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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

Well, the biggest week of the Big Ten season so far has come and gone, leaving two clear contenders with a direct path to Indianapolis. Barring a massive upset, Iowa and Michigan State will play for the Big Ten crown.

But as a whole, the Big Ten has emerged as the top conference in college football. LSU and much of the SEC has been exposed as overhyped and the Big Ten put four teams in the College Football Playoff top 10.

Now the microscope shifts from the top of the league to the middle, where four teams need a victory to get to six wins. Will the Big Ten send only seven teams to the postseason? Or could it be as many as 11? All 14 teams will hit the turf Saturday (or Friday) for six meaningful games (and one Maryland-Rutgers pillow fight).

East Division
1. Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat #3 Ohio State 17-14 This Week: Sat Penn State (7-4, 4-3), 3:30pm, ESPN

Mark Dantonio did it again. Nobody gave Michigan State a chance to win in Columbus, especially when star quarterback and future first-round draft pick Connor Cook was ruled out. If the Spartans knock off Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 5, they should be a top two seed in the playoff.

2. Michigan (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 28-16 This Week: Sat vs #8 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1), 12pm, ABC

Saturday was a perfect representation of how far Michigan has come under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines dominated Penn State in Happy Valley, electing to take a knee inside the five instead of winning the game by 19 points. The victory gave Michigan a perfect 4-0 road record in conference play and a fourth straight win since the crushing defeat against MSU. If Michigan played Utah or Michigan State today, it would probably win both games. Instead, the Wolverines have a chance to clinch a New Year’s Six bowl game if they can take care of Ohio State at the Big House.

3. Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #9 Michigan State 14-17 This Week: Sat at #10 Michigan (9-2, 6-1), 12pm, ABC

You don’t really find out about the character of a team until it faces some adversity, and the Buckeyes didn’t handle it well. After their first loss in over a calendar year, Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott unceremoniously declared for the NFL Draft and Elliott blamed the entire loss on play calling. Then, Urban Meyer seized control of his team by…basically cowering at Elliott’s feet during his weekly press conference. Elliott does not deserve to miss game time for his comments, but the way he attacked his coaching staff created a crack in the seemingly impenetrable wall Meyer built in Columbus. Now that the Buckeyes have a loss, the rest of their resume is fair game for criticism. Ohio State’s best win came at home against a mediocre Penn State team and then it lost its only competitive game to a team with two backup quarterbacks. I think Michigan is going to see an angry, ultra-motivated Buckeye team in Ann Arbor this weekend.

4. Indiana (5-6, 1-6) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 47-28 This Week: Sat at Purdue (2-9, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

Indiana has been the anti-Ohio State this season: Losing close games against very tough competition. The Hoosiers have played five of the top six teams in the conference and nearly knocked off four of those teams. But now it’s time to give Indiana some love. Despite falling behind Maryland 21-3 in the first quarter, Kevin Wilson’s team didn’t fall apart, instead scoring the next 27 points and running away with a 47-28 win. That first conference victory gives the Hoosiers a great chance to clinch a bowl Saturday in West Lafayette.

5. Penn State (7-4, 4-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan 16-28 This Week: Sat at #5 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Is Penn State any good? I’m really not sure. James Franklin heads into the final game of the season without a single win over a winning power five team. PSU’s best win came against Indiana and it hasn’t won a road game on the year. Christian Hackenberg missed some open receivers by a wide margin Saturday against Michigan and looks beaten down by a terrible offensive line’s ineptitude.

6. Rutgers (4-7, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Beat Army 31-21 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-9, 0-7), 12pm, BTN

Rutgers won at Army by 10 points to snap a four-game losing streak on Saturday. Luckily, the Scarlett Knights get to close out the season against Maryland this weekend.

7. Maryland (2-9, 0-7) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 28-47 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (4-7, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

It seems like some strong head coaching candidates are strongly considering that Maryland job, which is the first good news the football program has heard all season. Luckily, the Terrapins get to close out the season against Rutgers this weekend.

B1G East Week 12


West Division
1. Iowa (11-0, 7-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 40-20 This Week: Fri at Nebraska (5-6, 3-4), 3:30pm, ABC

With a foot of snow piled on every row of bleachers, Iowa looked like it would give fans an excuse to watch the second half from the warmth of their living rooms Saturday. But a 20-point lead was trimmed to just seven early in the second half after a 13-0 Purdue run. The Hawkeyes woke up just in time to win 40-20 and jump into the top four of the playoff rankings. Iowa already clinched the Big Ten West Division, but it’ll need a win in Nebraska on Friday night to stay alive for the playoff.

2. Northwestern (9-2, 5-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat #25 Wisconsin 13-7 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-6, 2-5), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Another week, another reason Northwestern should be ranked much higher than it actually is. The Wildcats went into Madison and held Wisconsin to seven points to add another quality win to a loaded resume. It’s a shame that losses to a pair of top 10 teams took a very deserving Northwestern team out of the New Year’s Six conversation.

3. Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-14 This Week: Fri vs #4 Iowa (11-0, 7-0), 3:30pm, ABC

It’s been a season full of shock for Nebraska fans: Shocking losses, shocking wins and, most prominently, shocking endings. Mike Riley is two-thirds of the way through the 3-0 finish he needed to make a bowl game. It’s fitting that the Cornhuskers will need a shocking win over undefeated Iowa to polish it off.

4. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #20 Northwestern 7-13 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (5-6, 2-5), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin played three games against teams without losing record this season and lost all three, scoring an average of 10 points. All eight of Wisconsin’s wins came against teams with five or fewer wins. That makes an SEC non-conference schedule look almost respectable.

5. Minnesota (5-6, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Beta Illinois 32-23 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Coming off three straight losses to current top-10 teams, Minnesota got its first win under Tracy Claeys Saturday against Illinois. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Golden Gophers knock off Wisconsin at home to sneak into the bowl season. Minnesota is one of those pesky teams you don’t want to play in the postseason.

6. Purdue (2-9, 1-6) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #5 Iowa 20-40 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (5-6, 1-6), 12pm, BTN

This is going to sound strange, but Purdue might be the best 2-9 team in the country. The Boilermakers have come within a possession of knocking off three teams with at least nine wins and gave Iowa a bit of a scare in the 3rd quarter Saturday. A rivalry win against bowl-hopeful Indiana would end the season on a positive note.

7. Illinois (5-6, 2-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 23-32 This Week: Sat vs #16 Northwestern (9-2, 5-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU

Illinois had a perfect opportunity to clinch a bowl win Saturday in Minnesota, but laid an egg in a 32-23 loss. Now it’ll take an upset over an excellent Northwestern team on Senior Night to extend the season for Bill Cubit’s group.

B1G West Week 12

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 11

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

The Big Ten featured six games this weekend and none of those ended in an upset, though many were too close for comfort.

Now, with only two weeks remaining, the Big Ten will watch a three-horse race in the East Division unfold as the top four teams duke it out. The highly-anticipated Michigan State-Ohio State game is finally here, with more than a chance at the conference title on the line.

Tuesday’s rankings kept six Big Ten teams in the top 25, but some of them are clearly being devalued by a questionable committee.

Here’s how the conference stacks up with two weeks to play.

East Division
1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 28-3 This Week: Sat vs #9 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1), 3:30pm, ABC

This year’s battle for Illibuck was one to forget, as Ohio State rolled the hapless Illini, 28-3, to take home the trophy. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns to pace a Buckeye offense that welcomed starting quarterback J.T. Barrett back to the field. Now OSU faces the two toughest competitors in the East, starting at home against Michigan State.

2. Michigan (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 48-41 (2OT) This Week: Sat at Penn State (7-3, 4-2), 12pm, ABC

The road date with Indiana smelled like danger from a mile away, and it took heroic efforts from Jake Rudock and Jehu Chesson to keep Michigan’s slim Big Ten title hopes alive. Rudock threw for 440 yards and six touchdowns. Chess on caught 10 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, the defense allowed 41 points to a Jordan Howard-led offense that bullied the Wolverines at the point of attack. If it takes two overtimes to beat the 4-6 Hoosiers, next weekend’s matchup with Penn State looks that much tougher.

3. Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Bear Maryland 24-7 This Week: Sat at #3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0), 3:30pm, ABC

The Spartans got back on track Saturday, smacking Maryland by 17 despite playing most of the second half with Connor Cook on the sideline. Cook injured his throwing shoulder and looked like he was battling significant pain on the sideline. Luckily for MSU, Perry Hills was dreadful for the Terps, who mustered only one score, which came on their first drive. If Michigan State knocks off OSU in the Horseshoe, it’ll erase memories of that ugly loss to Nebraska.

4. Penn State (7-3, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #12 Michigan (8-2, 5-1), 12pm, ABC

Penn State took a late bye week to prepare for incoming Michigan on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are coming off a two-point loss to Northwestern and looking to finish strong against two top 12 teams in Michigan and MSU. Christian Hackenberg is likely playing his final game in Happy Valley, and he has the skill set to go out with a huge bang.

5. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #14 Michigan 41-48 (2OT) This Week: Sat at Maryland (2-8, 0-6), 12pm, BTN

Indiana might be the best 0-6 conference team in the country, but it’s obvious why this group is struggling to finish an upset. It took Michigan three plays to score two overtime touchdowns, the second of which came without a single defender in the same area code as Amara Darboh. All the offense in the world, even from Howard, couldn’t make up for those defensive lapses.

6. Rutgers (3-7, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 14-31 This Week: Sat vs Army (2-8), 12pm, CBSSN

Rutgers stuck with Nebraska for awhile, but a late push from the superior Cornhuskers ultimately crushed the Scarlett Knights’ slim bowl hopes.

7. Maryland (2-8, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #13 Michigan State 7-24 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-6, 0-6), 12pm, BTN

Not only is Maryland awful, the revolving door at quarterback makes the Terps nearly impossible to watch. The defense kept the game close for most of the first half, but Perry Hills just couldn’t make any throws after an up-tempo touchdown drive to kick things off.


B1G East Week 11

West Division
1. Iowa (10-0, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 40-35 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (2-8, 1-5), 12pm, ESPN2

The undefeated Hawkeyes were the latest group to get a score from a pesky Gophers team. Despite exploding for 40 points against a solid defense, Iowa needed 13 fourth-quarter points to hold off the Fighting Tracy Claeys. Saturday’s battle with Purdue will be a nice tuneup for a season finale that’s looking much more interesting now that Nebraska’s turned its season around.

2. Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 21-14 This Week: Sat at #25 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Survive and advance, or something like that! Northwestern looked sluggish Saturday against Purdue and needed a score with under five minutes in the game to grab a third straight victory. It shouldn’t still be in doubt, but the Wildcats can finally prove themselves Saturday if they win at No. 25 Wisconsin.

3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #20 Northwestern (8-2, 4-2), 3:30pm, BTN

The only thing easier than Wisconsin’s schedule this season was their week off to prepare for No. 20 Northwestern this season. The Badgers have knocked off five straight cupcakes since losing the conference opener to Iowa and could pick up their first quality win of the season Saturday.

4. Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-14 This Week: Bye (11/27 vs Iowa)

Is Nebraska finally making its run? Mike Riley’s chances to make a bowl game looked so slim after a loss to Purdue dropped his team to 3-6, but wins over MSU and Rutgers have put the Cornhuskers in position to save the season, if they can knock off undefeated rival Iowa.

5. Minnesota (4-6, 1-5) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #5 Iowa 35-40 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-5, 2-4), 12pm, ESPNN

In three weeks since Jerry Kill retired, Minnesota has played tough against Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. Unfortunately, the Gophers fell short all three times. Illinois presents a much easier task on Saturday.

6. Illinois (5-5, 2-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #3 Ohio State 3-28 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (4-6, 1-5), 12pm, ESPNN

Wes Lunt and company just didn’t have it Saturday against Ohio State, managing just three points in the blowout loss. It’ll take a win over Minnesota or Northwestern for the Illini to play in December.

7. Purdue (2-8, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #18 Northwestern 14-21 This Week: Sat at #5 Iowa (10-0, 6-0), 12pm, ESPN2

David Blough has been a nice surprise for Purdue this season, putting together another solid performance against Northwestern — 287 yards passing and a touchdown. Next up: An Iowa team fighting for a national championship and a Minnesota team fighting for a bowl game.

B1G West Week 11

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

And then there were two.

The Big Ten watched one-third of its three-headed monster fall Saturday night leaving just one undefeated team in each division. But despite that loss, the conference saw six teams ranked in Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings, more than any other conference.

It’s looking like the Big Ten might be the best conference in the country this season. Here’s a look at how the divisions stack up through Week 10.

East Division
1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 28-14 This Week: Sat at Illinois (5-4, 2-3), 12pm, ABC

Another week, another Ohio State victory. The defending champs remained undefeated without their starting quarterback Saturday, fending off a pesky Minnesota squad to improve to 9-0. Cardale Jones threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and Ezekiel Elliott rushed 26 times for 114 and a score to pace the offense. Minnesota controlled the pace and racked up more than 300 yards, but a late comeback effort ran out of gas in the 4th quarter. OSU held steady at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday after being jumped by Alabama, which lost to an unranked team at home but somehow hasn’t been penalized for it. If the Buckeyes knock off a pair of really good teams from the state of Michigan, they should vault right back up to No. 1

2. Michigan (7-2, 4-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 49-16 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-5, 0-5), 3:30pm, ABC

Just one week after falling to a season-worst fourth in these rankings, Michigan is up into the No. 2 spot for just the second time. Michigan took care of business against Rutgers, cruising past the Scarlett Knights 49-16. The offensive outburst was paced by quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw for a season-best 337 yards More importantly, the Wolverines have new life in the Big Ten East race with a pair of tricky road games on the horizon. A shaky secondary faces a huge test Saturday in Indiana, which is bound to finish off one of these upset bids eventually. Michigan moved up three spots to No. 14 in the playoff rankings.

3. Michigan State (8-1, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 38-39 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-7, 0-5), 12pm, ESPN2

If you play with fire long enough, you’re bound to get burned. Michigan State flirted with defeat almost every week en route to an otherwise impressive 8-0 start, but it couldn’t hold onto a 12-point lead with under four minutes to play Saturday night and fell to Nebraska, 39-38. The Spartans underperformed against Rutgers, Purdue, even the directional schools, to an extent. And no, MSU didn’t lose to Nebraska because of an out-of-bounds call at the end of the game. Mark Dantonio’s team had no business cutting it so close against a team that lost to Purdue by double digits, so that defense has nobody to blame but itself. Luckily for the Spartans, they’re still ranked No. 13 in the playoff rankings with a cupcake at home to get back on track this weekend.

4. Penn State (7-3, 4-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #21 NW 21-23 This Week: Bye (11/21 vs Michigan)

The Nittany Lions were already a long shot to win the Big Ten East, but any remaining aspirations were officially put to rest Saturday afternoon.  Penn State had a chance to pick up its first good win of the season in Evanston, but allowed a field goal with under 10 seconds left to surrender a one-point lead. Christian Hackenberg struggled, completing just 21 of 40 pass attempts for 205 yards and an interception. The defense was shaky, allowing nearly 400 yards, but Hackenberg has to be much better for this team to do some damage down the stretch.

5. Indiana (4-5, 0-5) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #9 Iowa 27-35 This Week: Sat vs #14 Michigan (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Another week, another near Indiana upset. The Hoosiers hung around just long enough to give the undefeated Hawkeyes a scare in Bloomington, but ultimately fell eight points short of the win. They’ll get back at it Saturday as the hopeful Wolverines come to town.

6. Rutgers (3-6, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #17 Michigan 16-49 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (4-6, 2-4), 3:30pm, BTN

Rutgers players who ticked off Jim Harbaugh despite trailing by 19 points heading into halftime on Saturday have to be feeling pretty stupid now. Harbaugh went for a two-point conversion despite holding a 25-point lead in the 3rd quarter to send the Scarlett Knights back to the sideline with their tails between their legs.

7. Maryland (2-7, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 24-31 This Week: Sat at #13 MSU (8-1, 4-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Hey, Maryland actually kept it pretty close Saturday against Wisconsin, falling by just a touchdown to the streaking Badgers. Unfortunately, this weekend brings a trip to East Lansing against an angry Michigan State squad.

B1G East Week 10


West Division
1. Iowa (9-0, 5-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 35-27 This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (4-5, 1-4), 8pm, BTN

Breathe easy, Iowa fans! The soon-to-be West champs got out of upset-happy Indianapolis with a slim victory and jumped up to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings. That means this team is a lock for the playoff if it finishes the season with four more victories.

2. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 23-21 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (2-7, 1-4), 12pm, BTN

Pat Fitzgerald’s team added another excellent win to its resume Saturday, knocking off Penn State with a late field goal from a kicker who’d missed three times on the day. Now the Wildcats have cracked the top 20 of the College Football Playoff poll and have a chance to keep on rolling this weekend against a punchless Purdue team.

3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-24 This Week: Bye (11/21 vs Northwestern)

It took five straight wins over inferior Big Ten opponents, but Wisconsin is finally back in the rankings after sliding into the No. 25 spot on Tuesday night. Now the Badgers will take a much-needed bye week to prepare for a Northwestern team that’s playing as well as any team in the conference this month.

4. Nebraska (4-6, 2-4) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat #7 MSU 39-38 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (3-6, 1-5), 3:30pm, BTN

Saturday night’s game between Nebraska and Michigan State demonstrated why college football is such a strange sport. Nebraska did nothing but find ways to lose close games in its first nine games, while Michigan State always found a way to barely survive. But the tables turned this weekend when Tommy Armstrong led a four-play, 91-yard drive with under a minute left in the game to keep the distant bowl dreams alive for first-year Cornhusker Mike Riley.

5. Illinois (5-4, 2-3) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 48-14 This Week: Sat vs #3 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0), 12pm, ABC

Illinois continued to stay just above the lower-tier of Big Ten teams Saturday, hitting the road and smashing Purdue, 48-14. As specifics about former head coach Tim Beckman create a negative vibe around this Fighting Illini team, its got a chance to really shake things up this weekend in the battle for Illibuck with Ohio State.

6. Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #3 OSU 14-28 This Week: Sat at #5 Iowa (9-0, 5-0), 8pm, BTN

For the second straight week, Minnesota stayed within striking distance of a top 20 team deep into the 4th quarter but couldn’t quite pull off the upset. The Golden Gophers need two more wins to gain bowl eligibility, but unfortunately two of their last three games come against Iowa and Wisconsin.

7. Purdue (2-7, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 14-48 This Week: Sat at #18 NW (7-2, 3-2), 12pm, BTN

The high point of Purdue’s season came last weekend when it crushed Nebraska by 10 points. After a 34-point home drubbing to Illinois, this is close to the lowest low.

B1G West Week 10

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G East Week 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G West Week 9

#15 Michigan 29 – Minnesota 26: Goal line stand brings back the Jug

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Michigan-Minnesota(Patrick Barron)

Two weeks ago Michigan had the game won until an improbable fumbled snap was returned for a touchdown by Michigan State in the closing seconds. On Saturday, Michigan appeared to have lost when Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner connected with Drew Wolitarsky for a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. But after review he was ruled down at the one and the Michigan defense kept the Gophers out of the end zone on two tries from the one to capture an unlikely victory.

Michigan’s defense looked flat for much of the game, far from the dominant group that imposed its will on BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern to the tune of three straight shutouts. On Saturday night, it let a Minnesota offense that ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in every offensive category rack up 461 total yards. It made Leidner look like Tom Brady, completing 16 of 33 passes for a season high 317 yards. It made a Minnesota running game that ranked 84th nationally look competent, rushing for 144 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. But when it needed a stop the most, the defense that entered the game ranked first nationally in most categories came up big.

Final Stats
Michigan Minnesota
Score 29 26
Record 6-2 (3-1) 4-4 (1-3)
Total Yards 296 461
Net Rushing Yards 127 144
Net Passing Yards 169 317
First Downs 20 20
Turnovers 2 0
Penalties-Yards 5-47 7-53
Punts-Yards 5-220 5-190
Time of Possession 28:55 31:05
Third Down Conversions 5-of-12 5-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-10 2-19
Field Goals 0-for-0 4-for-4
PATs 3-for-3 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-4
Full Box Score

“That’s kind of disrespectful to the d-line to run a sneak because they’re trying to get us knocked back,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said of Minnesota’s decision to go for the win with two seconds left instead of kick a field goal to send the game into overtime. “We talked to each other and said it’s down to us. … We knew we had to get off the field and get the win.”

On the first play from the one-half yard line, Minnesota lined up with three backs directly behind Leidner, who was under center. Two of them then motioned out wide and Leidner moved back into the shotgun with just one back, who then motioned to the right. By the time the Gophers snapped the ball, 12 of the 19 seconds had run off the clock. Leidner’s pass was off the mark with Hurst applying pressure. Two seconds remained, and instead of kicking a field goal to send the game into overtime, interim head coach Tracy Claeys elected to go for the win. But Michigan’s defensive line held strong, stuffing Leidner’s sneak attempt short of the goal line as time expired.

Minnesota got the first score of the game on a 23-yard Ryan Santoso field goal after Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted Jake Rudock on Michigan’s first possession. But Michigan responded with an 8-play, 57-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-3 lead. Joe Kerridge scored from a yard out.

After forcing a three and out, Michigan got great starting field position on its next possession thanks to a 41-yard punt return by Jabrill Peppers. Five plays later, Rudock found Jehu Chesson in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. At that point, it looked as if Michigan would run away with the game, but Minnesota would have none of it.

Santoso kicked a 30-yard field goal on Minnesota’s ensuing  possession, and after forcing a Michigan punt, Minnesota wasted no time finding the end zone. Running back Rodney Smith ripped off a 23-yard run and two plays later Leidner connected with Rashad Still for a 52- yard touchdown pass to bring Minnesota within one at 14-13.

Michigan’s offense sputtered and Minnesota took advantage with a 32-yard field goal as the first half clock expired. The Gophers took a 16-14 lead into the half.

Michigan got the ball to start the second half and put together a 7-play, 75-yard drive that included a 14-yard completion to Amara Darboh and rushes of 22 yards and 13 yards by Drake Johnson. But no play was more exciting than Peppers taking a jet sweep six yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

On Michigan’s next possession, the Wolverines were forced to punt, but Dymonte Thomas was flagged for kick catch interference, giving Minnesota the ball at Michigan’s 33-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-1, Leidner faked a handoff and raced 24 yards for a Minnesota touchdown to retake the lead.

Michigan got a scare when Rudock scrambled and was hit awkwardly as he tried to slide. He came out of the game and was taken to the locker room for tests. Wilton Speight came on in relief, but wasn’t able to move the ball on his first two possessions. Minnesota added a field goal from 47 yards out to take a 26-21 lead with 11:43 to play.

Michigan began its next drive with Peppers in the wildcat, but after he gained four yards on the first play, Michigan couldn’t get a first down and had to punt. The defense forced a three and out, and after a short punt, the Wolverines took over at the Minnesota 40 with 8:36 remaining. Speight found Jake Butt for nine yards on the first play, then Khalid Hill for eight yards two plays later. On 3rd-and-10 from the Minnesota 12, Speight threw a strike to Chesson in the end zone to put Michigan back on top. Harbaugh elected to go for two to give Michigan a three point lead, and Speight hit Darboh for the conversion. Michigan led 29-26 with 4:57 left.

Minnesota needed a field goal to tie, but they only had their sights set on a win. On 3rd-and-17 from the Minnesota 18, Leidner found Smith for 17 yards and a first down. Michigan’s defense then forced a 4th-and-5, but Leidner connected with K.J. Maye for 12 yards to the Michigan 27. Two plays later, Leidner completed a 23-yard pass to Wolitarsky for what was ruled on the field as a go-ahead touchdown. But upon review it was ruled that Wolitarsky’s knee was down at the half-yard line, leading to the final goal line stand.

Minnesota out-gained Michigan offensively 461 to 296. Rudock completed 13 of 21 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Speight completed 3 of 6 for 29 yards and a score. Johnson led Michigan in rushing with 55 yards on 10 carries (5.5 yards per carry), while De’Veon Smith was held to just 15 yards on nine carries (1.7 ypc). Darboh had six catches for 73 yards, while Butt caught four for 38 and Chesson three for 33 and two touchdowns. Peppers recorded 100 all-purpose yards, 84 in the return game and 16 on four rushes, including the touchdown, while playing more than 80 plays.

Now 6-2 and 3-1 in the Big Ten, Michigan returns home to face Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) next Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
It was only a matter of time before Peppers made his mark, and he did so in all three phases of the game on Saturday night. His 43-yard kickoff return set Michigan in great field position to score their first touchdown of the game. His 41-yard punt return allowed the offense to start on Minnesota’s 29-yard line and score its second touchdown of the game. Then, Peppers himself scored the third touchdown on a 6-yard jet sweep. He also recorded three tackles — none bigger than a shoestring tackle of Leidner on Minnesota’s final drive — and two pass breakups. He was on the field for over 80 plays and his impact will only increase as his career continues.

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)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)

Game Ball – Defense

James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Perhaps no one on Michigan’s defense deserves this week’s game ball after turning in the worst performance of the season. Or perhaps the entire defense deserves it for stuffing Leidner short of the goal line on the game’s final play. But one play doesn’t decide the game ball, so we’ll go with the most consistent performer, and that was linebacker James Ross. He led the team with nine tackles and also sacked Leidner on 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter, backing the Gophers up to their own 11 yard line, which resulted in Michigan’s offense taking possession at the Minnesota 40. The Wolverines took advantage of the great field position by scoring the game-winning touchdown.

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)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)

M&GB staff predictions: Minnesota

Friday, October 30th, 2015



Michigan returns to action on Halloween night looking to bring home the best treat of the night: the Little Brown Jug. Let’s take a look at our picks.


Michigan will come out focused and determined to reclaim the Little Brown Jug and stay in the Big Ten title hunt. Minnesota’s defense is just average against the run and allowed 203 yards on 5.3 yards per carry to Nebraska, which managed just 82 rushing yards last week against Northwestern. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson, who should finally be healthy.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Minnesota
Justin 35 6
Derick 30 6
Sam 27 10
Josh 27 9
Joe 31 3
M&GB Average 30 7

Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Michigan, so the main question will be whether or not Michigan’s defense can record its fourth shutout of the season. Northwestern shut Minnesota out 27-0 and the Gophers managed just 10 points against Kent State, who is just 3-5 at this point and has given up at least 10 points in every other game.

It won’t be a pretty or exciting game, but it will be classic Jim Harbaugh as Michigan pounds the ball on the ground and wears down the Gopher defense. Jake Rudock has a classic Jake Rudock day and Michigan wins and returns the jug to its rightly place.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 6


(Full disclosure, having a bye week after a loss like that completely sucked)

There’s a lot more to this Michigan-Minnesota game than it appears at first glance. For starters, Saturday’s winner will hold the Little Brown Jug for over two years, as the Golden Gophers aren’t on Michigan’s 2016 schedule. After Minnesota embarrassed the Wolverines, 30-14, in Ann Arbor last season, and pranced around the field with the Jug well after the final whistle, I fully expected Jim Harbaugh to run this ‘rival’ into the ground.

But on Wednesday, Minnesota’s widely beloved head coach Jerry Kill made the startling announcement that his health is forcing him to retire from football immediately. Kill battled health issues over the past several years, but he said the seizures have reached a point where he risks permanent mental damage if he doesn’t leave the sideline and get the proper care. I think Kill’s announcement takes some of the venom out of the contest and will likely rally the Golden Gophers, who’ve been awful since the start of conference play.

Minnesota’s only chance to steal this game will come in the passing game. Michigan’s passing game, to be more specific. The Gophers allow only 177.3 passing yards per game — 18th best in the country — and Michigan has been one of the worst passing offenses in the entire country. If Minnesota can focus entirely on shutting down Michigan’s running game and force Jake Rudock to win the game through the air, it’ll at least give the home team a fighting chance.

I don’t think that’ll happen.

Michigan owns the best defense in the country, and Mitch Leidner isn’t going to move the ball against a secondary that needs to bounce back from an awful week against two-man wrecking crew Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge. That means Michigan will dominate time of possession and wear down the Minnesota defense with battering rams like De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson (who’s been fully cleared to play).

There’s a realistic chance Michigan will post another shutout in Minneapolis, but I’ll toss the Gophers a pair of field goals in a Michigan win.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 6


After a tough loss and a week of improvement, Michigan is ready to take the field on a chilly, spooky Halloween night against a Minnesota team that is sure to play inspired ball after losing its coach, Jerry Kill, to sudden health-induced retirement earlier this week. I’m sure the Golden Gophers will be giving it all they have, but Michigan’s defense should dominate what’s been a very mediocre offense so far. I’ll take the Wolverines to bounce back.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 10


After a much needed bye, er improvement, week Michigan looks to get back on track versus the Gophers this week. With the news of Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement one would expect the Gophers to play with a little extra umph. Sadly, for them anyway, this won’t do much to help them win the game. Michigan’s defense has been firing on all cylinders, no one can run on them and the only quarterback to have success in the air is a likely first-round NFL pick. Minnesota’s defense has been banged up but appears to have benefited from their bye as well and should be closer to full-strength.

On offense Michigan will continue to employ what former Buckeye Joey Galloway calls a boring offense; but he’s just too stupid to understand all the complexities of various alignments and personnel though, credit that ‘quality’ OSU education. Anyway, Michigan will keep up its ground and pound style and with Drake Johnson looking to get back in the mix I think we’ll see a rebound performance against a lackluster run defense. The one thing that worries me, or would if Minnesota was any good on offense, is that the Gopher’s pass defense is their strength and if Rudock is called upon to win the game with his arm that could make for a very close, and uncomfortable game for Michigan. I don’t see that happening unless there is a complete collapse of the Michigan defense and a complete shut down of the run game.

On defense Michigan will pick right up where they left off; stifling the run and causing fits in the passing game. Mitch Leidner isn’t a great passer and I don’t expect him to try and test this secondary all that often, so the game rests on the legs of two true freshman running backs to help the Gophers get things going. Unfortunately for them Michigan’s run defense doesn’t let anyone run on them, I don’t see this changing this weekend. Nor do I see great play calls by Minneosta, like the 74-yard pass to the fullback last week, or any coverage busts, like the same fullback play last week. I don’t want to say they’ll be shut out but I don’t see them hitting double digit points, aside from any garbage time points anyway.

Michigan should roll over Minnesota and reclaim the Little Brown Jug, and keep it for quite some time. This one starts slow with the Gophers getting some extra energy from playing for the former coach and what should be a raucous night crowd at TCF. But Michigan’s defense will quiet the crowd and take complete control of the game.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 9


Big week in Minnesota. Big..Big…Big. We will see which team is tougher, mentally. Minnesota lost their coach and we all know what the Maize and Blue lost two weeks ago. I’m pretty sure that Harbaugh will have this team geared up and ready to finish the season strong. Rudock will need to be smart and keep the turnovers to a minimum. Minnesota’s defense can be tough and will be looking for the upset in honor of their retiring leader. The offense will keep the ball moving with big plays from the rotating backfield while the defense will look to create turnovers and continue pressuring the quarterback. The Minnesota offense is not exactly a powerhouse and can be pressured into making huge mistakes. I look for Michigan to create pressure and therefore get a few interceptions. One or more may get taken back to the house.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 3

#15 Michigan vs Minnesota game preview

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Game Preview_Minnesota_banner

After a week off Michigan returns to the field tomorrow night looking to get the bad taste of the Michigan State loss out of its collective mouth. The Wolverines travel north to Minneapolis to face a Golden Gophers squad that just lost its coach.

Quick Facts
TCF Bank Stadium – 7p.m. EST – ESPN
Minn Head Coach: Tracy Claeys (Interim)
Coaching Record: (0-0)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Limegrover (5th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Tracy Claeys (5th season)
Last Season: 8-5 (5-3)
Last Meeting: Minn 30 – UM 14 (2014)
All-Time Series: UM leads 73-25-3
For the Little Brown Jug: UM leads 69-23-2
Record in Minneapolis: UM leads 32-12-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Minn: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2013 (42-13)
Last Minnesota win: 2014 (30-14)
Current Streak: Minnesota 1

Jerry Kill abruptly announced his retirement due to health reasons on Wednesday. In the four-plus seasons on the job Kill turned around a struggling Minnesota program into a Big Ten title contender, achieving 8-5 records in 2013 and 2014. The Gophers finished second in the Big Ten West last fall and began this season with a close, six point loss to TCU. But after wins over Colorado State (23-20 in overtime), Kent State (10-7), and Ohio University (27-24), Minnesota has dropped two of its last three. Northwestern shut out the Gophers 27-0 the week before Michigan shut out the Wildcats 38-0. Then, after beating Purdue 41-13, Minnesota dropped a 48-25 contest to Nebraska.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys stepped in as the interim head coach for the balance of the season. Interestingly, the last time Michigan visited Minneapolis Kill missed the game due to a seizure and Claeys coached it. Michigan won that one 42-13, but the Wolverines were embarrassed a year ago in the Big House. Shane Morris started the game, but suffered a “probable, mild concussion,” which may have been the last straw for Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon.

Minnesota wants a win for Coach Kill and to avoid falling to .500. Michigan wants this win to regain the Little Brown Jug, to get past the Michigan State loss, and to remain in the Big Ten title hunt.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Minnesota has the ball

Minnesota’s offense ranks 101st nationally and 11th in the Big Ten in total offense (351 yards per game), 84th and ninth in rushing (156.7 yards per game), 95th and 11th in passing (194.3 yards per game), 106th and 11th in pass efficiency (113.31), and 110th and 14th in scoring (20.4 points per game).

Quarterback Mitch Leidner ranks ninth in the Big Ten in passing, averaging 187.1 yards per game, one yard more than Jake Rudock. Leidner has completed 59.2 percent of his passes (Rudock 61.7 percent) for 1,310 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also the team’s third leading rusher with 121 yards (2.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Rodney Smith leads the way on the ground with 467 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and one score, averaging 66.7 yards per game. He had a 100-yard game in Week 2 against Colorado State, but managed just 20 yards on eight carries against Nebraska last time out. True freshman Shannon Brooks leads the team in yards per carry (7.0). He didn’t play in the first three games of the season but has shared the load with Smith the last four. He broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Purdue but like Smith was held to just 25 yards on eight carries against Nebraska.

Four Gopher receivers have over 100 receiving yards on the season, led by senior K.J. Maye‘s 350 yards and three touchdowns. Maye had his best game of the season against Nebraska when he caught 11 passes for 94 yards, but after scoring touchdowns in each of the first three games, he has been held out of the end zone in the last four. Junior Drew Wolitarsky is just behind Maye with 297 yards and one score, while redshirt sophomore Eric Carter has 21 receptions for 245 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen is the fourth with more than 100 yards (109) and he’s the only pass catcher other than Maye with multiple touchdowns (two).

The offensive line has seen some injuries this season and left tackle Josh Campion, who had started 39 straight games entering the season, and center Brian Bobek, an Ohio State transfer who began the season as the starting center, are still out this week.

Redshirt junior left tackle Ben Lauer has 12 career starts under his belt. He was the starting left tackle entering the season, but an injury caused him to miss three of the next four games. He returned against Purdue and Nebraska. Fifth year senior left guard Joe Bjorklund has 10 career starts including seven last season. True freshman Tyler Moore is forced into action, while sophomore right guard Conner Mayes and redshirt junior right tackle Jonah Pirsig have both started every game this season.

When Michigan has the ball

Minnesota’s defense ranks 28th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten in total defense (328.7 yards per game), 52nd and 9th in rush defense (151.4 yards per game), 18th and 5th in pass defense (177.3 yards per game), 21st and 6th in pass defense efficiency (107.91), and 45th and 9th in scoring defense (23.1 points per game).

The defensive line is anchored by sophomore tackle Steven Richardson, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. The other tackle, Scott Ekpe has yet to record a sack, but has two tackles for loss. Fifth year senior defensive end Thieren Cockran has seemingly been around forever and is the Gopher that gave Shane Morris his concussion last season. He has two sacks and five tackles for loss, while the other end, Hendrick Ekpe, has a half of a sack.

Redshirt junior linebacker Jack Lynn is the team’s third leading tackler with 36 and has the second most tackles for loss with six. Fifth year senior De’Vondre Campbell is a multi-year stater and has 34 tackles, one sack, an interception and four passes defended. Sophomore Jonathan Celestin is the third starter at linebacker with 28 tackles and three for loss. Redshirt sophomore Cody Poock is the top reserve as the team’s second leading tackler.

Senior safety Antonio Johnson leads the team with 48 tackles to go along with two for loss, two passes defended, and a fumble recovery. The other safety is redshirt sophomore Adekunle Ayinde, who 22 tackles and four passes defended. Senior Eric Murray and fifth year senior Briean Boddy-Calhoun are the starting corners, while Jalen Myrick is the nickel corner. Myrick leads the team with three interceptions and six passes defended, while Murray also has a pick.

The other third

Both kicking specialists are veterans. Kicker Ryan Santoso was the team’s kicker as a redshirt freshman in 2014, connecting on 12 of 18 field goal attempts with a long of 52. So far this season he is 10 of 13 with a long of 50. Fifth year senior punter Peter Mortell ranks fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 44.0 yards per punt. He has booted 12 of his 43 punts longer than 50 yards and downed 18 inside the 20.

Myrick and Brooks share the kick return duties, averaging 21.4 and 18.7 yards per return, respectively. Sophomore defensive back Craig James is the normal punt returner, but is out with an injury, so Myrick and freshman KiAnte Hardin will do the job.


Michigan will come out focused and determined to reclaim the Little Brown Jug and stay in the Big Ten title hunt. Minnesota’s defense is just average against the run and allowed 203 yards on 5.3 yards per carry to Nebraska, which managed just 82 rushing yards last week against Northwestern. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson, who should finally be healthy.

Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Michigan, so the main question will be whether or not Michigan’s defense can record its fourth shutout of the season. Northwestern shut Minnesota out 27-0 and the Gophers managed just 10 points against Kent State, who is just 3-5 at this point and has given up at least 10 points in every other game.

It won’t be a pretty or exciting game, but it will be classic Jim Harbaugh as Michigan pounds the ball on the ground and wears down the Gopher defense. Jake Rudock has a classic Jake Rudock day and Michigan wins and returns the jug to its rightly place.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 6

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

It was a mostly uneventful week for the Big Ten. Four teams were on byes and the five games that were played ended with the favorite on top.

But there were a few significant developments on Saturday, chiefly the return of a J.T. Barrett-led Ohio State offense that looks like it’s finally clicking on all cylinders. That could be a bad sign for the four teams left on the Buckeye schedule.

On the other hand, a few teams watched their bowl dreams fade a little further away with close loses. Here’s a look at the conference as a whole with another bye-filled week ahead.

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 49-7 This Week: Bye (11/7 vs Minnesota)

Uh oh, it looks like last-December Ohio State is back. J.T. Barrett reclaimed the starting job last week and turned it into 223 passing yards, 101 rushing yards and five total touchdowns – three passing and two rushing – against a Rutgers team that couldn’t put up much of a fight. Ezekiel Elliott didn’t even break a sweat during his 19 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and the Buckeyes outgained the Scarlett Knights 528-293. Now OSU will take a week off to prepare for a couple of cupcakes – Minnesota and Illinois – before taking on MSU and Michigan down the stretch.

2. Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Indiana 52-26 This Week: Bye (11/7 at Nebraska)

When will everyone stop knocking Michigan State for winning games, can’t they see Mark Dantonio loves it? The Spartans were up by only two points – thanks to a pair of missed PATs by Indiana – heading into the 4th quarter, but exploded for 24 points and won by 26. Indiana is one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is 8-0 and just one big win away from winning the East Division. That Nov. 21 matchup in Columbus could be Connor Cook’s last chance to play in the College Football Playoff.

3. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Minnesota (4-3, 1-2), 7pm, ESPN

What’s worse than losing a chance at a championship by dropping a punt with 10 seconds left to your in-state rival? Losing a chance at a championship by dropping a punt with 10 seconds left to your in-state rival and having to wait two weeks to get back on the field. Michigan used this “opportunity week” to double prepare for a trip to Minnesota, where it’ll try to take back the Little Brown Jug the Gophers stole from Ann Arbor last season. Jim Harbaugh – who made a ‘worm carrying a machine gun’ reference this week – would love nothing more than to make the Golden Gophers look like Golden Road Kill after last week’s devastating loss.

4. Penn State (6-2, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 31-30 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-3, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State looked outrageously mediocre this weekend in a 31-30 win over the Maryland Terrapins. Christian Hackenberg had a strange day, completing just 13 of 29 passes, but doing so for 315 yards and three touchdowns. The Penn State defense, which began the season as one of the best in the conference, gave up 466 yards to the offense that gained just 105 yards against Michigan a few weeks ago. If the Terps hadn’t turned it over five times, they’d probably have their first Big Ten win of the season.

5. Maryland (2-5, 0-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 30-31 This Week: Sat at #10 Iowa (7-0, 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Yes, the winless Terrapins rose to number five after their loss to Penn State. Why? Because of the reasons you’ll read in the two paragraphs below. As for Maryland, it was Perry Hills’ best game of the season and he still threw three interceptions. With Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State next on the schedule, the Terps can forget about playing beyond Nov. 28.

6. Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 7-49 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, BTN

Rutgers got caught in the crosshairs of a resurgent Ohio State offense Saturday night, and it happened to land on national television. The Buckeyes picked up 27 first downs and just wore down the Scarlett Knights early in the first half. Kyle Flood should thank the football gods for Indiana.

7. Indiana (4-4, 0-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 26-52 This Week: Bye (11/7 vs Iowa)

Remember when the Hoosiers were 4-4 and hanging with No. 1 Ohio State in Week 5? If not, you aren’t alone. Since falling short in that upset bid, the Hoosiers got crushed by 22 at Penn State, blew a 25-point second-half lead to Rutgers and just allowed 24 4th quarter points to get doubled up by Michigan State. Maybe the Hoosiers will win at Maryland and Purdue in the final weeks and make a bowl game? I wouldn’t bet on it.

West Division
1. Iowa (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-5, 0-3), 3:30pm, ABC

The bye week for Iowa couldn’t have felt more different than it did for Michigan. Iowa sat back and enjoyed its comfortable lead in the West Division while Wisconsin and Northwestern clung to their slim hopes with tough wins. Iowa just has to win four of its last five games – Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska – to guarantee a West Division title. But if the Hawkeyes win all five – and they will be heavy favorites to do so – they’ll be one Big Ten Championship Game away from a 13-0 season and… a spot in the playoff?

2. Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 24-13 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (3-4, 1-3), 12pm, BTN

When Joel Stave went down early in the game for the Badgers, it looked like it might be a disastrous day in Champaign. But Bart Houston stepped in and did a nice job for Wisconsin, completing 22 of 33 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. The Badgers couldn’t really get a running game going, and the defense gave up 333 yards to the Illini, but the junior backup quarterback was just good enough to keep Illinois comfortably in the rear-view mirror. The next two games – vs. Rutgers and at Maryland – should be easy victories for Wisconsin, but unless Iowa implodes, it’ll be a little too late.

3. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 30-28 This Week: Bye (11/7 vs Penn State)

Nobody in the country needed a win this weekend more than Northwestern. The Wildcats, coming off back-to-back blowout losses, went into Nebraska and won a close offensive slugfest. Clayton Thorson was solid in the passing game – 13 for 28, 177 yards and a touchdown – but his 126 rushing yards really paced the Wildcat offense. The defense allowed 28 or more points for the third straight game, but Nebraska gained only 2.2 yards per rush and couldn’t punch in a two-point conversion to tie the game late in the 4th. If Northwestern can survive games against Penn State and Purdue after the bye week, this could still be a special season for Pat Fitzgerald’s team.

4. Nebraska (3-5, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to NU 28-30 This Week: Sat at Purdue (1-6, 0-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Much like in the East, there’s a huge drop off in quality after the top three teams in the West Division. Nebraska has had one of the stranger seasons in all of FBS, losing five games by a combined 13 points and three Big Ten games by a total of five points. The Cornhuskers are just a few plays from being undefeated in the conference, but instead they’re fighting for their postseason lives down the stretch. Can they knock off Michigan State or Iowa at home and pick up a big sixth win?

5. Illinois (4-3, 1-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 13-24 This Week: Sat at Penn St. (6-2, 3-1) 12pm, ESPN2

Illinois has been surprisingly competitive in each of its first three Big Ten games, including a 24-13 loss to Wisconsin this weekend. West Lunt passed for 278 yards, but the Illini rushed for only 55 yards and couldn’t shut down Wisconsin’s backup quarterback in the second half. Illinois should find two more wins to qualify for a bowl, but they’ll likely have to come on the road.

6. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Michigan (5-2, 2-1), 7pm, ESPN

Minnesota didn’t play this weekend, instead taking an extra week to think about the 48-25 waxing it took against Nebraska in Week 7. The Gophers won three non-conference games behind a strong defense, but they’re giving up an average of 29.33 points per game in conference, which isn’t good enough for a team with a subpar offense.

7. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (3-5, 1-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue took a week off to prepare for Nebraska. The Boilermakers will try to break a five-game losing streak at home.

First Look: Minnesota

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Jerry Kill(

Michigan got a week to think about — or get over — one of the most heartbreaking losses in program history. When the Wolverines return to the field Saturday in Minneapolis, they still have the Big Ten title to play for, with a little help. It’s now a five game season and it begins with the Golden Gophers, a team that has underperformed this season after embarrassing Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2014.

Minnesota team stats & Michigan comparison
Minnesota | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 20.4 | 28.6 110 | 70
23.1 | 9.3 45 | 1
Rushing Yards 1,097 1,270 1,060 453
Rush Avg. Per Game 156.7 181.4 94 49
151.4 64.7 52 2
Avg. Per Rush 4.1 | 4.4
3.9 2.1
Passing Yards 1,360 1,303 1,241 1,021
Pass Avg. Per Game 194.3 186.1 95 98 177.3 145.9 18 4
Total Offense 2,457 2,573 2,301 1,474
Total Off Avg. Per Game 351.0 367.6 101 90 328.7 210.6 28 1
Kick Return Average 18.4 33.4 103 2 21.4 18.8 73 | 27
Punt Return Average 2.3 10.3 122 48 9.9 6.1 89 | 27
Avg. Time of Possession 30:06 | 34:05 63 | 5
29:54 | 25:55
3rd Down Conversion Pct 37.0% | 41.0% 89 | 58
36.0% | 20.0% 47 | 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 12-60 | 11-57
T51 | T39
10-53 | 18-135
T103 | 34
Touchdowns Scored 16 24
19 | 9
Field Goals-Attempts 10-13 | 10-12
10-13 | 1-4
Red Zone Scores (16-20) 80%|(24-25) 96% T93 | T4
(19-22) 86%|(7-8) 88% 87 T92
Red Zone Touchdowns (9-20) 45%|(17-25) 68% (12-22) 55%|(6-8) 75%

After setting high expectations with back to back 8-5 seasons in 2013 and ’14, Jerry Kill’s squad has been a letdown through the first seven weeks of 2015. It opened in promising fashion hard-fought six point loss to then-No. 2 TCU, but over the next six weeks, the Gophers have produced exactly one convincing win and that came by way of Big Ten doormat Purdue. A 23-20 overtime win over Colorado State, a 10-7 win over Kent State, and a 27-24 win over Ohio university don’t exactly look great on the resume even though they do go down in the ‘W’ column.

Minnesota was shut out 27-0 by Northwestern a week before Michigan turned around and spanked the Wildcats 38-0. In their last time out — Minnesota had a bye last weekend just like Michigan — the Gophers were dismantled by a 3-4 Nebraska squad, 48-25.

So what has gone wrong? Minnesota’s offense has struggled to move the ball and put up points against anybody not named Purdue. They’ve been shut out once, held to 17 points or fewer in three of seven games, and 27 or fewer in six. Their 20.4-point scoring average ranks 110th nationally and dead last in the Big Ten. Their total offense ranks 101st nationally and 10th in the Big Ten, ahead of Purdue, Penn State, and Northwestern. Northwestern’s offense is lower only because it has already faced Michigan’s defense.

Minnesota’s rushing offense ranks 94th nationally and ninth in the conference, but did get a spark from freshman Shannon Brooks with 17 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown against Purdue. But then again, it was Purdue. The passing offense ranks 95th nationally and 11th in the conference, one spot ahead of Michigan with about eight more passing yards per game.

Defensively, Minnesota is still pretty stout, ranking among the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in most categories, 28th nationally in total defense, and 18th in pass defense. It held TCU’s high powered offense to a season low 23 points — 22 fewer than the Horned Frogs’ next lowest point total of 45 against Iowa State last weekend. But on the other side of the coin, Minnesota allowed a Nebraska offense that averages 31.6 points per game to score a season high 48 two weeks ago.

Nebraska rushed for 203 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per attempt, against the Gophers’ rush defense, which is where Michigan’s offense can take advantage. Minnesota ranks 52nd nationally and ninth in the Big Ten against the run.

Special teams could also play a big factor this Saturday, although hopefully not nearly as dramatically as it did last time out. Minnesota ranks 122nd nationally in punt returns, 103rd in kick returns, 89th in punt return defense, and 73rd in kick return defense. Michigan, on the other hand, ranks 48th in punt returns, second in kick returns, and 27th in both kick and punt return defense. The Wolverines have used special teams to make up for its work-in-progress offense by averaging good starting field position.

So what can we expect on Saturday night? A Minnesota student section full of costumes is a given, but aside from any Halloween trickery, Michigan should come home with win number six. The main question will be can Michigan’s defense start a new shutout streak?


Five Spot Challenge: Minnesota

Monday, October 26th, 2015


Congratulations to this week’s Five Spot Challenge winner, Myrick55. It’s his first win this season and his first win since the Nebraska game in 2013. He was the least confident in Michigan’s pass defense, predicting Connor Cook to throw for 275 yards. Cook actually threw for 328, so Myrick55 was the closest at 53 away. He topped saline_ian, who correctly predicted that Michigan State’s first possession would go 22 yards, by 18 points.

Jaeschke‘s prediction of 55 De’Veon Smith rushing yards was the closest to the actual of 46, while Kashkaav was just one away from Michigan’s longest pass (32 yards), and and Ebenszac were both just one away from Jabrill Peppers’ longest return (49 yards).

No one correctly predicted the final score, but HTTV136‘s prediction of Michigan 23 – Michigan State 21 would have been exactly right if not for the final play of which we will not speak. The averaged score prediction was Michigan 29 – Michigan State 15.

The weekly results have been updated.

After a bye week this past weekend, Michigan travels to Minneapolis to try to win back the Little Brown Jug. Here are this week’s questions.