays a game it is highly unlikely that they give up more than one or two big third down plays.

In order to combat any Michigan State or Ohio State fans who say Michigan hasn’t played a great schedule or all their plays happen in garbage time, consider the following. Garbage time is defined by Football Outsiders as the following: “a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth quarter.”

Nearly half — 33 — of Michigan’s 70 explosive plays on offense have occurred during garbage time — or 47.14 percent — aided greatly by the Rutgers game (12 of 16 came in garbage time which was essentially the last three quarters). On defense, 17 of the 30 explosive plays given up have occurred in garbage time — 56.67 percent — well more than half. Four opponents (Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, and Rutgers) each had greater than 57 percent of their explosive plays in garbage time. Penn State only had four total explosive plays — one in garage time — while the Wisconsin game was never in garbage time.

Just more than half of Michigan’s explosive plays on offense occur when the game is not out of hand and well over half of those given up are when the game is out of hand, which is generally what we’d like to see. So, who exactly is putting up all these big plays and who averages the most yards per big play? You might be surprised.

There is a three-way tie for most explosive run plays between De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans, who each have 10. As you might have guessed, Evans leads the team in yards per explosive run play (24.3) but he’s not as far ahead as you might think. Karan Higdon is close behind at 23.83 yards per explosive run and — perhaps shockingly — Smith is third with a healthy 20.03 yards per explosive run play average. Technically, Jabrill Peppers has the highest average but he’s only had two explosive run plays, so he didn’t make the cut of at least four explosive plays.

Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Run
Name Number of Big Runs Average Gain Big Play Pct
Chris Evans 10 24.30 yards 20.83%
De’Veon Smith 10 20.03 yards 16.39%
Ty Isaac 10 14.80 yards 18.87%
Karan Higdon 6 23.83 yards 17.14%
Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Pass
Name Number of Big Receptions Average Gain Big Play Pct
Amara Darboh 8 38.38 yards 32.00%
Jehu Chesson 5 28.40 yards 33.33%
Jake Butt 5 18.40 yards 21.74%

As a team Michigan averages an explosive run play on 17.78 percent of its carries and gains an average of 19.83 yards per explosive run. This was a lot higher than I expected, almost doubling what is considered an explosive run play (10 yards or more). For all the talk about how Michigan’s offense is not explosive like Clemson or Louisville, these numbers seem to indicate Michigan is, in fact, an explosive offense.

Amara Darboh headlines the explosive pass play leaders, both in total (eight) and in average yards (38.38). Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt are not far behind (five apiece) but Chesson averages 10 more yards per explosive pass play than Butt (28.4 versus 18.4). No one else on the team has more than two.

Michigan averages an explosive pass play on 20.18 percent of its pass attempts and gains an average of 29.91 yards per explosive pass. The offense as a whole averages an explosive play 15.77 percent of the time and gains an average of 23 yards per explosive play. Not too shabby for an old-fashioned pro-style offense from the 1970s, eh?

Ty Isaac has the overall team lead with 11 total explosive plays — 10 run and 1 pass.

What got me so interested in the explosive play and toxic differential metric was an article I read about Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. My brother is a huge USC fan, despite growing up with a father who is a Michigan grad, so I kept tabs on them as well and now Seattle sometimes.

In the article it discussed Pete Carroll’s defensive priorities. Here is the part that really caught my eye: Give up either an explosive run or pass play in any given drive and the opposition will score over 75 percent of the time for the period studied.

That is what we’re going to look at now as it pertains to Michigan — how often do they either score or give up a score on drives with explosive plays?

On offense Michigan has had 46 drives with explosive plays. Keep in mind that many drives have more than one explosive play. They’ve scored on 32 of those drives, or 69.57 percent of the time. From that NFL study, 75 percent is the key number (also keep in mind the NFL regards explosive plays as runs of 12 or more and passes of 16 or more as compared to our 10-plus runs and 20-plus passes), so scoring on almost 70 percent of the drives with explosive plays is excellent.

Michigan’s 2016 big play scoring percentage
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Offense 46 32 69.57%*
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Defense 22 7 31.82%*
*A drive with a big play typically yields points 75% of the time per recent NFL study

Conversely, on defense Michigan’s, opponents have had 22 drives with explosive plays and scored on only seven of those drives, or 31.82 percent. To keep teams under 32 percent scores on drives with explosive plays (based on these definitions) is incredible. Just because Michigan may give up an explosive play on a drive doesn’t necessarily mean they will give up a score, in fact, they usually don’t. That’s the #DonBrownEffect in action.

Before we take a look ahead to this weekend’s opponent, Illinois, I thought we could briefly discuss some numbers from last weekend’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game, transitive property and all. It’s not apple to apples but I think the results will make a lot of you feel better about the trip to Columbus at the end of the season.

Wisconsin had 11 explosive plays against OSU (six run and five pass). Against Michigan they only had five total (three run and two pass). On defense Wisconsin gave up 12 total explosive plays to OSU (seven run and five pass), whereas versus Michigan they gave up only nine (five run and four pass).

Now for the really interesting stat. Against OSU, Wisconsin had six drives with an explosive play and they scored on five of those — a whopping 83.3 percent. Against Michigan, they had 5 drives with an explosive play and scored on none of them. That’s zero percent. Wisconsin’s lone score versus Michigan was set up on a short field by a 46-yard interception return.

Here’s what I took away from last week’s game, and these numbers: Ohio State is mortal, Wisconsin’s defense is as good as advertised, and Michigan’s defense is good enough to shut down the Ohio State offense, at least to the point where Michigan doesn’t need to score 45-plus to win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar score (30-23) come the end of November and my optimism has upticked slightly.

Okay, on to Illinois. The Fighting Illini aren’t very good, but they are better than Rutgers. But then again, who isn’t?

Michigan & Illinois offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 48 22 70 15.77% 7.36% 46
ILL Off. 37 13 50 13.81% 1.91% 8
Michigan & Illinois defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 22 8 30 8.40% 7.36% 46
ILL Def. 30 20 50 11.90% 1.91% 8

On offense the Illini average 6.17 explosive run plays per game (44th) and 2.17 pass plays (109th) for a total of 8.33 explosive plays per game (80th). Their big play percentage is 13.81 percent (38th). On defense they surrender five big run plays (59th) and 3.33 pass plays (75th) for a total of 8.33 per game (60th) — exactly as many as their offense puts up. Their big play against percentage is 11.9 percent (58th), their big play differential is 1.91 percent (48th), and their toxic differential is 8 (51st on a per game basis).

That places Illinois comparable to Penn State prior to their meeting a few weeks ago. All Michigan did in that game was win the big play battle nine to four and win the game 49-10.

Overall, Michigan is in great shape with all of the advanced stats we have been profiling throughout the season. Remember, Pete Carroll made USC and the Seattle Seahawks into powerhouse teams with big play metrics as one of his core principles. If Michigan continues to succeed in these metrics on both sides of the ball over the second half of the season, we’re in for a special finish.

Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 7

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6


week-7-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 7
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) Even Beat #8 Wisconsin 30-23 Sat. at Penn State (4-2, 2-1), 8pm, ABC
2. Michigan (6-0, 3-0) Even Bye Sat. vs Illinois (2-4, 1-2), 3:30pm, BTN
3. Nebraska (6-0, 3-0) Even Beat Indiana 27-22 Sat. vs Purdue (3-3, 1-2), 3:30pm, ABC
4. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2) Even Lost to #2 OSU 23-30 Sat. at Iowa (5-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN
5. Penn State (4-2, 2-1) Even Bye Sat. vs #2 Ohio St. (6-0, 3-0), 8pm, ABC
6. Iowa (5-2, 3-1) Up 2 Beat Purdue 49-35 Sat. vs #10 Wisc. (4-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN
7. Minnesota (4-2, 1-2) Up 2 Beat Maryland 31-10 Sat. vs Rutgers (2-5, 0-4), 12pm, ESPNU
8. Indiana (3-3, 1-2) Down 1 Lost to #10 Nebraska 22-27 Sat. at N’western (3-3, 2-1), 12pm, BTN
9. Northwestern (3-3, 2-1) Up 2 Beat MSU 54-40 Sat vs Indiana (3-3, 1-2), 12pm, BTN
10. Maryland (4-2, 1-2) Down 4 Lost to Minnesota 10-31 Sat. vs MSU (2-4, 0-3), 7:30pm, BTN
11. Michigan State (2-4, 0-3) Down 1 Lost to Northwestern 40-54 Sat at Maryland (4-2, 1-2), 7:30pm, BTN
12. Illinois (2-4, 1-2) Up 1 Beat Rutgers 24-7 Sat at #3 Michigan (6-0, 3-0), 3:30pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-3, 1-2) Down 1 Lost to Iowa 35-49 Sat. at #8 Nebraska (6-0, 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC
14. Rutgers (2-5, 0-4) Even Lost to Illinois 7-24 Sat. at Minnesota (4-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPNU

The top four remain exactly the same as last week with Ohio State at 1.2, Michigan 1.8, Nebraska 3.4, and Wisconsin 3.6, while Penn State remains fifth, but slips from 5.2 to 5.8. That means Michigan has received one first place vote, while two of the five of us believe Wisconsin should still be higher than Nebraska despite a pair of losses to Michigan and Ohio State. We will find out a lot more about Nebraska in the next three weeks when they visit both Wisconsin and Ohio State. Penn State, meanwhile, hosts Ohio State this Saturday.

Iowa, Minnesota, and Northwestern each move up two spots after wins over Purdue, Maryland, and Michigan State, respectively. Indian drops once spot to eighth after a close loss to Nebraska, while Maryland takes the biggest tumble of the week following a three touchdown loss to Minnesota. Michigan State continues its descent, dropping for the fourth straight week, all the way to 11th. Finally, Illinois and Purdue swap spots and Rutgers remains at the bottom. Both Illinois and Purdue face tough road games against top 10 opponents, Michigan and Nebraska, so Rutgers has a chance to move out of the basement with a win over Minnesota.



Five-Spot Challenge 2016: Illinois

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Congratulations to tooty_pops for winning the Rutgers Five-Spot Challenge. His total deviation of 91 was 51 points better than second place ScKon. Tooty_pops was just one away from correctly predicting the yardage differential between Ohio State and Michigan against Rutgers (69) and he correctly predicted the final two questions: that Rutgers wouldn’t score a touchdown and that Michigan wouldn’t make a field goal. He was also the closest to De’Veon Smith’s rushing total (11, 37 away). He wins a prize box of product from our sponsors, Lane’s BBQCultivate Coffee & Tap House, and Chayder Grilling Company.

ScKon was the closest to Chris Laviano’s passing yards (six, 33 away). Zigmun, boggie, DBenney09, ScKon, Michigan Mack, Ebenszac, Prymtymer, Jaeschke, and BigHouseBrandon all predicted that Rutgers wouldn’t score a touchdown, while ScKon, HTTV37, and BigHouseBrandon all predicted that Michigan wouldn’t make a field goal.

No one correctly predicted the score and the highest anyone predicted Michigan to score was 66 points. The average score prediction among the 31 contestants was Michigan 48 – Rutgers 7. Boggie was the closest with his prediction of Michigan 66 – Rutgers 3.

The weekly results and season standings have been updated.

This week, Michigan hosts Illinois, who beat Rutgers during Michigan’s bye week to stay slightly above the Scarlet Knights in the Big Ten cellar. Here are this week’s picks.

First Look: Illinois

Monday, October 17th, 2016

illinois-cheerleaders(Craig Pessman, Illinois Athletics)

After cruising through the first half of the season, Michigan got a week off to rest up for the title race over the next six weeks. They begin with another Big Ten bottom-feeder in Illinois. Will the Wolverines have another big day offensively? Or could Illinois pull off a huge upset? Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare so far this season.

Illinois & Michigan statistical comparison
Illinois | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 26.0 | 50.0 84 | 2
26.2 10.3 61 1
Rushing Yards 1,139 1,530 1,111 595
Rush Avg. Per Game 189.8 255.0 49 | 15
185.2 99.2 86 9
Avg. Per Rush 5.7 | 5.7
4.3 2.9
Passing Yards 1,089 1,290 1,220 682
Pass Avg. Per Game 181.5 215.0 103 84 203.3 113.7 32 1
Total Offense 2,228 2,820 2,331 1,277
Total Off Avg. Per Game 371.3 470.0 99 32 388.5 212.8 57 1
Kick Return Average 19.4 15.5 92 128 24.1 19.7 108 | 48
Punt Return Average 4.5 18.6 97 3 8.5 9.7 79 89
Avg. Time of Possession 28:39 33:07 83 23 31:21 | 26:53
3rd Down Conversion Pct 31% | 48% 120 20
46% | 12.0% 106 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 12-76 | 9-66
55 33
15-62 | 24-161 44 | 1
Touchdowns Scored 18 | 41
19 | 8
Field Goals-Attempts 9-12 4-9
8-12 | 2-5
Red Zone Scores (15-19) 79%|(31-35) 89% 91 38
(21-24) 88%|(4-6) 67% 81 5
Red Zone Touchdowns (9-19) 47%|(27-35) 77% (14-24) 58%|(3-6) 50%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 26.1 36.6 88 25 29.3 0.9 70 1

While Michigan enjoyed a bye week, it’s last opponent and its next opponent faced each other in the Battle for the Big Ten Basement™. The next opponent, Illinois, came out victorious 24-7 to pick up their first Big Ten win in the Lovie Smith era.

Illinois comes in with a 2-4 record overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten. They opened the season with a 52-3 win over Murray State of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), but then lost four straight to North Carolina (48-23), Western Michigan (34-10), No. 15 Nebraska (31-16), and Purdue (34-31).

Offensively, Illinois isn’t quite as bad as Rutgers, but still ranks near the bottom of the conference in most categories. They rank 10th in scoring (25.7 points per game), 12th in total offense (371.3 yards per game), sixth in rushing (189.8 yards per game), and 12th in passing (181.5 yards per game). Similar to Rutgers, they are a better running team than passing and their national rankings in those two categories entering this game are comparable to Rutgers entering the Michigan game two weeks ago. Rutgers’ rushing offense ranked 51st while Illinois’ ranks 49th. Rutgers’ passing offense ranked 123rd while Illinois’ ranks 103rd.

The Illini put up big offensive numbers against Murray State (515 yards) and Purdue (499 yards), but managed just 320 against Rutgers this past Saturday. Yes, the same Rutgers defense that yielded 600 to Michigan. They rushed for 315 yards against Purdue and 287 against Murray State, but Western Michigan held them to just three rushing yards on 15 carries. The passing game, however, put up 312 yards on WMU, but hasn’t topped 184 yards in four of six games.

Defensively, Illinois is similar to where Penn State was entering the Michigan game a few weeks ago: poor against the run and decent against the pass. Illinois held Murray State to minus-10 rushing yards, but if you count only FBS opponents — which bowl eligibility does — the Illini are allowing 224.2 rushing yards per game, which would rank 111th nationally and 12th in the Big Ten. Rutgers, which managed just 34 rushing yards against Michigan, ran for 203 yards on Illinois on Saturday.

Only two opponents — Murray State and Rutgers — have fallen short of 400 total yards against Illinois and the Scarlet Knights were close with 385 — their highest of the season against an FBS opponent. North Carolina, Western Michigan, Nebraska, and Purdue averaged 445.3 yards. Three of six opponents have passed for more than 200 yards on the Illinois defense, led by UNC, which totaled 265. Opponents have completed 64.4 percent of their passes on the Illini defense, but average just 17.5 pass attempts per game compared to 42.8 rushing attempts.

Michigan opened as 32.5 point favorites for this Saturday’s matchup and the line quickly moved to 34. The Wolverines may not put up 78 like they did against Rutgers, but expect a very similar game with a big game on the ground and a lot of backups getting playing time.

Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 6

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5


*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 6
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) Even Beat Indiana 38-17 Sat. at #8 Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1), 8pm, ABC
2. Michigan (6-0, 3-0) Even Beat Rutgers 78-0 Bye
3. Nebraska (5-0, 2-0) Up 1 Bye Sat. at Indiana (3-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ABC
4. Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) Down 1 Bye Sat. vs #2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0), 8pm, ABC
5. Penn State (4-2, 2-1) Up 4 Beat Maryland 38-14 Bye
6. Maryland (4-1, 1-1) Down 1 Lost to PSU 14-38 Sat. vs Minnesota (3-2, 0-1), 12pm, ESPNU
7. Indiana (3-2, 1-1) Down 1 Lost to #2 OSU 17-38 Sat. vs #10 Nebraska (5-0, 2-0), 3:30pm, ABC
8. Iowa (4-2, 2-1) Up 2 Beat Minnesota 14-7 Sat. at Purdue (3-2, 1-1), 12pm, ESPN2
9. Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) Down 1 Lost to Iowa 7-14 Sat at Maryland (4-1, 1-1), 12pm, ESPNU
10. Michigan State (2-3, 0-2) Down 3 Lost to BYU 14-31 Sat. vs Northwestern (2-3, 1-1), 3:30pm, BTN
11. Northwestern (2-3, 1-1) Even Bye Sat at MSU (2-3, 0-2), 3:30pm, BTN
12. Purdue (3-2, 1-1) Up 2 Beat Illinois 34-31 Sat. vs Iowa (4-2, 2-1), 12pm, ESPN2
13. Illinois (1-4, 0-2) Down 1 Lost to Purdue 31-34 Sat. at Rutgers (2-4, 0-3), 12pm, ESPNN
14. Rutgers (2-4, 0-3) Down 1 Lost to #4 Michigan 0-78 Sat. at vs Illinois (2-3, 0-2), 12pm, ESPNN

Yet again Ohio State and Michigan hold the top two spots, but for the first time this season Michigan received a first place vote. Wisconsin and Nebraska remain three and four, though they swapped spots during their bye weeks. Penn State made the biggest jump of the week, moving up five spots after topping Maryland. Maryland, Indiana, and Iowa are clustered together in the next wave, while Michigan State continues its slide all the way to the 10th spot this week after losing big to BYU. The Spartans rank higher than only Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, and Rutgers. The latter two battle each other for the cellar this Saturday.



Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 5

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4


*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 5
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (4-0, 1-0) Even Beat Rutgers 58-0 Sat. vs Indiana (3-1, 1-0), 3:30pm, ESPN
2. Michigan (5-0, 2-0) Even Beat #8 Wisconsin 14-7 Sat. at Rutgers (2-3, 0-2), 7pm, ESPN2
3. Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) Even Lost to #4 Michigan (7-14) Bye
4. Nebraska (5-0, 2-0) Even Beat Illinois 31-16 Bye
5. Maryland (4-0, 1-0) Up 3 Beat Purdue 50-7 Sat. at Penn State (3-2, 1-1), 12pm, BTN
6. Indiana (3-1, 1-0) Up 3 Beat #17 MSU 24-21 OT Sat. at #2 OSU (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ESPN
7. Michigan State (2-2, 0-2) Down 2 Lost to Indiana 21-24 OT Sat. vs BYU (2-3), 3:30pm
8. Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) Down 2 Lost to Penn State 26-29 Sat. vs Iowa (3-2, 1-1), 12pm, ESPN2
9. Penn State (3-2, 1-1) Up 1 Beat Minnesota 29-26 Sat vs Maryland (4-0, 1-0), 12pm, BTN
10. Iowa (3-2, 1-1) Down 3 Lost to Northwestern 31-38 Sat. 16 Minnesota (3-1, 0-1), 12pm, ESPN2
11. Northwestern (2-3, 1-1) Up 2 Beat Iowa 38-31 Bye
12. Illinois (1-3, 0-1) Up 2 Lost to #16 Nebraska 16-31 Sat. vs Purdue (2-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, BTN
13. Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) Down 1 Lost to #2 Ohio State 0-58 Sat. vs #4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0), 7pm, ESPN2
14. Purdue (2-2, 0-1) Down 3 Lost to Maryland 7-50 Sat. at Illinois (1-3, 0-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Ohio State and Michigan have held the top two spots all five weeks to date. Wisconsin and Nebraska remained unanimously No. 3 and 4 despite Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan and Nebraska’s still perfect record. Maryland and Indiana are the biggest climbers, each jumping three spots after dominating Purdue and knocking off Michigan State, respectively. The Spartans drop two spots to seventh after losing at IU. Iowa falls three spots after a home loss to Northwestern, who moves up two spots to No. 11. There’s a pretty steep drop off between the No. 11 and 12 spots as Illinois, Rutgers, and Purdue round out the rankings.


Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 4

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

week-4-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Ohio State and Michigan remain in the top two spots for the fourth straight week. Ohio State gained all the No. 1 votes and Michigan gained all the No. 2s. Wisconsin leaped two spots after their 30-6 thumping of Michigan State, who fell two spots to fifth. Nebraska remained fourth. Minnesota moved up one spot after a respectable non-conference win over Colorado State, while Iowa fell after an uninspiring 14-7 win over Rutgers. Maryland and Indiana both jumped Penn State, who was throttled by Michigan. Like Minnesota, Purdue picked up a nice non-conference win over Nevada and moved up two spots to 11th. Might as well give Darrell Hazel a contract extension at this point. Rutgers dropped one spot after losing to Iowa. Northwestern and Illinois round out the standings. The Illini earned all of the last place votes.

Big Ten power rankings – Week 4
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (3-0) Even Bye Sat. vs Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), 12pm, BTN
2. Michigan (4-0, 1-0) Even Beat Penn State 49-10 Sat. vs #8 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ABC
3. Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) Up 2 Beat #8 MSU 30-6 Sat. at #4 Michigan (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ABC
4. Nebraska (4-0, 1-0) Even Beat Northwestern 24-13 Sat. vs Illinois (1-2), 3:30pm, ESPN2
5. Michigan State (2-1, 0-1) Down 2 Lost to #11 Wisconsin 6-30 Sat. at Indiana (2-1, 0-0), 8pm, BTN
6. Minnesota (3-0, 0-0) Up 1 Beat Colorado St. 31-24 Sat. at PSU (2-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, BTN
7. Iowa (3-1, 1-0) Down 1 Beat Rutgers 14-7 Sat. vs Northwestern (1-3, 0-1), 12pm
8. Maryland (3-0, 0-0) Up 1 Bye Sat. vs Purdue (2-1, 0-0), 3:30pm, BTN
9. Indiana (2-1, 0-0) Up 1 Lost to Wake Forest 28-33 Sat vs. #17 MSU (2-1, 0-1), 8pm, BTN
10. Penn State (2-2, 0-1) Down 2 Lost to #4 Michigan 10-49 Sat. vs Minnesota (3-0, 0-0), 3:30pm, BTN
11. Purdue (2-1, 0-0) Up 2 Beat Nevada 24-14 Sat. at Maryland (3-0, 0-0), 3:30pm, BTN
12. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) Down 1 Lost to Iowa 7-14 Sat. at #2 Ohio State (3-0, 0-0), 12pm, BTN
13. Northwestern (1-3, 0-1) Up 1 Lost to #20 Neb. 13-24  Sat. at Iowa (3-1, 1-0), 12pm
14. Illinois (1-2, 0-0) Down 2 Bye Sat. at #15 Neb. (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 3

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2


*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Michigan and Ohio State remained the top two this week, but the Buckeyes earned all five first place votes, while Michigan State gained some ground on the Wolverines. Nebraska made the biggest leap from 6.0 to 4.0. Wisconsin and Iowa both fell a couple of spots after squeaking by Georgia State and losing to North Dakota State, respectively. Minnesota, Penn State, Maryland, and Indiana all stand roughly equal in the middle of the rankings. Rutgers jumps two spots to 11th, just ahead of Illinois and Purdue, while Northwestern stays in the cellar despite a win over Duke.

Big Ten power rankings – Week 3
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (3-0) Even Beat #14 Oklahoma 45-24  Bye
2. Michigan (3-0) Even Beat Colorado 45-28 Sat. vs Penn State (2-1), 3:30pm, ABC
3. Michigan State (2-0) Up 2 Beat #18 ND 36-28 Sat. vs #11 Wisconsin (3-0), 12pm, BTN
4. Nebraska (2-0) Up 1 Beat #22 Oregon 35-32 Sat. at Northwestern (1-2), 7:30pm, BTN
5. Wisconsin (3-0) Down 2 Beat Georgia State 23-17 Sat. at #8 Michigan State (2-0), 12pm, BTN
6. Iowa (2-1) Down 2 Lost to NDSU 21-23 Sat. at Rutgers (2-1), 12pm, ESPN2
7. Minnesota (2-0) Even Bye Sat. vs Colorado State (2-1), 12pm, ESPNU
8. Penn State (2-1) Up 1 Beat Temple 34-27 Sat. at #4 Michigan (3-0), 3:30pm, ABC
9. Maryland (3-0) Up 1 Beat UCF 30-24 2OT Bye
10. Indiana (2-0) Down 2 Bye Sat. vs Wake Forest (1-0), 3:30pm, BTN
11. Rutgers (2-1) Up 2 Beat New Mexico 37-28 Sat. Iowa (2-1), 12pm, ESPN2
12. Illinois (1-2) Down 1 Lost to WMU 10-34 Bye
13. Purdue (1-1) Down 1 Bye  Sat. vs Nevada (2-1), 12pm, ESPNN
14. Northwestern (1-2) Even Beat Duke 24-13 Sat. vs #20 Nebraska (3-0), 7:30pm, BTN