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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan State’

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

The top two teams remain the same this week, but Michigan took a three spot tumble thanks to blowout losses to Indiana and Michigan State. The bottom seven remain essentially the same.

“Michigan is unsurprisingly the big faller this week after being the janitor’s mop,” said Sam. “Not many other changes, though Penn State maybe had the most unexpected victory of the week by beating Indiana at home. Purdue has a huge week with games at Michigan State and Michigan in the coming days that should give further insight there, while Iowa continues to roll with Maryland lurking just behind.”

“The big mover in this week’s rankings is obviously Michigan,” said Derick. “The Wolverines looked like a Big Ten contender halfway through the conference schedule, but got bombed by Indiana and MSU at home. Caris LeVert isn’t playing, but even with its star player, Michigan has shown it isn’t competitive with upper-tier teams this season.”

1. Iowa (19-4, 10-1) – Even – 1.3 (Last week: 1.3)
Last Week: Beat Penn State 73-49, Beat Illinois 77-65
This Week: Thursday at Indiana, Sunday vs Minnesota
2. Maryland (21-3, 10-2) – Even – 1.7 (Last week: 1.7)
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-65, Beat #18 Purdue 72-61
This Week: Tuesday vs Bowie State, Saturday vs Wisconsin
3. Indiana (19-5, 9-2) – Up 1 – 3.7 (Last week: 3.0)
Last Week: Beat Michigan 80-63, Lost at Penn State 63-68
This Week: Thursday vs #4 Iowa, Sunday at #8 Michigan State
4. Purdue (19-5, 7-4) – Up 2 – 4.0 (Last week 5.7)
Last Week: Lost at #4 Maryland 61-72
This Week: Tuesday vs #8 Michigan State, Saturday at Michigan
5. Michigan State (20-4, 7-4) – Even – 4.3 (Last week: 5.3)
Last Week: Beat Michigan 89-73
This Week: Tuesday at #18 Purdue, Sunday vs Indiana
6. Wisconsin (14-9, 6-4) – Up 1 – 6.0 (Last week: 7.0)
Last Week: Beat Ohio State 79-68
This Week: Wednesday vs Nebraska, Saturday at #2 Maryland
7. Michigan (17-7, 7-4) – Down 3 – 7.3 (Last week: 4.0)
Last Week: Lost to #22 Indiana 67-80, Lost to #10 Michigan State 73-89
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Saturday vs #18 Purdue
8. Ohio State (14-10, 6-5) – Even – 7.7 (Last week: 8.0)
Last Week: Lost at Wisconsin 68-79
This Week: Tuesday vs Northwestern, Saturday at Rutgers
9. Nebraska (13-11, 5-6) – Even – 9.0 (Last week: 9.0)
Last Week: Lost to #4 Maryland 65-70, Beat Rutgers 87-63
This Week: Wednesday at Wisconsin, Saturday vs Penn State
10. Penn State (12-12, 3-8) – Up 1 – 10.3 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at #5 Iowa 49-73, Beat #22 Indiana 68-63
This Week: Saturday at Nebraska
11. Northwestern (16-8, 4-7) – Down 1 – 10.7 (Last week: 10.7)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 82-58
This Week: Tuesday at Ohio State, Saturday vs Illinois
12. Illinois (11-13, 3-8) – Even – 12.0 (Last week: 11.3)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 110-101 (3OT), Lost to #5 Iowa 65-77
This Week: Saturday at Northwestern
13. Minnesota (6-17, 0-11) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Lost at Northwestern 58-82
This Week: Wednesday vs Michigan, Sunday at #4 Iowa
14. Rutgers (6-18, 0-11) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 103-110 (3OT), Lost at Nebraska 63-87
This Week: Saturday vs Ohio State

After a horrid week for Michigan hoops, is it time to panic?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016


Beilein vs MSU(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

I didn’t write about Michigan’s two basketball games this past week; I simply couldn’t bring myself to. We all know what happened – Michigan got romped twice in their own gym and looked lifeless outside of about five minutes against Indiana and a few moments when the Wolverines’ bench warmers made some brutal losses look just a little better on the final stat sheet.

I’ve never tried to hide that I’m a very passionate Michigan basketball fan first and a Michigan basketball blogger second. After all, I used to be the president of the Maize Rage and have been going to games at Crisler since some time around the turn of the century.

So when the Wolverines suffer a gut-wrenching loss (think Josh Gasser’s banked three at the buzzer in 2011 or Evan Turner’s last second heave in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament) or get their asses flattened like pancakes pounded by a spatula after being removed from the griddle (think, well, both those “games” last week), I usually struggle to bring myself to settle my emotions enough to bring fingers to keyboard.

But I thought I should ramble a little about how I feel now after digesting those losses, throwing them up, and taking some antacid.

By the way, the final deficits against Indiana and Michigan State were 13 and 16, respectively, but probably would have more accurately reflected the nature of the games if those numbers were doubled.

Hopefully the Selection Committee takes a look at the final score of each game and says “well those are bad losses but not that bad!” and then proceeds to put Michigan somewhere other than Dayton, Spokane, or Oklahoma City (if they make it, I’m hoping to go to their first round game, but I would rather it not actually be a First Round game, if you know what I mean).

In reality, we all know that those losses were that bad. Like really that bad.

As Rafiki says, however, “it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” Michigan can’t change the disaster that happened last week, but they can hopefully learn a bit from them and pave the way for a brighter future.

So what’s to learn about those two games that people are certainly, definitely, NOT AT ALL panicking about?

Well, let’s rationalize a bit to begin. Indiana and Michigan State are two very good teams that played excellent games (I’m not going to reference many stats in this column because of how skewed the numbers are over the stretch, but any time two teams combine to make 56 percent of their shots in a given week, that’s some good play). They have combined to win 81.3 percent of their matchups so far this season and have beaten some good teams. They are both shoo-ins for the Big Dance, and they’ll probably embarrass a couple other teams not named Michigan going forward (do not pay any attention to Indiana’s game at Penn State).

For those rough games, Michigan still does not have a bad loss to show on their record – and I honestly don’t expect margin of defeat to come into play on Selection Sunday. They also have a couple very good wins on their resume and could add to their two top-100 RPI wins with victories they have already acquired earlier this season, should Penn State or North Carolina State climb up a few spots. For now, the Wolverines still look like relatively safe bets to make the Tournament.

If you are one of the many Michigan fans teetering on the edge right now, please take a step back, then another. It’s not time to panic just yet. If Michigan comes home from Minneapolis with a loss on Ash Wednesday, though, I give you full permission to run forward and jump.

Bench vs MSU(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

Anyway, about those games.

The Wolverines actually came out looking very good against Indiana last Tuesday, jumping out to an early 11-point lead and threatening to run away from the Hoosiers. Things quickly erupted though, and before the halftime horn mercifully blew in a dead silent Crisler Center, Michigan found itself on the wrong end of a 25-0 run and a 21-point deficit.

Before they could throw a counter punch, the Wolverines were knocked out by a savage Indiana offense. So what happened? Ultimately, the Hoosiers took advantage of Michigan’s poor transition defense, the Wolverines panicked and began turning the ball over and missing ill-advised shots so bad that they may as well also have been turnovers, and by halftime, the Wolverines were in a complete state of shock. Effectively, it was game over. To rub salt in the already gaping wound that caused the knockout, Tom Crean quickly mentioned former Michigan player Max Bielfeldt as a reason for Indiana’s terrific play. That, of course, was mostly garbage – Bielfeldt finished with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting (the worst percentage for any Hoosier that attempted a shot) in 18 minutes – but stung nonetheless. The stated reason Crean praised Bielfeldt was for his excellent first half plus/minus rating, which was absolutely comical given that just about every Indiana player had a through-the-roof first half plus/minus.

As soon as that panic set in, Michigan’s offense – which, again, came out firing on all cylinders – devolved into what looked like a typical eighth grade offense, with guys trying to play hero ball and failing miserably. Indiana capitalized, with six of their buckets (good for 15 points) down the stretch in the first half coming within 10 seconds of a Michigan miss or turnover, and a couple others coming off of terrible looks or turnovers as well.

Michigan is simply not good enough to overcome a shocking run like that, and Indiana simply could not miss for quite a long stretch. Further, the Wolverines are lacking their best individual playmaker, their primary facilitator, and their presumed leader. That recipe, combined with a seeming lack of confidence once things get bad for the Maize and Blue, is a recipe for disaster, and disaster is what descended upon Ann Arbor. In my opinion, it was one of those games where you almost have to say “it happens” and move on. Obviously it was a poor, poor result and an even worse performance, but I don’t place too much blame on the coaching staff.

I can’t say the same for the Michigan State loss. Coming off the tough-pill-to-swallow beatdown against Indiana, Michigan was certainly going to be a bit wary and perhaps high-strung or nervous with their in-state rivals coming to town playing much better than them (as an aside, players will never admit to paying close attention to other teams, or to keeping track of their ranking, or to listening to talking heads’ opinion of their team, but they absolutely do).

Unfortunately, I do not believe the coaching staff put the Wolverines in position to win.

Now don’t get me wrong. Michigan State is a very good team, and has been for many seasons. They are a tough, physical team, and perhaps not the best matchup for a Michigan team that usually plays with more finesse than physicality.

But the Spartans are also fairly easy to gameplan for in my opinion. This year, Michigan State has one guy who can do it all on offense and is dangerous any time he’s on the floor. That player, of course is Denzel Valentine. He’s an All-Everything senior that is a phenomenal passer, a very good shooter, and an excellent rebounder for his size as well. There is one other player, Eron Harris, who is fairly multi-dimensional, with the ability to drive, pass, shoot, get fouled, etc. But Harris is also prone to fits of erraticism and is not quite the shooter, finisher, or passer that Valentine is, and turns the ball over more than Valentine while handling the ball less.

Meanwhile, the Spartans also boast some excellent offensive complementary pieces that, while key to their success, are a little more one-dimensional. Bryn Forbes is an outstanding spot-up shooter that doesn’t do much more than shoot the three-ball. Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis are a load to handle down low, but neither is a threat to score from more than 12 feet away. Matt McQuaid is a plus shooter but does not shoot much while big men Kenny Goins and Gavin Schilling are basically the same players as Costello and Davis but both significant downgrades.

How do you beat, or at least challenge, the Spartans then? If Valentine proves too difficult to handle, so be it – you have to grin and bear it. He’s one of the best players in the country and can break down any defense. If Harris drives his way into some fouls and knocks down a couple deep shots, shrug your shoulders. But you absolutely CANNOT let Bryn Forbes get wide open and kill you from deep.

And that’s exactly what happened. Forbes had 23 points – seven triples and another long two – by halftime to Michigan’s 28 total. Of his eight makes, Forbes may have had a Wolverine within three feet of him once or twice.

Bryn Forbes(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

That is a lack of effort, a lack of effective defense, and also a lack of a competent defensive gameplan. Michigan came out in a soft man defense that showed little urgency in sticking with Forbes – again, one of the more lethal shooters in the country – and paid dearly for it. Duncan Robinson was a primary culprit, running under screens and getting completely stone-walled by picks, but the coaching staff deserves equal blame for allowing Michigan State to come out and drain 10 very mildly contested threes in a single half.

About midway through the first half, when it was clear that the Wolverines had completely missed the mark on the scouting report, Beilein switched to a 1-3-1 zone in an attempt to keep another game spiraling quickly out of control within striking distance.

It was fine for a change of pace, and it even managed to flummox the Spartans into making a couple dumb mistakes. But Michigan went back to it after those couple mistakes, which Michigan State was ecstatic to see. The Spartans promptly drained a triple, and when the Wolverines inexplicably went back to the zone yet again, they made another. And another. And another.

I have never seen Beilein look so helpless, but the answer in slowing Michigan State’s offense was never going to come by playing zone for an extended period of time. Michigan State is simply too good of a shooting team to fall prey.

Perhaps most frustrating about the decision to play zone for so long is that the 1-3-1 zone is not designed to limit shooting whatsoever. Rather, it’s designed to confuse the offense, create turnovers, and prevent easy driving buckets. Michigan State was not killing Michigan with easy buckets at the hoop; they were killing the Wolverines from beyond the arc. So instead of switching up the gameplan and sticking the best perimeter defender Michigan has – probably Derrick Walton at this point – onto Forbes and instructing him to not let the senior transfer touch the ball, Beilein inexplicably switched to a zone that is prone to giving up wide open shots from deep. And give up shots the zone did.

By the time halftime arrived – again again by the grace of God – Michigan was pretty much out of the picture and sapped of any confidence that once existed. Of course, the Wolverines moved to a more aggressive man defense in the second half, with Walton face-guarding Forbes, to open the second half. But it was too late. The lack of a first half adjustment failed the team.

In the aftermath of the second straight embarrassment at home, Michigan fans across the blogosphere at Twittersphere began (yet again) calling for Beilein’s head.

To that, I merely say this: stop it. Yes, Michigan got beat bad twice in a row. And yes, perhaps it could have been mitigated by some better coaching decisions.

But if you want people to take you seriously, you must first think and act rationally. John Beilein is one of the best things to happen to the Michigan basketball program in quite a long time. I don’t need to run through his list of accolades and accomplishments since taking over the program in the 2007-’08 season.

So I pray that many of those calling for his firing are uninformed tweens that have known nothing but success over the majority of Beilein’s tenure in Ann Arbor, and expect Michigan to be dominant each year. Unfortunately, those are unrealistic expectations for all but a few fan bases in the country.

It’s even more unrealistic to expect that when a team is missing their unquestioned best player and a key secondary piece. Both of those guys, of course, are seniors – Michigan’s only seniors heading into this season. And if you don’t understand the value of seniors in this day of overhyped freshmen in college basketball, I suggest you listen to what Tom Izzo had to say after his team’s triumphant victory on Saturday.

Take a look at any top team in the country and you’ll likely find that a senior (or two or three) is the driving force behind the success. Guys like Buddy Hield, Isaiah Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Jared Uthoff, Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, Bryn Forbes, Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, Perry Ellis, Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, and so many more are guys that make teams tick.

Michigan’s two seniors are currently watching from the bench. Hopefully they get one of them back soon, but in the meantime, patience and understanding are highly advised.

Crappy performances happen in college basketball. Shots fall and don’t fall, players make mistakes and lose confidence. Teams lose, sometimes badly, and coaches make mistakes too.

Still, Michigan is probably going to be okay. They had a couple big hiccups and they have some recovering and rebounding to do, but it’s not the end of the world, and it’s certainly not time to overreact after losing two games in which the projected outcomes were pretty much coin flips.

There are more opportunities on the way, and I believe that John Beilein will have an answer.

I, at least, have a good feeling about the two games this week.

The past is over. Let’s play on.

#10 Michigan State 89 – Michigan 73: Michigan has no answer for streaking Spartans

Sunday, February 7th, 2016


UM vs MSU(MGoBlue.com)

For the second time in a week Michigan’s best performance came from its bench in garbage time against the opponent’s bench. For the second straight game said bench made the final score look much closer than the game actually played for the first 37 minutes.

The only difference between Michigan’s 89-73 loss to No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday and their 80-67 loss to No. 22 Indiana on Tuesday was that there was no early lead for the Wolverines. In this one, Michigan was overmatched from the start, holding only a 5-3 lead, and when Eron Harris hit a three at the 18:42 mark, Michigan never lead again.

Four Factors
Michigan Michigan State
52 eFG% 78
18 OReb% 33
13 TO% 27
28 FTR 32

The Spartans shot 64 percent from the field and 63.6 percent (14-of-22) from three-point range for the game while holding Michigan to just 44.8 percent overall and 28.6 percent from downtown. MSU made 10-of-14 three-point attempts in the first half including their first five and eight of their first 10. Bryn Forbes was routinely left wide open and made Michigan pay by scoring 23 first half points on 7-of-9 three-point shooting himself.

Zak Irvin led the way for Michigan with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 2-of-6 three-point shooting. Aubrey Dawkins (14 points) and Derrick Walton (11) were the only other Wolverines in double figures. No Michigan player had more than three rebounds and the Wolverines managed just 20 boards for the game. Some of that has to do with the fact that Michigan State wasn’t missing shots. Forbes led the Spartans with 29 points, while Denzel Valentine added 21 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

Michigan has now lost two straight and must turn its attention to simply qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Caris LeVert will see the court again and without him it’s becoming increasingly clear that Michigan is a team that can beat the teams it should beat, but can hardly compete with great teams. At 17-7 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten, Michigan may need to go at least 5-2 the rest of the regular season and win at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament to feel comfortable heading into Selection Sunday. However, in looking at the remaining schedule, only Minnesota and Northwestern look to be sure-bet wins for the Wolverines. Purdue, Iowa, and at Maryland are likely losses, while at Ohio State and Wisconsin are toss-ups.

Michigan looks to bounce back from a rough week on Wednesday against a Minnesota team still looking for its first conference win. The Gophers are 6-17 overall and 0-11 in the Big Ten. A Michigan loss in Minneapolis will likely mean an NIT berth next month.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 2-5 0-2 0-0 1 2 3 3 4 0 1 0 1 17
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 3-7 2-2 0 2 2 4 11 2 1 0 3 35
21 Zak Irvin* 8-16 2-6 1-1 0 3 3 1 19 1 2 0 0 32
22 Duncan Robinson* 1-5 0-3 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 0 25
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 2-5 0-3 2-2 1 1 2 2 6 4 0 0 1 32
03 Kameron Chatman 2-3 1-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 5 0 0 0 1 25
05 D.J. Wilson 2-3 0-1 1-1 0 2 2 3 5 0 1 0 1 14
11 Andrew Dakich 1-1 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 2 3 0 0 0 2 5
13 Moritz Wagner 0-2 0-1 0-1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 4
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-5 2-4 6-8 0 1 1 0 14 3 1 0 1 17
32 Ricky Doyle 2-3 0-0 0-0 3 0 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 14
Totals 26-58 8-28 13-16 6 14 20 18 73 10 9 0 11 200
Michigan State 32-50 14-22 11-16 7 28 35 20 89 18 19 1 4
200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: #10 Michigan State

Saturday, February 6th, 2016


UM-MSU
Michigan vs Michigan State
Saturday, Feb. 6 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 2 p.m. EST | CBS
Line: Michigan +3.5
Offense
76.9 Points/gm 79.0
(627-1,296) 48.4 Field Goal % 47.8 (651-1,362)
(240-588) 40.8 3-pt FG % 41.4 (195-471)
(275-372) 73.9 Free Throw % 72.4 (320-442)
12.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.7 Reb/gm 43.1
15.7 Assists/gm 10.4
9.8 Turnovers/gm 12.0
Defense
65.0 Points/gm 62.4
(551-1,287) 42.8 Field Goal % 36.7 (492-1,341)
(161-481) 33.5 3-pt FG % 28.2 (120-426)
32.2 Opp. Reb/gm 30.4
5.5 Steals/gm 4.3
2.4 Blocks/gm 5.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Denzel Valentine (18.5), Bryn Forbes (13.6)
Derick Walton (5.8), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Matt Costello (8.3), Denzel Valentine (7.8)

Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes suffered a big setback on Tuesday night when Indiana came into the Crisler Center and humbled the Wolverines with a 80-67 rout. The final score doesn’t reflect just how far apart the two teams were. Indiana shot the lights out and put themselves in great position to play for the conference title.

Michigan gets a chance to bounce back this afternoon when in-state rival Michigan State comes to town. The Spartans are a game behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings at 6-4, but since a three-game losing streak they have rattled off three straight wins. One of those was a 74-65 win over No. 7 Maryland and the last two were by a combined 65 points over Northwestern and Rutgers.

Michigan State is led by senior Denzel Valentine (6-foot-5, 220), who averages 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. He’s pretty much a lock for Big Ten Player of the Year unless he falls apart the rest of the season. He ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring, fifth in rebounding, and first in assists. His 3.2 three-point field goals made per game are tied with Duncan Robinson for tops in the conference, though he has made 16 fewer. He has two triple-doubles and four more double-doubles this season with a high of 32 points against Boise State on Nov. 27. In his last four games he has made 19-of-34 three-point attempts including six in two of those.

Senior guard Bryn Forbes (6-foot-3, 190) ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and leads the team with a 48.2 percent three-point average. He has been a hot and cold scorer in Big Ten play. In the Spartans’ four losses, he averaged just five points per game on 6-of-27 (22.2%) shooting from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7%) three-point shooting. In the six wins, he has averaged 18.2 points on 38-of-73 (52.0%) shooting from the field and 26-of-44 (59.1%) three-point shooting. Michigan can let Valentine get his points, but must focus on holding Forbes in check.

Redshirt junior guard Eron Harris (6-foot-3, 185) is the third Spartan averaging double figures at 10.0 points per game. He’s a capable three-point shooter at 39.7 percent, though he attempts half as many Valentine and Forbes. Harris has raised his scoring during Big Ten play, averaging 11.9 points per contest after averaging 8.5 in the non-conference.

Senior forward Matt Costello (6-foot-9, 245) is the brute down low, averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The rebounding ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and he leads the Big Ten with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. Like Harris, Costello has raised his play in the conference season, averaging 12.3 points and 10.8 rebounds since Dec. 29 with six double-doubles in 10 games.

Freshman forward Deyonta Davis (6-foot-10, 240) has started the last five games in place of sophomore guard Lourawls Nairn Jr (5-foot-10, 175), who has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis. Davis hasn’t been a big scorer as of late — 16 points combined in his last three games — but does average eight points per game on the seasons. He ranks third in the Big Ten with two blocked shots per game and second with a 63.6 percent field goal rate. Nairn, meanwhile, started all 18 games before his injury, averaging 4.1 points and 4.5 assists per contest.

Junior forward Gavin Schilling (6-foot-9, 250) is another big body inside, averaging 4.3 points and 3.5 boards per outing. He missed the first 11 games of the season due to turf toe and has averaged 12.4 minutes per game since his return. His most important asset for Tom Izzo is his interior defense where he has both size and quickness to defend other bigs.

Freshman guard Matt McQuaid (6-foot-5, 190), junior guard Alvin Ellis (6-foot-4, 205), and redshirt freshman forward Kenny Goins (6-foot-6, 225) are the other regular contributors off the bench. McQuaid is a three-point shooter, averaging 42.2 percent, but has attempted only 45, which would rank sixth on Michigan’s team. Ellis isn’t a great shooter at 38.6 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. He averages 2.6 points. Goins provides 9.7 minutes per game, but averages just 1.7 points and 2.8 rebounds.

As a team, Michigan State has the Big Ten’s best defense, allowing just 62.5 points per game and holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.8 percent from three-point range. Michigan struggled with Indiana’s defensive pressure on Tuesday and the Hoosiers rank in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten defensively. If Michigan is forcing the same bad shots they did against IU, it will be a long day. If they move the ball and get off good shots they can compete with the Spartans, and if they can avoid the long drought that doomed them against IU and keep the home crowd into the game, Michigan can come away with a win. But I think Michigan State has too much size and will hand Michigan its second straight defeat.

New in Blue: 2016 CB LaVert Hill

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


LaVert Hill(247 Sports)

LaVert Hill – CB | 5-10, 176 | Detroit, Mich – Martin Luther King
ESPN: 4-star, #21 CB Rivals: 4-star, #14 CB 247: 4-star, #6 CB Scout: 4-star, #7 CB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Clemson, Tennessee, USC, UCLA, Ohio State, Georgia, Miami

One of the more dramatic recruiting stories for Michigan’s class has ended in Michigan’s favor with a commitment from Detroit King cornerback LaVert Hill. The younger brother of current Michigan safety Delano Hill chose the Wolverines over Penn State and rival Michigan State.

Hill is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the sixth-best cornerback in the class and 88th-best overall player in the class. Scout ranks him seventh at his position and 97th overall. Rivals has him 14th and 176th, while ESPN ranks him the lowest as the 21st-best corner in the class and 278th-best overall.

Scout likes his coverage awareness, hands, and instincts, but thinks he needs to improve his size. At 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds he’s the exact same size Jourdan Lewis was listed at on this season’s roster. Lewis, of course, was a first team All-American and semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards. Scout expands on their analysis of Hill.

“Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.”

Hill joins David Long to give Michigan a pair of highly-rated cornerbacks in addition to Devin Gil and Josh Metellus, who will likely wind up at safety or linebacker. At least one of the committed receivers may wind up in the secondary as well.

Hill is an excellent pickup for Harbaugh, not only for the talent he brings to Ann Arbor but because he’s a head-to-head recruiting win for a Detroit kid against bitter in-state rival Michigan State. During Michigan’s downturn the past few years, the Spartans took hold of most of the state’s best players, but Harbaugh is working to put an end to that with Hill, who is ranked fifth in the state, and offensive tackle Michael Onwenu, the top player in the state.

Hill is the second commitment of the day for Michigan, following receiver Nate Johnson’s commitment earlier this morning. Stay tuned for more commitment news and coverage from Signing of the Stars.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 2

Monday, February 1st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Despite losing to Maryland, Iowa hangs on to the top spot, but the Terrapins gained ground and leaped Indiana. Michigan and Michigan State both also moved up a spot, while Purdue dropped two. The rest of the power rankings remained the same with the exception of Penn State and Illinois trading places for the second straight week.

1. Iowa (17-4, 8-1) – Even – 1.3 (Last week: 1.0)
Last Week: Lost to #8 Maryland 68-74, Beat Northwestern 85-71
This Week: Wednesday vs Penn State, Sunday at Illinois

“Iowa dropped a tight game on the road at Maryland but still looks to be in great shape for the conference crown,” said Sam.

“There aren’t many losable games remaining on Iowa’s schedule, and certainly none this week,” said Justin. “The Hawkeyes should hold onto the top spot for another week, but will then face Indiana next week.”

2. Maryland (19-3, 8-2) – Up 1 – 1.7 (Last week: 3.7)
Last Week: Beat #3 Iowa 74-68, Beat Ohio State 66-61
This Week: Wednesday at Nebraska, Saturday vs #18 Purdue

“Maryland had an immensely impressive week, knocking off undefeated Iowa and following it with a win in Columbus,” said Derick.

3. Indiana (18-4, 8-1) – Down 1 – 3.0 (Last week: 2.0)
Last Week: Lost at Wisconsin 79-82 (OT), Beat Minnesota 74-68
This Week: Tuesday at Michigan, Saturday at Penn State

“Indiana has a chance to really solidify itself as a contender with a win at Michigan, which is staring down the barrel of a gauntlet schedule,” said Derick.

4. Michigan (17-5, 7-2) – Up 1 – 4.0 (Last week 5.0)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 68-57, Beat Penn State 79-72
This Week: Tuesday vs #22 Indiana, Saturday vs #10 Michigan State

“A couple more unimpressive wins from Michigan keeps them in the competition for now, but a tougher stretch beckons,” said Sam. “The Wolverines look to have the most to gain this week with monumental home matchups against Indiana and Michigan State – win one and they hold serve, win both and they are serious Big Ten contenders and will vie for a top-5 seed; lose both and things get interesting…in a bad way.”

“This is a make or break week for Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes,” said Justin. “The Wolverines are solidly in the NCAA Tournament, barring a complete collapse down the stretch, but won’t be able to win the conference if they lose to Indiana and Michigan State this week. Beat both and suddenly they’re one of the frontrunners.”

5. Michigan State (19-4, 6-4) – Up 1 – 5.3 (Last week: 4.3)
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 76-45, Beat Rutgers 96-62
This Week: Saturday at Michigan

“While MSU’s Big Ten title hopes were probably dashed two weeks ago, their shooting is coming along as the calendar turns to February,” said Sam.

6. Purdue (19-4, 7-3) – Down 2 – 5.7 (Last week: 4.0)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 68-64, Beat Nebraska 89-74
This Week: Saturday at #4 Maryland
7. Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4) – Even – 7.0 (Last week: 7.0)
Last Week: Beat #19 Indiana 82-79 (OT), Beat Illinois 63-55
This Week: Thursday vs Ohio State
8. Ohio State (14-9, 6-4) – Even – 8.0 (Last week: 8.3)
Last Week: Beta Penn State 64-44, Beat Illinois 68-63 (OT), Lost to #8 Maryland 61-66
This Week: Thursday at Wisconsin

“Michigan State and Wisconsin are starting to round into form, while Ohio State keeps falling just short of a statement win,” said Derick.

“It’s becoming clearer by the week that this conference is poised to get six teams into the Big Dance, but Wisconsin and Ohio State could hypothetically play themselves in with incredible finishes in the back half of their conference seasons,” said Sam. “I wouldn’t put money on it, however.”

9. Nebraska (12-10, 4-5) – Even – 9.0 (Last week: 8.7)
Last Week: Lost to #21 Purdue 74-89
This Week: Wed vs #4 Maryland, Saturday vs Rutgers
10. Northwestern (15-8, 3-7) – Even – 10.7 (Last week: 10.0)
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan State 45-76, Lost at #3 Iowa 71-85
This Week: Thursday vs Minnesota
11. Penn State (11-11, 2-7) – Up 1 – 11.0 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State 46-66, Lost to Michigan 72-79
This Week: Wednesday at #5 Iowa, Saturday vs #22 Indiana
12. Illinois (10-12, 2-7) – Down 1 – 11.3 (Last week: 11.0)
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 63-68 (OT), Lost to Wisconsin 55-63
This Week: Wednesday at Rutgers, Sunday vs #5 Iowa
13. Minnesota (6-16, 0-10) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Lost to #21 Purdue 64-68, Lost to #19 Indiana 68-74
This Week: Wednesday vs #21 Purdue, Saturday at #19 Indiana
14. Rutgers (6-16, 0-9) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 57-68, Lost at #12 Michigan State 62-96
This Week: Wednesday vs Illinois, Saturday at Nebraska

“Northwestern’s season has crumbled into irrelevance, and Minnesota and Rutgers are still winless,” said Derick.

“Rutgers seems set to maintain their cold spot in the gutter throughout the season while Minnesota has shown signs of life while still seeking their first win after losing by six or fewer at Michigan, vs. Illinois, vs. Purdue, and at Indiana over the last two weeks,” said Sam.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Last week we introduced our Big Ten power rankings and this week we get on our normal schedule of posting them every Tuesday morning. We see a slight shakeup at the top with Indiana leap-frogging Maryland for the second slot. Four through six remain the same, but Northwestern tumbles three spots. The bottom four remain the bottom four.

1. Iowa (16-3, 7-0) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.0)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 90-76, Beat #22 Purdue 83-71
This Week: Thursday at #8 Maryland, Sunday vs Northwestern

“Again, there is really nothing to argue over the top two teams and the bottom four or so. I think Iowa is significantly better than Indiana right now despite the Hoosiers’ 12-game winning streak,” said Sam.

2. Indiana (17-3, 7-0) – Up 1 – 2.0 (Last week: 3.7)
Last Week: Beat Illinois 103-69, Beat Northwestern 89-57
This Week: Tuesday at Wisconsin, Saturday vs Minnesota

“It looks like the Big Ten title is a two-horse race, as Iowa and Indiana sit at 7-0 and two games ahead of the pack,” said Derick.

“ndiana is winning big when it should, but there’s no denying their insanely easy early conference schedule and really their conference draw overall (single plays against Purdue, Maryland, Michigan, and Michigan State),” said Sam.

3. Maryland (17-3, 6-2) – Down 1 – 3.7 (Last week: 2.0)
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 62-56 (OT), Lost at #11 Michigan State 65-74
This Week: Thursday vs #3 Iowa, Sunday at Ohio State

“Maryland, perhaps the most talented team in the conference, has suffered two disappointing road losses and thrown away any room for error if it hopes to be back in contention,” said Derick.

4. Purdue (17-4, 5-3) – Even – 4.0 (Last week 4.3)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 107-57, Beat Ohio State 75-64, Lost at #9 Iowa 71-83
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Saturday vs Nebraska
5. Michigan (15-5, 5-2) – Even – 4.3 (Last week: 5.0)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 74-69, Beat Nebraska 81-68
This Week: Wednesday vs Rutgers, Saturday vs Penn State (in NYC)

“One more week of breathers before the final stretch begins. Michigan is still in the Big Ten title race and will need to take care of business against two cellar dwellers, Rutgers at home and then Penn State in Madison Square Garden.” said Justin. “Get through those and next week will be fun with Indiana and Michigan State coming to town.”

6. Michigan State (17-4, 4-4) – Even – 6.0 (Last week: 5.7)
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 71-72, Beat #7 Maryland 74-65
This Week: Thursday at Northwestern, Sunday vs Rutgers

“Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State are the only true fringe contenders who, with a long winning streak, could reenter the conversation,” said Derick.

“Purdue probably has a slight upper had on the third spot while Michigan, Michigan State, and Maryland appear to be very close right now,” said Sam. “If Caris LeVert returns healthy before an up-and-down closing stretch to the conference season, the Wolverines might even move up a couple rungs on the ladder, but it’s tough to see anyone catching Iowa and/or Indiana at this point.”

7. Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4) – Up 1 – 7.0 (Last week: 8.0)
Last Week: Beat Penn State 66-60
This Week: Tuesday vs #19 Indiana, Sunday at Illinois
8. Ohio State (12-8, 4-3) – Up 1 – 8.3 (Last week: 8.7)
Last Week: Lost to #22 Purdue 64-75
This Week: Monday vs Penn State, Thursday at Illinois, Sunday vs #8 Maryland
9. Nebraska (12-9, 4-4) – Up 1 – 8.7 (Last week: 9.3)
Last Week: Beat #11 Michigan State 72-71, Lost to Michigan 68-81
This Week: Saturday at #21 Purdue

“Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State have put their NCAA Tournament hopes on life alert, all hovering around .500 overall,” said Derick. “Those teams, along with an immensely disappointing Northwestern squad, have to be almost perfect the rest of the way to have any hope.”

10. Northwestern (15-6, 3-5) – Down 3 – 10.0 (Last week: 7.3)
Last Week: Lost at #7 Maryland 56-62 (OT), Lost at #25 Indiana 57-89
This Week: Thursday vs #12 Michigan State, Sunday at #3 Iowa

“Wisconsin, Ohio State and Nebraska would need something approximating a miracle to play their way into the Dance, while Northwestern looks poised to once again miss out on its Cinderella shot for about the 214th straight season,” said Sam.

11. Illinois (11-8, 2-4) – Up 1 – 11.0 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at #25 Indiana 69-103, Beat Minnesota 76-71 (OT)
This Week: Thursday vs Ohio State, Sunday vs Wisconsin
12. Penn State (11-9, 2-5) – Down 1 – 12.0 (Last week: 11.0)
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 60-66
This Week: Monday at Ohio State, Saturday vs Michigan
13. Minnesota (6-14, 0-8) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.3)
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 69-74, Lost to Illinois 71-76 (OT)
This Week: Wednesday vs #21 Purdue, Saturday at #19 Indiana
14. Rutgers (6-14, 0-7) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 13.7)
Last Week: Lost to #22 Purdue 57-105, Lost to #9 Iowa 76-90
This Week: Wednesday at Michigan, Sunday at #12 Michigan State

“What’s hurting the Big Ten’s overall strength this season, however, is a brutal basement comprised of Illinois, Penn State, Minnesota, and Rutgers,” said Sam. “I would be surprised if we don’t see at least two of those four teams fire their coaches following such disappointing seasons (and my money’s on Pitino and Groce at this point).”

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Jan. 19

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Rather than starting our Big Ten basketball power rankings at the beginning of the season or even the start of Big Ten play, we decided to wait until we had a few weeks of conference play to evaluate each team. That way we could take into account their whole body of work so far as well as their performance against each other.

Although this week’s rankings are being posted on Thursday morning, they do not take into account Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, as they were voted on prior to them. It just took a couple days to get them posted. Typically, these will be posted on Monday or Tuesday each week before that week’s games.

How it works: Each of our basketball writers (Sam, Derick, Justin) submit their rankings on Sunday night. They are averaged together and the teams are ranked based on average. While they’ll be ranked in order, one through 14, we will include their average ranking, which will show whether they are actually higher or lower than their place in the order.

1. Iowa (14-3, 5-0) – Even – 1.0
Last Week: Beat #4 MSU 76-59, Beat Michigan 82-71
This Week: Thu at Rutgers, Sun vs #22 Purdue

“Iowa is the clear front-runner while Rutgers is the clear bottom-dweller,” said Sam. “In between, there’s plenty of room for debate, but the big divide for me comes between the top six teams in the league and the bottom eight (which I also think will end up being the cut-off point to go dancing).”

2. Maryland (16-2, 5-1) – Even – 2.0
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 67-70, Beat Ohio State 100-65
This Week: Tuesday vs Northwestern, Saturday at #11 Michigan State

“Iowa and Maryland are two of the best teams in the country, but after that, the Big Ten has looked very up and down,” said Derick. “Several of the teams near the bottom are already inching toward disaster.”

“I think Maryland is still the #2 team despite looking a little shaky here and there,” said Sam.

3. Indiana (15-3, 5-0) – Even – 3.7
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 70-63
This Week: Tuesday vs Illinois, Saturday vs Northwestern
4. Purdue (15-3, 3-2) – Even – 4.3
Last Week: Beat Penn State 74-57
This Week: Monday at Rutgers, Thursday vs Ohio State, Sunday at #9 Iowa

“Indiana is on fire and one of the few teams that can truly out-score anyone in the country, while Purdue’s defense is still rock solid,” said Sam.

5. Michigan (13-5, 3-2) – Even – 5.0
Last Week: Beat #3 Maryland 73-67, Lost to #16 Iowa 71-82
This Week: Wednesday vs Minnesota, Saturday at Nebraska

“Michigan just got out of a brutal three-game stretch with an acceptable 1-2 record and will now look to run off four or five straight despite still waiting on Caris LeVert’s return,” said Sam.

“After facing three straight ranked teams, two of them on the road, Michigan has a great chance to put together a solid winning streak with Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Penn State coming up before an important two-game stretch against Indiana and Michigan State,” said Justin.

6. Michigan State (16-3, 3-3) – Even – 5.7
Last Week: Lost to #16 Iowa 59-76, Lost to Wisconsin 76-77
This Week: Wednesday vs Nebraska, Saturday at #7 Maryland

“Michigan State is sputtering a bit despite the return of Denzel Valentine, but the loss of Tum Tum Nairns could hurt more than expected – they don’t really have a true backup point guard,” said Sam.

7. Northwestern (15-4, 13-3) – Even – 7.3
Last Week: Beat Wisconsin 70-65, Lost to Penn State 62-71
This Week: Tuesday at #7 Maryland, Saturday at #25 Indiana

“Northwestern will probably have played itself out by the end of this month after a brutal home loss to Penn State, a teaser of a loss at Maryland, and a three-game stretch upcoming of at Indiana, home versus MSU, at Iowa,” said Sam.

8. Wisconsin (10-9, 2-4) – Even – 8.0
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 65-70, Beat #4 Michigan State 77-76
This Week: Thursday at Penn State
9. Ohio State (12-7, 4-2) – Even – 8.7
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 94-68, Lost to #3 Maryland 65-100
This Week: Thursday at #22 Purdue

“Ohio State still has a big uphill climb to make the Tournament,” said Sam.

10. Nebraska (11-8, 3-3) – Even – 9.3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 84-59, Beat Illinois 78-67
This Week: Wednesday at #11 Michigan State, Saturday vs Michigan
11. Penn State (11-8, 2-4) – Even – 11.0
Last Week: Lost to #24 Purdue 57-74, Beat Northwestern 71-62
This Week: Thursday vs Wisconsin
12. Illinois (9-9, 1-4) – Even – 12.0
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 67-78
This Week: Tuesday at #25 Indiana, Saturday at Minnesota
13. Minnesota (6-12, 0-6) – Even – 13.3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 69-84, Lost to Indiana 63-70
This Week: Wednesday at Michigan, Saturday vs Illinois
14. Rutgers (6-12, 0-5) – Even – 13.7
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 68-94
This Week: Monday vs #22 Purdue, Thursday vs #9 Iowa

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 28

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


Cardinals Stadium

Michigan’s College Football Playoff dreams took an enormous hit Saturday night when Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal split the uprights and cracked the Buckeyes in Columbus. The Wolverines not only lost a chance to control their own destiny in the Big Ten race, they also missed out on perhaps two opportunities to play against undefeated, top-five opponents.

Now everything falls into the hands of a Penn State that doesn’t look capable of keeping its star quarterback upright, let alone pulling off a monumental upset. Barring something insane, Michigan will have to settle for a nine or 10-win season, which is pretty incredible, considering the direction the program was trending the last seven years.

But until the final game clock hits zero, we’ll keep pursuing those slim championship hopes.

“I really, really need you”

In honor of Sanka Coffie from Cool Runnings, these teams completely hold Michigan’s fate in their hands. These are the teams that Michigan absolutely needs victories from on Saturday in order to keep the Wolverines’ CFP hopes alive. If even one of these teams falls, Michigan’s CFP dreams die.

No. 10 Michigan (home) over No. 8 Ohio State (12pm, ABC): As always, Michigan has to take care of its own business for any of this to even matter. Jim Harbaugh’s team has done nothing but improve all season and looks like it can compete with almost any team in the country. A win over Ohio State would make the 3:30 kick in East Lansing worth a glance.

Result: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 13

Penn State (away) over No. 5 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): This one probably isn’t happening. Michigan State looks to have really hit its stride heading into the final weeks of the season, and Penn State is just limping toward the finish line. If the Spartans win, it’ll be a Big Ten East title for Mark Dantonio.

Result: Michigan State 55 – Penn State 16

“It could happen!”

In honor of JP from Angels in the Outfield, this is the “It could happen” group. These are the teams Michigan is rooting for that have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday. Wins by these teams either help the Wolverines move up in the rankings or improve their resume (in order of kickoff time).

No. 4 Iowa (away) over Nebraska (3:30pm, ABC, Friday): On the off chance that Michigan does get into the Big Ten Championship game next week, it needs an undefeated Iowa, ranked in the top four, to boost its resume. A title game of that magnitude would really propel Michigan into the conversation during the final rankings.

Result: Iowa 28 – Nebraska 20

No. 19 TCU (home) over No. 7 Baylor (8pm, ESPN, Friday): This might be Michigan’s last chance to jump Baylor, as the Bears have only a home date with an awful Texas team remaining. A loss to TCU would put three of the four Big 12 contenders behind Michigan.

Result: TCU 28 – Baylor 21 (2OT)

No. 23 Utah (home) over Colorado (2:30pm, Pac12): Utah has been killing Michigan the last two weeks. Back-to-back losses to Arizona and UCLA has the Utes clinging to the edge of the top 25 and threatening to turn Michigan’s opening loss into a weak one. They cannot afford a loss to Colorado.

Result: Utah 20 – Colorado 14

No. 16 Northwestern (away) over Illinois (3:30pm, ESPNU): The Wildcats have done nothing but help Michigan since being blown out in back-to-back games to the Wolverines and Hawkeyes. Northwestern needs only a win over Illinois to cap off a 10-win regular season and give Michigan one of the best wins (considering the 38-0 score) of the entire football season.

Result: Northwestern 24 – Illinois 14

No. 13 Florida State (away) over No. 12 Florida (7:30pm, ESPN): Since Florida State’s resume pales in comparison to Michigan’s I don’t think a win over Florida would propel the Seminoles into the top 10. Florida, on the other hand, still has the slim chance to jump Michigan if it somehow knocks off Alabama in the SEC title game. A loss to FSU would take care of that worry.

Result: Florida State 27 – Florida 2

No. 9 Stanford (home) over No. 6 Notre Dame (7:30pm, FOX): This is a tough one, because Michigan should pass the loser no matter what if the Wolverines knock off Ohio State. But if Stanford beats Notre Dame, there’s still a chance the Cardinal might lose to UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 title game. That would lift Michigan over both teams if it wins out. Also, Stanford has no business being ranked above Michigan in the first place.

Result: Stanford 38 – Notre Dame 36

No. 11 Oklahoma State (home) over No. 3 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): There’s definitely a chance Oklahoma State would jump Michigan with a win over vastly over-ranked Oklahoma, but there’s also a chance the Wolverines would hold serve with a win over Ohio State. This is the only scenario that gives Michigan a legitimate shot to shoot above all four Big 12 contenders.

Result: Oklahoma 58 – Oklahoma State 23

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

In honor of Pepper Brooks, from Dodgeball, these are the true underdog stories. These teams have almost no chance to win, but if they do, it would really help Michigan.

South Carolina (home) over No. 1 Clemson (12pm, ESPN): Hey, it’s the last week of the regular season, why not root for some chaos? It’s not likely that Clemson can do anything to fall below Michigan at this point, but in a rivalry game, on the road, to a team coming off a loss to The Citadel, anything can happen.

Result: Clemson 37 – South Carolina 32

Auburn (home) over No. 2 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS): The Iron Bowl is one of the biggest crapshoots in college football, and a loss to a bad Auburn team would really put pressure on the committee to (finally) punish Alabama. Would the Crimson Tide fall below Michigan? It would certainly have to be under consideration if Michigan beat Ohio State.

Result: Alabama 29 – Auburn 13

North Carolina State (home) over No. 14 North Carolina (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): Despite two FCS games and a laughable loss to South Carolina in the nonconference season, North Carolina has ridden a 10-game winning streak over unranked opponents right into the top 15. If the Tarheels did the unthinkable and won the ACC, they might vault Michigan in the rankings. A loss to rival N.C. State would erase any chance of that happening.

Result: North Carolina 45 – N.C. State 34

CFP Rankings: What they missed – Nov. 24, 2015

Friday, November 27th, 2015


CFP banner

The College Football Playoff selection committee cleaned up some of its own mess this week when it released the third-to-last top 25 of the season.

Ohio State and Memphis were both embarrassed on Saturday, forcing the committee to drop both schools from pedestals they didn’t deserve. Even Florida, which hasn’t looked like a top 50 team for weeks, finally paid the price after a slim overtime victory over Florida Atlantic University.

But there are still a rash of alarming mistakes, highlighted by a few I pointed out last week. Stanford is still ranked above Michigan, despite the clear Wolverine edge in both quality wins and outcomes against common opponents. North Carolina is also ranked ahead of a few teams with much better resumes and far fewer cupcake wins over FCS opponents.

For now, let’s dive into some of the new mistakes that emerged from Tuesday’s rankings.

(3) Oklahoma…anywhere near the top 3

While the rest of the country jumps aboard the Sooner bandwagon, I’ve been left wondering what it is about their resume I’m not seeing.

Oklahoma has only played two respectable opponents this season – Baylor and TCU – and neither team had its starting quarterback against the Sooners. Committee chairman Jeff Long touted Oklahoma for dominating Saturday’s contest while its starting quarterback was in the game. But did he realize TCU played with a backup for 60 minutes? The Horned Frogs were also without their top playmaking receiver in the contest.

But a win over a two-loss TCU team playing without its two best players was enough to vault Oklahoma to number three?

Maybe the committee is forgetting Oct. 10, when the Sooners were thoroughly dominated by a terrible 4-7 Texas team that has since lost to the likes of West Virginia and Iowa State? Texas outgained Oklahoma by 90 yards and never trailed in the contest.
How in the world can this happen?

Who should be above Oklahoma? Let’s start with Iowa, a team that, in case you haven’t noticed, is undefeated. The Hawkeyes have two wins – Wisconsin and Northwestern – that are just as impressive as beating Baylor and TCU with backup quarterbacks. And Iowa hasn’t lost to anybody, let alone a 4-7 train wreck like Texas.

Michigan State should also be ahead of Oklahoma. The Spartans have wins over Oregon and Michigan and Ohio State on the road. They went into Columbus and bullied the Buckeyes with two backup quarterbacks. Oklahoma jumping two Big Ten teams with such obviously stronger resumes makes me worry about the integrity of the sport.

If Oklahoma wins out and stays above an undefeated Iowa or one-loss MSU, it’ll be obvious the committee is trying to make up for snubbing the Big 12 last season.

(13) Florida State ranked above (16) Northwestern

Does the committee even know that Jameis Winston declared for the NFL Draft?

Florida State and Northwestern, which share identical 9-2 records, should be the easiest side-by-side ranking of the top 25.

Florida State plays in the worst power five conference and has zero wins over ranked opponents. In fact, FSU’s best win came over an N.C. State team that lost to Virginia Tech by 15 points. In the only ranked game the Seminoles have played this season, they lost by 10 points at Clemson.

Oh yeah, and Florida State lost to a Georgia Tech team that is 3-8. Three wins, eight losses. Georgia Tech’s only win in over two and a half months came against Florida State.

Northwestern, on the other hand, lost to two top ten teams in the country. It has wins over No. 9 Stanford and on the road against previously-ranked Wisconsin. Northwestern also beat Penn State, Nebraska and Duke, all teams better than N.C. State.

But the Wildcats really aren’t even close in the rankings. They’re three spots behind a team with worse wins, a much worse loss and a one-hit wonder schedule. If there was any question the committee doesn’t know what it’s doing, it’s been answered.

(14) North Carolina ranked above (15) Navy

You might look at this example and think, ‘These teams are only one spot apart, why does it matter?’ It matters because the CFP committee has one job, to rank football teams, and it can’t even do that right.

North Carolina is on a 10-game winning streak, which is an impressive feat. But I think more than a handful of college football teams would be on a 10-game winning streak if they played two FCS schools, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech along the way. UNC did beat Miami and Duke, but both games were at home. The team’s best win came over a Pittsburgh team that isn’t ranked in any of the polls.

By the way, the Tarheels lost to South Carolina. Yes, the same South Carolina that is 3-8 and just lost at home to The Citadel.

Unlike UNC, Navy’s lone loss came to a top 10 team. The Midshipmen lost at (6) Notre Dame on Oct. 10 and have since put together a five-game winning streak of their own. Navy has beaten three eight-win teams this season by an average of 19.67 points. North Carolina beat one eight-win team by seven points.

There’s no doubt Navy has put together a much stronger resume than North Carolina this season, but apparently, the committee is too blind to notice.

With every passing week, these mistakes become more and more alarming. The committee is not only whiffing on teams ranked outside the top 10, it can’t even nail down a deserving top four.

If most of the top-ranked teams continue to win and force these “experts” to make a tough decision, I have no confidence they can sit down and pick the four most deserving teams to play for a championship.