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Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern’

Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (9-1, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #25 Minnesota 31-24 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-7, 0-6), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Ohio State maintained the inside track to the Big Ten title game by outlasting a scrappy Minnesota team in the snowy conditions of Minneapolis. The Buckeyes have their eyes on a Big Ten championship and a spot in the first college football playoff.

2. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 37-15 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (6-4, 2-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

A night game on the road after a disappointing loss could have turned into a disaster for the Spartans, but they took care of Maryland with ease and kept their slim hopes at a title alive.

3. Michigan (5-5, 3-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (6-4, 3-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

During the bye week, Michigan watched its in-state rival draw up a perfect script for beating Maryland. If the Wolverines can take care of the Terps on Senior Day, it’ll mean a trip to a bowl game next month.

4. Maryland (6-4, 3-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan State 15-37 This Week: Sat at Michigan (5-5, 3-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland blew its final chance to pick up a statement win Saturday, when they were handled by the Spartans during a black out in their own stadium. Now third place in the East is up for grabs in Ann Arbor.

5. Penn State (6-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Temple 30-13 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-6, 1-5), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State finally qualified for a bowl game with a second straight win Saturday, beating Temple to move to 6-4. The Nittany Lions will count on their defense to assure themselves a winning record against Illinois this weekend.

6. Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 45-23 This Week: Sat at #11 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Fans of the Scarlett Knights were starting to get a little uncomfortable after the team’s three-game losing streak put their bowl chances in jeopardy. But a win over Indiana but those worries at bay as Rutgers draws the unenviable Week 13 task of traveling to East Lansing.

7. Indiana (3-7, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Rutgers 23-45 This Week: Sat at #6 Ohio State (9-1, 6-0), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Everyone knew it was going to happen, but a loss on Saturday made it official: Indiana will not go bowling this year. Injuries to their top two quarterback options have sunk a Hoosiers’ offense that carried the team through the first half of the season.

B1G East Week 12

West Division
1. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat #16 Nebraska 59-24 This Week: Sat at Iowa (7-3, 4-2), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Wisconsin made a huge statement Saturday when it welcomed Nebraska to town and waxed the Cornhuskers 59-24. Melvin Gordon stole the show, rushing for an NCAA record 408 yards en route to four scores.

2. Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #8 Ohio State 24-31 This Week: Sat at #23 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2), 12pm, ESPN

Minnesota hung with the only undefeated team in the Big Ten all game Saturday, but just couldn’t conjure up enough offense to pull the upset. The Gophers still control their own destiny in the West, as trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin loom.

3. Iowa (7-3, 4-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 30-14 This Week: Sat vs #16 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Iowa bounced back from a loss to Minnesota by beating up on the Illini 30-14. Now, if Iowa can beat Wisconsin and Nebraska at home to finish the season, it’ll be just a Gophers loss away from winning the West.

4. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to #20 Wisconsin 24-59 This Week: Sat vs #25 Minnesota (7-3, 4-2), 12pm, ESPN

The whole country saw Nebraska play punching bag for the Badgers Saturday. The Cornhuskers were exposed as pretenders in the Big Ten and still have no quality wins to beef up their resume.

5. Northwestern (4-6, 2-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #18 Notre Dame 43-40 OT This Week: Sat at Purdue (3-7, 1-5), 12pm, ESPNU

Just when it looked like Northwestern had hit rock bottom after a 10-9 home loss to Michigan, the Wildcats came out of nowhere to upset a ranked Notre Dame team. Now only games against Purdue and Illinois, the two worst teams in the West, stand between Northwestern and the postseason.

6. Illinois (4-6, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 14-30 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (6-4, 2-4), 12pm, ESPN2

Illinois got pounded again Saturday, this time at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Now Penn State visits the Illini for Senior Night.

7. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) – Down 2
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Northwestern (4-6, 2-4), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue took another bye week this weekend to think about its current four-game losing streak. Last time the Boilermakers came out of a bye they got crushed by 21 points on the road.

B1G West Week 12

Final Look: Northwestern

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014


Michigan-Northwestern(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan topped Northwestern last Saturday in one of the ugliest offensive games played this season by both teams. The Wolverines get a bye week this week to rest up and prepare for the final two games of the season, of which they must win at least one to gain bowl eligibility. But instead of taking a bye week myself, I decided to torture myself during the by week by diving deeper into the advanced stats from Michigan’s 10-9 win in Evanston. And you get to read it. Luck you.

Advanced Statistics
Michigan Stat (National Average) Northwestern
59 Total Plays 84
 42.2 Avg. Starting Field Position (29.9) 28.1
15 Possessions 14
7 Scoring Opportunities 3
 1.4 Points per Opportunity (4.69) 3.0
 67.2% Leverage Rate (68.2%) 65.1%
 39.7% Success Rate (41.9%) 41.0%
 21.0% Success Rate Passing Downs (30.6%) 24.1%
 48.7% Success Rate Standard Downs (47.1%) 50.0%
 33.3% Success Rate Passing (40.2%) 50.9%
44.1% Success Rate Rushing (43.5%) 21.4%
3 Turnovers 3
14.5 Equivalent Points 12.3
0.25 Equivalent Points Per Play 0.15

As I’ve said before, I’m working to expand this section in the future, and hoping to put in some work to go back and calculate the previous games this season as well as last season so I can draw comparisons between this year’s offense and last year’s. The stats and formulas used are from Football Outsiders and Football Study Hall.

Northwestern ran 25 more plays than Michigan but didn’t score until its final two possessions, which went for 19 plays and 14 plays. Michigan had a huge advantage in field position, but didn’t take advantage of it until Tony Jones fumbled a punt and Michigan took possession at the Northwestern 21 and scored two plays later. Michigan had seven scoring opportunities and only scored on two of them, while Northwestern had only three, but scored on two. Michigan had a slightly better leverage rage* but Northwestern had the better overall success rate** on everything except rushing.

*Leverage Rate: Standard downs/(Standard downs + passing downs)
**Success Rate: 50% of necessary yards on first down, 70% on second down, 100% on third or fourth down
***Passing Down is considered 2nd & 7 or more, 3rd & 5 or more, 4th & 5 or more

Let’s take a look at the Five Factors.

Five Factors
Michigan Stat Northwestern
4.4 Yards Per Play 3.2
 39.7% Success Rate 41.0%
42.2 Avg Starting Field Position 28.1
1.4 Points Per Opportunity 3.0
Even Turnover Margin Even

Michigan won two of the five factors, lost two, and tied one. Per Football Study Hall, here are the chances of winning based on each of these five factors:

Yards Per Play (weighted 35%)
• Michigan +1.2 = 86.2 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 13.2 (Michigan won by 1).

Success Rate (25%)
 Northwestern +1.3% = 59.2 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 3.6 (Northwestern lost by 1).

Average Starting Field Position (15%)
 Michigan +14.1 = 86.7 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 19.9 (Michigan won by 1).

Points Per Opportunity (15%)
 Northwestern +1.6 = 74.7 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 11.4 (Northwestern lost by 1).
However, Michigan had more scoring opportunities (seven to three) and a worse scoring average, which equates to a winning percentage of 64.8.

Turnover Margin (10%)
 Even = 50 percent chance of winning, with an average scoring margin of 0 (Michigan won by 1).

Michigan won two — Yards per Play (35 percent) and Field Position (15 percent) — and tied turnover margin (5 percent). Added together, that equates to a 55 percent overall chance of winning, which they did by one point. Northwestern won two — Success Rate (25 percent) and PPO (15 percent) — and tied turnover margin (5 percent). Added together, that equates to a 45 percent chance of winning. They lost by one.

Sometimes the advanced stats show an outlier that can help explain the outcome of a game. But this game was about as even as it gets with neither team having much success offensively, and the advanced stats prove exactly that.

Drive Chart
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics, Dash indicates direction of drive, Green dash = scoring play, Grey = punt, Red = turnover, Pink = missed field goal, Black = end of half or turnover on downs, Shaded line = special teams or defensive touchdown

The numbers game

12: Michigan allowed a season-low 12 rushing yards

150: Michigan rushed for at least 150 yards in back-to-back games for the first time this season

45: Jake Ryan’s career tackles for loss, moving into a tie for sixth in Michigan’s record book with Glen Steele (1994-97)

121: De’Veon Smith rushed for a career-high 121 yards

2: Mario Ojemudia recorded the first two sacks of his career

6: Michigan has won six straight games at Northwestern

732: Devin Gardner passed Todd Collins (1991-94) and Tom Brady (1996-99) for fifth place in career passing attempts with 732

Big Ten power rankings: Week 11

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-1, 5-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #8 Michigan State 49-37 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (7-2, 4-1), 12pm, ABC

J.T. Barrett’s improvement over the course of the regular season is a real testament to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. The freshman looked lost in the spread offense early in the season, but has now led the Buckeyes to 49 or more points in six of their last seven games. With the win over Michigan State, Ohio State will likely represent the East Division in Indianapolis, barring an implosion in its final three games.

2. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #14 Ohio State 37-49 This Week: Sat at Maryland (6-3, 3-2), 8pm, Big Ten Network

Does the loss to Ohio State make this season a failure for Mark Dantonio’s squad? The Spartans came into 2014 with the goals of winning the Big Ten and participating in the first college football playoff. Now, with losses to its top two opponents, Michigan State has only one impressive win: Against Nebraska.

3. Michigan (5-5, 3-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 10-9 This Week: Bye (11/22 vs Maryland)

If there’s ever such a thing as an ugly win, Michigan mastered the art in Evanston Saturday. The Wolverines needed a missed field goal, three turnovers and two fourth down stops to stay in the game, and then Trevor Siemian fell backwards on the game-deciding two-point conversion. But at the end of the day, Michigan has its first two-game winning streak of the year and a real chance to gain bowl eligibility after the bye week.

4. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #8 Michigan State (7-2, 4-1), 8pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland had a bye week to prepare for Michigan State’s trip to Byrd Stadium, and the Spartan loss won’t do the Terps any favors. An angry Spartan team will be visiting Maryland Saturday night as Maryland looked to take over second place in the East.

5. Penn State (5-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 13-7 This Week: Sat vs Temple (5-4, 3-3), 12pm, ESPN2

Saturday was the perfect remedy for Penn State’s four-game losing streak: A matchup with Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana. The Nittany Lions struggled to move the ball, putting up just 13 points on Indiana’s atrocious defense, but allowed just one touchdown to pull out the 13-7 win. Penn State will need a win against Temple or Illinois to become bowl eligible.

6. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-6, 0-5), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

There wasn’t a team in the Big Ten that needed a bye week as badly as Rutgers did this weekend. The Scarlett Knights raced out to a 5-1 start this season before hitting their first Big Ten gauntlet stretch. Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin combined to outscore Rutgers by a total score of 135-41. Now Indiana visits in a game Rutgers absolutely needs to win.

7. Indiana (3-6, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 7-13 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (5-4, 1-4), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Will Indiana pick up a conference win this season? It’s tough to say, as its best chance came at home against a reeling Penn State team Saturday. With a two-game road stretch upcoming, Indiana can look at the finale against Purdue as an opportunity.

B1G East Week 11

West Division
1. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #25 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

The biggest road trip of the season is coming up for Nebraska, as a win in Madison would all but clinch the West Division crown. The Cornhuskers’ best win on the season is against a solid Miami team at home, so this weekend will go a long way in determining if they’re the real deal.

2. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Iowa 51-14 This Week: Sat vs #14 Ohio State (8-1, 5-0), 12pm, ABC

Is there any question that Jerry Kill did his job during a bye week? After Minnesota dropped the ball in Illinois, it came back and rocked Iowa’s world at home. The Gophers put up a season-high 51 points on one of the stronger defenses in the conference to improve to 4-1 in the Big Ten. Now Minnesota gets a real test as it catches OSU off a huge win in what could really bring Kill’s team into the national spotlight.

3. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 34-16 This Week: Sat vs #13 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Wisconsin cruised through a potential trap game Saturday, pounding Purdue 34-16 in West Lafayette with the matchup against Nebraska looming. This weekend’s matchup will decide the inside track for the ticket to Indy.

4. Iowa (6-3, 3-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 14-51 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-5, 1-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The bottom of the West Division is so bad that the Hawkeyes get the nod at No. 4 simply for being bowl eligible. A 37-point loss to Minnesota didn’t technically change Iowa’s goal of winning the Big Ten, but there’s no doubt the Hawkeyes simply don’t have it this season.

5. Illinois (3-6, 1-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Iowa (6-3, 3-2), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Illinois had a bye week after being pounded by the Buckeyes in Columbus. The reeling Hawkeyes come to town next.

6. Northwestern (3-6, 2-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 9-10 This Week: Sat at #10 Notre Dame (7-2), 3:30pm, NBC

Northwestern played one of the ugliest games of the season Saturday, scoring just nine points and handing the game to Michigan by failing on a predictable two-point conversion. Now a trip to Notre Dame will likely be loss No. 5 in a row.

7. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #25 Wisconsin 16-34 This Week: Bye (11/22 vs Northwestern)

Purdue posted almost identical losses to start November, falling by 21 to Nebraska and 18 to Wisconsin. Now Northwestern will visit for what promises to be an unglamorous sixty minutes.

B1G West Week 11

Just enough: Michigan 10 – Northwestern 9

Saturday, November 8th, 2014


UM-NU(MGoBlue.com)

Nobody expected an offensive shootout in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday afternoon, and Michigan and Northwestern, both of whom feature offenses in the 100s nationally, lived up to that expectation combining for 19 points and 13 punts in a 10-9 Michigan win.

Northwestern crossed midfield on the opening possession of the game, but a converted 3rd-and-1 with a 10-yards Justin Jackson run, got called back for illegal formation and the Wildcats punted.

Michigan got a quick first down on two Drake Johnson runs, but on 3rd-and-8 from the Michigan 43, Devin Funchess dropped a would-be first down. Michigan punted.

And so the game went, neither offense able to put together anything resembling a long drive. Jake Ryan picked off a Trevor Siemian pass at the Northwestern 47 and Michigan quickly moved into the Northwestern red zone. But De’Veon Smith was stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Wildcat 16.

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Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 10 9
Record 5-5, 3-3 3-6, 2-4
Total Yards 256 264
Net Rushing Yards 147 -9
Net Passing Yards 109 273
First Downs 13 18
Turnovers 3 4
Penalties-Yards 5-50 3-10
Punts-Yards 7-267 6-209
Time of Possession 25:49 31:51
Third Down Conversions 1-of-12 10-of-20
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 6-59 0-0
Field Goals 1-for-2 1-for-2
PATs 1-for-1 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-4 2-of-4
Full Box Score

Midway through the fourth quarter, Michigan took possession at the Northwestern 31 after a short punt and a nine-yard Amara Darboh return. Three plays later, Devin Gardner was intercepted by Matthew Harris. Northwestern gave it right back four plays later when Matt Godin intercepted Siemian at the Northwestern 35. But once again Michigan couldn’t convert. Matt Wile’s 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the teams went to halftime locked in a scoreless game, each offense barely over 100 total yards.

In the second half it was Northwestern’s turn to squander a great opportunity. A Michigan fumbled snap on its first possession gave the Wildcats possession a the Michigan 27. But three plays later, kicker Jack Mitchell pulled a 36-yard field goal to the left.

Michigan finally broke through midway through the third quarter thanks to another Northwestern mistake. Tony Jones fumbled a Will Hagerup punt and Michigan recovered at the Northwestern 21. Gardner connected with Funchess for 18 yards and Smith carried it into the end zone on the next play, putting Michigan ahead 7-0.

After forcing a Wildcat punt, Michigan’s offense looked to add more to the tally, but Gardner was picked off by safety Ibraheim Campbell at the Northwestern six. Campbell rumbled 79 yards to the Michigan 15. But yet again Northwestern’s offense imploded. Frank Clark stopped Jones for a five-yard loss on the first play, then back-to-back sacks by Brennen Beyer pushed the Wildcats out of field goal range. On 4th-and-38, Pat Fitzgeraldn had no choice but to punt.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, after forcing a Michigan punt, Northwestern put together its best drive of the game, marching 95 yards on 19 plays, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal to pull within four at 7-3.

Michigan rode Smith and a 16-yard completion to Jake Butt down the field and Wile kicked a 37-yard field goal to put the Wolverines ahead by a touchdown once again with 3:03 remaining.

But Northwestern wasn’t finished, methodically marching down the field with a series of short passes. On 2nd-and-10 from the Michigan 22, Raymon Taylor was flagged for pass interference giving Northwestern a 1st-and-goal at the seven with less than a minute to play. After back-to-back runs by Jackson failed to reach the end zone, Siemian found Jones for a touchdown with three seconds left. Rather than kick the extra point and go to overtime for the third straight season, Fitzgerald elected to go for the win. On the two-point conversation attempt, Siemian rolled out to his right, but Clark was right there waiting for him. Siemian lost his footing and fell to the ground sealing the Michigan win.

After the game, Michigan coaches and players alike said they were prepared for the two-point conversion play. Hoke credited the coaches in the booth for seeing it and the players credited their preparation during the week.

“I knew it was going to be a sprint out once I saw the double motion, and that’s how I went about it,” said Clark.

Ryan agreed, saying, “”We planned for it all week. We knew what they were doing.”

Michigan finished the game with 256 total yards, 147 of which on the ground. Gardner completed 11-of-24 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions, while Smith led the way with 121 rushing yards on 18 carries (6.7 yards per carry). Darboh led Michigan with four receptions for 41 yards.

Northwestern outgained Michigan with 264 total yards, but the Michigan defense held the Wildcats to minus-nine yards rushing thanks to six sacks. Siemian completed 32-of-49 passes for 273 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. After averaging 123 yards per game in his last four, Jackson was held to just 35 yards on 17 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Kyle Prater was the leading receiver with eight catches for 86 yards.

Ryan finished with 11 tackles, half of a tackle for loss, and one pick. Clark tallied seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack, but was a disruptive force for most of the game. Beyer and Mario Ojemudia each recorded a pair of sacks, while Willie Henry added one.

At 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten, Michigan heads into its final bye week of the season. The Wolverines host Maryland (6-3, 3-2) on Nov. 22. The Terrapins were off this week and host Michigan State next Saturday. A Michigan win over Maryland would make the Wolverines bowl eligible heading into the season-ending trip to Columbus.

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, November 7th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

Michigan heads to Northwestern tomorrow, the site of their most exciting finish of the season a year ago. The last two meetings between the teams have been controlled by Northwestern, but stolen by Michigan in the closing seconds and overtime. Can Michigan top the Wildcats in regulation this time? Or will Northwestern finally get the best of the Wolverines? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 20 17
Sam 21 20
Derick 28 13
Josh 20 24
Joe 28 24
M&GB Average 23 20

Justin: Neither team features a good offense and the forecast in Evanston tomorrow afternoon calls for high 30s and wind 15-20 miles per hour. This game has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring affair similar to last year’s meeting that closed regulation tied 9-9.

Both teams will look to the ground, Michigan hoping the combination of De’Veon Smith’s power and Drake Johnson’s speed can get something going. Northwestern will hope true freshman Justin Jackson can carry the momentum from his last four games in which he averaged 123 yards against four solid defenses. In reality, neither team will string together many long scoring drives and whichever team limits the turnovers will likely win this one.

Two years ago, Michigan needed a Roy Roundtree circus catch on a bomb from Devin Gardner to get into field position for the game-tying touchdown and then won in overtime. Last season, Michigan needed a fire drill 44-yard field goal at the last second by Brendan Gibbons to force overtime and then won in triple overtime. This year it will probably be a Will Hagerup 100-yard fake punt scramble out of his own end zone for a game-tying touchdown and then Michigan wins in quadruple overtime.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17

Sam: Michigan is on a roll, having won two of their last three games. Or, you can also view it as a free fall, with the Wolverines having lost four of their last six.

I tend to take the latter with a little more weight.

Last week, after Athletic Director Dave Brandon was shown the door by President Mark Schlissel, the Maize and Blue showed some life against the miserable Indiana Hoosiers, putting them away comfortably.

But the road has not been kind, and that’s exactly where Michigan will be this Saturday.

Michigan travels to Northwestern for an afternoon game outside of Chicago looking to inch within one game of bowl eligibility, and the Wildcats are struggling mightily as well, coming off three straight losses – two of which weren’t close – and showcasing a quarterback who simply can’t throw.

It should be another hard-to-watch battle, but give me Michigan.

Michigan 21- Northwestern 20

Derick:  A scheduling reshuffle hands Northwestern a chance to get even for kick-gate on their home turf Saturday with the triple-overtime loss on its mind. The Wildcats’ shocking upset over Wisconsin given way to three straight losses, and Michigan is perking up in recent weeks. The Wolverines have to win the next two games to earn an invitation to a bowl game, and I think the relief that came from the end of the Dave Brandon era has them playing with less on their minds. Michigan will top this offensively-challenged Northwestern squad.

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 13

Josh: I said before the season I felt this was a potential loss. Not because I thought Northwestern would be any good or that Michigan would be so bad but simply because of luck. Michigan has had some incredibly lucky games against Northwestern and they’ve all gone the way of the Maize & Blue. Numerous dropped interceptions by the Wildcats, miracle catches (Roundtree) and sliding field goal holds at the last second are just plain dumb luck. With the way our season has gone so far I think that run ends this year, basically eliminating Michigan from bowl eligibility. Which I think is a good thing; we cannot wait until end of December to fire Hoke and begin a new coaching search for someone not named Jim Harbaugh (no, I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell he leaves the NFL, sorry).

Northwestern 24 – Michigan 20

Joe: And down the stretch they come!!! One thing is for sure. These guys will play hard for their coach, even if it is only for a few more weeks. The goal should be simple. Win two more games and go bowling. I want to believe they have it in ‘em to put another solid performance together and get that fifth win, but doing so two straight weeks might be asking a bit much. I think the offense will continue to feed Johnson the ball and see if they can control the clock early. Devin will manage things well throwing the occasional deep ball but will not be able to pull away. This one will be ugly on both sides of the ball and may be tough to watch. Northwestern will slow things down like they did last week and mix in some up tempo every once and a great while. Look for a close game with Michigan pulling it out late.

Michigan 28 – Northwestern 24

Michigan-Northwestern game preview

Friday, November 7th, 2014


Game Preview_Northwestern_banner

With three games left in the season Michigan is reduced to fighting for its postseason life, needing to win two to become bowl eligible and avoid a losing season. Indeed there are some fans rooting for that not to happen if only to speed up the seemingly inevitable coaching change, but there are seniors such as Devin Gardner and Jake Ryan and Frank Clark who are down to the final three games of their careers. Tomorrow is the first of those, and if they take care of business they’ll be one step closer to earning a fourth and final game.

UM-Northwestern-small-final
Quick Facts
Ryan Field – 3:30 p.m. EST – ESPN2
Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (9th season)
Coaching Record: 58-51 (all at Northwestern)
Offensive Coordinator: Mick McCall (7th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (7th season)
Returning 2013 Starters: 17 (9 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (1-7 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 29 – NU 17 3OT (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 55-15-2
Record at Ryan Field: Michigan leads 19-7
Current Streak: Michigan 3
Current Streak at NU:  Michigan 5
Last 10 Meetings:  Michigan 8-2
Last Northwestern Win: 2008 (21-14)
Last NU Home Win: 2000 (54-51)

But while Michigan owns the series history with Northwestern 55-15-2 and has topped Northwestern three years in a row, 11 of the past 15, and 30 of the past 34, the Wildcats have made Michigan really work for it in each of the past two years. In 2012, Michigan needed a Devin Gardner hail Mary to Roy Roundtree in the closing seconds to get into field position for the game-tying field goal and then won in overtime. Last season, it took an improbable last-second 44-yard field goal to tie the game and Michigan won in triple overtime.

This season, Michigan and Northwestern are essentially equals, underperforming their preseason expectations with bad offenses and decent defenses. But while Michigan doesn’t have a quality win Northwestern has beaten then-17th-ranked Wisconsin, and while Michigan doesn’t have a road win Northwestern dominated Penn State in State College. On the other hand, Northwestern has the worst loss, a 23-15 Week 2 home loss to Northern Illinois.

After a 10-3 season in 2012, Pat Fitzgerald had Northwestern the talk of the town. The Wildcats started 4-0 in 2013, moving all the way up to 16th nationally and landing ESPN College Game Day for the Oct. 5 showdown with 4th-ranked Ohio State. But that 40-30 loss kicked off a seven game losing streak that ended with a 37-34 win over Illinois on the final game of the season. Northwestern finished 5-7, which means in the past 16 games, the Wildcats are 4-12 — two games worse than Brady Hoke’s 6-10 in that same timespan.

But Fitzgerald is still beloved in Evanston and has even been thrown around as a possible candidate — if a long shot — to replace Hoke at Michigan. An argument can certainly be made that Northwestern has outplayed Michigan each of the past two years despite losing, and Fitzgerald won’t have to use much to motivate his team tomorrow. Can Northwestern finally finish the game? Or will Michigan get the best of the ‘cats once again? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Northwestern offense: When Northwestern has the ball

Northwestern’s offense ranks 113th nationally in scoring (19.1 points per game), 105th in rushing (124.8 yards per game), 88th in passing (205.2 yards per game), and 114th in total offense (330.0 yards per game). Comparatively, Michigan’s scores about a field goal more per game, rushes for 30 more yards, and passes for 30 fewer. Both teams average the exact same amount of total yards. Northwestern converts third downs at a clip of 38 percent compared to Michigan’s 41, has allowed five more sacks in one fewer game, and has scored three fewer touchdowns.

With Kain Colter gone, senior quarterback Trevor Siemian has attempted just 15 fewer passes than he did all of last season, but is 603 yards shy of last year’s pace and 3.5 completion percentage points behind. He has also thrown just four touchdown passes in eight games and compared to six interceptions. Even so, he has still thrown for more yards than Devin Gardner in one fewer game. He has topped 200 yards passing in four of eight games with a high of 269 on 32-of-50 completions against Minnesota. However, Iowa held him to just 8-of-18 for 68 yards last Saturday.

Siemian doesn’t have a standout receiver, but does have a group of solid pass catchers. The leading receiver is senior USC transfer Kyle Prater, who has 29 catches for 286 yards and one touchdown. At 6’5″, 225, he’s a similar size as Devin Funchess, but lacks the same type of game breaking ability. Junior super back Dan Vitale is the second-leading receiver with 26 catches for 282 yards and a score, while junior Miles Shuler has 23 for 190 yards, but has yet to find the end zone. However, Shuler, a Rutgers transfer, suffered a head injury on Oct. 18 and hasn’t played since. He’s out for tomorrow as well. Senior Tony Jones, a Flint, Mich. native, started the season with a seven-catch, 64-yard game, but has tailed off since then. He has 18 catches for 179 yards. Junior Cameron Dickerson is the only other receiver with double-digit receptions with 11 for 171 and one score.

The backfield has brought Northwestern fans some excitement this season, namely from true freshman running back Justin Jackson, who has been gaining steam as the season has gone along. In Week 1, he received just eight carries for 40 yards, and through the first four games, he averaged just 14 carries for 58.5 yards per game. But in the last four, his workload has increased to 25 carries and 123 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in three of the last four, and the only one he didn’t was a 96-yard performance against Iowa last week. And he did that against four pretty good defenses — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Michigan offense vs Northwestern defense: When Michigan has the ball

Northwestern’s defense ranks 46th in scoring (23.9 points per game), 65th against the run (166.1 yards per game), 53rd against the pass (222.2 yards per game), and 60th in total defense (388.4 yards per game). The Wildcats allow 2.2 more points, 50 more rushing yards, 33 more passing yards, and 83 more total yards per game than Michigan.

Entering the season, the front seven was considered to be a strength, most notably linebackers Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis. Ariguzo, a senior, leads the team with 72 tackles to go along with four tackles for loss and one sack. Ellis moved from strong side to middle linebacker this season, but suffered a concussion against Minnesota and will not play tomorrow. In his place has been redshirt freshman Anthony Walker, who has recorded 24 tackles, two for loss, and one interception. The strong side spot has been split all season between junior Drew Smith and senior converted safety Jimmy Hall. The duo has combined for 55 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and one sack.

The line is led by junior end Dean Lowry, who leads the team with five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. The other end has been a rotation between juniors Deonte Gibson and Max Chapman, who have combined for 20 tackles, six for loss, and two sacks. The interior of the line received a huge setback prior to the season when fifth-year senior Sean McEvilly suffered a season-ending foot injury. Sophomore Greg Kuhar and junior C.J. Robbins have been the stalwarts inside, though senior Chance Carter has also seen quite a bit of time. All three, however, are listed on this week’s injury list, Kuhar and Robbins as probable and Carter as questionable.

The secondary has started junior Nick VanHoose and sophomore Matthew Harris at corner in every game this season. The two rank third and fourth on the team in tackles and lead the team with 11 and nine passes defended, respectively. Senior safety Ibraheim Campbell has missed four straight games with a hamstring injury, and is questionable for tomorrow’s game. Redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike has done well in his stead, leading the team with three interceptions while recording 36 tackles. The other safety is junior Traveon Henry, who ranks second on the team with 56 tackles, including two for loss.

Special Teams: The other third

Sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell has made 7-of-8 field goals this season, but has attempted one field goal longer than 29 yards, a 44-yarder that he missed. Junior punter Chris Gradone‘s average of 37.8 yards per punt does not rank in the Big Ten’s top ten. Shuler is the main return man, averaging 19.8 yards per kick return and 14.0 yards per punt return. The latter would rank second in the conference if he had enough returns, but he has only returned three punts.

Prediction

Michigan and Northwestern are pretty similar and I would expect a close, low-scoring game like saw last year and like we saw three weeks ago against Penn State. Three of the past four opponents have rushed for over 220 yards against Northwestern and Michigan will try to do the same, combining the power running of De’Veon Smith with the speed of Drake Johnson. It could have some success, but don’t expect 200 yards.

With cold and windy weather expected in Evanston tomorrow, neither passing game will have much success, so it will be up to the ground games. As mentioned above, Northwestern has found success against good defenses the past few weeks with freshman Justin Jackson. Michigan’s rush defense, although 16th nationally, has given up big games to running backs this season. It kept Indiana’s Tevin Coleman in check a week ago because the Hoosiers posed no passing threat. Northwestern’s passing threat will be a bit better, but not much considering the weather. It will be an ugly offensive game and whichever team can avoid turnovers will win. Given Michigan’s recent history with Northwestern, I’ll take Michigan ever so slightly.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 17, probably in quadruple overtime

Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

Since the start of the Big Ten season, the Spartans have been the favorite to represent the East Division in Indianapolis. The biggest hurdle in front of that goal comes this weekend against the Buckeyes.

2. Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 55-14 This Week: Sat at #8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

While Ohio State didn’t technically have a bye week to prepare for this weekend’s College Gameday matchup like MSU did, a 55-14 waxing of Illinois took about the same effort. The Buckeyes bounced back from a close time in Happy Valley to score at least 50 points and win by at least 20 for the fifth time in six weeks.

3. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 20-19 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs #8 Michigan State)

If the Terrapins wanted to make enemies, they got what they wanted in State College last Saturday. After refusing to shake hands before the coin toss, Maryland edged out a 20-19 win against their rivals to improve their record to 2-35-1. The Terps are now 3-2 in their first Big Ten campaign.

4. Michigan (4-5, 2-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Indiana 34-10 This Week: Sat at Northwestern (3-5, 2-3), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Michigan has arguably over-performed in four straight weeks since getting blown out at home against Minnesota. A win over Indiana during homecoming kept Brady Hoke’s bowl aspirations alive, but the Wolverines will need wins in the next two weeks before heading to Columbus.

5. Penn State (4-4, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 19-20 This Week: Sat at Indiana (3-5, 0-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Remember when Penn State was 4-0? Don’t worry, not many do, because Saturday gave the Nittany Lions a fourth straight loss, three of which came at home. Now if PSU doesn’t make a bowl game, it won’t be due to sanctions, but an epic collapse. If the Nittany Lions don’t win their next three games, fans in Happy Valley will be calling for change once again.

6. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 0-37 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs Indiana)

On one hand, Rutgers has been outscored 135-41 during its current three-game losing streak. But on the other hand, the Scarlet Knights have played three of the best four teams in the conference, and nobody expected them to contend, anyways. After the bye week Rutgers will face off with Indiana, a game that will decide its bowl fate.

7. Indiana (3-5, 0-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 10-34 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (4-4, 1-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Last year Indiana was terrible on defense but treated fans to an impressive offensive showing each week. Now, injuries and turnovers have taken even that away, and the Hoosiers are reeling.

BIG East Week 10

West Division
1. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 35-14 This Week: Bye (11/15 at Wisconsin)

How good is Nebraska? Nobody really knows, yet. The Cornhuskers are 8-1, but their best win is over an unranked Miami (Fl) team. A fourth-quarter charge made the game against MSU look respectable, but Nebraska really hasn’t passed any tests this season, only several pop quizzes. After the bye week Wisconsin will welcome Nebraska to Madison for a potential Big Ten Championship play-in game.

2. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 37-0 This Week: Sat at Purdue (3-6, 1-4), 12pm, ESPNU

On the surface, a 37-0 road win looks like a definite sign that Wisconsin has returned to form, but upon closer examination of the team’s schedule, there’s much left to prove. The Badgers’ best win is a toss-up between Maryland and Bowling Green, but both are greatly overshadowed by an Oct. 4 loss to Northwestern. Wisconsin should cruise past Purdue this weekend before the showdown with Nebraska.

3. Iowa (6-2, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 48-7 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Iowa is the only team that has a chance to make the Big Ten West race truly interesting. The Hawkeyes bounced back from a tough loss at Maryland by sand-blasting Northwestern 48-7 in Iowa City. If Iowa can beat Minnesota and Illinois on the road over the next two weeks, it will set up home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska to finish the season. In other words, Iowa’s Big Ten destiny lies in those final two Saturdays in Kinnick.

4. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Iowa (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN2

The bye week would have been much more fun in Minneapolis if the Gophers hadn’t surrendered their division lead by losing to last-place Illinois to finish October. Now, Minnesota faces a gauntlet down the stretch: Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. If they want to shock the Big Ten world, the Golden Gophers will have to earn it.

5. Purdue (3-6, 1-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #15 Nebraska 14-35 This Week: Sat vs #25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue fans have to be dying for their team to finally complete an upset bid. Two fourth-quarter pushes fell short before a 35-14 loss to Nebraska this weekend, and now the Badgers will travel to West Lafayette. On the bright side, Northwestern and Indiana round out the season.

6. Illinois (4-5, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #16 Ohio State 14-55 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs Iowa)

Illinois went back to playing Big Ten punching bag Saturday, losing by 41 in Columbus. The Illini’s last chance to play spoiler comes next weekend against Iowa.

7. Northwestern (3-5, 2-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 7-48 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (4-5, 2-3), 3:30pm, ESPN2

A three-game losing streak immediately followed Northwestern’s three-game winning streak that included an upset win over Wisconsin. Now the Wildcats will host their rival Wolverines Saturday in the kick-gate sequel that handed Chicago’s Big Ten team a triple-overtime loss.

BIG West Week 10

First Look: Northwestern

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


FirstLook-Northwestern

Michigan got back in the win column on Saturday with a 34-10 win over Indiana and now has to win two of its last three to become bowl eligible and avoid a losing season. For the second season in a row Michigan has to travel to Northwestern, but of all the road venues in the conference Kyle Field has been the most hospitable with a large Michigan alumni presence in Chicago. Let’s take a look at how Michigan and Northwestern compare through the first two thirds of the season.

Northwestern Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Northwestern | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 19.1 | 21.9 113 | 105
23.9 | 21.7 46 | 29
Rushing Yards 998 | 1,394 1,329 | 1,041
Rush Avg. Per Game 124.8 | 154.9 105 | 71
166.1 | 115.7 65 | 16
Avg. Per Rush 3.2 | 4.5
4.1 | 3.1
Passing Yards 1,642 | 1,576 1,778 | 1,703
Pass Avg. Per Game 205.2 | 175.1 88 | 110 222.2 | 189.2 53 | 18
Total Offense 2,640 | 2,970 3,107 | 2,744
Total Off Avg. Per Game 330.0 | 330.0 114 | 114 388.4 | 304.9 60 | 9
Kick Return Average 19.1 | 19.3 100 | 96 22.5 | 21.3 96 | 80
Punt Return Average 12.8 | 6.2 21 | 88 8.1 | 11.9 66 | 112
Avg. Time of Possession 29:12 | 30:28 82 | 53
30:48 | 29:32
3rd Down Conversion Pct 38.0% | 41.0% 76 | 57
40.0% | 36.0% 75 | 40
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 23-192 | 18-111
105 | T66
14-89 | 21-172
T87 | T54
Touchdowns Scored 19 | 22
24 | 22
Field Goals-Attempts 7-8 | 11-15
8-13 | 14-17
Red Zone Scores (22-26)85%|(23-25)92% T52 | 9
(25-30)83%|(25-29)86% 66 | 89
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-26)58%|(18-25)72% (19-30)63%|(15-29)52%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .082 | -.218
50 | 91
-.066 | -.196 59 | 44

It has been a strange season for Northwestern after entering with hopes of making a push for the Big Ten West Division. The Wildcats opened with losses to California and Northern Illinois before reeling off three straight wins, including a dominant 29-6 victory at Penn State and a 20-14 win over 17th-ranked Wisconsin.

Just when it looked like Northwestern had turned things around, the Wildcats went on a three-game losing streak, falling by a touchdown at Minnesota and then getting blown out by Nebraska and Iowa.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 California L 24-31
Sept. 6 Northern Illinois L 15-23
Sept. 20 Western Illinois W 24-7
Sept. 27 at Penn State W 29-6
Oct. 4 #17 Wisconsin W 20-14
Oct. 11 at Minnesota L 17-24
Oct. 18 #19 Nebraska L 17-38
Nov. 1 at Iowa L 7-48
Nov. 8 Michigan
Nov. 15 at #10 Notre Dame
Nov. 22 at Purdue
Nov. 29 Illinois

The problem has been offense. Northwestern has yet to score 30 points in a game this season and has scored 20 or more in just four of eight games. Only 12 teams in the nation average fewer points per game. Unlike Indiana’s offense last week, Northwestern doesn’t have one part of the offense that does really well. The passing game ranks 105th nationally, averaging 124.8 yards per game and the rushing game ranks 88th, averaging 205.2 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Trevor Siemian has taken a step back from last season. He’s completing just 56.2 percent of his passes for 195.5 yards per game and has thrown just four touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. In other words, he’s averaging a touchdown every two games.

One small positive for the Wildcats has been the emergence of freshman running back Justin Jackson, who is averaging 123 yards per game over the last four. He has surpassed 100 yards in three of those four and just missed last week against Iowa with 96 yards. After getting just 14 carries per game in the first four games, he has seen his workload increase to 25 carries per game the last four.

Altogether, Northwestern passes for 30 fewer yards than Michigan but rushes for 30 yards more. Both teams average exactly 330 yards of offense per game, which ranks 114th nationally.

Defensively, Northwestern is about a middle of the road team, ranking 46th nationally in scoring defense, 65th against the run, and 53rd against the pass. After holding three of the first four opponents under 200 yards rushing, three of the last four have eclipsed 200 yards on the ground. Those four have rushed for 11 touchdowns against the Wildcats. Those same three — Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa — have each totaled more than 400 yards of offense as well. In fact, the last two — Nebraska and Iowa — have averaged 477 yards.

In total, Northwestern gives up 84 more yards than Michigan per game, 51 more rushing and 33 more passing. The Wildcats also rank 75th nationally in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert 40 percent of the time, and have only recorded 14 sacks through eight games.

Special teams is also middle of the road with the exception of punt returns. Northwestern ranks 21st nationally with an average of 12.8 yards per punt return, but they’ve only had six. Sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell has made 7-of-8 field goal attempts, but his long is 29. The only field goal he has attempted over that was a missed 44-yarder against Penn State.

As you can see, there’s nothing statistically that says Michigan shouldn’t have a good chance to win in Evanston, but the Wildcats have beaten Wisconsin and thumped Penn State on the road. Additionally, they have played Michigan tough the past two years with both going to overtime.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Trevor Siemian 159-283 1,564 4 6 195.5
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Justin Jackson 158 726 5 27 4.6
Treyvon Green 46 158 0 25 3.4
Warren Long 26 116 0 21 4.5
Solomon Vault 20 81 2 16 4.1
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Kyle Prater 29 286 1 22 35.8
Dan Vitale (SB) 26 282 1 28 35.3
Myles Shuler 23 190 0 22 23.8
Tony Jones 18 179 0 35 22.4
Cameron Dickerson 11 171 1 54 21.4
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Chi Chi Ariguzo (LB) 43 29 72 4.0-15 1.0-7
Traveon Henry (S) 31 26 57 2.0-6 0-0
Nick VanHoose (CB) 44 11 55 3.0-9 0-0 (2 INT, 11 PD)
Godwin Igwebuike (S) 20 16 36 1.0-3 0.0 (3 INT, 5 PD)
Dean Lowry (DL) 14 11 25 5.0-16 3.5-14
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Jack Mitchell 7 8 29 16 18
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Chris Gradone 53 2,001 37.8 16 3
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Northwestern in the coming days.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Northwestern

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


Five-SpotChallenge_Banner1

Congratulations to HTTV135 for picking up his first Five-Spot Challenge win of the season. It was a narrow, two-point win over tooty_pops and his first win since the first game of 2012. HTTV135 was just one away from Tevin Coleman’s rushing yardage (108) and consistently close on the other four questions. He wins a $20 gift card to The M Den.

Tooty_pops was the closest to Zander Diamont’s passing total (24 yards) with his prediction of 56. Only four of 18 contestants predicted Diamont to throw for less than 100 yards. Nirvandog was just two away from Coleman’s rushing yards, while freezer566 was three away. MEKMichigan was right on the number with his prediction of 60 yards for Michigan’s first scoring drive and was also the closest to Michigan’s longest punt return, which was zero. Chris12qb was the closest to Devin Gardner’s passing yards (220), only 10 away.

All 18 participants picked Michigan to win with an average score of Michigan 32 – Indiana 20. Maizenblu62 was the closest to the actual score of 34-10 with his prediction of Michigan 35 – Indiana 13.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated.

Michigan plays at Northwestern this Saturday. Here are this week’s questions:

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Michigan 35-11 This Week: Bye (Nov. 11 vs #16 Ohio State)

Michigan State played a below-average game against their in-state rival Wolverines this weekend, but a late score helped the conference favorite cover the spread and stay undefeated in the league.

2. Ohio State (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 31-24 (2OT) This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-4, 1-3), 8pm, ABC

In a near disaster, the Buckeyes let Penn State force overtime after leading by 17 points for much of the game. But a defensive stand in double overtime gave new life to what could be a top-10 matchup for the division crown in East Lansing on Nov. 8.

3. Maryland (5-3, 2-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 7-52 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-3, 1-3), 12pm, ESPN2

It says a lot about the strength of the East Division after MSU and OSU that Maryland, who got waxed in Madison 52-7 Saturday, falls in at No. 3. The Terrapins didn’t carry any momentum from upsetting Iowa into Wisconsin as they got pounded from the start.

4. Penn State (4-3, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #13 Ohio State 24-31 (2OT) This Week: Sat vs Maryland (5-3, 2-2), 12pm, ESPN2

October has turned into a total disaster for Penn State, as an upset bid fell just short Saturday night during Happy Valley’s signature white out game. Three straight losses have eliminated the Nittany Lions from any hope of staying relevant.

5. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #16 Nebraska 24-42 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, ESPN

Rutgers got another taste of the Big Ten’s heavy hitters Saturday as Nebraska welcomed the Scarlett Knights to Lincoln and crushed them by 18. They’ve allowed 98 points in their past two games.

6. Michigan (3-5, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #8 Michigan State 11-35 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-4, 0-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Nobody expected Michigan to come out of East Lansing with a win, but it was shocking how easily the Spartans handled the Devin Gardner-led offense. Now the Wolverines can only hope to salvage three wins in the final four weeks to earn a bowl invitation.

7. Indiana (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Michigan (3-5, 1-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Indiana took a bye week to prepare for Michigan in the Big House this weekend, but Illinois’ upset win over Minnesota left the Hoosiers as the only winless team in the Big Ten.

B1G East Week 9

West Division
1. Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 42-24 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (3-5, 1-3), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Nebraska has silently put together a nice 7-1 record in the shadow of Michigan State, the Big Ten’s most talented team. The Cornhuskers are more than capable of winning the rest of their games and setting up a potential rematch in Indianapolis.

2. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 52-7 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (5-3, 1-3), 12pm, ESPN

It took three weeks for Wisconsin to put together a complete performance in the Big Ten, but a 52-7 win over Maryland has the Badgers in great position with two winnable road games coming up. If Melvin Gordon can lead his team over Nebraska on Nov. 15, the Badgers will become the West Division favorites again.

3. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 24-28 This Week: Bye (Nov. 8 vs Iowa)

It was only a matter of time before Minnesota surrendered a slim lead in the West Division, but few thought it would come at the hands of the winless Fighting Illini. Iowa comes to town after the bye.

4. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Northwestern (3-4, 2-2), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Iowa had a bye week this weekend after a tough loss to Maryland ended a modest winning streak. The next three games are winnable for the Hawkeyes before Wisconsin and Nebraksa round out the season.

5. Illinois (4-4, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 28-24 This Week: Sat at #16 Ohio State (6-1, 3-0), 8pm, ABC

Illinois finally got its first Big Ten win Saturday, knocking off the first-place Gophers 28-24. The last four games will be difficult for Tim Beckman.

6. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Iowa (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The Wildcats got a much-needed week off after losing two straight conference games. Now a tough road matchup in Iowa City is looming.

7. Purdue (3-4, 0-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #15 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Purdue is tied for last place in the West Division, and upcoming games against Nebraska and Wisconsin should keep the Boilermakers near the bottom in the future.

B1G West Week 9