photo Michigan-Display-Ad-728x90-Die-Hard-Fans-only_zpskcnarkrk.jpg  photo MampGB header 2015 v6_zpsdluogxnr.jpg

Posts Tagged ‘Nebraska’

Big Ten power rankings 2016 — Week 8

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7

week-8-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 8
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Michigan (7-0, 4-0) Up 1 Beat Illinois 41-8 Sat. at MSU (2-5, 0-4), 12pm, ESPN
2. Ohio State (6-1, 3-1) Down 1 Lost at PSU 21-24 Sat. vs N’western (4-3, 3-1), 3:30pm, ESPN
3. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2) Up 1 Beat Iowa 17-9 Sat. vs #7 Nebraska (7-0, 4-0), 7pm, ESPN
4. Nebraska (7-0, 4-0) Down 1 Beat Purdue 27-14 Sat. at #11 Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2), 7pm, ESPN
5. Penn State (5-2, 3-1) Even Beat #2 OSU 24-21 Sat. at Purdue (3-4, 1-3), 12pm, ABC
6. Iowa (5-3, 3-2) Even Lost to #10 Wisc. 9-17 Bye
7. Northwestern (4-3, 3-1) Up 2 Beat Indiana 24-14 Sat. at #6 Ohio State (6-1, 3-1), 3:30pm, ESPN
8. Maryland (5-2, 2-2) Up 2 Beat MSU 28-17 Sat. at Indiana (3-4, 1-3), 3:30pm, ESPNU
9. Minnesota (5-2, 2-2) Down 2 Beat Rutgers 34-32 Sat at Illinois (2-5, 1-3), 12pm, BTN
10. Indiana (3-4, 1-3) Down 2 Lost to N’western 14-24 Sat. vs Maryland (5-2, 2-2), 3:30pm, ESPNU
11. Michigan State (2-5, 0-4) Even Lost to Maryland 17-28 Sat vs #2 Michigan (7-0, 4-0), 12pm, ESPN
12. Illinois (2-5, 1-3) Even Lost to #3 Michigan 8-41 Sat vs Minnesota (5-2, 2-2), 12pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-4, 1-3) Even Lost to #8 Neb. 14-27 Sat. vs #24 Penn State (5-2, 3-2), 12pm, ABC
14. Rutgers (2-6, 0-5) Even Lost to Minnesota 32-34 Bye

For the first time this season Michigan has surpassed Ohio State for the No. 1 spot in our power rankings. After Ohio State’s 24-21 loss to Penn State, Michigan gained all five first place votes, while Ohio State slipped to a 2.4 average with just three of the five second place votes. Wisconsin’s quality win at Iowa pulled them over Nebraska, solidly in the third spot, while Nebraska sits at 3.8. Penn State remains fifth, but gained a full point, moving from 5.8 to 4.8.

There’s a big two-point gap after the Nittany Lions, where Iowa and Northwestern are tied for the six and seven spots at 6.8. Maryland is close by at 7.6 after handing Michigan State its fifth straight loss. Minnesota and Indiana both dropped two spots to nine and 10, while Michigan State remains 11th but dropped another 0.8 spots on average to 11.6. The bottom three remain the same with Illinois and Purdue tied at 12.2 and Rutgers still holding all last-place votes.

Week 9 will separate Wisconsin and Nebraska, who have been neck and neck in our power rankings all season. They face each other in Madison on Saturday as Wisconsin tries to hang in the Big Ten West race and Nebraska tries to stay in the College Football Playoff race.




Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 7

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6


week-7-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 7
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) Even Beat #8 Wisconsin 30-23 Sat. at Penn State (4-2, 2-1), 8pm, ABC
2. Michigan (6-0, 3-0) Even Bye Sat. vs Illinois (2-4, 1-2), 3:30pm, BTN
3. Nebraska (6-0, 3-0) Even Beat Indiana 27-22 Sat. vs Purdue (3-3, 1-2), 3:30pm, ABC
4. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-2) Even Lost to #2 OSU 23-30 Sat. at Iowa (5-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN
5. Penn State (4-2, 2-1) Even Bye Sat. vs #2 Ohio St. (6-0, 3-0), 8pm, ABC
6. Iowa (5-2, 3-1) Up 2 Beat Purdue 49-35 Sat. vs #10 Wisc. (4-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN
7. Minnesota (4-2, 1-2) Up 2 Beat Maryland 31-10 Sat. vs Rutgers (2-5, 0-4), 12pm, ESPNU
8. Indiana (3-3, 1-2) Down 1 Lost to #10 Nebraska 22-27 Sat. at N’western (3-3, 2-1), 12pm, BTN
9. Northwestern (3-3, 2-1) Up 2 Beat MSU 54-40 Sat vs Indiana (3-3, 1-2), 12pm, BTN
10. Maryland (4-2, 1-2) Down 4 Lost to Minnesota 10-31 Sat. vs MSU (2-4, 0-3), 7:30pm, BTN
11. Michigan State (2-4, 0-3) Down 1 Lost to Northwestern 40-54 Sat at Maryland (4-2, 1-2), 7:30pm, BTN
12. Illinois (2-4, 1-2) Up 1 Beat Rutgers 24-7 Sat at #3 Michigan (6-0, 3-0), 3:30pm, BTN
13. Purdue (3-3, 1-2) Down 1 Lost to Iowa 35-49 Sat. at #8 Nebraska (6-0, 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC
14. Rutgers (2-5, 0-4) Even Lost to Illinois 7-24 Sat. at Minnesota (4-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPNU

The top four remain exactly the same as last week with Ohio State at 1.2, Michigan 1.8, Nebraska 3.4, and Wisconsin 3.6, while Penn State remains fifth, but slips from 5.2 to 5.8. That means Michigan has received one first place vote, while two of the five of us believe Wisconsin should still be higher than Nebraska despite a pair of losses to Michigan and Ohio State. We will find out a lot more about Nebraska in the next three weeks when they visit both Wisconsin and Ohio State. Penn State, meanwhile, hosts Ohio State this Saturday.

Iowa, Minnesota, and Northwestern each move up two spots after wins over Purdue, Maryland, and Michigan State, respectively. Indian drops once spot to eighth after a close loss to Nebraska, while Maryland takes the biggest tumble of the week following a three touchdown loss to Minnesota. Michigan State continues its descent, dropping for the fourth straight week, all the way to 11th. Finally, Illinois and Purdue swap spots and Rutgers remains at the bottom. Both Illinois and Purdue face tough road games against top 10 opponents, Michigan and Nebraska, so Rutgers has a chance to move out of the basement with a win over Minnesota.



Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 5

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

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


*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Big Ten power rankings – Week 5
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (4-0, 1-0) Even Beat Rutgers 58-0 Sat. vs Indiana (3-1, 1-0), 3:30pm, ESPN
2. Michigan (5-0, 2-0) Even Beat #8 Wisconsin 14-7 Sat. at Rutgers (2-3, 0-2), 7pm, ESPN2
3. Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) Even Lost to #4 Michigan (7-14) Bye
4. Nebraska (5-0, 2-0) Even Beat Illinois 31-16 Bye
5. Maryland (4-0, 1-0) Up 3 Beat Purdue 50-7 Sat. at Penn State (3-2, 1-1), 12pm, BTN
6. Indiana (3-1, 1-0) Up 3 Beat #17 MSU 24-21 OT Sat. at #2 OSU (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ESPN
7. Michigan State (2-2, 0-2) Down 2 Lost to Indiana 21-24 OT Sat. vs BYU (2-3), 3:30pm
8. Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) Down 2 Lost to Penn State 26-29 Sat. vs Iowa (3-2, 1-1), 12pm, ESPN2
9. Penn State (3-2, 1-1) Up 1 Beat Minnesota 29-26 Sat vs Maryland (4-0, 1-0), 12pm, BTN
10. Iowa (3-2, 1-1) Down 3 Lost to Northwestern 31-38 Sat. 16 Minnesota (3-1, 0-1), 12pm, ESPN2
11. Northwestern (2-3, 1-1) Up 2 Beat Iowa 38-31 Bye
12. Illinois (1-3, 0-1) Up 2 Lost to #16 Nebraska 16-31 Sat. vs Purdue (2-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, BTN
13. Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) Down 1 Lost to #2 Ohio State 0-58 Sat. vs #4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0), 7pm, ESPN2
14. Purdue (2-2, 0-1) Down 3 Lost to Maryland 7-50 Sat. at Illinois (1-3, 0-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Ohio State and Michigan have held the top two spots all five weeks to date. Wisconsin and Nebraska remained unanimously No. 3 and 4 despite Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan and Nebraska’s still perfect record. Maryland and Indiana are the biggest climbers, each jumping three spots after dominating Purdue and knocking off Michigan State, respectively. The Spartans drop two spots to seventh after losing at IU. Iowa falls three spots after a home loss to Northwestern, who moves up two spots to No. 11. There’s a pretty steep drop off between the No. 11 and 12 spots as Illinois, Rutgers, and Purdue round out the rankings.


Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 4

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

week-4-power-rankings*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Ohio State and Michigan remain in the top two spots for the fourth straight week. Ohio State gained all the No. 1 votes and Michigan gained all the No. 2s. Wisconsin leaped two spots after their 30-6 thumping of Michigan State, who fell two spots to fifth. Nebraska remained fourth. Minnesota moved up one spot after a respectable non-conference win over Colorado State, while Iowa fell after an uninspiring 14-7 win over Rutgers. Maryland and Indiana both jumped Penn State, who was throttled by Michigan. Like Minnesota, Purdue picked up a nice non-conference win over Nevada and moved up two spots to 11th. Might as well give Darrell Hazel a contract extension at this point. Rutgers dropped one spot after losing to Iowa. Northwestern and Illinois round out the standings. The Illini earned all of the last place votes.

Big Ten power rankings – Week 4
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (3-0) Even Bye Sat. vs Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), 12pm, BTN
2. Michigan (4-0, 1-0) Even Beat Penn State 49-10 Sat. vs #8 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ABC
3. Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) Up 2 Beat #8 MSU 30-6 Sat. at #4 Michigan (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ABC
4. Nebraska (4-0, 1-0) Even Beat Northwestern 24-13 Sat. vs Illinois (1-2), 3:30pm, ESPN2
5. Michigan State (2-1, 0-1) Down 2 Lost to #11 Wisconsin 6-30 Sat. at Indiana (2-1, 0-0), 8pm, BTN
6. Minnesota (3-0, 0-0) Up 1 Beat Colorado St. 31-24 Sat. at PSU (2-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, BTN
7. Iowa (3-1, 1-0) Down 1 Beat Rutgers 14-7 Sat. vs Northwestern (1-3, 0-1), 12pm
8. Maryland (3-0, 0-0) Up 1 Bye Sat. vs Purdue (2-1, 0-0), 3:30pm, BTN
9. Indiana (2-1, 0-0) Up 1 Lost to Wake Forest 28-33 Sat vs. #17 MSU (2-1, 0-1), 8pm, BTN
10. Penn State (2-2, 0-1) Down 2 Lost to #4 Michigan 10-49 Sat. vs Minnesota (3-0, 0-0), 3:30pm, BTN
11. Purdue (2-1, 0-0) Up 2 Beat Nevada 24-14 Sat. at Maryland (3-0, 0-0), 3:30pm, BTN
12. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) Down 1 Lost to Iowa 7-14 Sat. at #2 Ohio State (3-0, 0-0), 12pm, BTN
13. Northwestern (1-3, 0-1) Up 1 Lost to #20 Neb. 13-24  Sat. at Iowa (3-1, 1-0), 12pm
14. Illinois (1-2, 0-0) Down 2 Bye Sat. at #15 Neb. (4-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 2

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

big-ten-power-rankings-week-2*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

The top six remain the same from last week, but Week 3 provides an opportunity for movement with Ohio State visiting 14th-ranked Oklahoma, Michigan State visiting 18th-ranked Notre Dame, and Nebraska hosting 22nd-ranked Oregon. Penn State and Northwestern were the biggest losers from Week 2, each falling two spots with losses to Pittsburgh and Illinois State, respectively. Northwestern finds itself in the cellar as the Big Ten’s only two-loss team.

Big Ten power rankings – Week 2
1. Ohio State (2-0) | Even | Beat Tulsa 48-3 | This week: Saturday at #14 Oklahoma (1-1), 7:30pm, FOX
2. Michigan (2-0) | Even | Beat UCF 51-14 | This week: Saturday Colorado (2-0), 3:30pm, BTN
3. Wisconsin (2-0) | Even | Beat Akron 54-10 | This week: Saturday vs Georgia State (0-2), 12pm, BTN
4. Iowa (2-0) | Even | Beat Iowa State 42-3 | This week: Saturday vs NDSU (2-0), 12pm, ESPN2
5. Michigan State (1-0) | Even | Bye | This week: Saturday at #18 Notre Dame (1-1), 7:30pm, NBC
6. Nebraska (2-0) | Even | Beat Wyoming 52-17 | This week: Saturday vs #22 Oregon (2-0), 3:30pm, ABC
7. Minnesota (2-0) | Up 1 | Beat Indiana State 58-28 | This week: Bye
8. Indiana (2-0) | Up 1 | Beat Ball State 30-20 | This week: Bye
9. Penn State (1-1) | Down 2 | Lost to Pittsburgh 39-42 | This week: Saturday vs Temple (1-1), 12pm, BTN
10. Maryland (2-0) |Up 1 | Beat FIU 41-14 | This week: Saturday at UCF (1-1), 7pm, CBSSN
11. Illinois (1-1) | Down 1 | Lost to North Carolina 23-48 | This week: Saturday vs WMU (2-0), 4pm, ESPNN
12. Purdue (1-1) | Up 1 | Lost to Cincinnati 20-38 | This week: Bye
13. Rutgers (1-1) | Up 1 | Beat Howard 52-14 | This week: Saturday vs New Mexico (1-1), 12pm, ESPNN
14. Northwestern (0-2) | Down 2 | Lost to Illinois State 7-9 | This week: Saturday vs Duke (1-1), 8pm, BTN

#5 Michigan vs UCF game preview

Friday, September 9th, 2016


Previously this week: First Look: UCF, Five-Spot Challenge, Tailgate Tuesday, Week 1 Big Ten power rankings, UCF game poster, The numbers game: run game makes big plays in Week 1

Long before Nebraska was a member of the Big Ten and long before the College Football Playoff was in the realm of possibility there existed a blonde little quarterback for the Cornhuskers named Scott Frost. He lead Nebraska to a perfect 13-0 record, beating Peyton Manning’s Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.

But with two polls — the AP and the Coaches — voting to decide the national champion, Frost made a plea to rank the Cornhuskers ahead of Michigan, which had also gone unbeaten. Entering the bowl games, Michigan topped both polls, had better performances against two common opponents (Colorado and Baylor), and had won every game convincingly. Nebraska barely survived an early November game against a 6-3 Missouri squad on a kicked pass play that by rule was illegal.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
UCF Head Coach: Scott Frost (1st season)
Coaching Record: 0-1
Offensive Coordinator: Troy Walters (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Erik Chinander (1st season)
Last Season: 0-12 (0-8 AAC)
Last Meeting: First meeting
All-Time Series: First meeting
Record in Ann Arbor: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs UCF First meeting
Last Michigan win: First meeting
Last UCF win: First meeting
Current Streak: First meeting
UCF Schedule to date
Opponent Result
South Carolina State W 38-0

Had a playoff existed back then, it would have been a salivating matchup. Nebraska had one of the nation’s best offenses. Michigan’s calling card was its defense lead by Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson. But while Michigan players and coaches took the high road, Frost made his case for the Cornhuskers to be named national champions.

“If you can look yourself in the mirror and say if your job depended on playing either Michigan or Nebraska to keep your job, who would you rather play?” he asked. He also tugged at the heart strings of the coaching brotherhood, arguing that legendary head coach Tom Osborne — who was retiring — shouldn’t have to go out without a national title.

I had a chance to ask Osborne about just that a couple years ago and, naturally, he dismissed it as nonsense.

“I don’t know that somebody would vote for a national champion because you’re retiring,” Osborne said. “Maybe somebody did, I don’t know, but since we had won some national championships recently, not long before that, I would somewhat discount that thought.”

Regardless, it worked and Nebraska was awarded a share of the national championship from the Coaches Poll while Michigan was named number one by the AP Poll.

Frost never got a chance to play Michigan while in Lincoln, but 19 years later he’ll visit Ann Arbor on another opposing sideline, this time as the head coach of Central Florida. And while he surmised that Nebraska would be favored by as many as 14 points if they had faced Michigan back then, his UCF Knights enter the Big House as 37-point underdogs.

Just two years removed from a 12-1 season that ended with an upset of 6th-ranked Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, UCF went 0-12 last season. That spelled the end for George O’Leary and the beginning of the Frost era in Orlando. Frost spent seven years as an assistant at Oregon, learning Chip Kelly’s offense and then coordinating it after Kelly left for the NFL. In his three years as offensive coordinator, Oregon’s offense ranked no worse than fifth nationally in both total offense and scoring offense and the Ducks went 79-15 during his time in Eugene.

How quickly can he bring that winning mentality to UCF? With the abundance of talent at his doorstep, he’ll be able to recruit well, but it will take some time. He did, however, start off on the right foot with a 38-0 win last week. But it was over FCS school South Carolina State, who went 7-4 in 2015, and although the Knights’ offense piled up 462 yards — more than any game last season — it came in fits and spurts. They didn’t score a touchdown until right before halftime and lead just 18-0 at the break before pulling away in the second half. Michigan will be a much different animal.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When UCF has the ball

To say that Frost will have his work cut out for him is putting it lightly. While Oregon ranked fifth nationally in total offense last season (538.2 yards per game), UCF ranked dead last (268.4). While Oregon ranked fifth in scoring (43 points per game), UCF ranked 125th (13.9). While Oregon ranked fifth in rushing (279.9 yards per game) and 36th in passing (258.3), UCF ranked 126th (81.3) and 102nd (187.2).

It helps to have an athletic quarterback returning, even if he didn’t put up enviable numbers in 2015. Senior Justin Holman completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 1,379 yards, seven touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. And although he lead UCF to a win last week, he completed just 50 percent of his passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 31.0. Backup Nick Patti, who converted from wide receiver, completed 5-of-7 for 48 yards.

If there’s a sliver of hope for UCF’s offense it is that nearly every pass catcher is back, though Patti takes his 104 yards and one touchdowns over to the quarterback position. But he ranked ranked eighth on the team in receiving in 2015. Redshirt sophomore Tre’Quan Smith is clearly the leader at the receiver position after a debut season in which he caught 52 passes for 724 yard and four touchdowns. His 4.3 receptions per game were good enough to rank 10th in the American Athletic Conference despite UCF’s offense being the worst. He lead the way last Saturday with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Twelve different Knights caught a pass including sophomore Tristan Payton, who was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2015. The former four-star recruit, who Frost expects to break out this season, caught three passes for 34 yards and a score last week. Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Akins hauled in a 35-yard catch.

The running game ranked third-to-last nationally in 2015, but last year’s leading rusher, C.J. Jones, has set his sights high for 2016.

“We want our whole backfield to lead the nation in rushing,” he said. “When you look at UCF and you look at rushing yards, we want to be at the top.”

When you look at the type of running game Frost guided at Oregon you can see that it’s not a completely unreasonable goal. But it’s certainly too much to ask for in Year 1. Jones led the Knights with 339 yards on 3.6 yards per carry last season with one touchdown, but didn’t record a stat last weekend. His backfield mate, sophomore Taj McGowan, who rushed for 262 yards on 3.1 yards per carry and one score a year ago, managed 48 yards on 11 carries last week. True freshman Jawon Hamilton lead the team with 53 yards on 14 carries.

The offensive line returns 42 starts from last season. Senior center Jason Rae is the most experienced of the bunch with 17 career starts, while junior right guard Chavis Dickey — who started just three games in 2015 — is the second most experienced with 15 career starts. Dickey has the best size of any of them at 6-foot-4, 330. Redshirt junior left tackle Aaron Evans started all 12 games a year ago. Redshirt sophomore right tackle Wyatt Miller (nine career starts) and sophomore left guard Tyler Hudanick (10 career starts) are the other starters.

When Michigan has the ball

While the offense has hope for improvement thanks to Frost’s offensive background, the defense returned just five starters from a unit that was one of the country’s worst last season. Frost brought Oregon outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander to Orlando with him. Chinander was a graduate assistant for the Ducks from 2010-12 and went to the Philadelphia Eagles with Chip Kelly, but came back to Oregon after the 2013 season. He promised to bring an “aggressive, high-energy, high-effort” defense to UCF.

The Knights ranked 113th nationally in total defense (464.1 yards per game), 117th in scoring defense (37.7 points per game), 100th against the run (199.2 yards per game), 109th against the pass (264.9 yards per game), and 126th in pass efficiency defense (166.95).

Frost added three junior college transfers to bolster the defensive line. However, two of them — projected starting end Chris Mulumba as well as tackle Joe Sanders — didn’t stick with the team. To add to the problems along the line, former three-star end Monte Taylor was dismissed from the team.

Junior nose guard Jamiyus Pittman is the most experienced returning member of the line. The Moultrie, Ga. native started 11 games last season and ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 45. His seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks are the most of any returning Knight. He recorded just one tackle in the season opener against South Carolina State. The other tackle is redshirt junior Tony Guerad, who recorded 28 tackles, five for loss, and two sacks in seven games a year ago. He also notched just one tackle last Saturday.

Like the defensive line, only one full-time starter returns at the linebacker position after the loss of leading tackler Domenic Spencer. Redshirt junior inside linebacker Chequan Burkett started all 12 games in 2015 and ranked third on the team with 56 tackles. He also led all players with five quarterback hurries. His five tackles last week ranked second on the team. Joining him in the middle will be fifth-year senior Mark Rucker, who entered the season with just 24 total tackles in his career — nine of which came in last year’s season opener against Florida International. Despite standing just 5-foot-7, Rucker lead the team with six tackles last Saturday. The outside linebackers are redshirt junior Shaquem Griffin and fifth-year senior Errol Clarke. Griffin is relishing the opportunity to step into a bigger role this season and recorded six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble last week.

The secondary is where the experience lies with four senior starters. Free safety Drico Johnson broke out last year as the team’s second-leading tackler with 64. He had eight or more tackles in five of the Knights’ 12 games and recorded four tackles last week. Seniors Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Killings are the starting corners. Griffin — the brother of linebacker Shaquem — recorded 50 tackles last season and led the team with 13 pass breakups, which ranked in the top 25 nationally. Although he didn’t make a tackle in the season opener, he picked off a pass. Killings started seven games last season while battling injuries and totaled 32 tackles. He notched four tackles, one for loss, and a pass breakup last week. The other starting safety is fifth-year senior T.J. Mutcherson, who transferred from Iowa State prior to last season and recorded two tackles in the opener.

The other third

UCF returns both kicking specialists from last season. Redshirt sophomore kicker Matthew Wright connected on 13-of-17 field goal attempts in 2015 with a long of 48. He made all four attempts last Saturday from 46, 34, 45, and 37 yards. Fifth-year senior punter Caleb Houston averaged 44.2 yards per punt a year ago with just two touchbacks and 28 downed inside the 20. Last Saturday, he booted three punts for a 44.7 average and downed all three inside the 20.

Sophomore receiver Tristan Payton is back to return kicks after averaging 24.2 yards per return with a long of 35. He already topped that with a 47-yard return last weekend. Redshirt junior defensive back Chris Johnson handled punt return duties last week, returning four for 46 yards with a long of 21.


Michigan had no problem steamrolling Hawaii, and although UCF currently leads the nation in points allowed (zero) they haven’t been tested. South Carolina State was an FCS school that was predicted to finish fourth in its conference this season. Michigan should have similar success moving the ball as it did a week ago. UCF’s defense actually ranked worse than Hawaii’s last season and they hired an offensive-minded coach who runs an up-tempo scheme. That’s all good when they’re scoring like Oregon does, but when they aren’t, that puts their defense on the field for a long time.

Michigan will have another big day on the ground and continue to work on getting Wilton Speight comfortable commanding the offense. Defensively, Michigan will slow down the spread and hold UCF to a field goal in the first half.

After last week’s injuries to Bryan Mone, Taco Charlton, and De’Veon Smith, Harbaugh won’t risk leaving the starters in longer than he has to in this one. Expect to see a lot of young guys in the second half. When all is said and done Michigan’s backups will give up a few points but it will be another comfortable win for the Maize and Blue.

Michigan 56 – UCF 13

Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 1

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016


Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.


Big Ten power rankings – Week 1
1. Ohio StateBeat Bowling Green 77-10 | This week: Saturday vs Tulsa (1-0), 3:30pm, ABC
2. MichiganBeat Hawaii 63-3 | This week: Saturday vs UCF, 12pm, ABC
3. WisconsinBeat #5 LSU 16-14 | This week: Saturday vs Akron (1-0), 3:30pm, BTN
4. IowaBeat Miami (OH) 45-21 | This week: Saturday vs Iowa State (0-1), 7:30pm, BTN
5. Michigan StateBeat Furman 28-13 | This week: Bye
6. NebraskaBeat Fresno State 43-10 | This week: Saturday vs Wyoming (1-0), 12pm, ESPN2
7. Penn StateBeat Kent State 33-13 | This week: Saturday at Pittsburgh (1-0), 12pm, ESPN
8. MinnesotaBeat Oregon State 30-23 | This week: Saturday vs Indiana State (1-0), 12pm, ESPNN
9. Indiana – Beat Florida International 34-13 | This week: Saturday vs Ball State (1-0), 3:30pm, ESPNN
10. IllinoisBeat Murray State 52-3 | This week: Saturday vs North Carolina (0-1), 7:30pm, BTN
11. MarylandBeat Howard 52-13 | This week: Friday at Florida International (0-1), 7:30pm, CBSSN
12. NorthwesternLost to Western Michigan 21-22 | This week: Sat. vs Illinois St. (1-0), 3:30pm, BTN
13. PurdueBeat Eastern Kentucky 45-24 | This week: Saturday vs Cincinnati (1-0), 12pm, BTN
14. RutgersLost to #14 Washington 13-48 | This week: Saturday vs Howard (0-1), 12pm, BTN

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2015: Defense

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Don Brown Michigan

Yesterday we outlined how each team’s returning offensive production compares throughout the Big Ten. Today, it’s time to take a look at the defensive side of the ball and tie it all together.

A year ago, Ohio State returned the most defensive production with 74 percent of its 2014 tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and takeaways back. It paid off as the Buckeyes finished third in the Big Ten in total defense and second in scoring defense. However, the team right behind them with 71 percent returning — Illinois– finished just ninth in total defense and eighth in scoring defense. The top two defenses in the conference, Wisconsin and Michigan, began the year with just 61 percent (seventh-most) and 63 percent (fifth-most) of their 2014 production returning.

Aside from Illinois, the teams with the most returning defensive production fared better than those with the least. The seven worst defenses in the conference were the same seven that returned the least from 2014.

Interestingly, the opposite was true the previous season. Maryland, Indiana, and Rutgers returned the most production from 2013, but produced three of the four worst defenses in the conference. Conversely, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State returned the lease production and turned out four of the top six defenses. So what does that tell us? (Shrug).

Let’s take a look at what this season looks like.


Returning defense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Total Defense Rating
Purdue 79% 110
Indiana 77% 120
Nebraska 69% 64
Michigan State 65% 26
Wisconsin 64% 2
Northwestern 63% 13
Iowa 63% 22
Minnesota 60% 24
Penn State 59% 14
Rutgers 59% 111
Michigan 54% 4
Maryland 52% 90
Ohio State 46% 9
Illinois 40% 30

Entering this season, two of the three worst defenses in the Big Ten a year ago return the most production by far. Purdue, which ranked 110th nationally in total defense and 111th in scoring defense, returns 79 percent including a whopping 88 percent of its tackles for loss and 83 percent of its sacks. Indiana, which ranked 120th in total defense and 116th in scoring defense, returns 77 percent including 80 percent of its total tackles and 19 of 22 takeaways. However, the Hoosiers do have to replace defensive end Nick Mangieri, who led the team in tackles for loss and sacks.

Nobody expects Purdue or Indiana to factor into the Big Ten race for obvious reasons, but the next few teams with the most returning defensive production certainly will. Nebraska returns 69 percent of its defense which ranked 64th nationally last season. Five of the top six tacklers return as do all but three takeaways. But the Cornhuskers ranked ahead of only Michigan in takeaways.

Michigan State (65 percent), Wisconsin (64 percent), Iowa (63 percent), and Northwestern (63 percent) were all ranked among the top 26 defenses in the country and return two-thirds of that production. Wisconsin has to replace linebacker Joe Schobert, who ranked second in the Big Ten with 19.5 tackles for loss and fourth with 9.5 sacks, and safety Tanner McEvoy, who ranked second in the conference with five interceptions and also added two fumble recoveries. Michigan State has to replace defensive end Shilique Calhoun’s 10.5 sacks and 15 TFLs but returns four of its top five tacklers. Iowa lost tackles for loss leader, defensive end Nate Meier, and three of its top four tacklers but returns all but three of its 27 takeaways — a number that ranked second only to MSU’s 28 a year ago. Northwestern returns leading tackler, linebacker Anthony Walker, who led the Big Ten in tackles for loss, but will have to make up for the loss of defensive end Deonte Gibson, its sack leader, and the next three leaders in TFLs.

Minnesota, Penn State, and Rutgers all return the same amount of production at 60, 59, and 59 percent, respectively, but one of these is not like the others. While Penn State’s defense ranked 14th nationally and Minnesota’s 24th, Rutgers’ was near the bottom at 111th. Minnesota brings back 70 percent of its tackles for loss, but lost two of the top three tacklers. Penn State has work cut out in replacing end Carl Nassib and tackle Austin Johnson, who combined for 34.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks. Rutgers, meanwhile, returns all but three of its sacks, though the Scarlet Knights ranked dead last in that category last season.

Michigan brings back 54 percent of its fourth-ranked defense but has to replace its top three tacklers, linebackers Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan and safety Jarrod Wilson. But replacing tackles is much easier than replacing impact plays, and the Wolverines bring back three of their top four tackles for loss leaders and two of their top three sack leaders from 2015.

Maryland returns just over half of its 90th-ranked defense but lost linebacker Yannick Ngakoue and tackle Quinton Jefferson who were the Terps’ top two leaders in tackles for loss and sacks.

Ohio State, which returns the least offensive production, returns the second least on the defensive side thanks to six NFL Draft picks from that side alone. But like on offense, the cupboard is far from bare. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis led the team with eight sacks and was second only to Joey Bosa in tackles for loss. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan is a tackling machine who ranked fourth in the Big Ten last season. And while end Sam Hubbard only recorded 28 total tackles, 8 of them were behind the line of scrimmage, including 6.5 sacks.

Finally, Illinois returns just 40 percent of its 2015 defensive production, the least of any team in the Big Ten since at least 2014 when we started tracking. The Illini were a very respectable 30th a year ago, but lost the conference’s leading tackler, safety Clayton Fejedelem, as well as their next two leading tacklers. If there’s a silver lining it’s that 71 percent of their sacks are back, most notably linebacker Dawuane Smoot.

So what does it all mean? The following chart plots each team by both offensive and defensive production.

2015to2016 Returning Production Chart

If the trend of the past two seasons continues there are two teams in ideal position to win the Big Ten, plotting very similarly to Ohio State in 2014 and Michigan State in 2015. One is Penn State and the other is Michigan. And while both have room for optimism heading into the season Michigan is better positioned for two reasons: the two biggest weaknesses — quarterback and linebacker — have been addressed.

First, Jim Harbaugh did wonders for Jake Rudock in a short time a year ago and now he gets the luxury of having a quarterback — whether it be John O’Korn or Wilton Speight — who already has more than a year of his tutelage to build on. Looking at Harbaugh’s track record coaching quarterbacks, from Rich Gannon to Josh Johnson to Andrew Luck to Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick and most recently Rudock, it’s clear that he could essentially take a tackling dummy and turn it into a serviceable quarterback.

The second issue has been addressed by bringing in Don Brown, a.k.a. Dr. Blitz, to run the defense. He promptly moved the dynamic Jabrill Peppers to a hybrid linebacker position that perfectly complements Brown’s scheme and Michigan’s defensive strengths — the line and the secondary.

The biggest roadblock to Michigan’s title hopes is its schedule that takes the Wolverines to East Lansing, Iowa City, and Columbus in a span of five weeks. The good news is that those all fall in the latter half of the season, after Michigan works out any kinks it may have at the start of the season.

Does this mean Michigan will win the Big Ten? Absolutely not. Since we just started tracking returning production in 2014, it’s a very small sample size to draw any definitive conclusions from. And just because Michigan falls right within the returning production sweet spot that produced Big Ten champions each of the last two seasons it doesn’t guarantee anything. After all, Rutgers and Minnesota were within that sweet spot last season as well. But it should at least provide a little extra dose of optimism for a Michigan team that already enters the season with plenty of it.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2015: Offense

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

MSU 2015(Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

With less than six weeks remaining until college football returns the Michigan hype train is in full force entering Jim Harbaugh’s second season at the helm. The main questions the Wolverines face are at the quarterback position — Harbaugh’s specialty — and linebacker where do-it-all burgeoning superstar Jabrill Peppers will step in. But how does Michigan compare to the rest of the Big Ten in terms of who’s coming back?

It’s time to take our annual look at how each team in the Big Ten compares in terms of returning production. Of course, this is just one metric to use to predict each team’s success in the upcoming season, not the be all end all, but we’ll take a look at how it panned out the past two years as well and see if we can make any predictions on outcomes this fall.

The first year we tracked this, 2014, eventual champion Ohio State returned 60 percent of both its offense and its defense from the previous season. Last season, Big Ten champion Michigan State returned 54 percent of its offense and 67 percent of its defense, or just over 60 percent of its total returning production from 2014.

The teams with the most returning production both years — Maryland in 2014 with 90 percent and Ohio State in 2015 with 81 percent — both failed to reach the Big Ten championship game. Maryland finished third in the East with a 7-6 overall record and a 4-4 conference record, while Ohio State finished second in the East with a 12-1, 7-1 record.

Will this season follow the trend of the past two? Let’s take a look at this year’s returning offensive production.


Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Total Offense Ranking
Nebraska 88% 34
Minnesota 85% 103
Northwestern 82% 115
Rutgers 79% 84
Maryland 79% 87
Purdue 72% 95
Illinois 71% 88
Iowa 71% 72
Penn State 54% 105
Michigan 53% 69
Indiana 45% 14
Wisconsin 43% 79
Michigan State 38% 73
Ohio State 28% 41
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Scoring Offense Ranking
Nebraska 86% 43
Minnesota 85% 106
Maryland 78% 95
Northwestern 75% 114
Iowa 75% 54
Illinois 73% 103
Rutgers 72% 78
Purdue 69% 92
Wisconsin 60% 81
Penn State 54% 101
Michigan 54% 50
Michigan State 48% 60
Indiana 40% 24
Ohio State 32% 28

Nebraska is this year’s Maryland and Ohio State with the most returning production in the conference. That returning production falls in between the Terrapins and Buckeyes in terms of the previous season’s total offense rating (34th versus Ohio State’s 9th and Maryland’s 75th) and scoring offense rating (43rd versus OSU’s 5th and Maryland’s 84th). Both of those offensive units actually went backwards the following season even with so much returning production. Maryland slid 34 spots to 109th in total offense, while Ohio State slid seven spots to 41st. It is important to note that the Maryland comparison is apples to oranges since the Terps moved from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The good news for Nebraska is that the offense returns quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who ranked second in the Big Ten in passing last season. In 2014, Maryland had to replace quarterback CJ Brown. Last season Ohio State returned J.T. Barrett, but Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tim Beck played musical chairs with he and Cardale Jones, which held the offense back from what could have been much more potent.

Minnesota returns the second most offensive production (85 percent) and scoring (85 percent) but ranked near the bottom nationally in both categories a year ago at 103rd and 106th, respectively. Aside from leading receiver K.J. Maye, everyone of importance is back for the Gophers offense. However, the offensive line returns just one player who started all 13 games, right tackle Jonah Pirsig. That means 115 career starts are gone and only a combined 37 return.

The next four teams with the most returning production are all pretty much in the same both. Northwestern (82/75 percent), Rutgers (79/72), Maryland (79/78), Purdue (72/69), and Illinois (71/73) return a lot of offense, but all five ranked between 84th and 115th nationally in total offense in 2015. All five return their primary quarterback, so that’s good news, but they all have too big a hill to climb to make a serious challenge for the Big Ten title.

Iowa returns 71 percent of its offense that ranked 72nd last season and 75 percent of its 54th-ranked scoring offense. Quarterback CJ Beathard figures to be one of the best in a down year at the position in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes have to replace leading rusher Jordan Canzeri and two of their top three receivers. Like Minnesota, Iowa has major losses to replace along the line with All-Big Ten performers, right guard Jordan Walsh and center Austin Blythe, taking 86 career starts with them to the NFL.

Penn State and Michigan are neck-and-neck in terms of returning offensive production this season. Penn State returns 54 percent of its offense and 54 percent of its scoring, while Michigan returns 54 and 53 percent, respectively. The big difference, however, is what that production accomplished in 2015. Michigan’s offense ranked 69th nationally and 50th in scoring, while Penn State’s ranked 105th and 101st. Both have to replace their starting quarterbacks, but all bets should be on Harbaugh to produce a better one than James Franklin. Michigan returns 72 percent of its rushing and 92 percent of its receiving, while Penn State returns 78 and 85.

Indiana and Wisconsin both return approximately the same (45 percent and 43 percent of offense respectively). Offense has never really been an issue for the Hoosiers under Kevin Wilson and there’s no reason to think this year will be much different. Defense is another story. More on that later. Wisconsin has to replace quarterback Joel Stave, more than 50 percent of its receiving production, and second-team All-Big Ten left tackle Tyler Marz.

Michigan State and Ohio State round out the returning offensive production. The Spartans bring back 38 percent of the nation’s 73rd-best offensive unit and 48 percent of the 60th-best scoring offense. They have to replace quarterback Connor Cook, 65 percent of their receiving production, and center Jack Allen and left tackle Jack Conklin’s combined 85 career starts. The three-headed rushing attack of L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Madre London will have to carry the load until the passing game finds its stride.

Ohio State’s mass exodus for the NFL leaves just 28 percent of its offense and 32 percent of its scoring behind. The good news for Meyer is that he still has Barrett behind center without Jones to muddle things and the Big Ten media picked Barrett as the preseason offensive player of the year. The other good news is that Meyer’s recruiting dominance over the past few seasons means he has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Just how well it will step up is the question. Only 132 rushing yards return from the running back position (Barrett is the returning leader with 727) and only 19 percent of last season’s receiving yards return.

Stay tuned for our defensive breakdown and conclusions coming soon.

Big Ten Tournament bracket set, Michigan to face Northwestern

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Big Ten Tournament

The Big Ten Tournament gets under way on Wednesday with Minnesota against Illinois and Rutgers against Nebraska. The top two seeds, Indiana and Michigan State, get double byes into the quarterfinals and won’t play until Friday.

Michigan (20-11, 10-8) will face ninth-seed Northwestern (20-11, 8-10) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at 12pm on Thursday in Indianapolis. A win would pit the Wolverines against top-seed Indiana at noon on Friday.

Michigan won the season’s only matchup against Northwestern, 72-63, on Feb. 24. The Wolverines made just four three-pointers in that game, but outscored the Wildcats 20-5 at the free throw line. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Derrick Walton added 16 and Aubrey Dawkins 11.

Northwestern, meanwhile, has won three straight since that loss, beating Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska by an average of 20 points. In the first meeting, Michigan had no answer for Alex Olah, who scored 19 points, while Tre Demps and Aaron Falzon each scored 14.

Big Ten Tournament
First Four First Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Championship Champion
Wed, Mar. 9 Thu, Mar. 10 Fri, Mar. 11 Sat, Mar. 12 Sun, Mar. 13
9. Northwestern 70
12pm BTN 8. Michigan 72
8. Michigan 72 12pm ESPN 8. Michigan
1. Indiana 69
13. Minnesota 52
4:30pm ESPN2 12. Illinois 68 1pm CBS
12. Illinois 85 2:25 BTN 12. Illinois 58
5. Iowa 66 2:25pm ESPN 4. Purdue
4. Purdue 89
10. Penn State 75  3pm CBS
6:30pm ESPN2 7. Ohio State 54
7. Ohio State 79 6:30pm BTN 2. Michigan State
2. Michigan State 81
14. Rutgers 72 3:30pm CBS
7pm BTN 11. Nebraska 70
11. Nebraska 89 8:55pm ESPN2 11. Nebraska 86
6. Wisconsin 58 8:55pm BTN 3. Maryland
3. Maryland 97