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Posts Tagged ‘J.T. Barrett’

The Game preview: #10 Michigan vs #8 Ohio State

Friday, November 27th, 2015


Game Preview_OhioState_banner

College football’s best rivalry renews at high noon tomorrow, and for the first time in years a lot is at stake for both teams. Both have a shot at a Big Ten championship game appearance, though it depends on the outcome of the Michigan State-Penn State game later tomorrow afternoon. If Penn State beats the Spartans, the winner of The Game will advance to Indianapolis to face Iowa for the conference title.

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Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (4th season)
Coaching Record: 152-27 (48-4, 30-1 at OSU)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Ed Warriner (1st season)
Tim Beck (1st season)
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Luck Fickell (4th season)
Chris Ash (2nd season)
Last Season: 14-1 (8-0)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 28 (2014)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-47-6
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 31-21-4
Record in Michigan Stadium: Michigan 23-19-3
Jim Harbaugh vs Ohio State: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2014 (42-28)
Current Streak: Ohio State 3

But even if Michigan State seals their fate with a win, there’s still plenty to play for. Ohio State is still alive for a second straight College Football Playoff berth, though they need a lot of help. Michigan, meanwhile, has lost nine of the last 10 to their rivals from Columbus and would love nothing more than to cap the first season of the Jim Harbaugh era in the same fashion as his mentor, Bo Schembechler: by beating Ohio State. A win would essentially clinch a New Years Six bowl for Michigan, likely the Rose Bowl against whichever Pac-12 team doesn’t make the playoff.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, the biggest game of the season is tomorrow. The game lost some of its luster a week ago when Ohio State lost to Michigan State, ending its 23-game winning streak, but that should only give Michigan more confidence that it can make it two in a row for the Buckeyes. After plowing through the Big Ten last season, dominating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, cruising past Alabama and Oregon to win the national title, and winning their first 10 to open this season, Ohio State was starting to look invincible. But last Saturday they were exposed by the first team with a pulse they’ve played all season, tallying just 132 total yards of offense in a 17-14 loss to the Spartans.

Prior to that, the combined record of their 10 opponents was a paltry 43-58. The only Power 5 team Ohio State had played was Penn State, who they beat 38-10. Their second best win was a 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois in Week 3. In other words, probably close to a dozen teams nationally would have been 10-0 with that schedule.

So was the Michigan State game just an aberration? Or did the schedule from the first 10 weeks simply mask larger problems? Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Ohio State has the ball

Ohio State fans are increasingly upset with new offensive coordinators Ed Warriner and Tim Beck. The architect of last year’s offense, Tom Herman, moved on to Houston and currently has the Cougars at 10-1 and ranked 21st in the AP and Coaches polls.

This season, Ohio State ranks 48th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in total offense (424.1 yards per game), 15th and 1st in rushing (230.4 yards per game), 100th and 10th in passing (193.7 yards per game), 37th and 2nd in pass efficiency (141.61), and 36th and 2nd in scoring (34.4 points per game).

The talk leading into the season centered around the trio of quarterbacks at Urban Meyer’s disposal, and while Braxton Miller made the switch to receiver, Meyer let the quarterback race hang in suspension for too long. Cardale Jones got the nod to start the season, but has since lost it in favor of J.T. Barrett. Neither has found consistency. Jones has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 1,460 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions, while Barrett has completed 64.4 percent for just 668 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. Barrett’s legs have been more dangerous, scoring eight rushing touchdowns with an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Miller, meanwhile, is the third leading receiver with 324 yards and three touchdowns and the third leading rusher with 227 yards and one score.

The best player on the offense is junior running back Ezekiel Elliott, who up until last week was one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. He ranks second in the Big Ten with 132.5 rushing yards per game and had rushed for at least 100 yards in each game until being held to just 33 yards on 12 carries last week. The fact that he got only 12 carries is a sore subject among Buckeye fans as Meyer chose to run Barrett more often than his workhorse. Elliott made his feelings known after the game that he wasn’t happy with the play calling and essentially announcing his intention to enter the NFL Draft after the season.

Junior Michael Thomas is the leading receiver with 47 receptions for 659 yards and eight touchdowns. He has had two 100-yard receiving games with seven catches for 107 yards against Maryland and five catches for 103 yards against Rutgers. The other nine games he has been pretty consistent with four or five catches for 60-80 yards. The one outlier is last week when he caught just two passes for eight yards. Much of that is a result of Ohio State only throwing a few passes due to the weather, but Michigan State’s secondary has been porous all season and he wasn’t able to take advantage of it. Sophomore Jalin Marshall is the second leading receiver with 29 receptions for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He had a six-catch, 110-yard game against Indiana, but the has been pretty pedestrian since then.

The offensive line is experienced, returning four starters from last year’s dominant line, but like the offense as a whole, has been consistent all season. Senior left tackle Taylor Decker is the leader and a likely first-round NFL draft pick next spring. The line was dominated by Michigan State’s defensive front last Saturday, and the question begs whether the team’s rushing success is more of a product of Elliott than the line’s ability to open holes. It has done pretty well in pass protection, having allowed 16 sacks this season — the same number Michigan has allowed.

When Michigan has the ball

Ohio State’s defense ranks 8th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in total defense (298 yards allowed per game), 30th and 7th against the run (133.7 yards per game), 5th and 3rd against the pass (164.3 yards per game), 7th and 4th in pass defense efficiency (100.64), and 2nd and 2nd in scoring defense (14.1 points per game).

The defensive line was considered one of the best in the nation last season and is very good again this year. Junior defensive end Joey Bosa is the one everybody talks about after leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss (21) and sacks (13.5) in 2014. He won the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award last season. He hasn’t been quite as dominant at getting to the quarterback in 2015 with just four sacks, but he does still lead the team with 15 tackles for loss (third in the Big Ten) and 12 quarterback hurries. The other defensive end, Tyquan Lewis, ranks second on the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Inside, senior tackle Adolphus Washington is a force for offensive linemen to block. He has seven tackles for loss and four sacks. The other starting tackle spot is a rotation between senior Tommy Schutt and sophomore Michael Hill. Schutt has five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, while Hill has gotten more playing time as of late and has a half of a tackle for loss.

Once you get past the front four, it doesn’t get any easier. The linebacking corps is fast and versatile, led by sophomore Raekwon McMillan, who leads the team and ranks third in the Big Ten with 105 total tackles. He also has four tackles for loss and one sack, but more than getting into the backfield, he flies around the field making tackles. Senior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry ranks second on the team with 88 tackles, fourth with seven tackles for loss, and fifth with three sacks, while sophomore strong side linebacker Darron Lee has 52 tackles, eight for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

The secondary is also very talented, led by junior safety Vonn Bell, who leads the team with nine pass breakups and ranks third with 59 tackles. He also has two interceptions. Junior Tyvis Powell is the other safety. Michigan fans will remember him as the guy who intercepted Devin Gardern’s two-point conversion attempt two years ago in the Big House. He has 59 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions. The corners are sophomores Gareon Conley and Eli Apple, who have combined for 63 tackles, three for loss, half a sack, 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Both are very good in coverage.

The other third

One area of weakness for Ohio State has been field goal kicking. Meyer has seemingly lost confidence in senior kicker Jack Willoughby‘s ability to make anything longer than 40 yards. He’s 7 of 11 on the season, but is 0-3 from 40-49 yards and just 3 of 7 from 30 yards or more. Punting, on the other hand, isn’t a problem for the Buckeyes. Junior Aussie punter Cameron Johnston ranks second in the Big Ten with a 43.9-yard per punt average. Of his 54 punts, 17 have gone longer than 50 yards, 24 have been downed inside the 20, 20 have been fair caught, and just six have gone into the end zone for a touchback.

Junior H-back Dontre Wilson and sophomore running back Curtis Samuel are the kick returners, averaging 23.9 and 22.8 yards per return, respectively. Marshall is the punt returner, and a dangerous one at that, averaging 12.8 yards per return.

Prediction

Ohio State laid an egg against Michigan State last week and it’s hard to imagine them doing so two weeks in a row. That’s the bad news for Michigan. The good news is the Wolverines have played well at home all season and have plenty of motivation with a potential Big Ten Championship Game appearance on the line. The weather calls for a perfect late November Saturday with cloudy skies, 42 degrees, and no precipitation, so the scene will be set for a classic Ohio State-Michigan game. And I think that’s exactly what we will get.

Make no mistake about it; Ohio State is the better team. But the gap that has separated the two teams for the last decade will be as narrow as it has been since the last time the two faced off as top 10 teams in 2006. Michigan will need to break out its bag of tricks, but won’t need to fully rely on them like they have the past several meetings. Michigan has a legitimate chance to win. The biggest key will be giving Jake Rudock time to throw. It’s unlikely that Michigan will be able to move the ball consistently on the ground, since it hasn’t done so against anyone since early in the season. But Rudock has been as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten during conference play, and especially the last three weeks when the passing game has taken off. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh will have trouble getting open against Conley and Apple, and Jake Butt will meet his match against Bell, so if Rudock is constantly under pressure, it will be a long day for Michigan’s offense.

Fortunately, I believe Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will pull out all stops with Jabrill Peppers. Harbaugh hinted at using the dynamic sophomore more at running back earlier this week, and with a month off between this game and a bowl — barring a Michigan State loss — there’s no need to hold Peppers back. I could see a running back rotation of Peppers and De’Veon Smith with Peppers getting the majority of the snaps in a variety of looks to not only get the ball to him in space, but use him as a decoy to get others open. That’s really the best shot Michigan has at being able to move the ball with any consistency.

On defense, Michigan will have to stop Elliott. That’s really what it comes down to. The chance of him getting just 12 carries is about as likely as Rudock running the triple option. Elliott may get 12 carries in the first quarter until Michigan proves it can stop him. Remember the Indiana game when Jordan Howard ran and ran and ran again? That’s what Ohio State’s game plan will be. If Michigan’s front seven can rise to the occasion and slow him down, Ohio State’s offense is much more containable. Miller is a threat when he gets the ball in space and has the ability beat the defense deep, but the rest of the offense isn’t as dangerous as anyone else Michigan has faced and Jourdan Lewis can lock down Thomas.

If Elliott is gashing through Michigan’s defense for six to eight yards a pop, Michigan will lose. If Michigan’s defense is holding him in check like Michigan State’s did, and forces the Buckeyes to rely on Barrett’s arm and legs, I like Michigan’s chances. I think the latter will happen. Michigan will sell out to stop Elliott and may give up a big play or two to Miller or Barrett, but will gladly take that over getting the ball rammed down its throat play after play after play. Peppers puts together a performance for the ages in all three phases of the game, reminiscent of his idol, Charles Woodson’s, performance 18 years ago, and leads Michigan to a thrilling narrow win.

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 24

Five Spot Challenge: Ohio State

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015


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Congratulations to Hazel Parker for his first win since the Penn State game last season. His deviation of 52.6 was 17 better than ericcarbs. Hazel Parker’s prediction of 121 was the closest to Michigan’s total return yards (122) and his prediction of 26 percent was second closest to Penn State’s third down completion percentage (21.4). He was also fourth closest to Jake Rudock’s passing yards (256) and fifth closest to the total combined sack yards (36).

Jim Mackiewicz and tooty_pops were each just six away from Rudock’s passing yards, while Myrick55 was only one away from the total combined sack yards. Ericcarbs’ prediction of 79 Saquon Barkley rushing yards was the closest, just 11 away from the actual of 68.

The average combined score prediction was Michigan 29 – Penn State 19. Tooty_pops was almost right on with his score prediction of 28-17. Bigboyblue was also close with his prediction of 30-16.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated.

The game we’ve all been waiting for is here. Michigan still has a slight chance to reach the Big Ten Championship game, but needs help. The one thing they can control is beating the Buckeyes. Here are this week’s picks. Since Michigan is going for its 10th win, we have 10 questions this week.

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 23rd, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Thursday, November 5th, 2015


Power Rankings_header

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday and the Big Ten is well represented with five teams in the top 25.

Ohio State and Michigan State are firmly in the race for the final four with a potential play-in matchup in Columbus coming up later this month. Iowa, which can coast through the rest of its Big Ten West schedule, will need a win in the Big Ten Championship game to have a chance.

Michigan and Northwestern also made the top 25, though they won’t be playing in the four-team playoff.

There were also five conference matchups with only one major upset in West Lafayette. Here’s a look at how the Big Ten stacks up heading into Week 10.

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (4-4, 1-3), 8pm, ABC

f the College Football Playoff started this week, Ohio State would represent the Big Ten as the No. 3 overall seed. The Buckeyes had a bye this weekend, but took a moral victory on Tuesday when the committee deemed them worthy of such a high ranking. Despite the 8-0 start, Ohio State’s two best wins came over Penn State and Northern Illinois, which were both at home. But it wasn’t a perfect week for Urban Meyer’s team, which saw its starting quarterback arrested because he avoided a DUI checkpoint while driving drunk. What do you do when being the starting quarterback of the No. 1 ranked college football team in the country isn’t enough? Apparently you crush a few beers and jump in a car. It was an incredibly stupid move by J.T. Barrett, who won’t play in the team’s next cupcake game against Minnesota. For a kid with a previously unblemished record, Barrett will have to work on regaining a leadership role on the team.

2. Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Nebraska (3-6, 1-4), 7pm, ESPN

The Spartans also enjoyed a week off in Week 9, sitting pretty with a perfect 8-0 record. The committee ranked MSU No. 7 in the first poll, likely because of close calls against Oregon, Purdue and Rutgers and a somewhat fortunate win over Michigan. But Michigan State still controls its own destiny. A pair of cupcakes separates the Spartans from an essential play-in game in Columbus on Nov. 21. If Mark Dantonio’s group can knock off Ohio State, it’ll be a win over Iowa away from a playoff berth.

3. Penn State (7-2, 4-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 39-0 This Week: Sat at #21 NW (6-2, 2-2), 12pm, ESPNU

For the first time in three weeks, Penn State demonstrated just how well it can play when everything comes together. Christian Hackenberg completed 21 of 29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns and the Nittany Lions outgained Illinois 400-167. The only downer for Coach James Franklin was a pair of fumbles that kept the Fighting Illini within 50, but the defense’s first shutout of the season has Penn State at 7-2 with games against three straight ranked opponents on the horizon.

4. Michigan (6-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 29-26 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (3-5, 1-4), 3:30pm, BTN

Well, Michigan certainly didn’t come out of the bye week in style. Fourteen days after having their hearts ripped out in a last-second loss to MSU, the Wolverines nearly lost the battle for the Little Brown Jug to a Minnesota team that looked heavily outmatched in Big Ten play. Mitch Leidner was a big play machine, passing for 317 yards and rushing for 37 more – finishing with two total touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen torched the Michigan defense for 111 yards on the night. But the most concerning development for Michigan is a running game that has yet to show up for the Big Ten season. Pre-conference star De’Veon Smith was a nonfactor, picking up just 15 yards on nine carries. Only Drake Johnson, who gained 55 yards on 10 carries, could move the ball on the ground. Jake Rudock went 13 for 21 – for 140 yards, a touchdown and a pick – before being knocked out of the game on a missed target while sliding to the ground.

Luckily for the Wolverines, backup quarterback Wilton Speight completed four passes on the team’s final drive to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion that eventually won the game. The defense put up its worst performance of the season – allowing 461 yards to a below-average offense – but made a big stop on a quarterback sneak from the half-yard line to escape with a victory. The Wolverines will try to bounce back Saturday, when they need to blow Rutgers right out of Ann Arbor to get back on track.

5. Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 10-48 This Week: Sat at #17 Mich. (6-2, 3-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Rutgers scored as many points against Wisconsin as Iowa did, but the positive trends end there for the Scarlett Knights. Saturday marked their second straight loss by more than 30 points and the offense gained just 165 yards without star receiver Leonte Carroo. Kyle Flood’s squad needs three wins in the final four weeks to qualify for a bowl game.

6. Indiana (4-4, 0-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 26-52 This Week: Sat vs #9 Iowa (8-0, 4-0), 3;30pm, ESPN

Saturday was the first time since the start of the Big Ten season that Indiana didn’t lose in devastating fashion. Even though it was only a bye week, the Hoosiers didn’t get blown out or collapse in the fourth quarter. Things will likely go back to normal Saturday against Iowa.

7. Maryland (2-6, 0-4) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #10 Iowa 15-31 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, BTN

When you drop into the cellar of the Big Ten East, things really aren’t going well. Maryland tried to hang around in Iowa Saturday, but Perry Hills threw three more picks and the Terrapins fell 31-15. Their bowl dreams will end Saturday against visiting Wisconsin.

B1G East Week 9

West Division
1. Iowa (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-15 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-4, 0-4), 3:30pm, ESPN

The West-leading Hawkeyes got back on the field this weekend and outlasted Maryland, though it was far from overwhelming. C.J. Beathard threw for 183 yards for an offense that gained a total of 293 and the defense surrendered 241 yards. Luckily, Iowa forced four turnovers and controlled the ball for nearly 33 minutes. At No. 9 in the CFP poll, Iowa just has to keep winning to punch its ticket to the playoff.

2. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Penn State (7-2, 4-1), 12pm, ESPNU

Finally, somebody else took notice of Northwestern’s impressive body of work. The Wildcats are ranked No. 21 in the first playoff rankings thanks to impressive wins over Stanford and Duke and solid losses to top 20 teams. They can pick up another win over a winning team this weekend when they host 7-2 Penn State.

3. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 48-10 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-6, 0-4), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin is flying under the radar at 7-2 thanks to that loss to Iowa that will likely keep them from winning the West Division. But the Badgers have a great chance to win their final three regular season games and enter the bowl season with a quiet 10 wins.

4. Minnesota (4-4, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #15 Mich. 26-29 This Week: Sat at #3 OSU (8-0, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

Mitch Leidner and the Minnesota offense sure looked like they were playing for recently retired Coach Jerry Kill, putting up over 400 yards on the top-ranked defense in the country. But in the end, it was Kill’s absence that doomed the Gophers as they mismanaged the clock and failed to score on a 1st and goal from the half-yard line as time expired. Unfortunately, Minnesota will have to beat Ohio State, Iowa or Wisconsin to get to six wins this season.

5. Illinois (4-4, 1-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to PSU 0-39 This Week: Sat at Purdue (2-6, 1-3), 12pm, BTN

Illinois was one of the most pleasant surprises in the West through seven games, playing some of the division’s top teams wire to wire. But the trip to Penn State got very ugly, as the Fighting Illini failed to score and got bombed by 39 points. Wes Lunt had a day to forget, completing just 16 of 37 passes for 129 yards and a pick.

6. Purdue (2-6, 1-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 55-45 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-4, 1-3), 12pm, BTN

Purdue? Purdue! The Boilermakers came out of nowhere to drop 55 points on Nebraska this weekend and secure their first Big Ten win in more than a year. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to squeeze into the CFP’s top 25.

7. Nebraska (3-6, 1-4) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 45-55 This Week: Sat vs #7 MSU (8-0, 4-0), 7pm, ESPN

Wow, Nebraska really hit rock bottom this weekend. It doesn’t get much worse for a Big Ten team than watching Purdue run up and down the field to hand you a fourth loss in five games and drop you into the cellar of the West Division. Remember when fans got upset with Bo Pelini for winning nine games? What might they do to Mike Riley for losing nine?

B1G West Week 9

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 7

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015


Power Rankings_header

It’s amazing how one play can affect the entire outlook of a conference season.

The ending to the Michigan versus Michigan State game on Saturday night took the inside track to Indianapolis right out of Michigan’s hands and planted the Wolverines firmly behind their two hated rivals in the Big Ten East Division.

In the West, Iowa made a definitive statement in routing Northwestern, 40-10, in Evanston to seize firm control of the division.

It was a crazy, and in many ways heartbreaking, week for a few Big Ten teams. Here’s a look at how the divisions line up heading into what should be a calmer Week 8.

East Division
1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn St. 38-10 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (3-3, 1-2), 8pm, ABC

It looked like Ohio State was in for a tough test Saturday as the streaking Nittany Lions came to town on a five-game winning streak. But Urban Meyer’s offense finally perked up, dropping 38 points on a Penn State defense that hadn’t allowed 30 all season. J.T. Barrett completed all four of his passes for 30 yards and two touchdowns and added 102 yards and two more scores on 11 rushing attempts. His four-touchdown performance earned Barrett the starting job heading into another easy stretch for Ohio State. The Buckeyes should roll through Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois and make it to mid-November with a chance to earn the No. 1 College Football Playoff seed. With Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed 27 times for 153 yards Saturday, and an apparently recharged Barrett, the Buckeyes should be able to overcome what has been a shaky defense so far this season.

2. Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #12 Michigan 27-23 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-3, 0-3), 3:30pm, ABC

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but on the final play of the game Saturday, the Spartans were lucky and good. Yes, Michigan State was gifted a fumbled snap, but the Spartans returned it down the sideline for the winning touchdown and stayed perfect on the season. Is MSU a team of destiny? The Spartans have trailed or led by just one possession in six of their seven games, despite playing only one quality opponent. But on a day when their best player, Connor Cook, was not impressive – 18 of 39 for 328 yards and a touchdown – Michigan State found a way to win. Aaron Burbridge emerged as one of the best receivers in the country, beating lockdown corner Jourdan Lewis for nine catches and 132 yards on the night. Next up for the Spartans: An easy stretch against Indiana, Nebraska and Maryland.

3. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 23-27 This Week: Bye (10/31 at Minnesota)

Wow, that was… not good. Michigan led Michigan State for 60 minutes Saturday night but a touchdown with three zeroes on the clock took away the Wolverines’ chance to finally beat their in-state rival. Now Michigan’s hopes of winning the East Division are all but dead. Even a three-way tie with Michigan State and Ohio State would leave the Wolverines on the outside looking in, as they would certainly rank below one-loss MSU and OSU in the College Football Playoff rankings (the next Big Ten division tiebreaker). The most painful part of the loss is that Michigan had plenty of chances to put the Spartans away. The offense settled for three field goals and when it finally gave its reliable defense a two-possession lead, the defense gave up a 74-yard pass and coughed up that cushion in just two plays. Blake O’Neill, who dropped the snap that led to the shocking final touchdown, punted seven times, including an 80-yard bomb in the first half. At the end of the day, the only turnover of the game killed Michigan and created a steep uphill battle for the East.

4. Rutgers (3-3, 1-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Indiana 55-52 This Week: Sat vs #1 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0), 8pm, ABC

Rutgers isn’t the fourth best team in the East, but Penn State had to drop after its pitiful performance in Columbus. The Scarlett Knights were all but dead Saturday when they fell behind by 25 points to Indiana late in the third quarter. But Rutgers scored four straight touchdowns and a late field goal as the clock expired gave them their first conference victory. Chris Laviano was great under center, completing 28 of 42 passes for 386 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. Lente Carroo continued his assault of Big Ten defenses, catching seven passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Robert Martin had his best game of the season, rushing for 124 yards and three scores. Rutgers needed every one of those points as its defense allowed over 600 yards and 52 points in the first three quarters. But it stepped up in the fourth quarter, returning a fumble for a touchdown, making two interceptions and forcing a late three-and-out to set up the game-winner. The Scarlett Knights will go back to being a punching bag Saturday in Columbus.

5. Penn State (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 10-38 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-4, 0-2), 3;30pm, ESPN

Penn State entered the Horseshoe on a five-game winning streak Saturday, but we quickly found out it wasn’t because the Nittany Lions are any good. Penn State got exposed by the Buckeyes after rolling over a stretch of cupcakes – Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army and Indiana – and bouncing back from an opening loss to Temple. Now it looks like Christian Hackenberg simply can’t play with the big boys as he was simply outmatched by a defense that surrendered 28 points to Maryland a week ago. Saquon Barkley was phenomenal, rushing for 194 yards on the night. He’ll lead the bounce-back effort this week against Maryland.

6. Maryland (2-4, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Penn State (5-2, 2-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Saturday was a bye for Maryland, the best possible option for a team that just fired its coach after three straight losses. Maryland has given up over 40 points three times and lost its last three games by a combined 88 points. The final two games – Indiana and Rutgers – are winnable for the Terrapins, but first they have to get through four straight winning teams.

7. Indiana (4-3, 0-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Rutgers 52-55 This Week: Sat a #7 MSU (7-0 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

That’s right, Indiana slides in below the punch-less, coach-less dumpster fire that is 2015 Maryland football. The reason: Since falling just short of upsetting the No. 1 team in the country two weeks ago, the Hoosiers got sandblasted by Penn State and blew a 25-point lead in the final 18 minutes against Rutgers. Indiana did everything it could to lose the game: Allowing four straight touchdowns, including a 26-yard fumble return that really got the ball rolling for Rutgers. When you turn the ball over three times, hold the ball for fewer than 25 minutes and surrender nearly 600 yards you’ll rarely win in the Big Ten, no matter how many yards you gain.

B1G East Week 7

West Division
1. Iowa (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #20 Northwestern 40-10 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Maryland)

The West Division title talks are definitely heating up in Iowa this month. The Hawkeyes went into Evanston on Saturday and crashed Northwestern by 30 points, and now Iowa is home free barring a huge upset. Victories over Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road have given Iowa a huge leg up on its two toughest contenders in the division. A win over Illinois even looks big for the Hawkeyes as the Fighting Illini have only one conference loss. If Iowa finishes at least 4-1 against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska, the division is theirs.

2. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 24-7 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin wasn’t overly impressive in its 24-7 win over Purdue, but the Badgers have an easy road to the finish line and will probably finish second to Iowa in the West. That 10-6 home loss to Iowa is looking like the early decider in the West this season.

3. Nebraska (3-4, 1-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 48-25 This Week: Sat vs NW (5-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Mike Riley picked up his first road win as Nebraska head coach Saturday as the Cornhuskers pounded Minnesota, 48-25. It’s an uphill climb for Nebraska, which dug itself into a 2-4 hole, but the four losses came by a combined 11 points. Nebraska is only four plays (three of them flukey plays) from being a perfect 7-0, so don’t sleep on this team if it figures it out down the stretch.

4. Illinois (4-2, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (5-2, 1-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Illinois didn’t play this weekend, but took an extra week to prepare for a home date with Wisconsin. The Fighting Illini have played well since a 34-point loss to North Carolina and have a great shot to make it to a bowl game if they can win a few road games. Knocking off the Badgers would go a long way in making that bowl dream a reality.

5. Northwestern (4-2, 1-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to #17 Iowa 10-40 This Week: Sat at Nebraska (3-4, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

When it rains, it pours. Things have turned ugly quick in Evanston after a second straight loss by 30 or more points. The Wildcats didn’t respond well to their first loss of the season, wasting a chance to seize control of the West Division in their blowout loss to Iowa. Pat Fitzgerald’s vaunted defense allowed a combined 78 points to Michigan and Iowa and the schedule won’t get much easier going forward.

6. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 25-48 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Michigan)

Bad Minnesota reared its ugly head again this weekend as the Golden Gophers found themselves on the wrong end of another blowout. Minnesota missed its chance at a crucial fifth win when Nebraska came to town this weekend and now, with Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa next on the schedule, it might be tough to clinch a bowl game.

7. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 7-24 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Nebraska)

Purdue suffered a fifth straight loss Saturday, falling to Wisconsin, 24-7. Darrell Hazell’s seat is starting to get a little toasty as the Boilermakers fall farther and farther into the Big Ten cellar. Four of their losses have come by double digits and the best performance of the year came in a three-point loss to Michigan State. B1G West Week 7

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 3

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015


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After a disastrous Week 1 (8-6) and an outstanding Week 2 (12-2), the Big Ten levelled out a bit in Week 3, finishing with a 9-3 record in out-of-conference games. Penn State and Rutgers kicked off the conference schedule two weeks early as the Nittany Lions picked up the first official Big Ten win of the season.

But the biggest news of the week came on Sunday, when Ohio State and Michigan State were named Nos. 1 and 2 atop the new AP Poll. Though neither team was dominant over the weekend, they treaded water while the rest of the top 10 crashed and burned. So now the Big Ten has a strong hold atop college football.

With most of the nonconference schedule ending this weekend, it’s nearly time to draw some solid conclusions about the state of the 2015 Big Ten. Here’s where the teams stand after Week 3.

East Division
1. Michigan State (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Air Force 35-21 This Week: Sat vs Central Michigan (1-2), 12pm, BTN

While Ohio State kept its hold on the No. 1 spot in the national polls, it’ll have no such luck in these power rankings. Michigan State underwhelmed in a 35-21 win over Air Force, but the combination of an emotional Week 2 win over Oregon and a first look at the true Triple Option offense makes the Spartans’ lackluster performance more understandable. Connor Cook enjoyed by far his best game of the season, throwing for 247 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. Eight of his 15 completions went to Aaron Burbridge, who picked up 156 receiving yards and three scores. The defense is definitely a concern for Michigan State as the conference season nears. After Western Michigan and Oregon racked up 383 yards and 432 yards of total offense, respectively, in Weeks 1 and 2, Air Force outgained MSU 428-324. Luckily for the Spartans, it doesn’t have to be pretty. If they win the rest of their games by a point each, they’ll find themselves comfortable in the four-team playoff.

2. Ohio State (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat N. Illinois 20-13 This Week: Sat vs W. Michigan (1-2), 3:30pm, ABC

Ohio State, like MSU, struggled against an inferior opponent on Saturday. But Ohio State, unlike MSU, has no good wins to fall back on. The Buckeyes limped to a 20-13 win at home over Northern Illinois, which gained fewer than 200 yards of offense and averaged an awful 2.5 yards per play. The Huskies did not play well, completing just 14 of 31 passes, turning the ball over twice and gaining just 2.6 yards per rush, but had a chance in the final moments to knock off the No. 1 team in the country. Ohio State entered the season with a pair of potential All-Big Ten quarterbacks duking it out for the starting job, but now neither one wants to take it. Cardale Jones looked terrible in the first half, completing four of nine passes and tossing two picks. When J.T. Barrett took over, he was wild as well, completing 11 of 19 for a touchdown and an interception. Ohio State’s defense held NIU to just 190 yards, if the star-studded offense keeps turning the ball over, one of these upset bids is bound to turn into an actual upset.

3. Michigan (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat UNLV 28-7 This Week: Sat vs BYU (2-1), 12pm, ABC

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines flew under the radar this weekend as the winless UNLV Rebels came to town. Michigan’s offense struggled again, scoring just 28 points, but it did rack up 377 yards. Jake Rudock threw his fifth interception of the season and averaged just 5.6 yards per pass as the downfield attack continued to be nonexistent. But Ty Isaac and Jehu Chesson finally made a pair of big plays for the Wolverines, each running down the left sideline for long touchdowns. Chesson’s 36-yard dash put Michigan up 14-0 in the second quarter and Isaac’s 76-yard score came just two drives later. Week 2 hero De’Veon Smith took a step back against the Rebels, gaining just 33 yards on 13 carries. The story for Michigan continued to be the defense, which held UNLV to just seven points and 235 yards. Keith Whitely (13 carries for 29 yards) couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Michigan’s front seven, but the secondary was just as strong, breaking up five passes and intercepting two. Jourdan Lewis returned from a Week 2 concussion to break up four passes in coverage. Since allowing 337 yards to Utah in the opener, Michigan has given up just 373 total to Oregon State and UNLV. The team will face its second ranked opponent of the season Saturday when No. 22 BYU visits the Big House.

4. Penn State (2-1, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 28-3 This Week: Sat vs San Diego State (1-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Is there something about that Indiana air that prevents teams from playing defense? Only Purdue (106) has allowed more points than Indiana (104) in the Big Ten through three nonconference games. But Indiana has done so against two Conference USA opponents and an FCS team. This week’s shootout came against Western Kentucky, which fell to the Hoosiers despite gaining 568 yards of offense. Quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for 484 yards and three touchdowns to mask an ineffective running game (3.2 yards per carry) for the Hilltoppers. Indiana picked up a season high 639 rushing yards, led by Jordan Howard’s 203 rushing yards and Nate Sudfeld’s 355 passing yards. The Hoosiers haven’t played defense for years now, and last year they mustered just four wins all season. They’ll have a chance to reach that mark, and polish off an undefeated non-conference season, at Wake Forest Saturday.

5. Indiana (3-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat W. Kentucky 38-35 This Week: Sat at Wake Forest (2-1), 12:30pm

Penn State dominated Rutgers in the first conference matchup of the season, scoring 21 points in the second quarter and cruising to a 28-3 win. Saquon Barkley paced Penn State with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Akeel Lynch accounted for the team’s third rushing touchdown with a 75-yard dash in the second quarter. Christian Hackenberg put in another uninspiring performance, completing 10 of 19 passes for 141 yards and an interception against a shaky Rutgers defense. Hackenberg has completed fewer than half of his passes this season and has just one touchdown.

6. Maryland (2-1, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat USF 35-17 This Week: Sat at West Virginia (2-0), 3pm, FS1

Maryland bounced back from an embarrassing home loss to Bowling Green with a comfortable win over South Florida in Week 3. The transition to Caleb Rowe at starting quarterback had its ups and downs. Rowe threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns, but turned it over three times to keep USF in the game. The Terrapins gained over 400 yards on offense and allowed a season-low 17 points. They’ll face a big test Saturday in West Virginia.

7. Rutgers (1-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 3-28 This Week: Sat vs Kansas (0-2), 12pm, BTN

The Scarlet Knights picked up right where they left off Saturday, losing their second straight game and falling to 0-1 in the Big Ten. Rutgers couldn’t get anything going on offense, averaging a terrible 1.3 yards per carry and turning it over three times. Penn State ran for 330 yards against the front seven, leading an anemic offense to 471 total yards. The Scarlet Knights have a great chance to finish the non-conference schedule even as Kansas comes to town this weekend.

West Division
1. Northwestern (3-0, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Duke 19-10 This Week: Sat vs Ball State (2-1), 8pm, BTN

Though the opening week win over a ranked Stanford team was the coming out party for this Northwestern team, a road win over previously-undefeated Duke made an even louder statement. Northwestern struggled to move the ball, gaining just 271 yards of offense, but its defense is legit. The Wildcats forced three turnovers and held Duke to 3.8 yards per pass en route to a 19-10 win. Solomon Vault made the big play for Coach Pat Fitzgerald, returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to give Northwestern the lead for good. It might not be pretty, but the Wildcats’ defense has passed its first three tests and should lead the way to a 4-0 start Saturday against Ball State.

2. Iowa (3-0, 0-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Pitt 27-24 This Week: Sat vs N. Texas (0-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU

While most of the conference hosted teams like Northern Illinois, UNLV and Troy, Iowa returned home to play its second straight power five team. It was a back and forth battle, and Pitt completed off a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with 52 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 24. But a trio of C.J. Beathard runs put the Hawkeyes in Panther territory and Marshall Koehn nailed a 57-yard field goal to seal the deal. Iowa picked off two passes and shut down Pittsburgh’s rushing attack (2 yards per carry) to put itself in position for the walkoff win.

3. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Troy 28-3 This Week: Sat vs Hawaii (2-1), 8pm, BTN

The Badgers have bounced back nicely from an opening week loss to Alabama, beating Miami (OH) and Troy by a combined score of 86-3. Joel Stave is on cruise control at the helm and completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown against Troy. Wisconsin’s offense takes on a whole different look without a 100-yard rusher, but the team did average 5.7 yards per carry behind a stout offensive line. On defense, Wisconsin held Troy to 255 yards, but surrendered 19 first downs and lost the time of possession battle, which is unusual for the Badgers.

4. Minnesota (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Kent State 10-7 This Week: Sat vs Ohio (3-0), 3:30pm, BTN

Week 3 was a major disappointment for Minnesota, which opened some eyes with a near upset of No. 2 TCU in Week 1 and a road win over Colorado State in Week 2. Luckily for the Gophers, an outstanding defensive performance kept a disappointing week from becoming a disastrous week. Kent State gained just 142 yards in the game, going 3-17 on 3rd down and averaging fewer than 2.5 yards per play. On offense, Minnesota was terrible, scoring 10 points, committing three turnovers and eight penalties. Rodney Smith ran the ball 30 times but gained just 73 yards to pace the ground attack. Mitch Leidner completed 17 of 27 passes for 184 yards, but threw a pair of picks that helped Kent State stick around. Jerry Kill’s defense looks like one of the best in the country, but if Leidner can’t lead the offense back to respectability, Minnesota won’t compete for the West.

5. Nebraska (1-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Miami 33-36 This Week: Sat vs Southern Miss (2-1), 12pm, ESPNN

It’s only Week 3, but Nebraska has already lost a pair of heartbreakers this season. Miami was blowing the Huskers out of the water in the fourth quarter before Tommy Armstrong led three straight touchdown drives (two of which ended in successful two-point conversions) to tie the game at 33 in the final minute. But the 23-0 run ended when Armstrong threw a pick in overtime and the Hurricanes kicked a game-winning 28-yard field goal. Nebraska’s defense really struggled Saturday, allowing 511 totals yards in Miami. If Mike Riley hopes to compete in his first year in the Big Ten, that’ll have to turn around quickly.

6. Illinois (2-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to N. Carolina 14-48 This Week: Sat vs Middle Tenn. (2-1), 4pm, ESPNN

Illinois could only hide behind weak competition for so long, and North Carolina exposed the Fighting Illini in a big way Saturday. Running back Elijah Hood averaged over eight yards per carry for the Heels and quarterback Marquise Williams rushed for 105 yards of his own as Illinois got steam rolled right out of North Carolina. West Lunt completed fewer than half of his passes and posted a quarterback rating of 14.3 as the Fighting Illini scored just twice in the contest. Josh Ferguson was the lone bright spot, rushing for 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Illinois will host another cupcake Saturday as Middle Tennessee State comes to Champaign.

7. Purdue (1-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Virginia Tech 24-51 This Week: Sat vs Bowling Green (1-2), 12pm, BTN

Purdue couldn’t have looked much worse than it did Saturday against Virginia Tech in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers were outgained by over 200 yards, committed three turnovers and went just 2-15 on third down. Virginia Tech held the ball for over 38 minutes and held Austin Appleby to nine completions on 28 pass attempts. Appleby was a nonfactor on the ground too, rushing 13 times for 11 yards. Purdue is a candidate for an ugly loss in Week 4 as it hosts Bowling Green, a team that already stomped Maryland.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Final Results

Monday, December 15th, 2014


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Congratulations to JustJeepGear.com for winning the final Five-Spot Challenge of the season. JJG’s deviation of 135 was 40 points better than runner-up boggie. JJG was the closest to correctly predicting Devin Gardner’s total yards, just four away from his total of 254. JJG also tied for the closest to the game’s longest touchdown, which was Ezekiel Elliott’s 44-yard run on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter. MichiganMack and Maizenblu62 were also only one away from that one. JJG wins the final $20 M Den gift card of the season.

Boggie was closest to Michigan’s total yards (372) with his prediction of 374. Kashkaav‘s prediction of 36 yards was the closest to the yards gained on Ohio State’s first possession (41). Kfarmer16 was exactly right with his prediction of 89 rushing yards for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, although had Barrett not gotten injured on the first play of the fourth quarter, that total likely would have changed. Freezer566 was just one away from Dennis Norfleet’s longest return (29) with his prediction of 30, while GrizzlyJFB was just one away from Jalin Marshall’s longest return (23) with his prediction of 22. Finally, no one predicted that neither team would make a field goal.

Congratulations is also in order for kfarmer16, who won the season-long prize, a pair of tickets to next year’s home opener against Oregon State. While this season was a huge letdown, next season’s home opener should come full of hope, especially if Michigan is able to lure Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL. Freezer566 came in second, just seven points behind kfarmer16, while Hazel Parker finished third despite missing two of the 10 weeks.

No one correctly predicted the final score, though Hazel Parker was the closest with his prediction of Ohio State 38 – Michigan 28. Four of the 16 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average of two points, and the average score prediction among all of the contestants was Ohio State 38 – Michigan 18.

I will be in touch with each winner via email this week regarding your M Den gift cards and the grand prize tickets. I hope they can make for some nice Christmas gifts. Thanks for playing this season’s Five-Spot Challenge. We may hold some random challenges during basketball season, so stay tuned for those. Otherwise, the challenge will return next football season!

The weekly results and final overall standings have been updated.

The end: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 28

Sunday, November 30th, 2014


Garnder sportsmanship(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was tackled behind the line of scrimmage by a trio of Michigan defenders. They all got up, but he didn’t. As he laid on the Ohio Stadium turf, surrounded by medical personnel, senior Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner trotted across the field to console him. The photo gained national attention as a grand gesture of sportsmanship amid a heated rivalry, but the act itself signaled a perfect representation of Michigan’s season.

UM-OhioState-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Ohio State
Score 28 42
Record 5-7, 3-5 11-1, 8-0
Total Yards 372 416
Net Rushing Yards 121 233
Net Passing Yards 251 183
First Downs 27 20
Turnovers 2 0
Penalties-Yards 4-38 9-84
Punts-Yards 4-165 4-196
Time of Possession 34:05 25:55
Third Down Conversions 6-of-11 7-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 0-0 5-41
Field Goals 0-for-0 0-for-0
PATs 4-for-4 6-for-6
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-3
Full Box Score

In his final game as a Michigan quarterback, Gardner completed 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and gained 41 more yards on the ground. But his turnovers, the only two of the game for either team, both led to Ohio State touchdowns, which ultimately provided Michigan’s margin of defeat.

Gardner is a textbook example of the type of athlete Michigan — or any school — wants representing its program. His regular visits to Mott Children’s Hospital, his early graduation and soon to be Master’s degree, his selfless switching of positions twice in the same season, his sticking it out through two head coaches and three offensive coordinators, and finally, his display of sportsmanship in the final quarter of the final game of his career say more about the man and the future he will have than any on-field success could.

But fair or not, his performance on the field, which regressed from the point he took over for an injured Denard Robinson midway through the 2012 season through Saturday’s season-ending loss to Ohio State, will define his career in the eyes of most Michigan fans.

Michigan put a scare into the sixth-ranked Buckeyes, rebounding from a quick 7-0 Ohio State lead to score back-to-back touchdowns before Ohio State tied the game just before halftime. And after Ohio State took a 21-14 lead to start the third quarter, Gardner led Michigan right down the field for the game-tying touchdown. Ohio State took the lead for good late in the third quarter, but Michigan stayed within striking distance far longer than anyone thought they would.

The loss was Michigan’s seventh of the season, resulting in a third losing season in seven years, and effectively ending the tenure of head coach Brady Hoke. While Ohio State will face Wisconsin in next Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game and hope to gain a spot in the College Football Playoff, Michigan will turn its attention to a likely coaching search.

Gardner will hope to be selected in the NFL Draft next spring, but if he isn’t, he’ll have a Master’s of social work to carry him into his next profession. And he’ll have several single-game school records, the best offensive performance in Michigan-Ohio State history, and what is sure to be one of The Game’s most enduring moments to carry on his legacy.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 28th, 2014


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Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win of the season against Maryland last Saturday, leaving the Wolverines in need of a win in Columbus for the first time in 14 years to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. Ohio State is in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth, so it won’t take Michigan lightly. Can Michigan shock the Buckeyes, or will Ohio State continue its dominance? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 13 50
Sam 11 41
Derick 16 38
Josh 14 50
Joe 17 48
M&GB Average 14 45

Justin: Brady Hoke beat Ohio State in 2011, his first season as Michigan’s coach, but has lost the last two. Both losses were much closer than they should have been, which suggests that, even though Ohio State is the better team, Hoke has been able to get his team ready for The Game.

But no matter how ready Michigan is, it won’t be enough tomorrow. Ohio State can’t afford a narrow win since it needs to jump two teams in the next two weeks to get into the playoff.

Michigan’s defense ranks ninth nationally, but even if it contains Ohio State’s offense, the Wolverines’ offense won’t be able to score enough to win. Michigan has scored fewer than 20 points in seven of 11 games this season. Ohio State hasn’t been held below 21 yet and averages more than twice that.

Michigan will hang around in the first half, but Ohio State will blow the game wide open in the second and won’t let up. Quarterback J.T. Barrett will beat the Michigan secondary deep for a couple of big plays and Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott will wear down the front seven on the ground.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Sam: Ohio State 41 – Michigan 11

Derick:  Michigan unfortunately missed its chance to lock down a bowl game last weekend when it hosted a bad Maryland team on senior night. Now, it’ll take a mammoth upset against Ohio State, who is looking to qualify for the College Football Playoff with another undefeated Big Ten season.

The near-upset in last year’s game should be enough to keep the Buckeyes from sleeping on even this Michigan team. Ohio State needs to put up style points after trialing Indiana in the third quarter at home last week, so I think Urban Meyer will try to run up the score and pound his greatest rival.

Michigan’s defense has kept games close for most of the season, but this J.T. Barrett-led OSU attack is the best they’ll face this season. Is there a chance? The Buckeyes have faced just two defenses ranked better than Michigan’s in points allowed: A loss to Virginia Tech and an overtime win over Penn State.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s strength is not in the secondary, so Barrett can carve up Greg Mattison’s crew through the air. OSU will roll to a 38-16 win.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 16

Josh: Oh, how I hate Ohio State. If there’s anything I hate more than Ohio State it’s Ohio State fans. Unfortunately, this century has not been very good to Michigan and aside from 2006 and 2011 Michigan hasn’t come into the game with much hope of beating a good OSU team in over a decade. This year will be no different. Yes, we can throw away the records when these two teams meet. Yes, there have been epic upsets by Michigan over highly ranked OSU teams. Yes, Penn State, Minnesota and even Indiana gave this Buckeye team a run for their money this year. And yes, Michigan almost ended Urbs’ 23 game win streak last year. But this Michigan team is, well I don’t know what this Michigan team is other than “not Michigan.”

J.T. Barrett is having one of the best seasons for a Big Ten quarterback ever. He is a redshirt freshman who was named the starter just weeks before the season. Coming into this season I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to win in Columbus, and that was when I thought we’d see marked improvement in player development and a competent offense. Now, I’m not so sure Michigan can score double digits.

This game is gonna get ugly and the rabid fans in Columbus are going to eat it up. They don’t care that Michigan is having a down decade (even though they used the “Luke Fickell isn’t a real coach” excuse when we beat them in 2011). Michigan won’t roll over and die, these kids will fight with all their hearts from start to finish. Sadly, they don’t have as much talent on the field and they definitely can’t compete with the coaching staff on the other sideline.

I feel bad for the seniors and I feel bad for Brady Hoke. Ending your Michigan career with a blowout loss to a hated rival is no way to go out. But the reality is OSU is the far better team, with a far better coaching staff and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach the entire game. But hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and 2014 will be like 1968 and we’ll get Bo 2.0 (Jim Harbaugh) after a blowout loss. I can dream, right?

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 14

Joe: The biggest game of the year is finally here and I’m thinking “UPSET”. Ya, I said it. “UPSET”. Unfortunately, I’m referring to the way my stomach feels during these games. This one will get ugly and out of hand by halftime. The guys will battle hard for Hoke and try to keep things close but won’t be able to contain Barrett. I think he runs wild in this one and will also hits some receivers on deep routes. As much as I want to predict a close one, I just can’t do it. The Offense has been horrible for a few months now and I can’t see things getting right this week. Not against a fired up group of Buckeyes.

Ohio State 48 – Michigan 17

Michigan-Ohio State game preview

Friday, November 28th, 2014


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For many years, Michigan and Ohio State ended the regular season with a clash that decided the Big Ten title. When the two rivals meet tomorrow afternoon in Columbus, they’ll both have something to play for beyond just bragging rights, but their goals couldn’t be more different.

Michigan missed an opportunity to gain bowl eligibility with a 23-16 loss to Maryland last Saturday, which means the Wolverines will have to beat the Buckeyes to extend their season. Ohio State, on the other hand, is still vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Quick Facts
Ohio Stadium – 12 p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 138-26 (34-3 at Ohio State)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinators: Chris Ash (1st season)
Luke Fickell (9th season)
Returning 2013 Starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 12-2 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 41 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-46-6
Record in Columbus: Michigan leads 27-25-2
Record in Ohio Stadium: Ohio State leads 24-21-1
Brady Hoke vs OSU: 1-2
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last UM win at OSU: 2000 (38-26)
Current Streak: Ohio State 2

Ohio State already has the Big Ten East division wrapped up, but trails Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, and TCU in the rankings. Only the top four will get in. Ohio State will get a chance for another big win in next week’s Big Ten Championship game, but if they struggle with a 5-6 Michigan squad at home, it would be hard to make a case for moving the Buckeyes ahead of any of those other teams unless they lose.

TCU took care of business on Thursday night with a 48-10 win over Texas, and only has Iowa State remaining. Mississippi State visits in-state rival Ole Miss tomorrow, but the Rebels have lost three of their last four after opening the season 7-0. Unless Alabama loses to Auburn tomorrow, MSU won’t reach the SEC Championship game. If the Crimson Tide can top Auburn, they’ll face Missouri or Georgia next week for the SEC title. Oregon, like Ohio State, faces a 5-6 team, Oregon State, and then the Pac-12 Championship game. That leaves Florida State, the reigning national champion and the only unbeaten team.

A lot can happen this week and next, but in order to avoid getting left out, Ohio State has to beat Michigan and look good doing it. Playoff committee chair Jeff Long started a controversy when releasing this week’s rankings by describing the committee’s use of “game control” as an evaluation metric, which is essentially rewarding teams for running up the score. A 42-41 win over Michigan like last year will not win Ohio State any points in that category, so Urban Meyer will look to keep his foot on the gas pedal and send Brady Hoke packing.

As fans on both sides are fully aware, anything can happen in a rivalry of this magnitude. Because of this, OSU fans are approaching tomorrow’s matchup with caution, despite having won 11 of the last 13. Michigan fans, meanwhile, have already set their sights on Jim Harbaugh and can’t wait until the game is over to close the book on yet another lost season.

Does Michigan have a chance to knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus for the first time since 2000? Or will Ohio State simply take care of the inevitable, ensuring Michigan a third losing season in the last seven years? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

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

Although they lost running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State entered the season with high hopes offensively, mostly because of senior quarterback Braxton Miller who would be entering his fourth season as a starter. The two-time defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was near the top of most preseason Heisman trophy watch lists. But after re-injuring his throwing shoulder in fall camp, Miller was forced to spend the season on the sidelines.

Enter J.T. Barrett.

The redshirt freshman, who hadn’t seen the field since his junior year of high school thanks to a senior-year injury of his own, was thrust into action much earlier than expected. And while there were some early-season hiccups that resulted in a loss to Virginia Tech — which could ultimately cost the Buckeyes a shot at the national title — he has had one of the most impressive seasons in the country. The Wichita Falls, Texas native has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,658 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, and has rushed for 849 yards and nine scores. Two more solid performances and he will likely earn an invitation to New York at season’s end.

Barrett ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, first in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. He may not match Miller’s 2012 rushing total of 1,271 yards, but he has far and away surpassed Miller’s best numbers.

But it hasn’t been a one man show in Columbus. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott picked up right where Hyde left off with 1,061 yards through 11 games. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rushing with 96.5 yards per game and fifth with 5.9 yards per carry. He has topped 100 yards in five of the last eight games, including a 23-carry, 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against Michigan State.

Ohio State doesn’t have a receiver that ranks in the top ten in the conference in yards or receptions, but the Buckeyes have a group of very solid receivers. Senior Devin Smith is the big-play receiver, leading team with 610 yards on just 25 receptions. Sophomore Michael Thomas has 12 more catches, but five fewer yards. Both have eight touchdowns. Freshman Jalin Marshall has emerged as a threat as the season has gone on. He caught just six passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games, but has 18 for 308 yards and four scores in the last six. Elliott has actually caught the second-most passes on the team (25) for 201 yards. Tight end Jeff Heuerman, who caught a touchdown against Michigan last season, doesn’t have nearly the production he had a year ago but is still a threat with 16 catches and two touchdowns.

The offensive line was a major question mark entering the season, but has progressed pretty well throughout and has had the luxury of starting the same group all 11 games. After giving up eight sacks in the first two games — seven in the Virginia Tech loss alone — the Bucks have allowed just 15 in the last nine games. Some of that has to do with the progression of Barrett, but the line has done its part. Left tackle Taylor Decker is the anchor alongside redshirt freshman Billy Price, junior center Jacoby Boren, redshirt sophomore guard Pat Elflein, and fifth-year senior right tackle Darryl Baldwin.

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

Last season, Ohio State’s defense didn’t do much to help its offense, but new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has helped shore it up. While it’s still not where Meyer wants it to be, it ranks 30th nationally in scoring defense (22.5 points per game), 41st against the run (147.8 yards per game), 15th against the pass (182.5 yards per game), and 19th overall (330.4 yards per game). It also ranks 18th in sacks (32).

It all starts up front for the Buckeyes with one of the best defensive lines in the nation. The group took a hit when last year’s sack leader, defensive end Noah Spence, was suspended for failing a drug test after last season’s Big Ten Championship game. Slated to miss the first two games of the season, he failed another test and was summarily suspended for the entire season. The other end, sophomore Joey Bosa, has been an absolute star, leading the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Spence’s replacement, senior Steve Miller has recorded six tackles for loss and one sack.

In the middle, Ohio State is led by senior Michael Bennett and junior Adolphus Washington. Bennett finished fourth in the Big Ten with 15 tackles for loss in 2013, but has fallen off that pace this season with 7.5 so far and three sacks. Washington has seven and 2.5.

The linebacking corps had to deal with the loss of Ryan Shazier to the NFL, but has developed great cohesion with the same three players picking up 32 of the possible 33 starts. Junior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry leads the team with 99 tackles to go along with 8.5 for loss, three sacks, an interception, and two passes defended. Redshirt freshman strong side linebacker Darron Lee ranks fourth on the team with 50 tackles but second with 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and also has two interceptions. Senior middle linebacker Curtis Grant has 47 tackles, three for loss, and one sack.

The secondary was the unit that got torched over and over again last season, but has fared much better this year. Cincinnati and Michigan State both passed for over 350 yards on Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have held five of 11 opponents below 150 yards through the air. Redshirt freshman Eli Apple and senior Doran Grant are the starting corners and have five interceptions and 18 passes defended between them. Sophomore safety Vonn Bell is the team’s second-leading tackler with 68 and also has three picks, while the other safety, redshirt sophomore Tyvis Powell, ranks third with 57 and also has three takeaways.

Special Teams: The other third

True freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger has made just 10 of his 16 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 49 yards. Interestingly, he has yet to attempt a field goal between 30 and 39 yards or over 50 yards all season. He is 5-of-6 from 20-29 yards and 5-of-10 from 40-49 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston, on the other hand, ranks third in the Big Ten with an average of 43.6 yards per punt. He has downed 19 of his 31 punts inside the 20-yards line and booted nine of them over 50 yards with just three going into the end zone.

The Buckeyes rank 18th nationally in punt returns and 19th in kick returns. Marhsall ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 13.6 yards per punt return and has taken one to the end zone. Dontre Wilson ranks fourth in the conference with 24 yards per kick return — 0.1 more than Dennis Norfleet — but a broken foot suffered against Michigan State has sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.

Prediction

There are two likely scenarios for Michigan on Saturday. Either the team plays with nothing to lose, inspired by its soon to be former head coach and gives Ohio State a run for its money, or it packs it in at the first sign of distress and gets pushed around for 60 minutes resulting in the worst defeat in the history of the rivalry.

Michigan had no business nearly beating Ohio State last season, but came within a failed two-point conversion from doing just that. But heading into that game there was at least an indication that Michigan’s offense could outscore the Buckeyes. This year, however, Michigan’s offense has been stuck in neutral, failing to score 20 points in seven of 11 games. Ohio State hasn’t scored fewer than 21 points in a game all season and averages more than twice that.

The only hope Michigan has is if its defense plays its best game of the season, contains Barrett’s legs, and pressures him into mistakes that he — like any first year starter and freshman — can be prone to make. But that’s certainly no easy task and one that even Michigan State’s defense couldn’t do. And even if the defense can do that, Michigan will have to avoid costly turnovers that have plagued the offense all year. And even if both of those things happen, Michigan will need Dennis Norfleet to break a return that doesn’t get called back. In other words, Michigan needs a perfect storm.

Michigan has allowed just nine first half points in its last three games combined, and will hang with Ohio State early on. But Michigan won’t be able to keep the Bucks at bay for long, and if they can’t find the end zone themselves, will see the game slip away in a hurry. Expect a fairly close game at halftime that Ohio State blows wide open in the second half with a couple of deep balls to Smith or Thomas and the running combo of Elliott and Barrett wearing the defense down. Meyer goes for two at the end to get to 50 and earn style points with the playoff committee, Hoke is fired shortly after, and Jim Harbaugh comes home to reignite the rivalry.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13