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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Football’

Tailgate Tuesday: Country style ribs with bock glaze

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Tailgate Tuesday_Week7

Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly collaboration with Joe Pichey from MmmGoBluBBQ. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and most of the time will be themed around that week’s opponent. Meat Church, a Dallas, Texas based BBQ joint sponsors this feature by providing their killer rubs for use in the recipes. Buy them here

Previously: Frog legssmoky spiced beaver nutsbuild the perfect tailgate smokerpig shotslamb shank, flat iron fajitas, or visit our whole library of recipes here.

This week is the biggest week in 10 years where Michigan football is concerned. Not only are the state bragging rights on the line, but a probable top-8 ranking if things go as they should. I don’t want to get too excited, but this is HUGE!!! Five-star recruits are in town and they want some tasty BBQ pre- and post game. I say we serve em some of the tastiest treats possible — a good batch of country style ribs. These are always easy and a crowd pleaser.


• Country style ribs
• Meat Church HONEY HOG Rub
• Ketchup
• Maple syrup
• Bock style beer


Set the grill up for indirect heat at 250-275 degrees. Add some pecan or apple wood chunks and get the smoke rollin’. Any fruit wood will do in this recipe. As your grill is heating up, dust the country ribs with some Meat Church HONEY HOG rub. Make sure and cover each rib with about a tablespoon of rub. Don’t be shy.

Country style ribs 1-2

As soon as the grill/smoker reaches 250 degrees, toss your country style reeeeebs on and grab a cold one. These will smoke for about an hour and will get some nice color. We are looking for an internal temp of 165 degrees.

After an hour, we will need to add these to our tasty bath of sweetness (yeah, I just made that up). Take one cup of ketchup and add it to one bottle of your favorite bock style beer. I use one bottle for every one pound of ribs. Add a half cup of maple syrup and mix well. Place ribs in a baking dish or a cast iron pan and cover with that tasty bath of sweetness.

Cover tightly with foil and place back on the grill. We will let these go for another hour. This process will tenderize the meat and help render out some of the fat.

Country style ribs 3-4

After an hour, check the internal temperature. Once they reach 200 degrees, it’s time to remove from the bath and place over direct heat. This will add some tasty char and caramelize the sweet sauce.

Country style ribs 5-6

Once the sauce thickens, they are done. I love the ooey gooey sweet sauce after the flame hits it and causes it to bubble. PERFECTION.

Serve on your favorite Michigan platter and enjoy.

Country style ribs 7-8

Visit Meat Church to purchase their new Bacon BBQ rub or any of their other great rubs and seasonings. You can follow them on Twitter at @MeatChurch and you can also follow Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

Five Spot Challenge: Michigan State

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015


Congratulations to Jim Mackiewicz for winning last week’s Five Spot Challenge. His deviation of 170 was five points better than second place tooty_pops. Consistency was key for Jim as he wasn’t closest to any individual question but wasn’t far away from any either. His prediction of 100 Clayton Thorson passing yards was just six away and second closest. He was also fourth closest to the total combined offensive yards (548) and fourth closest to the minutes to Northwestern’s first touchdown (they didn’t score one, so it was 60).

Boggie, Northsider7, and saline_ian were all just two away from the combined total yards with their predictions of 550. Nobody correctly predicted that Jehu Chesson’s No. 86 would score Michigan’s first touchdown. BigHouseBrandon was the closest with his prediction of 97, which must have been a Jake Rudock pass to Amara Darboh. The most common prediction was De’Veon Smith’s No. 4, which 10 of 26 contestants chose. Ericcarbs, Ebenszac, tooty_pops, HTTV136, and BigHouseBrandon all predicted that Northwestern wouldn’t score. Grahambino007 and jaeschke were both just one away from Thorson’s passing yards, while jaeschke and MEKMichigan were the closest to Blake O’Neill’s punting yards (190), just 12 away.

Nobody got the final score correct, and in fact, only one contestant, bluwolf77, thought Michigan would score as many points as it did. He predicted a score of 38-17. The average score prediction was Michigan 21 – Northwestern 11. All 26 contestants picked Michigan to win.

The weekly results have been updated and I’ve finally added the overall standings.

This Saturday is the big one against Michigan State and it presents a great chance for Michigan to turn the tables on their hated in-state rival. Here are this week’s picks.

First Look: Michigan State

Monday, October 12th, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#18 Michigan 38 – #13 Northwestern 0: Wolverines dominate Wildcats in all three phases

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Chesson vs NW(

The coin toss was the only thing Michigan lost on Saturday, but the Wolverines turned even that into a win as Jehu Chesson returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and they never looked back. Michigan recorded its third straight shutout with a  38-0 blanking of 13th-ranked Northwestern.

Michigan scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams for the first time in a game since 2003 and held Northwestern’s offense to just 168 total yards while racking up 380 of their own — more than doubling the number Northwestern’s defense entered the game allowing per game.

Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 38 0
Record 5-1 (2-0) 5-1 (1-1)
Total Yards 380 168
Net Rushing Yards 201 38
Net Passing Yards 179 130
First Downs 21 13
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 3-28 5-39
Punts-Yards 5-190 8-280
Time of Possession 37:05 22:55
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 3-4
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 5-for-5 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Jake Rudock had perhaps his best game of the season, completing 17 of 23 passes for 179 yards, and most importantly, no turnovers. The running game was done so by committee as De’Veon Smith led the way with 59 yards on eight carries, Derrick Green 47 yards on 12 carries, and five others rushed for at least 11 yards as Michigan racked up 201 yards on the ground.

Michigan’s defense held the Big Ten’s third leading rusher, Justin Jackson, to just 25 yards on 12 carries, and Jourdan Lewis padded his claim as one of the nation’s best defensive backs with a 37-yard interception return for touchdown. When all was said and done Michigan scored more points than Northwestern had allowed in the previous five games combined to set up a highly anticipated matchup with in-state rival Michigan State next Saturday.

After Chesson’s touchdown, Northwestern’s offense went three and out and Michigan drove 59 yards on seven plays to take a quick 14-0 lead. On the drive, Smith had an 18-yard rush and Jake Butt a 32-yard reception setting up a Drake Johnson 1-yard touchdown run.

Trying to get back in the game, Northwestern drove 50 yards to the Michigan 25, but Jack Mitchell missed a 42-yard field goal. Michigan responded with a six play 75-yard touchdown drive that featured a 34-yard Joe Kerridge run and a 27-yard pass to Chesson. Rudock scored from two yards out to put Michigan ahead 21-0 with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter.

Michigan piled it on near the end of the first half when Lewis intercepted Clayton Thorson’s 3rd-and-9 pass near the Northwestern sideline and raced 37 yards for the score. Michigan tacked on a 47-yard Kenny Allen field goal on its first possession of the second half and then Derrick Green capped off a 12 play, 66-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with two minutes left.

Game Ball – Offense 

Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
For the first time this season the game ball goes to an entire position group and it’s the big uglies who were impressive all day against one of the nation’s best defenses. From the game’s start, Michigan’s offensive line generated great push against a very good Northwestern defensive front. While no individual running back went off, it was a team effort as nine different players had at least two carries, and five backs and Rudock had at least 11 rushing yards. Michigan totaled 201 rushing yards as a team, 84 more than Northwestern’s defense averages per game, and 4.4 yards per carry against a defense that gave up just 3.7 yards per rush in the first five games. Sure, Northwestern sacked Rudock three times, but it didn’t matter as the damage was done.

Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Willie Henry (2 sacks) and Jabrill Peppers (5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU) could have easily gotten today’s game ball, but Lewis gets the nod for his lockdown coverage and 37-yard interception return for touchdown. Northwestern tried throwing at him with little result and he got the better of Thorson when he picked off the 3rd-and-9 pass and raced 37 yards up the sideline to put Michigan ahead 28-0 in the first half. Lewis has been fantastic all season, but will have his toughest test yet when Michigan State comes to town next week.

Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 17-23 179 7.8 0 0 32 3
Clayton Thorson 13-27 106 3.9 0 1 20 2
Matt Alviti 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Zack Oliver 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 8 59 7.4 0 19
Derrick Green 12 47 3.9 1 10
Joe Kerridge 2 35 17.5 0 34
Justin Jackson 12 25 2.1 0 15
Karan Higdon 8 16 2.0 0 9
Sione Houma 3 13 4.3 0 5
Ty Isaac 2 13 6.5 0 7
Solomon Vault 3 12 4.0 0 15
Jake Rudock (QB) 6 11 1.8 1 13
Jelani Roberts (WR) 1 11 11.0 0 11
Jehu Chesson (WR) 2 6 3.0 0 12
Warren Long 1 6 6.0 0 6
Drake Johnson 2 3 1.5 1 2
Matt Alviti (QB) 3 -2 -0.7 0 5
Clayton Thorson (QB) 3 -4 -1.3 0 3
Zack Oliver (QB) 1 -9 -9.0 0 -9
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
A.J. Williams 4 48 12.0 0 16
Jake Butt 3 40
13.3 0 32
Austin Carr 2 39 19.5 0 20
Jehu Chesson 2 26 13.0 0 27
Drake Harris 2 25 12.5 0 13
Cameron Dickerson 2 22 11.0 0 12
Christian Jones 2 22 11.0 0 12
De’Veon Smith (RB) 3 19 6.3 0 10
Amara Darboh 2 11 5.5 0 8
Dan Vitale 1 11 11.0 0 11
Mo Ways 1 10 10.0 0 10
Miles Shuler 1 9 9.0 0 9
Justin Jackson (RB) 1 3 3.0 0 3
Mike McHugh 2 0 0.0 0 2
Clayton Thorson (QB) 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 1/1 100.0 47 5/5 8
Jack Mitchell 0/1 0.0 0 0/0 0
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 5 190 28.0 2 3 59
Hunter Niswander 8 280 35.0 0 2 47
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jehu Chesson 1 96 96.0 96 1
Solomon Vault 2 39 19.5 22 0
Jelani Roberts 1 19 19.0 19 0
Marcus McShepard 1 17 17.0 17 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, October 9th, 2015


Pat Fitzgerald

Michigan hasn’t allowed a touchdown in more than two games and one of the Big Ten’s worst offenses comes to town tomorrow. Unfortunately, so does one of the best defenses. So what will give? Here are our predictions.

Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 17 6
Derick 20 13
Sam 17 7
Josh 24 10
Joe 17 7
M&GB Average 19 9

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Everyone is expecting a low-scoring battle between the top two defensive teams in the nation, and I’m not different.
Michigan’s elite front seven is complemented with a lock-down secondary and should have little trouble with Northwestern’s average offense. But on the other hand, Jake Rudock and the offense are still learning and trying to form an identity. If Rudock takes care of the ball, the Wolverine defense will make a few plays and put the rushing attack in position to score enough points.

If Michigan coughs up the ball three times, the Wildcats will probably walk away from Ann Arbor with a perfect 6-0 record. But I think De’Veon Smith and Amara Darboh will make enough plays to escape with a victory.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 13

Last year, the Michigan/Northwestern game was nothing more than an embarrassing pile of ineptitude that devolved into the notorious “M00N” game. This year, while N00M might be in play, it will be for different reasons, as both defenses are coming off impressive shutouts and appear to be the legitimate class of the conference in that regard. Neither offense has caught fire yet, but I like Michigan’s defense a little more versus Northwestern’s inexperienced offense than vice versa. The Wolverines will put up just enough points to keep the win streak rolling. Give me Michigan by 10.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

The M00N game will now become N00M, at least to start off anyway. I expect this to be a lower scoring game, not as low as last year but it won’t be a shootout by any stretch of the imagination.

From what I can glean off the internet and in limited viewings of Northwestern they are a spread to run team that seems to go to empty sets on 3rd downs (again, this is just what I’ve gathered from other blogs and very limited actual game viewings so I could be way off). They have a decent RB but he isn’t a bruiser so don’t expect any De’Veon Smith type running but he does have some speed and wiggle so look for Michigan to keep him from getting to the outside, especially on RJS’s side (if our D has a weak link it’s gonna be the BUCK spot until someone can prove their worth, until then expect teams to test that side of the field).

They have a RS Frosh QB who’s stats are pretty decent but they are probably misleading as he’s not asked to do much other than dump it off, or so it seems anyway. I don’t think they’ll be able to pound the rock all day against a stout Michigan front so they’ll have to be creative and might take some downfield shots. Unlike in years past I am not too worried about our DB’s getting beat deep all that often so IF the Wildcats manage to hit one deep I doubt they’ll replicate that magic again.

However, I do expect that the quick read offense will help them get some quick, short yardage on numerous occasion as they try to negate the beast that is the Michigan defensive line. While his offense is not scary in the slightest and I don’t think they’ll be able to put up more than 10-13 points, they do have a ‘secret’ weapon in SuperBack (H-back/FB/TE) Dan Vitale and he can move, as well as block. Michigan will need to keep him check as he’s one of those ‘too fast for a LB and too big for a DB’ types, but hey Jabrill Peppers is basically a hybrid SS/LB and dude will hit you, so maybe we don’t worry about Vitale, too much.

Michigan’s offense, while not as exciting as many of us would like, is still hands down better than Northwestern’s so I expect the Wolverines to put up at least 20 points with a good mix of what we’ve grown accustomed to; Smith and Johnson pounding it up the middle (sidenote: I don’t think we see much of Ty Isaac, if any, after his double fumble week against Maryland) and I think this week is the week of Butt. Hm, that sounded weird but whatever. After having been somewhat absent from the offense after a hot, hot start I think the coaches will have more than a handful of plays for Jake Butt and hopefully that will open up the deep ball for Chesson and Rudock. Each week they attempt one or two downfield, so if Northwestern stacks the box to stop our bruising rushing attack this would be an ideal time to FINALLY connect on a deep bomb.

This will be an epic battle til the end between two excellent defenses and two less than stellar offenses. I think the final score won’t be as close as the game was though. In the end the Michigan offense gives them enough and the D holds the NW offense in check. Michigan pulls away in the end and we all look forward to Sparty.

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 10

We are finally getting to the “meat” of the schedule (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Michigan is rolling along and improving each and every week. The defense has quickly become one of the best in the country and will go head to head with another top ranked defense. This should be an old fashioned battle that will be fun to watch.

The stars will need to shine in this one to pull out the big W. Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers will be huge on the back end as they make life difficult for the redshirt freshman quarterback, Clayton Thorson. They have been getting better each week and will continue to dominate. I don’t see them giving up much more than a touchdown in this one.

The offense will need to be careful and control the clock. Jake Rudock has been careful with the ball and should continue to hand the ball off to whomever is in the backfield. Keep the chains moving by using the tight ends and Amara Darboh when it’s available. We can rule out the long ball as that has been nonexistent due to his accuracy issues. Just don’t turn the ball over on offense and make life difficult on the freshman quarterback and we go to 5-1.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

#18 Michigan vs #13 Northwestern game preview

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Game Preview_Northwestern_banner

After last season’s 10-9 snoozefest in Evanston, the thought of a highly anticipated top-20 matchup between Michigan and Northwestern less than a year later was far from most peoples’ minds. And for good reason. Both teams’ 2014 seasons ended with 5-7 records just three weeks after that meeting.

But as one of Week 6’s most anticipated matchups approaches — one of only two games naturally featuring two ranked teams — both Michigan and Northwestern are poised to make a major move toward the Big Ten title.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – BTN
Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (10th season)
Coaching Record: 65-53 overall, 31-42 Big Ten (all at NU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike McCall (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (8th season)
Returning 2014 Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5)
Last Meeting: UM 10 – NU 9 (2014)
All-Time Series: UM leads 56-15-2
Record in Ann Arbor: 34-6-2
Record in Michigan Stadium: 34-6-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Northwestern: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2014 (10-9)
Last Northwestern win: 2008 (21-14)
Current Streak: Michigan 4
Michigan on Homecoming: 88-28-2

At 5-0 and 1-0 in the conference, Northwestern is ranked as high as it has been since 2000, following a wild, 54-51 win over Michigan. The Wildcats shared the Big Ten title with Michigan and Purdue that season and haven’t won it since. Another win over Michigan would make Northwestern the favorite to win the Big Ten West.

Like Michigan, they have a quality win so far this season. In the opener, Northwestern shut down 21st-ranked Stanford for a 16-6 win, holding the Cardinal to just 240 yards of offense and 85 rushing yards. Since then, Stanford is 4-0, averaging 42 points and 506 total yards per game. Northwestern also has a 19-10 win over Duke in Durham and a 27-0 throttling of Minnesota last week. Despite that impressive resume, there is one game of concern, a narrow win over Ball State. The Cardinals gained 359 yards of offense — 181 on the ground — in the Week 4 near-upset.

Michigan holds a 56-15-2 all-time advantage over Northwestern, but the last three meetings were about as close as they could get. In 2012, Michigan trailed by three in the closing seconds, but Devin Gardner completed a Hail Mary to Roy Roundtree, setting up the game-tying field goal. Michigan won in overtime, 38-31. In 2013, Northwestern held a 9-6 lead late in the game, but Michigan pulled off an improbable last-second field goal to tie it. The Wolverines then won in triple overtime, 27-19. Then last year, Michigan carried a 7-0 lead into the fourth quarter before Northwestern kicked a field goal with 7:26 remaining. Michigan responded with a field goal of its own to take a 10-3 lead, but Northwestern scored with three seconds remaining. Instead of going to overtime for the third straight year, Pat Fitzgerald elected to go for two, but Michigan’s defense held strong and broke Northwestern’s heart once again.

Three years of frustration at the hands of Michigan could be redeemed with a win in the Big House tomorrow, vaulting the Wildcats into the top 10. Or Michigan could break their hearts again and make their own jump toward the top 10. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Northwestern has the ball

Like Michigan, offense isn’t what has carried Northwestern to a fast start this season. The Wildcats rank 79th nationally and ninth in the Big Ten in total offense (391 yards per game), 14th and first in rushing (248.8 yards per game), 118th and last in passing (142.2 yards per game), 99th and 10th in pass efficiency (114.85), and 89th and 11th in scoring (25.4 points per game).

The main source of offense has been sophomore running back Justin Jackson. His 636 rushing yards rank third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (729) and Indiana’s Jordan Howard (709). Jackson is averaging 127.2 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry on 138 carries. By comparison, De’Veon Smith has just 69 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Jackson has eclipsed 100 yards in four of five games this season, but has just one touchdown.

Junior Warren Long and sophomore Solomon Vault are the backups with about six or seven carries apiece per game. Long is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has two touchdowns, while Vault averages 4.0.

The second leading runner in terms of both yards and carries is quarterback Clayton Thorson. The redshirt freshman from Wheaton, Ill. has 200 yards on 41 carries and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he’s not the traditional mobile quarterback, but he’s mobile enough to pick up yards when needed. He was the sixth-best dual threat quarterback in the class of 2014. Passing-wise, he stands in the bottom third of the conference with 711 yards, four touchdowns, and a 56.6 percent completion percentage. He has eclipsed 150 yards passing in just two of five games this season — one of which was 152 yards — and was held to 9-of-23 for 70 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions by Duke.

The leading receiver is senior super back Dan Vitale, who played for Thorson’s rival high school, Wheaton-Warrenville South. He has 15 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns this season, but most of that production came against Ball State when he caught five passes for 108 yards and both scores. Fellow senior Christian Jones is the only other player with double-digit receptions, with 14 catches for 157 yards but has yet to find the end zone, while junior Austin Carr is a big play threat with 100 yards and two touchdowns on just four receptions. No other receiver has a touchdown or more than 54 yards.

The offensive line has a good amount of experience. Left tackle Geoff Mogus has 27 career starts, and although he missed the Minnesota game with an injury, he’s expected to start tomorrow. Left guard is the main question mark between senior Matt Frazier, who started against Minnesota, and junior Connor Mahoney, who started against Eastern Illinois and Ball State. Frazier is certainly the more experienced with 18 career starts. Junior Ian Park is the center with 13 career starts, while senior right guard Shane Mertz is a new starter this season and junior right tackle Eric Olson has 14 career starts.

When Michigan has the ball

Defense is what Northwestern has made its calling card this season, matching comparably with Michigan in most categories. The Wildcats rank fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten in total defense (247.4 yards allowed per game), 26th and fifth against the run (117.4 yards allowed per game), seventh and second against the pass (130 yards allowed per game), third and second in pass defense efficiency (83.35), and first and first in scoring defense (seven points per game).

Northwestern has a good set of defensive ends in senior Dean Lowry, senior Deonte Gibson, and junior Ifeadi Odenigbo. Lowry leads the defensive line with 4.5 tackles for loss to go along with half a sack. Gibson and Odenigbo lead the team with 2.5 sacks apiece. The interior of the line consists of senior C.J. Robbins and sophomore Tyler Lancaster. Lancaster ranks third on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and also has a half a sack.

The linebacking corps is led by rising star sophomore middle linebacker Anthony Walker, who has 44 tackles, 8.5 for loss, a half a sack, and two fumble recoveries. His 8.5 tackles for loss ranks third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Joe Schubert and Penn State’s Carl Nassib. Junior Jaylen Prater is a first-year starter at the weak side and has 23 tackles, while senior SAM linebacker, Drew Smith, who started seven games last season, also has 23 tackles in addition to two fumble recoveries.

The secondary is one of the nation’s best with a ton of experience between corners Nick VanHoose and Matthew Harris as well as safeties Traveon Henry and Godwin Igwebuike. VanHoose is a fifth-year senior who was an All-Big Ten second team selection by the media a year ago. He has 37 career starts and has nine tackles and five pass breakups so far this season. Harris, a junior, started all 12 games last season and leads the team with three interceptions and six pass breakups this season. Henry, a senior, started 10 games in each of the last two seasons and ranks second on the team with 29 tackles in addition to three for loss and one sack. Sophomore safety Igwebuike started five games as a redshirt freshman a year ago and has 27 tackles and three pass breakups so far in 2015.

The other third

Junior kicker Jack Mitchell has made 10 of 13 field goal attempts with a long of 49. Last season, he made 14 of 18, so he’s solid. Sophomore punter Hunter Niswander, however, ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten with a 38.9-yard punt average. Vault handles the kick return duties and has done so very well so far, averaging 31.6 yards per return, which ranks 14th nationally. He had a 98-yard touchdown return against Duke in Week 3. Senior receiver Miles Shuler is the punt returner with an average of 18.5 yards per return.


Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Big Ten power rankings: Week 5

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

A full week of Big Ten games is in the books as the conference season officially kicked off Saturday with six intra-league battles and one nonconference matchup.

In the only cross-divisional game of the week, Michigan State topped Purdue in a nail-biter at Spartan Stadium. The East also picked up a win from Penn State, which snuck by Army. Meanwhile, a major power shift rattled the West Division as two of the division’s best teams went down to the wire in Madison.

Here’s a look at where the teams stand after one Big Ten game.

East Division
1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 34-27 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-3, 0-1), 12pm, BTN

It wasn’t an impressive performance for the No. 1 team in the country, but Ohio State held off a pesky Indiana team Saturday to pick up a win in the conference opener. Cardale Jones completed 18 of 27 pass attempts for 245 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. The defense surrendered over 400 yards, but was saved by Ezekiel Elliott’s 274 yards and three touchdowns. Elliott ripped off runs of 55, 65, and 75 yards in the game, keeping the Buckeyes afloat in the second half.

The Hoosiers came into the game undefeated, but OSU couldn’t pull away despite injuries to Indiana starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and star running back Jordan Howard. Much like in the opener against Virginia Tech, Ohio State needed an injury to Indiana’s best offensive player to swing the momentum and take the lead for good. Though they’re clearly one of the most talented teams in the country, the Buckeyes have underwhelmed in four of their five games and can’t find a consistent rhythm on offense. They shouldn’t have a problem getting to 6-0 this weekend as a lost Maryland offense comes to the Horseshoe.

2. Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 24-21 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), 8pm, BTN

If not for Michigan’s opening loss to Utah, the Wolverines would be well above the Spartans in the power rankings based on the past few weeks. Saturday was Michigan State’s worst performance yet as it nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead to a Purdue team with only one win. Michigan State led 21-0 at the break and needed a stop on the Boilermakers’ final drive to secure a 24-21 win.

MSU’s secondary was a great concern early in the season, but it was Markell Jones, Purdue’s starting running back, who smacked the Spartans on homecoming. Jones gained 157 yards on 22 carries and found the end zone twice. David Blough completed fewer than half his pass attempts and threw for just 136 yards, but Michigan State couldn’t pull away, despite forcing three turnovers. Michigan State did outgain Purdue by 105 yards, but the worst team in the league shouldn’t be within a field goal of the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Connor Cook needs to escape from his funk (just 139 yards passing Saturday) and lift the Spartans to where they were last year on offense.

3. Michigan (4-1, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 28-0 This Week: Sat vs #13 NU (5-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

In a Week 4 win over BYU, Michigan scored all 31 of its points in the first half before playing to a scoreless tie in the second half. In Maryland, the Wolverines mustered only a pair of field goals before the break and exploded for 22 points in the second half. The common denominator? Neither the Cougars nor the Terrapins could put up a single point against a stout Michigan defense.

For the second straight week, the Wolverines surrendered just 105 yards, this time holding Maryland to seven first downs and fewer than two yards per play. Quarterback Caleb Rowe has struggled all season, but Michigan forced him into his worst performance yet: eight completions in 27 attempts for 47 yards and three interceptions. One of the picks came from emerging star Jourdan Lewis, who’s been near impossible to beat downfield all season. Lewis burst onto the scene as Michigan’s top lockdown corner last year and he’s already made enormous strides under Jim Harbaugh.

But it wasn’t all good news for Michigan at Byrd Stadium. The offense struggled to run the ball with De’Veon Smith out due to injury. Derrick Green and Ty Isaac rushed 13 times for just 43 yards and a pair of fumbles. Drake Johnson struggled in the first half, but made an adjustment after the break and finished with 68 yards on 13 carries. He also took a screen pass 31 yards and dove to the pylon early in the 3rd quarter to break the seal for the Wolverine offense.

Even more serious for Michigan going forward is the loss of Mario Ojemudia for the rest of the season. Ojemudia had developed into Michigan’s top pass rusher out of the buck linebacker position, but now those duties will fall on the shoulders of Royce Jenkins-Stone, a talented but largely unproven senior who made eight tackles last season. Northwestern will visit Michigan in the Big House this weekend in what promises to be a defensive slugfest. The two teams enter Saturday’s matchup ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country in terms of scoring defense.

4. Penn State (4-1, 1-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Army 20-14 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-1, 0-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State was the only Big Ten team to play out of conference in Week 5, holding off a second-half charge from Army to improve to 4-1. The Nittany Lions were bailed out by three Army fumbles that wiped out a 293-yard effort. Army outgained Penn State 293-264, picked up more first downs, and averaged more yards per play. Christian Hackenberg threw only 19 times, picking up 156 yards and a touchdown — a disappointing sequel to his 296-yard, three-touchdown effort against San Diego State. James Franklin’s team just doesn’t have anything going on offense this season, so it’ll rely on a top-tier defense to carry it through conference play.

5. Indiana (4-1, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 27-34 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Injuries to Jordan Howard and Nate Sudfeld couldn’t have come at a worse time for Indiana, which had a legitimate chance to dethrone the top-ranked Buckeyes in Bloomington before their top offensive threats went down. Indiana played its best defensive game of the season, but still allowed over 500 yards to the offensively-challenged Buckeyes. Two recovered fumbles and an interception kept the Hoosiers in the game, but three huge runs from Ezekiel Elliott handed Indiana its first loss of the season. The Hoosiers won’t do much damage in the Big Ten behind their high-powered offense and risk-taking defense, but the road ahead won’t get any easier as they visit Penn State and Michigan State and host Iowa and Michigan in the next five games.

6. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #4 MSU (5-0, 1-0), 8pm, BTN

Rutgers took an early week off after beating a winless Kansas team, 27-14, in Week 4. The extra preparation likely won’t do much good this weekend as the Scarlett Knights host an angry Michigan State team. They might not be competitive in another game until a Week 11 home date with Nebraska.

7. Maryland (2-3, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #22 Mich. 0-28 This Week: Sat at #1 OSU (5-0, 1-0), 12pm, BTN

Believe it or not, there’s a team in the Big Ten that would love to have Jake Rudock as its starting quarterback. Maryland’s situation under center is as grim as it gets, and those struggles were on full display against Michigan. Starter Caleb Rowe was pulled from the game after completing just eight of 27 passes for 47 yards and three interceptions. Rowe was replaced in the 3rd quarter by Daxx Garman, who went just 2 of 9 for 29 yards. Brandon Ross was smothered by the Michigan run defense, racking up just 44 yards in the team’s 105-yard effort. The defense was solid, allowing just 378 yards and 28 points despite spending over 34 minutes on the field, but with this offense, Maryland won’t be competitive for the rest of the season.

B1G East Week 5

West Division
1. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Min. 27-0 This Week: Sat at #18 Michigan (4-1, 1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

Wow. It looks like the Wildcats are even better than we thought they were, and we already thought they were pretty good. Northwestern steamrolled Minnesota on Saturday, holding the Gophers to 173 yards and scoring a season-high 27 points against Jerry Kill’s defense. Justin Jackson continues to quietly get the job done on the ground, picking up 120 yards on 20 carries to pace the offense. Clayton Thorson didn’t have a huge impact, but he completed 14 of 19 passes and didn’t turn it over. He also rushed for the team’s only two offensive touchdowns. Pat Fitzgerald’s team has climbed to No. 13 in the AP Poll with a chance to jump into the top 10 if it can knock off a streaking Michigan team in the Big House this weekend. Northwestern will need an outstanding effort from the defense allowing the fewest points per game in the country.

2. Iowa (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #19 Wisconsin 10-6 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Northwestern might be the hottest team in the Big Ten, but Iowa picked up the biggest win in Week 5. The Hawkeyes knocked off perennial West Division champ Wisconsin in Madison by essentially out-Badgering the Badgers. Iowa scored just 10 points in the game, but controlled the clock with its own running game while holding Wisconsin to 2.5 yards per carry. C.J. Beathard was underwhelming, completing just nine of 21 passes for 77 yards as Iowa was outgained 320-221 overall. But the defense forced four turnovers and held Wisconsin to just 4 of 13 on 3rd down to sneak out of Madison with a power-shifting victory. Iowa is now in position to seize control of the West Division if it can win in Evanston on Oct. 17.

3. Illinois (4-1, 1-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 14-13 This Week: Sat at #22 Iowa (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Don’t look now, but Illinois is 4-1! Despite a pair of shaky performances leading up to the Big Ten opener, Illinois shut down the Nebraska offense on Saturday and came away with a thrilling, shocking victory in Champaign. The Cornhuskers opened the door for the Illini by throwing twice on the final drive instead of running the clock down inside 20 seconds. When Illinois took over with 55 seconds left, Wes Lunt led a 72-yard drive that lasted just 41 seconds and ended with a one-yard, game-winning touchdown to Geronimo Allison. Illinois’ record is a bit deceiving, as it was blown out by its only solid non-conference opponent (a 48-14 loss at North Carolina). If the Fighting Illini somehow win one of their next two games – at Iowa or at home against Wisconsin – that’ll be reason to buy in.

4. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 6-10 This Week: Sat at Nebraska (2-3, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

The Badgers are treading in unfamiliar territory midway through Paul Chryst’s first season as head coach. A rare home loss Saturday against Iowa landed Wisconsin behind the eight ball in the West Division and dropped the Badgers to 3-2 on the year. Joel Stave isn’t playing like a typical Wisconsin senior, turning the ball over twice on Saturday and failing to lead his team into the end zone in the 10-6 loss. Even stranger: Wisconsin’s running game has yet to awaken. Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale took 26 of the team’s 34 carries against the Hawkeyes but gained just 87 combined yards and an average below 3.5 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s defense was excellent, holding the C.J. Beathard-led attack to just 221 total yards and one touchdown. But the offense is struggling on all cylinders right now and there’s no NFL-caliber running back to pull it out of the rut.

5. Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #19 NU 0-27 This Week: Sat at Purdue (1-4, 0-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Since nearly upsetting No. 2 TCU to open the season in early September, Minnesota has performed steadily worse each week. A pair of three-point wins over MAC schools preceded a 27-0 beat down at the hands of a Northwestern team that was struggling to score points before rolling over the hapless Gophers. Minnesota rushed for just 2.2 yards per carry and Mitch Leidner was awful through the air, completing 10 of 21 passes for 72 yards and a pick. A defense that had been leading the charge through four weeks surrendered 20 points and 312 yards on the night, though it was put in bad position by two offensive turnovers. The style points Minnesota gained by sticking with TCU have expired, and now it’ll need a desperation win in Purdue to get the train back on the tracks.

6. Purdue (1-4, 0-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #2 MSU 24-27 This Week: Sat vs Minn. (3-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

For the first time since a Week 2 thumping over Indiana State, Purdue showed a little fight in a 24-21 loss in East Lansing Saturday. The Spartans carried a commanding 21-0 lead into the half, but Purdue scored 14 unanswered points over the next 16 minutes to pull within a score. A 10-play, 28-yard drive stalled at their own 48-yard line as the Boilermakers’ comeback effort finally ran out of gas. Freshman quarterback David Blough was awful in the first half, but he finished the game with 136 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception after a solid 2nd half effort. If not for MSU running back L.J. Scott’s 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Purdue might have pulled the most shocking upset of this college football season.

7. Nebraska (2-3, 0-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 13-14 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

How could Nebraska possibly fall below a lousy, punchless Purdue team? It’s simple: Mike Riley’s team is playing a sloppy, ugly brand of football through five games and it starts with their junior quarterback. Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed less than one-third of his passes Saturday for 105 yards and an interception. He had zero passing yards in the team’s 76-yard touchdown drive in the 1st quarter and the offense mustered only 13 points against an Illinois team that allowed a combined 73 points to North Carolina and Middle Tennessee State the last two weeks. Nebraska could actually be undefeated at this point in the season – the three losses are by a combined nine points – but mammoth mistakes in the 4th quarter an overtime have dropped them to a disastrous start. If Nebraska can’t pull off a win over Wisconsin this weekend, it’ll have to knock off Northwestern, Michigan State or Iowa down the stretch to qualify for a bowl.

B1G West Week 5

Tailgate Tuesday: Flat iron fajitas

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Tailgate Tuesday_Week6

Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly collaboration with Joe Pichey from MmmGoBluBBQ. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and most of the time will be themed around that week’s opponent. Meat Church, a Dallas, Texas based BBQ joint sponsors this feature by providing their killer rubs for use in the recipes. Buy them here

Previously: Frog legssmoky spiced beaver nutsbuild the perfect tailgate smokerpig shots, lamb shank, or visit our whole library of recipes here.

The flat iron steak is quickly gaining in popularity and for good reason. This cut is from the shoulder or chuck area and has some fantastic marbling throughout. While I typically go for the ribeye or t-bone, this is a close second when I’m firing up the grill. It is extremely versatile and flavorful and can be very tender when cooked properly.

I first discovered this steak when I was up in the Chicago area visiting some friends. We pulled out the Weber grill and and lit the coals. Several of the BBQ’ers were Northwestern Wildcat alum and swore by two things. The first was just how menacing and intimidating purple is on the football field. The second was how great the flat iron steak is. One out of two ain’t bad, right? I decided to give this one a go with Meat Church’s crazy tasty fajita rub and was not disappointed. Whether you are serving it as the main dish, steak style or slicing up for tacos, you will love this cut of beef.


1-2 lb. flat iron steak
Pico de gallo
Queso fresco


Prior to lighting the grill, set the flat iron steak out on the counter and allow it to come up to room temperature. This typically takes about 30-45 minutes.

Fire the grill up for medium, direct heat. As the coals are heating up, season the steak with Meat Church Fajita Rub. This is a good size hunk of meat, so apply generously.

Flat Iron Fajitas 1-2

Place over direct heat and allow to cook for approx 3 minutes. After 3 minutes rotate the steak 180 degrees to get some great grill marks. Repeat on the other side. After six minutes on each side, you should have a medium rare steak. If you like your steak a little more well done, leave it on a little longer. A good instant read thermometer is very helpful on thicker cuts of meat. I love the Thermapen for these cooks. If you don’t have one, get one. They are a must.

After 10 minutes, add some avocado slices to the grill. These will cook very fast, so don’t walk away. All we want is to add some nice grill marks and remove, otherwise the inside will start to wilt. Wilted avocados are not very tasty, trust me. Toss on some tortillas and we are in business. Once the steak has cooked for approx 10-12 minutes, remove from the heat and let rest for five minutes. I let mine go to an internal of 130 degrees, or medium rare.

Flat Iron Fajitas 3-4

Once it has rested for 5-7 minutes, thinly slice against the grain. This will help keep the tenderness.

Add the meat, avocado, queso fresco, and pico to a warm tortilla and enjoy. The meat is super tender and has great flavor. You will not be disappointed. This cut is less expensive than your typical ribeye and about the same as a good flank steak.

Flat Iron Fajitas 5-6

I hope you give this one a try and let me know what you think. This has huge flavor and can be cooked during halftime. What else can you ask for? GO BLUE!!!!

Visit Meat Church to purchase their new Bacon BBQ rub or any of their other great rubs and seasonings. You can follow them on Twitter at @MeatChurch and you can also follow Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

Five Spot Challenge: Northwestern

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015


Congratulations to brad6923 for winning Week 5 of the Five Spot Challenge. His deviation of 109.6 beat gvanneste by 20 points. He was third closest to Michigan’s third down percentage (29.4 percent), 15.6 away; second closest to Maryland’s second half yards (37), 13 away; and tied for third closest to Michigan’s total rushing yards (198), two away.

Myrick55 correctly predicted Michigan’s rushing yards, while Sustersueblue was just one away and bigboyblue,, dtenpin22, and brad6923 were each two away. Gdub18‘s prediction of 25 yards was just one away from the yardage gained on Michigan’s first possession. Week 3 winner, Freezer566, was the closest to Michigan’s third down percentage, just 10.8 away, while ericcarbs was just one away from Maryland’s second half yards. DBenney09 was the closest — 12 away — to Will Likely’s total return yardage.

For the second time this season a contestant correctly predicted the final score, and for the second time it was the winner, so it didn’t even help. Brad6923 picked Michigan to win 28-0. Seven contestants predicted Michigan to score 28 points, and gvanneste was close with his 28-3 prediction. The 30 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average score of Michigan 33 – Northwestern 8.

The weekly results have been updated.

This week, Michigan hosts Northwestern for what is sure to be a defensive battle. Michigan and Northwestern are the top two defenses in the nation through five weeks and both feature below average offenses. Here are this week’s picks.

First Look: Northwestern

Monday, October 5th, 2015


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

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

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

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

Michigan-Northwestern starters comparison_Offense

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

Michigan-Northwestern starters comparison_Defense

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

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