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Head full of doubt, road full of promise: Michigan preview 2015

Monday, August 31st, 2015


Harbaugh(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

With tremendous excitement surrounding the Michigan football program I felt it was fitting to spice up this year’s season preview. So instead of a simple paragraph and score prediction for each game, I’m pairing each game with an Avett Brothers song. In my opinion, they’re the best band out there right now, and certainly one of the most talented.

Growing up in the Midwest, it was hard to find someone that didn’t like country music, but that was me. Even now, I don’t. But while Barnes & Noble sells the Avett Brothers’ albums in the country section, they’re so much more than that. Their Americana blend of bluegrass, country, punk, folk, rock, and ragtime creates a unique sound the keeps getting better, even while every other band on the planet is beating banjos to death.

Sure, the Avett Brothers have nothing to do with Michigan, but they will visit Ann Arbor on Nov. 6 to perform at the Hill Auditorium. Since we’re fans of their music, Sam and I paired an Avett Brothers song with each game on Michigan’s schedule.

Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it 

When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

There was a dream
And one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid, with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream till I die or the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

Heading into the 2015 season we get a perfect dichotomy of doubt and promise. Michigan fans are battered and bruised after the last seven years, most recently a 5-7 season that had one of the worst offenses in program history. That offensive ineptitude — which spans the past two seasons –leaves us weary of getting our hopes up. We’ve heard it before. Brady Hoke would walk from San Diego to Ann Arbor if he had to to turn things around. Doug Nussmeier would be a huge upgrade from Al Borges.

But on the other hand, Harbaugh does, in fact, bring with him a track record of program turnarounds, and while most don’t expect a championship overnight, we can finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Promise abounds with a roster full of talent just waiting to be developed.

On Thursday, senior guard Kyle Kalis shed light on that notion:

“We’re definitely grasping more of how to play the offensive line, technique, footwork, stuff that we never would really practice or have a knowledge of before,” Kalis said. “Coach Harbaugh is awesome, and the way coach (Drevno) coaches us, it’s just working. We’ve had days where we’re rolling guys 10 yards off the ball, and that never happened before. It’s not that we couldn’t do it, it’s just we didn’t know how to do it.”

But how soon will it pay off? It all starts on Thursday in Utah.

Week 1 at Utah The Strangest Thing

The strangest thing that came to me was last night in my sleep
I dreamt you never left
I looked up to thank the moon
And saw a set of lights
A set of red tail lights

I said to myself
I thought that I would never change
but when I woke that night
the strangest thing had come to me, I finally was awake
I slept for seven years

What happened back there?
Nothing has gone like we planned
All of our dreams, they have fell by the way
The true love I once had is dead

And forever our song we will sing

What a strange journey the last seven years have been. Nothing has gone like we planned. Rich Rodriguez was brought in to modernize Michigan football, but after three years we realized a complete rehaul was never needed. Perhaps a tuneup could have sufficed. Brady Hoke came in to bring us back, but four years later, we’re still looking up at Columbus.

Jim Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor still feels like a dream to many of us. He’s been dubbed the prodigal son, the savior of Michigan football, but as his first game approaches it’s starting to feel like the Michigan football of old never left.

What happened those last seven years? The love we all shared is dead. But we haven’t stopped singing The Victors.

While all signs point to Harbaugh turning things around, he’s only had a month to work with them so far, so there will surely be growing pains. Unfortunately, Utah is a competent team to face in an opener, especially on the road in an elevation Michigan players aren’t accustomed to. Sure, the Utes lost both coordinators this offseason, but they still have head coach Kyle Whittingham and they return quarterback Travis Wilson and a good running back in Devantae Booker. The defense will still be solid even with a 72-year-old coordinator whose last coordinator job was with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001-02. Too many questions abound for Michigan on the road.

Utah 26 – Michigan 23

Week 2 vs Oregon State Backwards with Time

Folk always told me that my heart would grow
The older the man, yeah, the stronger the stone
Am I losing my mind?
Am I growing backwards with time?

Some say with age that a purpose becomes clear
I see the opposite happening here
Are we losing the fight?
Are we growing backwards with time?

The last time Harbaugh graced Michigan Stadium in a real game the Wolverines lost to Minnesota. But a week later he led Michigan to a 26-24 win over seventh-ranked Ohio State to capture a share of the Big Ten title. Now, 29 years later, he makes his return to the Big House an older man, leading the team he once captained. It’s almost unheard of in major college football for a former star return to his Alma mater as head coach. But when the team hits the field on Sept. 12 Harbaugh will receive a heroes welcome.

Oregon State is headed for a rebuilding year after losing the school’s and Pac-12’s all-time career passing leader, Sean Mannion. Storm Woods is a good running back that will benefit from offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin’s run-heavy system, but the OSU defense returns just two starters from last season. Harbaugh will pick up his first win in the Big House since Nov. 1, 1986.

Michigan 35 – Oregon State 17

Week 3 vs UNLV Will You Return?

I open my door and here’s what occurs
A pretty little gal with pretty little curls
Leans to the side, leans on my mind

I don’t want to live, but I sure don’t want to die
I’m stuttering again and tellin’ her goodbye
Oh m-m-my, goodb-b-bye

Will you come again? It’s hard to say
I surely hope so
Will you come again? It’s hard to say
I surely hope so

The only cupcake on Michigan’s schedule this season is UNLV. Sorry, Rebels, I’m not sending you a box of cupcakes. UNLV went 2-10 last season with wins over FCS Northern Colorado (13-12) and Fresno State by a field goal in overtime. That’s how close they were to a goose egg.

Flashy local high school coach Tony Sanchez was brought in to resurrect the program, and although he doesn’t have pretty little curls, he has a lot of work to do to bring the Rebels up to a competitive level. Michigan will breeze through this game as Harbaugh will look to send a message to the rest of the Big Ten that he’s not here to mess around. Michigan will then beg UNLV to come again, as they provide a bit sexier of a cupcake matchup than the traditional September yawners against Eastern, Western, and Central Michigan.

Michigan 56 – UNLV 13

Week 4 vs BYU – Please Pardon Yourself

How do I know when it’s time to stop?
Runnin’ from the things I do, being things I’m not
Oh I have tried, but I just changed my mind
Every night that falls, every morning light

How do I know that you will never stop?
Knowin’ me, and trustin’ me, and loving’ me a lot
Oh I have tried, but I just changed my mind
Every night that falls, every morning light

When Lloyd Carr retired, Michigan tried to be something it’s not. They brought in an offensive coach with a flashy style to completely change the program. But when that didn’t pan out, they brought in Brady Hoke to transition back to who they used to be. And when that transition didn’t work, Harbaugh was hired to bring them fully back to the teams of Bo, Moeller, and Carr.

But while the Michigan of old is what fans long for, the one thing it could never seem to stop was a mobile quarterback, and that’s exactly what BYU will bring to town on Sept. 26.  Before Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending leg injury in the fourth game of 2014, he averaged 219 passing yards per game with a 66 percent completion rate and 107 rushing yards per game with 13 total touchdowns. He runs the similar zone read offense as what Rodriguez had success with in 2010 with Denard Robinson. But he’ll have to do it without three-year starting running back Jamal Williams, who will miss the season for personal reasons.

Four games into the season, and coming off of big wins against Oregon State and UNLV, Harbaugh will have the Wolverines gaining confidence each week. The defense isn’t what we’re worried about, and with experience coaching mobile quarterbacks, Harbaugh will find a way to slow down Hill, leading to a close Michigan win.

Michigan 23 – BYU 20

Week 5 at Maryland The Perfect Space

Okay part two now clear the house
The party’s over take the shouting and the people,
get out!

I have some business and a promise that I have to hold to
I do not care what you assume or what the people told you
Will you understand, when I’m too old of a man?
Will you forget when we’ve paid our debts,
who did we borrow from? Who did we borrow from?

I wanna have pride like my mother has,
And not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad
And I wanna have friends that I can trust
that love me for the man I’ve become and not the man that I was.

Part one of Michigan-Maryland was an embarrassment to the Maize and Blue, making a winning record nearly impossible last season and giving the Big Ten newcomers the first bragging rights. Part two should be less embarrassing as Maryland returns the lowest production from last season in the entire conference. Only 29 percent of last season’s total offense, 36 percent of last season’s touchdowns, and 44 percent of last season’s total defense.  That certainly doesn’t guarantee a victory for Michigan, but in the conference opener, Harbaugh’s squad will show the Terps they’re not the same team as last year.

Michigan 33 – Maryland 17

Week 6 vs Northwestern I Wish I Was

I wish I was a flame dancing in a candle
Lighting up your living room high on the mantle
I could bring some romance without any scandal
And then when you were done you’d just put me out

I wish I was a tune you sang in your kitchen
Putting your groceries away and washing your dishes
I could roll around your tongue and ease the tension
And then when you were done you’d just quiet down

The last three meetings between Michigan and Northwestern have been nothing but torture for Northwestern coaches, players, and fans alike. In 2012, Roy Roundtree made a circus catch on a Devin Gardner hail Mary to set up a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. Michigan won in overtime. In 2013, Michigan strung together the most improbable of final-second field goals, featuring a Drew Dileo slide-into-place hold. Michigan again won in overtime. Last season, Michigan won an ugly 10-9 affair that no one wants to relive. Michigan holds a 56-15-2 all-time record against the Wildcats, including wins in four of the last five during the last seven years. In other words, Northwestern wishes they were Michigan.

This season, Northwestern figures to be a middle of the pack Big Ten squad, breaking in a new quarterback — redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson — and hoping for a winning record. Michigan will be coming off of a convincing road win to open Big Ten play and continue that momentum with another convincing win, this time not taking it right down to the wire.

Michigan 31 – Northwestern 15

Week 7 vs Michigan State Murder in the City

I wonder which brother is better
Which one our parents loved the most
I sure did get in lots of trouble
They seemed to let the other go
A tear fell from my father’s eye
I wondered what my dad would say
He said, “I love you and I’m proud of you both,
In so many different ways”

If I get murdered in the city
Go read the letter in my desk
Don’t bother with all my belongings
Pay attention to the list
Make sure my sister knows I love her
Make sure my mother knows the same
Always remember there was nothing worth sharing
Like the love that let us share our name

Michigan State has benefited more than anyone from Michigan’s downturn the past seven years, and if you ask those in East Lansing, they’ve replaced Michigan as the state’s top program. They’ve mastered the art of using manufactured controversies as motivation, ever since the Little Brother comment during Lloyd Carr’s final season, and have won six of the past seven meetings since then.

Whichever way they want to spin it, they have a long way to go before they catch up to Michigan in the family pecking order, but the upper hand may continue for another season. Connor Cook figures to be one of the top two quarterbacks in the conference, and possibly the first one taken in next year’s NLF draft, and while the Spartans have to replace running back Jeremy Langford and their top two receivers, they do return the third-most defensive production in the Big Ten. That spells trouble for Michigan’s still improving offense. Expect a defensive battle in this one with Michigan State pulling out a close one.

Michigan State 20 – Michigan 16

Week 8 at Minnesota – The Greatest Sum

This and who I used to be
don’t matter much at all to me
The pit you dug to plant your feet’s
a far cry from my destiny
Not even the clouds
Not even the past
Not even the hands of God
could hold me back from you

Dark and lonely is the ride
the devil always by my side
Though no match for what lies between
a thought of you, your trust for me
Not even the sun
a bullet from a gun
No nothing that this world could bring
Or anything someone could do
Could hold me back from you

What was lost in the Shane Morris concussion aftermath of the game that sealed Brady Hoke’s fate last seasonwas the loss of Michigan’s most beloved rivalry trophy to the Gophers. The Little Brown Jug has resided in Ann Arbor 76 of the 101 years it has been in use, including 30 of the last 33 years. Michigan even managed to hold onto it during Rich Rodriguez’s 3-9 season in 2008 and the first three years of the Hoke regime. But a 30-14 loss last season allowed allowed Minnesota to regain control.

Minnesota was one of the Big Ten’s surprise teams last season, going 8-5 overall and 5-3 in the conference, and aims to prove this year that it wasn’t just a fluke. With 54 percent of its total offense and offensive touchdowns back and 62 percent of its defensive production, the Gophers still figure to be a formidable foe. And Michigan has to travel to Minneapolis to get its beloved jug back. Coming off a loss to Michigan State, Michigan won’t let anything stop it from taking it back.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 21

Week 9 vs Rutgers Talk on Indolence

Well I’ve been locking’ myself up in my house for sometime now
Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’
and searching for reasons and missing the seasons
The Autumn, the summer, the spring, the snow
the record will stop and the record will go
Latches latched, the windows down, 
the dog coming in and the dog going out
Up with caffeine and down with a shot
Constantly worried about what I’ve got
Distracting my work but I can’t make it stop
and my confidence on and my confidence off
And I sink to the bottom and I rise to the top
and I think to myself that I do this a lot
World outside just goes it goes it goes it goes it goes it goes…
and witnesses it all from the blinds of my window
THREE, FOUR

I’m a little nervous ’bout what you’ll think
When you see me in my swimming trunks
And last night in New York I got raging drunk
Remember one time I got raging drunk with you

Last season was full of disappointment, but the loss at Rutgers may have been the one that drove us to drinking. A week after the Minnesota loss and ensuing concussion debacle, Michigan visited Rutgers for the first time in school history looking for a win to at least somewhat ease the pain. Instead, Michigan’s defense made quarterback Gary Nova look like Tom Brady and the Wolverines suffered a third straight defeat, dropping to 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1967.

When Rutgers comes to Ann Arbor on Nov. 7 for the first time ever, Michigan will need a win to keep its claim of not having a losing record against any Big Ten foe. Nova is gone, but Rutgers returns its entire running game and the Big Ten’s leading returning receiver. The defense has some experience up front but has to replace three starters in the secondary. Rutgers is looking at a potential step back from last year’s surprising 8-5 finish. If Michigan loses to Rutgers again, we’ll be getting raging drunk with you. But it won’t happen.

Michigan 38 – Rutgers 17

Week 10 at Indiana Love Like the Movies

Now in the movies they make it look so perfect
and in the background they’re always playing the right song
And at the ending there’s always a resolution
But real life is more than two hours long

So you want to be in love like the movies
But in the movies they’re not in love at all
And with a twinkle in their eyes
They’re just saying their lines
So we can’t be in love like the movies

Indiana wants football like the movies where Hoosiers can win state titles or walk-on Rudys get carried off the field to a crowd chanting their name. If football were like the movies, perhaps Indiana have more than one winning season in the last 20 years or more than one win over Michigan since 1968. But alas, it’s not and Indiana is destined for another Big Ten cellar-dwelling season.

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld is the one bright spot, returning from an injury. But running back Tevin Coleman is gone along with his 2,062 yards and 15 touchdowns. The leading returning rusher is backup quarterback Zander Diamont, who filled in for Sudfeld when he went down. Most of the receiving corps is also gone, leaving Sudfeld with a bevy of unproven receivers to throw to. The Indiana defense returns the second lowest production in the Big Ten (53 percent) from a unit that couldn’t stop anybody last year.

Sorry Indiana, this isn’t a movie. Behind UVLV, this is the closest thing to a sure bet for Michigan.

Michigan 52 – Indiana 13

Week 11 at Penn State – I Never Knew You

Well I guess it’s kind of funny how
I loved you so way back when
You say I wouldn’t know you now
Well I didn’t even know you then

We change a lot
And no one here can stop
That train before
It gets to where it’s going 
At all

Well I guess it’s kind of funny how
I loved you so way back when
You say I wouldn’t know you now
Well I didn’t even know you then

I heard about the company you’re keeping
And for someone who didn’t have much interest
In keeping us apart

For four decades Michigan and Penn State were known commodities. Stable, historic, winning programs. But now they’re hard to recognize. Michigan is on its third coach since 2008 and Penn State is on its second since 2012. Until 2008, Michigan dominated the series, winning nine in a row from 1997 to 2007. But Penn State captured four in a row before Michigan won 18-13 last fall.

This year’s meeting is in State College where Michigan has lost the last three trips. Penn State brings back the second-most offensive production (81 percent) and touchdowns (64 percent) in the Big Ten, most notably quarterback Christian Hackenberg who has been plagued by poor offensive line play the past two seasons. If that improves, Penn State will have a much improved offense. The defense should be among the Big Ten’s best, despite losing the Big Ten’s leading tackler, Mike Hull.

By this time in the season, Michigan should be much tougher than it was when the season started, but a road game in November the week before Ohio State spells loss for the Wolverines.

Penn State 26 – Michigan 23

Week 12 vs Ohio State Vanity

I’ve got something to say
But it’s all vanity, it’s all vanity
I found a tune I could play
But it’s all vanity, it’s all vanity

Call off the guards
Call off the search
Their heads are chopped off
They’re running in circles
They’re running in circles

While Michigan State has been the biggest beneficiary of Michigan’s downturn the past seven years, Ohio State is a close second. A national championship last season and wins in nine of the last 10 meetings have left the Buckeyes full of conceit. Seriously, is there a more vain fan base out there? They still worship the coach that put them on probation and the saddest part of all is that, despite a one-year falloff, it worked to their benefit. They got an even better coach.

Unfortunately, not much is going to change this season as they enter as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation and favorite to win the Big Ten. They return the most offensive production (88 percent) and touchdowns (83 percent) and defensive production (74 percent) in the conference. The only good news is that they have to come to Ann Arbor, but they’ve won four of the last five in the Big House.

J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones are as good as any quarterbacks in the conference and Braxton Miller transitions his talent to receiver. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is a Heisman Trophy favorite and the defense is full of talent and playmakers. Unless Michigan’s offense is light years better than it’s expected to be, Michigan doesn’t have much of a shot in this one. But that’s why they play the games.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

2015 opponent preview: Indiana

Monday, August 10th, 2015


2015 Opponent Preview_INDIANA

NCAA Football: Indiana at Wisconsin(Jeff Hanisch, USA Today Sports)

Our season preview series continues with the first Big Ten squad we have previewed so far. The Indiana Hoosiers are the third-easiest opponent Michigan will face this fall, behind non-conference foes UNLV and Oregon State. Michigan visits the Hoosiers on Nov. 14, just two weeks before the regular season ending battle with Ohio State.

Overview

Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 5 Southern Illinois
Sept. 12 FIU
Sept. 19 Western Kentucky
Sept. 26 at Wake Forest
Oct. 3 Ohio State
Oct. 10 at Penn State
Oct. 17 Rutgers
Oct. 24 at Michigan State
Nov. 7 Iowa
Nov. 14 Michigan
Nov. 21 at Maryland
Nov. 28 at Purdue

After going 1-11 in his first season in Bloomington, Kevin Wilson looked to have the Hoosiers on the upswing. A 4-8 season in 2012 followed by a 5-7 finish in 2013 had Indiana poised to break through in 2014. Instead, the Hoosiers were unable to capture their second winning season in 20 years, falling back to 4-8.

Indiana sandwiched an early season road upset of Missouri with losses to Bowling Green and Maryland and then suffered further setback when quarterback Nate Sudfeld injured his shoulder. The injury forced unheralded true freshman Zander Diamont into action and the results were predictable. In six starts, Diamont completed just 48.5 percent of his passes for 515 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. Indiana went 1-5 over that span, beating only lowly rival Purdue to close the season.

Now, Indiana returns the second lowest offensive and defensive production in the Big Ten and it might be Wilson’s last chance to turn the program around. Only Maryland returns a lower percentage of offense (29 percent compared to Indiana’s 40 percent) and defense (44 percent compared to Indiana’s 53 percent), and only Iowa returns a lower percentage of offensive touchdowns (31 percent to Indiana’s 35 percent). Can that somehow equate to a winning season? Let’s take a look.

Offense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2014 Stats
QB Nate Sudfeld (Sr.) 6’6″, 240 101-167 for 1,151 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT
RB Jordan Howard (Jr.) 6’1″, 225 306 rush for 1,587 yds (5.2 avg), 13 TD (at UAB)
WR Simmie Cobbs (So.) 6’4″, 215 7 rec for 114 yds (16.3 avg), 0 TD
WR Dominique Booth (Fr.) 6’0″, 205
WR Ricky Jones (RS Jr.) 5’10”, 185 3 rec for 58 yds (19.3 avg), 0 TD
TE Anthony Corsaro (Sr.) 6’3″, 250 5 rec for 39 yds (7.8 avg), 0 TD
LT Jason Spriggs (Sr.) 6’7″, 305 10 starts (34 career starts)
LG Jacob Bailey (RS Jr.) 6’5″, 298 2 starts (5 career starts)
C Jake Reed (RS Sr.) 6’4″, 288 4 starts (4 career starts)
RG Dan Feeney (RS Jr.) 6’4″, 305 12 starts (24 career starts)
RT Tim Gardner (RS Fr.) 6’5″, 310 OSU transfer, sat out 2014

In 2014, Indiana ranked 61st nationally in total offense (fifth in the Big Ten), ninth in rushing (third in the Big Ten), 120th in passing (last in the Big Ten), 123rd in pass efficiency (last in the Big Ten), and 87th in scoring offense (10th in the Big Ten). The main factor in Indiana’s offense was running back Tevin Coleman, who ranked second in the Big Ten with 2,036 rushing yards, averaging 169.7 yards per game. His 7.5 yards per attempt matched Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon’s for tops in the conference. But now Coleman is in camp with the Atlanta Falcons as a third round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

The good news for Wilson is that he has a talented back coming in to replace him. Jordan Howard transferred from Alabama-Birmingham after the program disbanded. He set a UAB single season record with 1,587 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and scoring 13 touchdowns. His 132.3 yards per game ranked seventh nationally and he earned first team All-Conference USA honors. But he’ll have to beat out sophomore Devine Redding, a Glenville High School product, who showed some promise last season behind Coleman.

The other good news is that Sudfeld is healthy again. He ranked among the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten in 2013 as IU’s pass offense ranked 17th nationally. He was on pace for similar production through the first six games of 2014 before injuring his shoulder and missing the rest of the year. Now, in his senior season, he has one final chance to show what he can do.

The receiving corps has some talent, but not very little proven production. It suffered a big loss when its only returning receiver, J-Shon Harris, suffered an ACL injury in the spring and will miss the entire season. His 18 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns led all returning receivers. In fact, he was the only returning receiver on the team that caught a touchdown pass in 2014. His spot will likely be filled by incoming freshman Dominique Booth, a four-star recruit out of Pike High School in Indianapolis. The other expected starters are sophomore Simmi Cobbs and redshirt junior Ricky Jones, who combined for 10 receptions for 172 yards and no scores a year ago.

The strength of the offense should be the line that returns 67 career starts, most notably senior left tackle Jason Spriggs and redshirt junior right guard Dan Feeney. The two have combined for 58 career starts, including 22 in 2014. Left guard Jacob Bailey and center Jake Reed started a combined six games last season, while the expected right tackle is Ohio State transfer Tim Gardner.

Defense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2014 Stats
DE Nick Mangieri (Sr.) 6’5″, 270 37 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 QBH
DT Darius Latham (Jr.) 6’5″, 305 26 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR
NT Nate Hoff (RS So.) 6’2″, 300 29 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks
LB Zack Shaw (RS Sr.) 6’3″, 252 24 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sack, 1 FR, 1 QBH
LB T.J. Simmons (Jr.) 6’0″, 233 72 tackles, 65. TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR, 2 FF
LB Marcus Oliver (RS So.) 6’1″, 238 10 tackles, 1 FF
LB Tegray Scales (So.) 6’0″, 220 46 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 INT, 2 QBH
CB Rashard Fant (RS So.) 5’10”, 175 23 tackles, 5 PBU, 1 FR
CB Noel Padmore (RS So.) 5’11”, 180
FS Tony Fields (So.) 5’11”, 205 14 tackles, 1 PBU
SS Chase Dutra (RS So.) 6’1″, 205 34 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF

Indiana had one of the Big Ten’s worst defenses in 2014 and returns only four starters and none from the secondary. The Hoosiers ranked 120th nationally in total defense, 114th in scoring defense, 115th in rush defense, 118th in passing yards allowed, and 103rd in pass efficiency defense. The 32.8 points per game allowed were worse than every team in the Big Ten except Illinois.

There’s a lot to improve on Indiana’s defense, but at least the line is experienced, returning all three starters. Nose tackle Nate Hoff ranked second on the team with 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last season as a redshirt freshman, while defensive tackle Darius Latham recorded 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Last year’s starting defensive end, Bobby Richardson, is gone and so are his team-leading 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. But starting outside linebacker Nick Mangieri is making the move back to end, where he played his first two seasons in Bloomington and started 10 games in 2013.

With Mangieri’s move to the line, the Hoosier linebacker corps returns just one starter from a year ago, junior T.J. Simmons. He’s the leading returning tackler with 72 and he also ranked fourth on the team last season with 6.5 tackles for loss. A couple of promising youngsters join Simmons in the middle. Sophomore Tegray Scales was a Big Ten All-Freshman team member last season after notching 46 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks, and three interceptions. Marcus Oliver was an honorable mention Big Ten All-Freshman team member in 2013, but tore his ACL in the third game of the season last year. The fourth linebacker should be fifth-year senior Zack Shaw, who has 36 games of playing experience under his belt.

While there is some talent and experience in the front seven, the secondary will get a complete makeover this fall. Last year’s leading tackler, safety Antonio Allen, should have been back to lead the group, but was kicked off the team in June due to legal troubles. The former U.S. Army All-American will be replaced by sophomore Tony Fields, who recorded 14 tackles and one pass breakup last fall. Strong safety started one game as a redshirt freshman in 2014, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He tied Scales for the team lead with three interceptions. The corners will likely be a pair of redshirt sophomores, Rashard Fant and Noel Padmore. Fant recorded 23 tackles and ranked second among Big Ten freshmen with five pass breakups. Padmore played exclusively on special teams last season.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2014 Stats
K Griffin Oakes (RS So.) 5’10”, 197 13-of-18 (72.2%), Long 58
P Erich Toth (RS Sr.) 6’3″, 208 40.7 avg., 18 in-20, 7 50+
KR J-Shunn Harris (So.) 5’8″, 170 19 ret, 20.6 avg
PR J-Shunn Harris (So.) 5’8″, 170 3 ret, 4.0 avg

Both kicking specialists return for a unit that wasn’t very strong overall. Kicker Griffin Oakes was solid, connecting on 13-of-18 field goals and set a school record with a  58-yard field goal against Maryland. It was the longest in the country last season and the 10th-longest field goal in Big Ten history. Punter Erich Toth has two-and-a-half years of experience under his belt and ranks fifth in school history with 177 career punts. Last season’s 77 punts set a school single-season record — not exactly a stat one wants to hold. Indiana ranked 98th nationally in net punting and Toth’s 40.7 yards per punt ranked eighth in the Big Ten.

Sophomore receiver J-Hunn Harris returns to handle the kick return duties and should also take over punt return duties from the departed Shane Wynn. Harris led the team with 19 kick returns for 20.2 yards per return last season, but returned just three punts in 2014.

Outlook

The schedule sets up nicely for Indiana with a non-conference slate of Southern Illinois, FIU, Western Kentucky, and Wake Forest. The first three are at home and only WKU had a winning record among the four (8-5). The schedule gets much tougher after that with Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State in the month of October, with Rutgers in between. November sees Iowa and Michigan visit Memorial Stadium and IU travel to Maryland and Purdue.

Getting seven wins out of that schedule will require the Hoosiers to pull off at least one upset like they did against Missouri last season. But with very little experience in the secondary and no Tevin Coleman, a lot of pressure will be on Sudfeld’s arm. Indiana is looking at yet another bowl-less season.

What it means for Michigan

By the time Michigan visits Indiana, the Wolverines will already have played nine games. I expect the Harbaugh era to gain steam throughout the season — a departure from the previous two coaching staffs — so that bodes well for Michigan in this one. Michigan’s defense will be one of the Big Ten’s best and Indiana doesn’t have the firepower to score enough to keep up. It’s Michigan’s last good chance to get a win with a trip to Penn State the following week and then Ohio State coming to town a week later. But Harbaugh’s boys will get take care of business in Bloomington.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2014

Monday, July 13th, 2015


Ohio State Navy Football(AP photo)

Less than eight weeks remain before Michigan football returns. Not only will the Wolverines kick off a new era of Michigan football, but they will open up the entire college football season on Thursday, Sept. 3 at Utah. Minnesota faces TCU that same night, while Michigan State and Illinois follow on Friday night. The majority of the Big Ten plays on Saturday as usual, but visits Marshall on Sunday and Ohio State caps the weekend with a trip to Virginia Tech on Monday night.

As we look forward to a new season, it’s time to take a look at one indicator of how the Big Ten might play out. A couple of weeks ago we reviewed how returning production factored into each team’s success in 2014. Maryland had the most but finished in the middle of the pack. Ohio State had the least but won the Big Ten and national title. So what does it look like as we enter the 2015 season? Let’s take a look.

Offense

Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Total Offense Rating
Ohio State 88% 9
Penn State 81% 111
Nebraska 69% 31
Illinois 63% 94
Michigan 62% 112
Wisconsin 60% 21
Rutgers 55% 73
Minnesota 54% 103
Michigan State 54% 11
Northwestern 51% 104
Purdue 48% 108
Iowa 41% 63
Indiana 40% 61
Maryland 29% 109
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Scoring Offense Rating
Ohio State 83% 5
Michigan 64% 109
Penn State 64% 110
Nebraska 61% 12
Illinois 58% 84
Northwestern 58% 98
Rutgers 55% 80
Minnesota 54% 66
Wisconsin 51% 27
Purdue 47% 95
Michigan State 44% 7
Maryland 36% 65
Indiana 35% 87
Iowa 31% 68

While Michigan has made the headlines all offseason thanks to the antics of Harbaugh, its chief rival, Ohio State, is the reigning national champions and looks to be even stronger this season. The Buckeyes return the most total offense and scoring offense of any team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes lost just 112 total rushing yards and four of 41 rushing touchdowns. Receiver Devin Smith’s 931 yards and 12 touchdowns will need to be replaced, but that’s the only significant loss among offensive skill position players, and OSU returns four starting offensive linemen. With 88 percent of the nation’s ninth-best offense and 83 percent of the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense returning, it’s no wonder Ohio State is the hands-on favorite to win the Big Ten and play for the national title once again. And those numbers don’t even include two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year Braxton Miller, who missed all of 2014 with a shoulder injury. In other words, the Buckeyes are stacked.

Penn State returns the second most offensive production with 81 percent of its offense and 64 percent of its scoring. However, while Ohio State’s offense ranked among the nation’s best last season, Penn State’s was among the nation’s worst, ranking 111th in total offense and 109th in scoring offense. Eight starters return, most notably quarterback Christian Hackenberg who enters his third season as a starter. Leading rusher Akeel Lynch and the top two leading receivers, DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, are also back. The offensive line, which was the source of most of Penn State’s troubles last season, returns four starters and brings in a couple of transfers to vie for the fifth spot.

Nebraska, Illinois, and Michigan each return about the same amount of offense. The Cornhuskers have 69 percent of their 31st-ranked offense and 61 percent of their 12th-ranked scoring offense coming back. However, they’ll have to replace running back Ameer Abdullah’s 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns, as well as Kenny Bell’s 788 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Illinois brings back 63 percent of its offense and 58 percent of its scoring returning. The top four receivers and leading rusher are back along with quarterback Wes Lunt. However, leading receiver Mike Dudek, who topped 1,000 yards a year ago, will miss some time after tearing his ACL in the spring.

Michigan returns 62 percent of its total offense and 64 percent of its scoring offense. Like Penn State, Michigan’s offense was miserable a year ago. Devin Funchess is the big loss, accounting for 36 percent of Michigan’s receiving yards. Jehu Chesson will have to step into a larger role in the pass catching department. Quarterback Devin Gardner is gone, but Iowa transfer Jake Rudock brings 2,436 yards (540 more than Gardner) and 16 touchdowns (six more) to the table. While Michigan has the second most returning touchdowns percentage-wise, the 34 touchdowns are well short of Ohio State’s 102.

Of the group in the middle of the pack of returning production, Wisconsin had the best offense last season. The Badgers return 60 percent of the nation’s 20th-best total offense and 51 percent of the 27th-best scoring offense. Melvin Gordon’s 2,740 total yards and 32 touchdowns make up nearly all of the team’s lost production.

Michigan State, which was the only Big Ten team with an offense similar to Ohio State’s in 2014, returns 54 percent of the 11th-ranked offense, but just 44 percent of the seventh-best scoring offense. Thirty-seven of the Spartans’ 43 rushing touchdowns and 16 of 26 receiving touchdowns are gone. But with quarterback Connor Cook returning Michigan State’s offense should still be strong if it can find skill position players to step up.

Maryland, which entered last season with nearly its entire offense returning (97.5 of its total offense and 94.4 percent of its scoring offense), is on the other side of the coin entering this fall. The Terrapins return just 29 percent of their total offense and 36 percent of their scoring. Quarterback CJ Brown, who also led the team in rushing, as well as the top four receivers, will need to be replaced.

Defense

Returning defense
Team Percent Returning 2014 Total Defense Rating
Ohio State 74% 19
Illinois 71% 109
Northwestern 67% 53
Michigan State 67% 8
Michigan 63% 7
Minnesota 62% 39
Wisconsin 61% 4
Purdue 60% 80
Penn State 59% 2
Rutgers 57% 98
Nebraska 56% 52
Iowa 56% 22
Indiana 53% 93
Maryland 44% 95

Entering last season, the top three defenses in the Big Ten from 2013 had the least production returning. Still, those three teams – Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin – finished among the top six in total defense the Big Ten in 2014. Entering this fall, the top three defenses from last season — Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan — stand in the middle third of the conference in terms of returning production (tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and takeaways).

Penn State had the Big Ten’s best defense a year ago, allowing just 278.7 yards and 18.6 points per game. The Nittany Lions return 59 percent of last season’s production, which ranks ninth in the conference. Linebacker Mike Hull, who led the team with 140 tackles and ranked third with 10.5 tackles for loss, will have to be replaced, but the next five leading tacklers are all back. Head coach James Franklin will also have to replace both defensive ends, who combined for nine sacks, but he does have tackle Anthony Zettel, who led the team with eight, back.

Wisconsin featured the Big Ten’s second best defense and scoring defense last season and the nation’s fourth-best total defense. Despite losing two of their top three tacklers, linebackers Marcus Trotter and Derrick Landisch, the Badgers return 61 percent of last season’s proaction.

Michigan, meanwhile, ranked third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense last season and returns the fifth-most production at 63 percent. Leading tackler Jake Ryan is gone, but will be backfilled by fifth-year senior Desmond Morgan who recorded 229 tackles from 2011-2013 before missing last season with an injury. The defensive line lost a combined 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks from ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, but the core of the defense — especially the back seven — is back.

Michigan State had the conference’s fourth-best total defense and third-best scoring defense a year ago, and returns 67 percent this year. The top two returning tacklers, Kurtis Drummond and Taiwan Jones, as well as the best corner, Trae Waynes, are gone. The three accounted for 36 percent of MSU’s takeaways.

The team with the most returning production this season is the same team that also returns the most offensive production, the defending Big Ten and national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Seventy-four percent of the defense that ranked fifth in the Big Ten and 19th nationally is back in action this fall, including the top four tacklers and top two in sacks, Joey Bosa and Darron Lee. In fact, even though they lose 11 sacks, Ohio State returns 33.5 sacks, which would have ranked fourth in the Big Ten last season. The Bucks also bring back 72 percent of their takeaways from a unit that ranked second in that category in 2014.

Rutgers, Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana all return between 57 percent and 53 percent of their defenses, though they ranked between sixth (Iowa) and 13th (Rutgers) in the Big Ten in total defense a year ago. The Hawkeyes have to replace their top two tacklers and more than 50 percent of their tackles for loss and sacks. Nebraska has to replace four of their top five tacklers, including defensive end Randy Gregory who led the team with seven sacks. Rutgers has 71 percent of their sacks coming back from unit that ranked fourth in the Big Ten in that category, but behind the front four the Scarlet Knights have a lot of holes to fill. Indiana brings back just five starters from a defense that allowed the second most points in the conference last season.

Finally, the team that returned the most defense last season returns the least this year. Maryland is the only Big Ten squad with less than 50 percent of last season’s defensive production returning. The Terrapins return just 44 percent of last year’s 95th-ranked defense. Only four starters return, most notably corners Sean Davis and Will Likely, but nearly the entire front seven has to be replaced.

Conclusion

Ohio State is in the same spot Maryland was entering last season. The Buckeyes have the most returning production across the board. However, the Buckeyes are in a much better spot to allow that production to pay off. Whereas Maryland ranked 77th, 83rd, and 44th in total offense, scoring offense, and total defense in 2013, Ohio State ranked ninth, fifth, and 19th, respectively, last season. Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa just plugged in talent on defense and didn’t miss a beat last season, and all four return more this fall.

2014to2015 Returning Production Chart

According to the chart above, Rutgers is in the exact spot Ohio State was entering last season. Does that mean the Scarlet Knights will roll through the Big Ten and into the College Football Playoff? Probably not since the Buckeyes stand alone atop the chart. Last year, there was only one offense returning less than 50 percent of its production. This year there are four, so we could see a decline in offense across the league. Nine of the league’s 14 primary quarterbacks return, in addition to Rudock, who will likely start for Michigan, and Ohio State’s three-headed monster.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out this fall, but of course this is just one metric to use when predicting performance. Stay tuned for our individual team previews over the course of the next seven weeks as well as our Michigan position previews and other season preview content.

How returning production throughout the Big Ten translated in 2014

Monday, June 29th, 2015


Ohio State Sugar Bowl(AP)

Last summer we kicked off our season preview series with a look at the returning production from each team in the Big Ten from the year before. We’re going to do the same this summer, but we’ll begin with a review of how the returning production entering last season translated over the course of the season. That will lead into this year’s returning production, our opponent previews, and our Michigan position previews.

Entering last season, Maryland was far and away the most experienced team based on the previous season’s production. The Terrapins returned 97.5 percent of their offense, 94.4 percent of their scoring offense, and 82.6 percent of their defense. They led the conference in all three categories. But did it translate?

Maryland went just 7-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play in 2014, its first year in the Big Ten. All that returning offensive production resulted in the 12th-best (third-worst) offense in the Big Ten, though it ranked fifth in scoring. The offensive line that returned 51 starts from 2013 produced the third-worst rushing offense and allowed the second most sacks. All that returning defensive production resulted in a the conference’s 12th-ranked defense and 10th-ranked scoring defense.

Returning 2013 Production vs 2014 Results
Team Returning Total Off. Returning Scoring Off. Returning Def. Big Ten Finish
Ohio State 12th (59.8%) 13th (53.7%) 11th (60.3%) Champion
Wisconsin 13th (57.0%) 11th (57.7%) 13th (49.9%) 1st – West
Michigan State 3rd (90.9%) 2nd (91.3%) 12th (50.1%) 2nd – East
Minnesota 10th (65.9%) 12th (57.4%) 8th (66.1%) 2nd – West
Nebraska 9th (66.5%) 10th (59.5%) 9th (66.5%) 2nd – West
Iowa 2nd (92.8%) 3rd (89.3%) 14th (44.4%) 4th – West
Maryland 1st (97.5%) 1st (94.4%) 1st (82.6%) 3rd – East
Rutgers 6th (74.4%) 4th (86.9%) 3rd (77.8%) 4th – East
Illinois 14th (34.3%) 14th (40.0%) 6th (75.8%) 5th – West
Michigan 8th (68.6%) 9th (63.8%) 4th (77.6%) 4th – East
Northwestern 7th (71.9%) 8th (71.1%) 5th (76.1%) 5th – West
Penn State 5th (76.4%) 5th (84.4%) 7th (67.4%) 6th – East
Indiana 9th (67.3%) 7th (72.2%) 2nd (79.1%) 7th – East
Purdue 4th (82.5%) 6th (80.6%) 10th (63.3%) 7th – West

Iowa and Michigan State ranked second and third in returning offensive production, both at about 90 percent. It translated for the Spartans, who went 11-2 and possessed the Big Ten’s second-best scoring offense and total offense. Interestingly, the running game, which returned 100 percent of its 2013 production ranked just fifth in the conference, while the passing game, which lost 21 percent of its yards and 35 percent of its receiving touchdowns, led the conference in passing. Iowa, meanwhile, was middle of the pack, ranking sixth in total offense and seventh in scoring while matching Maryland’s record of 7-6 and 4-4.

Defensively, both ranked among the bottom three in returning production entering last season, but performed much better. Michigan State ranked fourth in total defense and third in scoring defense, while Iowa ranked sixth and eighth, respectively.

Michigan was in the middle of the pack in returning production with 68.6 percent of its offense and 63.8 percent of its defense returning. The Wolverines went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play, ranking dead last in total offense, second to last in scoring offense. The defense fared much better, finishing third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

How about the Big Ten and national champions? Ohio State had the third-lowest total offense, second-lowest scoring offense, and fourth-lowest total defense returning. And that included Braxton Miller, who missed the entire season. All the Buckeyes did was bounce back from an early-season loss to Virginia Tech by running the table the rest of the way, taking down Michigan State, Wisconsin, top-ranked Alabama, and second-ranked Oregon in the process.

2013to2014 Returning Production Results Chart

Wisconsin followed a similar pattern, starting the season with the second-lowest total offense, fourth-lowest scoring offense, and second-lowest total defense returning. It translated into an 11-3 record, a trip to the Big Ten title game — which the Badgers lost to Ohio State 59-0 — and an overtime win over Southeastern Conference power Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Minnesota, the surprise team in the conference last season, brought the fourth-lowest total offense, third-lowest scoring offense, and eight-most total defense back from 2013. The Gophers went 8-5, nearly ended Ohio State’s chances of a national title, and were a regular-season-ending loss away from a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

For the most part last season — with the exception of Michigan State’s offense — the teams that brought the least production back did the best, while those that had the most returning production suffered the opposite fate. Stay tuned for a look at this year’s returning production across the conference.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Pre-Big Ten Tournament

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015


Power Rankings_header
The Big Ten regular season came to an end on Sunday with Wisconsin retaining the top spot and conference newcomer Maryland grabbing a distant second. There wasn’t a lot of movement in the final power rankings as Indiana took the biggest drop of three places and Iowa had the biggest climb of three. The Big Ten Tournament began tonight, though those results are not reflected in these rankings.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6, Week 7, Week 9

1. Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minn 76-63, Beat #23 Ohio State 72-48 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Mich/Illinois

The undisputed flagship team in the Big Ten finished the regular season with a flourish Sunday, pounding Ohio State by 24 points in Columbus. Wisconsin enters the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed on its mind.

2. Maryland (26-5, 14-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 60-50, Beat Nebraska 64-61 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs NU/Indiana

Mark Turgeon couldn’t have hoped for a better inaugural season in the Big Ten, as his team cruised to a second-place finish and enters the postseason on a seven-game winning streak. Maryland already took down Wisconsin once, and doing so again would earn the Terps a Big Ten championship.

3. Iowa (21-10, 12-6) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Indiana 77-63, Beat Northwestern 69-52 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Penn State

On Feb. 15 the Hawkeyes had lost five of their last seven games and stared down the barrel of another late-season collapse. Instead, Iowa blazed through its final six games and picked up the No. 5 seed in Chicago.

4. Michigan State (21-10, 12-6) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 72-66, Beat Indiana 74-72 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Minn/Ohio State

Tom Izzo and the Spartans were shaky through 31 games this season, but closed with wins over two lesser opponents to snatch the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

5. Purdue (20-11, 12-6) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost at MSU 66-72, Beat Illinois 63-58 This Week: Fri. (B1G Tournament) vs Iowa/Penn State

Purdue is kicking itself heading into the conference tournament after it dropped two road games in the first week of March that would have solidified its NCAA resume. Instead, the first-round bye may actually hurt the Boilermakers, who will likely miss out with a one-and-done showing in Chicago.

6. Illinois (19-12, 9-9) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 69-57, Lost at Purdue 58-63 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Michigan

Illinois came within five points of finishing the season on a three-game streak that may have been enough to put them on the right side of the bubble. Instead, an 8-6 record down the stretch with five of those losses by eight points or less may not be enough for John Groce’s team.

7. Ohio State (22-9, 11-7) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 77-67, Lost vs #6 Wisc 48-72
This Week: Thu (B1G Tournament) vs Minnesota

A 24-point loss to Wisconsin on Senior Day put an exclamation point on Ohio State’s tremendously disappointing season. The Buckeyes finished with only one win over a team ranked in the final AP poll: a home victory against Maryland. Ohio State was uncompetitive against each of Louisville, North Carolina and Wisconsin and will struggle to make a tournament run, barring a complete D’Angelo Russell takeover.

8. Indiana (19-12, 9-9) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 63-77, Lost to MSU 72-74 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Northwestern

The last six weeks of the season were awfully unkind to Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. After finally cracking the Top 25 with a 15-4 record, Indiana dropped eight of its last 12 games, putting its tournament status and coaching future in question. Indiana probably needed to win three of its last five games, but instead beat only Rutgers, the Big Ten’s junior varsity team, and lost three home games and a trip to Northwestern.

9. Northwestern (15-16, 6-12) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 82-70 2OT, Lost to Iowa 52-69 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Indiana

Despite finishing the season with a losing record, Northwestern is trending sharply upwards, having won five of its final seven conference games. The Wildcats looked destined for a last-place finish after a 10-game losing streak, but flipped the switch in mid-February. Tom Crean’s collar is feeling a little tight heading into this Big Ten Tournament matchup.

10. Michigan (15-15, 8-10) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost at NU 78-82 2OT, Beat Rutgers 79-69 This Week: Thu. (B1G Tournament) vs Illinois

As strange as it may sound, Michigan is one of the better teams in the Big Ten… in the first 40 minutes of games. The Wolverines lost four overtime games, and had they finished those wins, they’d be sitting in the No. 4 seed with a double bye in the tournament.

11. Minnesota (17-14, 6-12) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #6 Wisc 63-76, Lost to Penn State 76-79 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Rutgers

Minnesota just couldn’t get rolling during conference play this season, mustering just one winning streak (three games) but following it with losses in five of its last six games.

12. Penn State (16-15, 4-14) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #23 OSU 67-77, Beat Minnesota 79-76  This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Nebraska

A road win to finish the season snapped a six-game winning streak for Penn State, but it’ll still be one of four teams playing in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday.

13. Nebraska (13-17, 5-13) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 57-69, Lost to #10 Maryland 61-64 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Penn State

Die-hard believers in what Nebraska accomplished last season considered Tim Miles’ team a legitimate contender heading into the 2014-15 campaign. Instead, Nebraska was the league’s greatest disappointment, finishing in 12th place and losing eight straight down the stretch.

14. Rutgers (10-21, 2-16) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #10 Maryland 50-60, Lost at Michigan 69-79 This Week: Wed. (B1G Tournament) vs Minnesota

Rutgers’ first year in the Big Ten was an absolute bloodbath. The Scarlett Knights will play Wednesday, on the two-month anniversary of their last win, carrying a 14-game losing streak on their shoulders.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 9

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015


Power Rankings_header
Despite being posted on Wednesday, these rankings only take into account last week’s results, through Sunday. Wisconsin holds onto the top spot, while Purdue and Michigan State make big leaps into the top three. Ohio State is this week’s biggest tumbler, falling five spots thanks to a seven-point loss at Michigan. The bottom five remain the same in a slightly different order.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 6, Week 7

1. Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 55-47, Beat Min 63-53 This Week: Tue at #14 Maryland, Sun vs Michigan State

Wins in two of its final four games would wrap up sole possession of the Big Ten title for Wisconsin, which is riding a 10-game winning streak. With a strong finish, Wisconsin has a shot at the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Kentucky.

2. Purdue (18-9, 10-4) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Indiana 67-63 This Week: Thu vs Rutgers, Sun at Ohio State

Purdue is no longer a nice surprise in the Big Ten. At 10-4, the Boilermakers are playing for a double bye in the conference tournament and all but locked into an NCAA bid. Matt Painter’s team has ripped off seven wins in eight tries, including a 3-1 record on the road.

3. Michigan State (19-8, 10-4) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat Michigan 80-67, Beat Illinois 60-53 This Week: Thu vs Minn, Sun at at #5 Wisconsin

Less than two weeks ago Michigan State was a bubble NCAA Tournament team. Now, after four straight wins, including back-to-back road wins over Michigan and Illinois, MSU is closing in on a second-place Big Ten finish.

4. Maryland (23-5, 11-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 69-65 This Week: Tue vs #5 Wisconsin, Sat vs Michigan

Mark Turgeon has steadied the ship after a rocky 2-3 stretch put Maryland’s position in the top 20 in question. Three straight wins have the Terrapins positioned for a strong finish in which they should win three of four.

5. Indiana (19-9, 9-6) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 63-67, Beat Rutgers 84-54 This Week: Wed at Northwestern

The middle of the Big Ten has really taken a hit over the last few weeks. Indiana, which has dropped five of its last nine, falls in at No. 5 as the rest of the Big Ten battles to stay off the bubble in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana’s last impressive win came over a month ago, on Jan. 22 against Maryland.

6. Iowa (17-10, 8-6) – Down 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 81-57, Beat Nebraska 74-46 This Week: Wed vs Illinois, Sat at Penn State

About the only thing Iowa has done right since back-to-back blowout wins over Michigan and Maryland is pounding Nebraska to the point where Tim Miles banned his team from its own locker room. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, a moderate finish of Illinois, Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern offers a great chance to reach the crucial 20-win plateau.

7. Ohio State (19-8, 8-6) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 57-64
This Week: Thu vs Nebraska, Sun vs Purdue

The last two games were not a good look for the previously resurgent Buckeyes, whose stay in the top 25 was as brief as Wisconsin’s struggles after a loss to Rutgers in January. OSU responded to a loss in East Lansing by falling to Michigan, which was riding a five-game losing streak in the conference.

8. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 53-60 This Week: Wed at Iowa, Sat vs Northwestern

Illinois’ four-game winning streak hit a brick wall against conference-leading Wisconsin last week, as the Illini fell by 19 points in Madison. A home loss to Michigan State dropped John Groce’s team to No. 8 in the Big Ten, a dangerous place for teams hoping to avoid the Badgers in the third round of the conference tournament.

9. Michigan (14-13, 7-8) – Even
Last Week: Lost to MSU 67-80, Beat #24 OSU 64-57 This Week: Sat at #14 Maryland

If any team in the Big Ten needed a big morale boost, it was the battered, quickly sliding Wolverines. On Sunday, a start-to-finish waxing of the rival Buckeyes ended that streak and gave Michigan a realistic chance to finish the conference season with at least a .500 record.

10. Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 72-66, Beat Penn State 60-39 This Week: Wed vs Indiana, Sat at Illinois

A quick glance at some of the final scores during Northwestern’s 10-game conference losing streak would take some of the shock out of the Wildcats’ current three-game winning streak. Chris Collins’ team is finally finishing games, and has emerged as the top spoiler in the bottom half of the league.

11. Minnesota (16-12, 5-10) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 66-72, Lost at #5 Wisconsin 53-63 This Week: Thu at Michigan State

Can the rest of these Big Ten teams all tie for last? Besides Northwestern’s modest winning streak, the bottom of the conference has completely gone up in flames. Minnesota checks in at No. 11 because they still appear to have a pulse, losing by just 10 points to Wisconsin Saturday, which is a small victory in itself.

12. Nebraska (13-14, 5-10) – Even
Last Week: Lost at #16 Maryland, Lost to Iowa 46-74 This Week: Thu at Ohio State

What happened to Nebraska’s vaunted home-court advantage? A team that lost only one game at home by a single point last season has dropped two straight at Pinnacle Bank Arena, including a 28-point thrashing at the hands of Iowa.

13. Penn State (15-13, 3-12) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #5 Wisconsin 47-55, Lost at NU 39-60 This Week: Sat vs Iowa

Penn State dropped three straight games against ranked teams before running into the buzz saw that is Northwestern Saturday. A 21-point pounding in Evanston put an early exclamation point on a disastrous conference season for the Nittany Lions.

14. Rutgers (10-18, 2-13) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Iowa 47-81, Lost to Indiana 84-54 This Week: Thu at Purdue

Rutgers is really bad. A 30-point loss to Indiana rounded out an 11-game losing streak with more tough games ahead. In their first Big Ten season, the Scarlett Knights are failing the test.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 7

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015


Power Rankings_header
Wisconsin remains on top, having won six in a row, and that should continue at least for the next couple of weeks. Everyone else is chasing the Badgers, but with time running out it looks to be a battle for second place. Ohio State remains second, while Iowa jumped six spots to grab the third spot thanks to blowout wins over Michigan and Maryland. Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan each tumbled four spots, going a combined 1-4 last week.

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

1. Wisconsin (21-2, 9-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 92-78, Beat Northwestern 65-50 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sun vs Illinois

Since their slip up against 13th-place Rutgers on Jan. 11, Bo Ryan’s Badgers have won six straight games and put a choke hold on the conference. Wisconsin is three games ahead of the pack and will coast to the regular-season title.

2. Ohio State (18-6, 7-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Purdue 58-60, Beat Rutgers 79-60 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sat at Michigan State

A two-point loss in West Lafayette snapped Ohio State’s modest three-game winning streak Wednesday, but the Buckeyes bounced back with a blowout win against Rutgers to climb into a second-place tie behind Wisconsin.

3. Iowa (15-8, 6-4) – Up 6
Last Week: Beat Michigan 72-54, Beat #17 Maryland 71-55 This Week: Thu vs Minn, Sun at Northwestern

Iowa made a strong statement this week after dropping three straight games in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes dominated Michigan in Ann Arbor and roughed up 2nd-place Maryland to get back on track.

4. Maryland (19-5, 7-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Penn State 64-58, Lost to Iowa 55-71 This Week: Wed vs Indiana, Sat at Penn State

Mark Turgeon is learning that road wins don’t come easily in the Big Ten, as Maryland was blown out for a third straight time away from home Sunday. The Terps are 2-3 in their last five games and are showing signs of wearing down in their first Big Ten season.

5. Illinois (16-8, 6-5) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 66-54, Beat MSU 59-54 This Week: Thu vs Michigan, Sun at #5 Wisconsin

Just when Illinois looked like it would never get over the .500 mark, three straight wins have brought the Illini back to the pack in the Big Ten. A win against Michigan this week would match Illinois’ conference win total from last season.

6. Purdue (15-9, 7-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Beat #20 Ohio State 60-58, Lost to Minn. 58-62 This Week: Thu at Rutgers, Sun vs Nebraska

Purdue knocked off three ranked opponents during their four-game winning streak, but fell to Minnesota in the Barn Saturday. With three of their next four games coming against Rutgers and Nebraska, Matt Painter’s team has a real shot to hang around in the battle for second place in the conference.

7. Indiana (17-7, 7-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost at #5 Wisconsin 78-92, Beat Michigan 70-67 This Week: Wed at #19 Maryland, Sun vs Minn.

The last two weeks have been rocky for Indiana after a strong start to the conference season. But the Hoosiers did hold on for a home win over Michigan Sunday to move into a 2nd place tie in the Big Ten.

8. Michigan State (15-8, 6-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 54-59 This Week: Tue at Northwestern, Sat vs #23 Ohio State

MSU picked up another puzzling home loss Saturday when the suspension-riddled Fighting Illini won in Breslin for the second straight season. Win its best win coming at Iowa and a couple of ugly losses on the resume, the Spartans are battling for an 18th straight NCAA Tournament bid.

9. Michigan (13-11, 6-6) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 54-72, Lost at Indiana 67-70 This Week: Thu at Illinois

February has been an unkind month for Michigan, which is playing without its two best players in Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. Iowa blew out the Wolverines in the Crisler Center Thursday, and a late comeback fell a few inches short in Bloomington Saturday. Michigan will carry its three-game losing streak into Illinois Thursday.

10. Minnesota (15-9, 4-7) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 52-68 This Week: Thu at Iowa, Sun at Indiana

Minnesota is trending sharply upwards after an embarrassing 0-5 start to the Big Ten season. Now, with three wins in their last four games, the Golden Gophers are clawing their way out of the conference cellar.

11. Penn State (15-9, 3-8) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost at #17 Maryland 58-64, Beat Neb. 56-43 This Week: Wed at #23 OSU, Sat vs #19 Maryland

After losing two straight road games in the 40th minute, Penn State finally closed out a game, beating Nebraska by 13. The Nittany Lions have had a chance to win their last 10 games, and their 3-2 record since Jan. 24 means they’re learning how to close.

12. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) – Down 2
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 76-60, Lost to PSU 43-56 This Week: Tue vs #5 Wisconsin, Sun at Purdue

A home win over last-place Northwestern was the only bright spot for Nebraska last week, as it lost in blowout fashion once again, this time at the hands of Penn State. The Cornhuskers’ offense, which was so dynamic late last season, has been held under 45 points in three of its last four games.

13. Northwestern (10-13, 1-9) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost at Nebraska 60-76, Lost at #5 Wisconsin 50-65 This Week: Tue vs MSU, Sun vs Iowa

The race for 13th place in the Big Ten in basically a toss-up, but we’ll go with the slight underdog this week. Though the Wildcats’ nine-game losing streak is one longer than Rutgers’, Chris Collins has brought his team within two points of a win three times during the streak. With four of their next five games coming at home, Northwestern has a chance to play spoiler in February.

14. Rutgers (10-15, 2-10) – Even
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 54-66, Lost to #20 Ohio State 60-79 This Week: Thu vs Purdue

Rutgers will celebrate its one-month anniversary of beating Wisconsin on Wednesday, but unfortunately the Scarlett Knights haven’t won a game since. Rutgers was blown out by 19 points on Sunday, and the final six games of the season will likely yield a similar result.

Just short: Indiana 70 – Michigan 67

Sunday, February 8th, 2015


Irvin vs IU(Jamie Owens, UMHoops)

Still shorthanded, Michigan ventured into Bloomington, where it has won just once since 1995 and twice since 1989, and took Indiana to the wire, ultimately falling three points short, 70-67, despite a career-high 23 from Zak Irvin.

Aubrey Dawkins hit a three-pointer on Michigan’s first shot of the game, but Indiana jumped out to a 11-5 lead and then widened it to 20-11 by the under-12 media timeout. But Kameron Chatman made one of two free throws and Mark Donnal scored five straight to keep Michigan in the game. Four free throws by Ricky Doyle and Spike Albrecht pulled Michigan within three, but Indiana responded and took a 36-29 lead into the half.

Four Factors
Michigan Indiana
56.5 eFG% 56.1
26.9 OReb% 48.1
19.0 TO% 24.1
43.5 FTR 40.8

Doyle opened the second half with a layup, and after a steal, Dawkins made two free throws to get back to a three-point defect. But eight straight Indiana points prompted a Michigan timeout. Irvin made a layup and followed with a three, but Indiana pulled back ahead by 11 with 14 minutes to play.

Once again, Irvin responded with a jumper, and Dawkins Doyle followed with back to back dunks to pull Michigan within striking distance. Indiana answered with a  Troy Williams dunk, but Irvin hit another three. Every time Michigan threatened to tie the game, Indiana had an answer, and every time Indiana threatened to run away with it, Michigan responded with a run of its own.

Three times in the final eight minutes of the game, Indiana widened its lead to nine, but even without its two leaders, Michigan refused to die. A three-point play by Albrecht brought Michigan within three at 65-62 with 1:18 to play. Indiana’s Collin Hartman and then Albrecht traded a pair of free throws.

With an eight-second difference between the game clock and shot clock, John Beilein chose to let Indiana play instead of foul, but Yogi Ferrell shredded the Michigan zone with a dish to Williams for a dunk. Irvin answered with a three to pull Michigan within two and the Wolverines sent Hartman to the free throw line. He missed the first but made the second, giving Michigan a chance to force overtime with a three. But Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s attempt from the left corner at the buzzer was all iron and Michigan suffered its third straight loss.

Irvin tied a career-high with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 3-of-5 three-point shooting. Doyle scored 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting and made 5-of-6 free throws in addition to pulling in six rebounds. Albrecht was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 12.

As a team, Michigan shot 50 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from downtown. Michigan held Indiana, the Big Ten’s best scoring team, 10 points below its average. The Hoosiers shot 49 percent overall and 41.2 percent from three-point range. Indiana out-rebounded Michigan 32-21.

Michigan, now 13-11 overall and 6-6 in the Big Ten, visits Illinois (16-8, 6-5) on Thursday. The Illini have won three straight including a 59-54 victory at Michigan State Saturday.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 5-5 0-0 5-6 3 3 6 4 15 0 1 2 1 27
02 Spike Albrecht* 3-5 1-2 5-5 0 2 2 1 12 7 3 0 1 39
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 1-7 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 2 2 3 4 0 3 34
21 Zak Irvin* 9-16 3-5 2-5 0 2 2 4 23 2 1 0 3 39
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 2-6 1-3 2-2 1 2 3 0 7 1 2 0 0 34
03 Kameron Chatman 0-1 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 10
04 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
34 Mark Donnal 3-4 1-1 0-0 1 2 3 3 7 0 0 1 0 10
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 23-46 6-13 15-20 7 14 21 16 67 13 11 4 7 200
Indiana 24-49 7-17 15-20 13 19 32 17 70 11 14 4 5 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Indiana

Saturday, February 7th, 2015


UM-Indiana
Michigan (13-10, 6-5) vs Indiana (16-7, 6-4)
Sunday, Feb. 8 | Bloomington, Ind. | 1:00 p.m. EST | CBS
Offense
64.6 Points/gm 80.2
(497-1,195) 41.6 Field Goal % 47.9 (644-1,345)
(175-495) 35.4 3-pt FG % 40.9 (209-511)
(252-339) 74.3 Free Throw % 72.7 (347-477)
11.5 FT Made/gm 15.1
31.8 Reb/gm 36.5
12.0 Assists/gm 13.8
10.0 Turnovers/gm 11.7
Defense
61.8 Points/gm 72.9
(501-1,157) 43.3 Field Goal % 45.3 (638-1,409)
(144-424) 34.0 3-pt FG % 32.3 (136-421)
33.9 Opp. Reb/gm 33.2
5.7 Steals/gm 5.1
1.8 Blocks/gm 3.2
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.9)*, Zak Irvin (13.5) Points/gm James Blackmon Jr. (16.5), Yogi Ferrell (16.0)
Caris LeVert (4.9)*, Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.3), James Blackmon Jr (5.2)
*Out for season

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan held up well after losing Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, taking Wisconsin and Michigan State to overtime, but it was hard to believe they would be able to keep that up. On Thursday night, the other shoe dropped and Michigan was dominated at home by an Iowa squad that entered riding a three-game losing streak. Now, Michigan has the unenviable task of visiting the Hall of Horrors where, as MGoBlog’s Ace Anbender pointed out, they have won just twice since 1989. Let’s take a look at the Hoosiers.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
James Blackmon Jr (G) 30.1 16.5 43.3 40.5 84.6 5.2 1.3 1.6 0.0 0.6
Yogi Ferrell (G) 34.4 16.0 43.8 42.1 87.9 3.2 4.7 2.0 0.0 0.7
Troy Williams (F) 26.2 13.0 57.1 16.7 74.3 6.3 1.9 2.2 0.3 1.1
Robert Johnson (G) 26.0 9.4 47.9 42.3 63.2 3.3 2.3 2.0 0.1 1.0
Nick Zeisloft (G) 20.0 6.5 44.1 40.8 73.3 2.3 0.8 0.6 0.1 0.3
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
H Mosquera-Perea (F)* 20.9 7.4 62.0 00.0 58.8 5.0 0.3 1.1 1.6 0.3
Collin Hartman (F) 19.9 5.3 53.3 52.4 65.5 3.6 1.0 0.8 0.5 0.4
Emmitt Holt (F) 12.2 4.1 67.4 00.0 58.8 2.8 0.2 0.5 0.8 0.2
Stanford Robinson (G) 11.5 3.7 33.3 00.0 57.8 2.0 1.2 0.9 0.2 0.6
Max Hoetzel (F) 9.3 3.0 44.9 37.5 70.0 1.8 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.2
*Injured
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 Mississippi Valley State W 116-65
Nov. 17 Texas Southern W 83-64
Nov. 20 #22 SMU W 74-68
Nov. 22 Lamar W 85-72
Nov. 24 Eastern Washington L 86-88
Nov. 28 UNC Greensboro W 87-79
Dec. 2 Pittsburgh^ W 81-69
Dec. 6 Savannah State W 95-49
Dec. 9 #4 Louisville* L 74-94
Dec. 13 Grand Canyon W 94-66
Dec. 20 #23 Butler# W 82-73
Dec. 22 New Orleans W 79-59
Dec. 27 Georgetown! L 87-91 OT
Dec. 31 at Nebraska W 70-65
Jan. 5 at Michigan State L 50-70
Jan. 10 #22 Ohio State W 69-66
Jan. 13 Penn State W 76-73
Jan. 18 at Illinois W 80-74
Jan. 22 #13 Maryland W 89-70
Jan. 25 at Ohio State L 70-82
Jan. 28 at Purdue L 67-83
Jan. 31 Rutgers W 72-64
Feb. 3 at #5 Wisconsin L 78-92
Feb. 8 Michigan
Feb. 11 at #17 Maryland
Feb. 15 Minnesota
Feb. 19 Purdue
Feb. 22 at Rutgers
Feb. 25 at Northwestern
Mar. 3 Iowa
Mar. 7 Michigan State
*Jimmy V Classic, ^ACC/Big Ten Challenge, #Crossroads Classic, !Indeed Invitational

Like Michigan’s losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, Indiana dropped a game it had no business losing to Eastern Washington on Nov. 24. The Hoosiers didn’t play a single true road game in the non-conference schedule, but did pick up decent wins over SMU, Butler, and Pittsburgh. They also lost in overtime to Georgetown and got beat by 20 by Louisville. In Big Ten play, IU has quality wins over Ohio State and Maryland — both at home — but the four losses have been by an average of 15.5 points. They have yet to lose a conference game at home this season.

The Series

Indiana leads the all-time series 104-57 and is 65-13 against Michigan in Bloomington. The last time the Wolverines won in Assembly Hall was a 72-66 overtime victory on Jan. 7, 2009. Each team won at home last season with Indiana winning 63-52 on Feb. 2 and Michigan winning 84-80 on March 8. John Beilein is 5-7 in his career against Indiana.

Notes

• Indiana is the Big Ten’s best scoring offense, averaging 80.2 points per game. The Hoosiers also have the worst scoring defense in the Big Ten, allowing 72.9 points per game

• Indiana ranks third in the Big Ten in shooting percentage (47.9) and first in three-point percentage (40.9). The Hoosiers defense ranks last in shooting percentage (45.3) and sixth against the three (32.3)

• Indiana ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-3.3)

• Indiana ranks 13th in the Big Ten in blocked shots per game (3.2), ahead of only Michigan (1.8)

• Indiana ranks 11th in the Big Ten in turnover margin (minus-0.83)

• Indiana ranks fourth in the Big Ten in both offensive rebounds  per game (11.7) and defensive rebounds per game (24.9)

• Freshman James Blackmon Jr ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game, while Yogi Ferrell ranks seventh at 16.0

• Yogi Ferrell leads the Big Ten in free throw shooting (87.9 percent)

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 6

Monday, February 2nd, 2015


Power Rankings_header
Wisconsin is on top for the first time since Week 2, but Ohio State has shot up the rankings to the number two spot after dominating Maryland last week. Purdue had the biggest rise, moving from eighth to third, while Iowa took the biggest plunge, dropping from second to ninth. The bottom four remained the same, but just flipped spots. Here are this week’s rankings:

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

1. Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Iowa 74-63 This Week: Tue vs Indiana, Sat vs Northwestern

A four-game winning streak, including two wins (and one 32-point thrashing) over Iowa has put Wisconsin firmly back on top of the Big Ten standings after a shocking loss to Rutgers. The Badgers are now two losses ahead of the pack and will likely cruise to a regular season conference title.

2. Ohio State (17-5, 6-3) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat #16 Maryland 80-56 This Week: Wed at Purdue, Sun at Rutgers

Don’t look now, but Ohio State is hitting its stride. The Buckeyes are on a mini three-game winning streak, including back-to-back home wins over No. 23 Indiana and No. 16 Maryland. OSU waxed the two ranked foes by a combined 36 points to climb into a second-place tie below Wisconsin.

3. Purdue (14-8, 6-3) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat #22 Indiana 83-67, Beat Northwestern 68-60 This Week: Wed vs #20 OSU, Sat at Minn.

At the midway point of the conference schedule, the greatest surprise in the Big Ten is clearly Matt Painter’s Boilermakers. With upset wins over Indiana and Iowa at home and a road victory in Evanston, Purdue is tied for second place.

4. Michigan State (15-7, 6-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 71-51, Beat Michigan 76-66 OT This Week: Sat vs Illinois

Michigan State’s offense is among the ugliest to watch in the entire conference, but the Spartans pieced together a couple of wins last week to improve to 6-3 in the Big Ten. MSU hasn’t won a home game by double digits in regulation since Jan. 5 against Indiana.

5. Michigan (13-9, 6-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 58-44, Lost to MSU 66-76 OT This Week: Thu vs Iowa, Sun at Indiana

The Wolverines came within one hideous overtime performance of landing in the No. 2 spot on this list. Without its two best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr., Michigan crushed Nebraska by 14 and took Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing. If John Beilein’s team had scored one more point in regulation against Wisconsin and MSU, it’d be alone atop the Big Ten at 8-2.

6. Maryland (18-4, 6-3) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 56-80 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sun at Iowa

Maryland’s rise through the national rankings hasn’t officially ended, but it did seem to stall last week after two blowout losses on the road. Mark Turgeon’s team fell by 19 in Assembly Hall and 24 at Value City Arena on either side of a one-point home win over Northwestern.

7. Indiana (16-6, 6-3) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 67-83, Beat Rutgers 72-64 This Week: Tue at #5 Wisconsin, Sun vs Michigan

Indiana limped through the end of January after racing out to a 5-1 start in Big Ten play. A two-game losing streak came to an end against Rutgers, but the lowly Scarlett Knights nearly knocked off the Hoosiers at home. The road doesn’t get an easier as an upcoming home date against Michigan is sandwiched between trips to Wisconsin and Nebraska.

8. Illinois (14-8, 4-5) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Penn State 60-58 This Week: Tue vs Rutgers, Sat at Michigan State

Illinois did just enough to stay afloat during the first half of the conference season, alternating losses and wins in its last eight games after dropping the opener in Ann Arbor. Four of the five Illini losses have come by 10 points or less.

9. Iowa (13-8, 4-4) – Down 7
Last Week: Lost to #5 Wisconsin 63-74 This Week: Thu at Michigan, Sun vs #17 Maryland

Remember last season when the Hawkeyes fell from the top 10 to the bubble during the final weeks of the season? A three-game losing streak lands Iowa on the brink of another collapse, but an injury to Aaron White and a tough schedule shoulder much of the blame. With a trip to Ann Arbor and two home games on the horizon, the Hawkeyes have a chance to halt the slide this week.

10. Nebraska (12-9, 4-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 44-58, Lost to Minnesota 42-60 This Week: Tue vs Northwestern, Sat at PSU

Is it possible to be both a fan of Big Ten basketball fan and not disappointed with Nebraska’s first 21 games? Tim Miles’ team got waxed by Michigan’s bench squad Tuesday before losing by 18 to 3-7 Minnesota.

11. Northwestern (10-11, 1-7) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 60-68 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sat at #5 Wisconsin

As the last-place team in the Big Ten, Northwestern looks much closer to competing than the rest of the conference bottom feeders. The Wildcats have lost each of their last six games by single digits, including an overtime loss in East Lansing. If Chris Collins can teach his team to close, Northwestern will play spoiler down the stretch.

12. Minnesota (14-9, 3-7) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 58-63, Beat Nebraska 60-42 This Week: Sat vs Purdue

Richard Pitino’s team is slowly gaining a pulse after starting Big Ten play 0-5. Minnesota is 3-2 in their last five games with two losses by a combined eight points.

13. Penn State (14-8, 2-7) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 63-58, Lost to Illinois 58-60 This Week: Wed at #17 Maryland, Sat vs Nebraska

Penn State came within one bucket of notching a three-game winning streak Saturday, but fell 60-58 in Illinois. Like Northwestern, Penn State has struggled to finish close games, losing six conference games by single digits.

14. Rutgers (10-13, 2-8) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to MSU 51-71, Lost to #22 Indiana 64-72 This Week: Tue at Illinois, Sun vs #20 Ohio State

Rutgers’ struggles since knocking off Wisconsin on Jan. 11 continued Saturday as it dropped a sixth straight game.The Scarlett Knights have been one of the few uncompetitive teams in the Big Ten, losing by 18, 20 and eight in their last three games.