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Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern’

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 21

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Cardinals Stadium

Upsets around the country kept Michigan’s razor thin playoff hopes alive in Week 11 as four top 10 teams lost, two of which fell below the Wolverines in the rankings. But the playoff committee still isn’t sold on Jim Harbaugh’s team, which moved up only two spots to No. 12.

Michigan will have its eye on another deep slate of games around the country Saturday, highlighted by a pair of Big Ten matchups necessary to keep its East Division title hopes alive. Can the Wolverines win in Happy Valley and slip into the top 10?

Here are the teams Michigan should root for:

“I really, really need you”

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

No. 12 Michigan (away) against Penn State (12pm, ABC): It goes without saying that the most important game of the weekend for Michigan is its own. Penn State is undefeated at home this season and Christian Hackenberg is playing likely his last game at Beaver Stadium. A loss would end the Wolverines’ national relevance.

Result: Michigan 28 – Penn State 16

No. 3 Ohio State (home) against No. 9 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): Does it feel dirty to read this? It should, but that’s what happens when you lose to MSU at home and put your destiny in someone else’s hands. Without an OSU win Saturday, Michigan can kiss its Big Ten title hopes goodbye.

Result: Michigan State 17 – Ohio State 14

“It could happen!”

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

Virginia Tech (home) against No. 17 North Carolina (12pn, ESPN): Despite an opening season loss to terrible South Carolina and a pair of cupcake wins over FCS schools, North Carolina is shooting up the playoff rankings. The Tarheels could be dangerous if they head into the ACC title game on an 11-game winning streak, so Michigan will be rooting for the Hokies.

Result: North Carolina 30 – Virginia Tech 27

No. 5 Iowa (home) against Purdue (12pm, ESPN2): This should be an easy win for Iowa, a team Michigan needs to stay unbeaten into the Big Ten championship game if it has any hopes of jumping into the top four.

Result: Iowa 40 – Purdue 20

No. 20 Northwestern (away) against No. 25 Wisconsin (3:30pm, BTN): I can’t stress how important this game is for Michigan’s resume. With a win, Northwestern would establish itself as a no-doubt top 15 team with four solid wins on the season. That would make Michigan’s 38-0 win over the Wildcats so much more impressive. Unfortunately, a loss might (unfairly) knock Northwestern out of the top 25 altogether.

Result: Northwestern 13 – Wisconsin 7

No. 13 Utah (home) against UCLA (3:30pm, FOX): Now that the Utes have dropped below the Wolverines in the rankings, Michigan needs Utah to keep winning. As long as Utah stays in the top 15, that loss back in Week 1 doesn’t look too bad.

Result: UCLA 17 – Utah 9

No. 22 Ole Miss (home) against No. 15 LSU (3:30pm, CBS): The College Football Playoff committee loves to overreact when one overrated SEC team beats another overrated SEC team. Michigan could get jumped by LSU if the Tigers win on the road against an average Mississippi squad, so Michigan needs this one to go to the Rebels.

Result: Ole Miss 38 – LSU 17

No. 6 Oklahoma State (home) against No. 10 Baylor (7:30pm, FOX): Unfortunately for most of the ranked teams currently on the outside looking in, the Big 12 played a cupcake-laden schedule through the first nine weeks of the season to inflate its rankings before matching up with any real competition. So Michigan finds itself behind three Big 12 teams with only two weeks to go. The problem is, the Big 12 teams are all playing against each other, so they can’t all lose. I won’t go over the entire scenario here, but there is a way Michigan can vault ahead of all four (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU). That scenario begins with an Oklahoma State win over Baylor Saturday.

Result: Baylor 45 – Oklahoma State 35

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

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

Florida Atlantic (away) against No. 8 Florida (12pm, SECN): Well, the Gators did almost lose to Vanderbilt two weeks ago. If Florida Atlantic doesn’t take care of Florida, Florida State probably will.

Result: Florida 20 – Florida Atlantic 14 (OT)

Boston College (away) against No. 4 Notre Dame (7:30pm, NBCSN): This game will probably be over by the end of the first quarter.

Result: Notre Dame 19 – Boston College 16

No. 18 TCU (away) against No. 7 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): Yes, TCU is ranked in the top 20, but I just don’t see the Horned Frogs having any chance on the road against the Sooners. TCU barely held on against a putrid Kansas team last year as the injuries appear to have caught up with the Frogs. Oklahoma has no business being in the top 10 after losing to Texas and playing only one ranked team in its first 10 games, but that’s how the committee operates.

Result: Oklahoma 30 – TCU 29

California (away) against No. 11 Stanford (10:30pm, ESPN): Apparently having better wins, better losses and better outcomes against common opponents isn’t enough to boost Michigan ahead of Stanford in the rankings. Unfortunately, it’ll be up to a bad Cal team to help the Wolverines change that this week. If the Cardinal loses this weekend, Michigan can root for it to knock off Notre Dame next Saturday.

Result: Stanford 35 – California 16

Charleston Southern (away) against No. 2 Alabama (4pm, SECN): This would never happen, but it would be hilarious if Alabama lost after Nick Saban’s rant about how good Charleston Southern is. Hey, maybe losing to an FCS school would drop Alabama out of the top 5.

Result: Alabama 56 – Charleston Southern 6

Alarming CFP ranking mistakes cast shadow over wonderful weekend

Friday, November 20th, 2015

CFP banner

Week 12 of the 2015 college football season embodied everything that’s great about college sports. Four of the top 10 teams fell in upset fashion and seven additional games featuring ranked teams were decided by a single score. Two teams, Michigan and Utah, played into double overtime on the road. Kansas, 0-10 on the season, had three chances to knock off one of the Big 12’s best teams on the road.

The weekend was perfect, but Tuesday night was not.

At this time of year, Tuesdays become almost as important as what happens on the field on Saturdays. Tuesday nights are when the College Football Playoff committee releases its weekly rankings and reveal which teams have the chance to play for the National Championship.

The committee is given the most important job in college sports. I won’t bore you with details, but thousands of students and coaches dedicate their lives to each season. Hundreds of millions are spent (and more importantly, earned) through games, travel, television deals and merchandise. This entire process is held together by the common aspiration of every major program in the country: To win championships.

Despite all the chaos that happens on the field, the committee’s job is relatively simple. They put two resumes next to each other, and the better one is ranked higher. Is it the committee’s job to guess which teams are the best? No. The ranking process should be all about resumes. If it’s not, then what’s the point of playing the games?

In spite of the beautiful simplicity of this process, the committee still manages to make baffling mistakes each and every week. It harks on criteria like head-to-head outcomes, scores against common opponents and strength of schedule, yet when the rankings are released, those factors seem to take a back seat to a more ambiguous placement process.

It’s not the committee’s job to get most of the rankings right, it’s the committee’s job to get all of the rankings right. If you disagree, just talk to the players who poured their hearts and souls into 12 fall Saturdays only to finish below a team that didn’t have as strong of a season. When the committee can’t correctly rank Nos. 10-25, why should we have any faith it’ll pick the right teams for the final four?

Before you read any further, remember: This is my opinion on the rankings, and yes, I know only the final top 25 matters. But the weeks leading up to that reveal are important because they set the stage and give us a look at how the committee operates.

Take a look at some of the problems I found in this week’s rankings.

(3) Ohio State ranked above (5) Iowa
Ohio State logo new  Iowa logo
10-0 (6-0) Record 10-0 (6-0)
0-0 vs Top 25 2-0
59 SOS 53
22.6 Scoring Margin 15.2
1 Record vs P5 teams over .500 3
Penn State
N. Illinois
W. Michigan
Best Wins at #20 Northwestern
at #25 Wisconsin

One of the simplest mistakes the committee has made in the first three weeks concerns the Big Ten, which features four top-12 teams.

The conference’s remaining undefeated teams, Ohio State and Iowa, would eventually have to meet in the conference championship game, should they both continue to win. But even so, their placement is an example of the committee refusing to use solid evidence in the rankings.

Do I think Iowa is a better team than Ohio State? Absolutely not. But Iowa has three wins over power five teams with at least seven victories, two of which came against ranked teams on the road. Ohio State, on the other hand, has only one win against a winning power five team: A home win over 7-3 Penn State. The best three wins on Iowa’s resume came at (20) Northwestern and (25) Wisconsin and against Pittsburgh. Ohio State’s best three wins came at home against Penn State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

So how does Ohio State land in the top four while Iowa sits on the outside looking in? There really isn’t a good answer. The Hawkeyes went on the road and dismantled the 20th-ranked Wildcats by 30 points last month. The only teams Ohio State beat by 30 were Hawaii and Rutgers.

Sure, this will work itself out on Dec. 5 if the teams meet in Indianapolis. But what if these teams weren’t in the same conference? It’s alarming that the committee feels it can take matters into its own hands instead of letting the play on the field determine who makes the top four.

(11) Stanford ranked above (12) Michigan
Stanford Logo Maize M
8-2 (7-1) Record 8-2 (5-1)
2-2 vs Top 25 1-2
40 SOS 37
15.0 Scoring Margin 17.8
at #22 USC (41-31) Best Win #20 Northwestern (38-0)
at #20 Northwestern
#23 Oregon
Losses Current #13 Utah
#9 Michigan State

Here’s the most indefensible example of the committee completely whiffing on teams with identical records and completely different resumes.

Let’s break down both bodies of work. Michigan’s two losses came to the 9th and current 13th-ranked teams in the country and Stanford’s two losses came to the 20th and 23rd-ranked teams in the country.

Was Stanford more competitive in those loses? Well, the Cardinal lost its season opener by 10 points. The Wolverines lost their first game of an entirely new system by a touchdown. Stanford lost to Oregon after being outplayed from start to finish. Michigan lost to Michigan State after outplaying the Spartans start to finish.

Okay, so it’s not because of the losses.

Maybe Stanford has a better win? Strike two. Stanford’s best victory came over the 24th-ranked team in the country. Michigan blew out the 20th-ranked team in the country.

How about their performances against common opponents, which is specifically outlined as one of the main criterion of the rankings? Michigan finished 2-0 against the common opponents (Northwestern and Oregon State) with a combined score of 73-7. Stanford finished 1-1 with a combined score of 48-40. The Wolverines beat Northwestern by 38 points and Stanford lost to Northwestern by 10 points. That’s a 48-point difference.

But it’s not enough for the committee. Jeff Long and company can’t even build a top 25 by the standards they created. Michigan has a far better resume than Stanford, but the committee threw the Cardinal one spot ahead of the Wolverines. Strike three.

(17) North Carolina ranked above (20) Northwestern
 UNC NorthwesternLogo
9-1 (6-0) Record 8-2 (4-2)
0-0 vs Top 25 1-2
101 SOS 21
22.6 Scoring Margin 15.2
at Pittsburgh (29-16) Best Win #15 Stanford (16-6)
South Carolina Losses at #14 Michigan
#6 Iowa

Now I’ll give you an example of the committee completely overreacting to one week. On Tuesday, it announced that North Carolina, previously ranked 23rd, jumped up six spots to 17th.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Wow, which top 10 team did the Tarheels knock off to earn such a jump?’ Actually, all UNC did was knock off one of the biggest dumpster fires of the season, Miami, at home. How does a win over a team that’s lucky – and I mean LUCKY (see Miami’s win over Duke) – to have an above .500 record vault North Carolina over a team like Northwestern?

North Carolina hasn’t played a single ranked team this season. In fact, UNC’s best win came over a Pittsburgh team that has one win over an above .500 team. The Tarheels spent their preconference season playing two FCS schools and two bottom-feeder power five teams. Oh yeah, and they lost to a 3-7 team.

Meanwhile, Northwestern already played three teams ranked in the top 12 of the playoff rankings, including a comfortable 10-point win over Stanford. The Wildcats also won at Duke before the Blue Devils had the wind taken out of their sails by the officials in the Miami game. For good measure, Pat Fitzgerald’s team won at Nebraska and knocked off seven-win Penn State.

Sure, Northwestern has two losses and North Carolina only has one. But as we’ve seen in Alabama’s rise to No. 2, that isn’t the most important factor in the rankings. It’s flooring that a win over a team as bad as Miami can boost North Carolina over a team that’s played a much better schedule and has much better wins.

(21) Memphis loses… but doesn’t fall

When I saw Memphis ranked at No. 21 in this week’s polls, I couldn’t help but laugh.

After getting dumped by Navy – by a score of 45-20 – Memphis fell eight spots to No. 21 in week 11. This weekend, the Tigers blew a huge 4th-quarter lead to Houston and lost their second straight game. But despite the two-game losing streak and the clear exposing of this team’s defense (80 points allowed in the last two weeks), Memphis didn’t fall a single spot in the rankings.

Here’s the kicker: Memphis didn’t even lose to a team ranked higher in the rankings. The committee ranked undefeated Houston 24th in week 11 and Memphis lost to Houston. Clearly, that means Memphis isn’t as good as the committee thought. But there isn’t any accountability for the loss.

How can you lose a game and not be penalized? That’s a world of college football I don’t want to live in. Most of these teams will have a chance to move up over the next few weeks, but that doesn’t change the clear miscues the committee has made through three weeks.

College football deserves a committee that can get this right. Every season is a clean slate and teams that earn the right to compete for a title this year should be given the chance to do so by the committee. If not, the playoff is no better than the BCS.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 11

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


B1G East Week 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G West Week 11

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

And then there were two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G East Week 10


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G West Week 10

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G East Week 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G West Week 9

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 7

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Power Rankings_header

It’s amazing how one play can affect the entire outlook of a conference season.

The ending to the Michigan versus Michigan State game on Saturday night took the inside track to Indianapolis right out of Michigan’s hands and planted the Wolverines firmly behind their two hated rivals in the Big Ten East Division.

In the West, Iowa made a definitive statement in routing Northwestern, 40-10, in Evanston to seize firm control of the division.

It was a crazy, and in many ways heartbreaking, week for a few Big Ten teams. Here’s a look at how the divisions line up heading into what should be a calmer Week 8.

East Division
1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn St. 38-10 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (3-3, 1-2), 8pm, ABC

It looked like Ohio State was in for a tough test Saturday as the streaking Nittany Lions came to town on a five-game winning streak. But Urban Meyer’s offense finally perked up, dropping 38 points on a Penn State defense that hadn’t allowed 30 all season. J.T. Barrett completed all four of his passes for 30 yards and two touchdowns and added 102 yards and two more scores on 11 rushing attempts. His four-touchdown performance earned Barrett the starting job heading into another easy stretch for Ohio State. The Buckeyes should roll through Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois and make it to mid-November with a chance to earn the No. 1 College Football Playoff seed. With Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed 27 times for 153 yards Saturday, and an apparently recharged Barrett, the Buckeyes should be able to overcome what has been a shaky defense so far this season.

2. Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #12 Michigan 27-23 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-3, 0-3), 3:30pm, ABC

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but on the final play of the game Saturday, the Spartans were lucky and good. Yes, Michigan State was gifted a fumbled snap, but the Spartans returned it down the sideline for the winning touchdown and stayed perfect on the season. Is MSU a team of destiny? The Spartans have trailed or led by just one possession in six of their seven games, despite playing only one quality opponent. But on a day when their best player, Connor Cook, was not impressive – 18 of 39 for 328 yards and a touchdown – Michigan State found a way to win. Aaron Burbridge emerged as one of the best receivers in the country, beating lockdown corner Jourdan Lewis for nine catches and 132 yards on the night. Next up for the Spartans: An easy stretch against Indiana, Nebraska and Maryland.

3. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 MSU 23-27 This Week: Bye (10/31 at Minnesota)

Wow, that was… not good. Michigan led Michigan State for 60 minutes Saturday night but a touchdown with three zeroes on the clock took away the Wolverines’ chance to finally beat their in-state rival. Now Michigan’s hopes of winning the East Division are all but dead. Even a three-way tie with Michigan State and Ohio State would leave the Wolverines on the outside looking in, as they would certainly rank below one-loss MSU and OSU in the College Football Playoff rankings (the next Big Ten division tiebreaker). The most painful part of the loss is that Michigan had plenty of chances to put the Spartans away. The offense settled for three field goals and when it finally gave its reliable defense a two-possession lead, the defense gave up a 74-yard pass and coughed up that cushion in just two plays. Blake O’Neill, who dropped the snap that led to the shocking final touchdown, punted seven times, including an 80-yard bomb in the first half. At the end of the day, the only turnover of the game killed Michigan and created a steep uphill battle for the East.

4. Rutgers (3-3, 1-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Indiana 55-52 This Week: Sat vs #1 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0), 8pm, ABC

Rutgers isn’t the fourth best team in the East, but Penn State had to drop after its pitiful performance in Columbus. The Scarlett Knights were all but dead Saturday when they fell behind by 25 points to Indiana late in the third quarter. But Rutgers scored four straight touchdowns and a late field goal as the clock expired gave them their first conference victory. Chris Laviano was great under center, completing 28 of 42 passes for 386 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. Lente Carroo continued his assault of Big Ten defenses, catching seven passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Robert Martin had his best game of the season, rushing for 124 yards and three scores. Rutgers needed every one of those points as its defense allowed over 600 yards and 52 points in the first three quarters. But it stepped up in the fourth quarter, returning a fumble for a touchdown, making two interceptions and forcing a late three-and-out to set up the game-winner. The Scarlett Knights will go back to being a punching bag Saturday in Columbus.

5. Penn State (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 10-38 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-4, 0-2), 3;30pm, ESPN

Penn State entered the Horseshoe on a five-game winning streak Saturday, but we quickly found out it wasn’t because the Nittany Lions are any good. Penn State got exposed by the Buckeyes after rolling over a stretch of cupcakes – Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army and Indiana – and bouncing back from an opening loss to Temple. Now it looks like Christian Hackenberg simply can’t play with the big boys as he was simply outmatched by a defense that surrendered 28 points to Maryland a week ago. Saquon Barkley was phenomenal, rushing for 194 yards on the night. He’ll lead the bounce-back effort this week against Maryland.

6. Maryland (2-4, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Penn State (5-2, 2-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Saturday was a bye for Maryland, the best possible option for a team that just fired its coach after three straight losses. Maryland has given up over 40 points three times and lost its last three games by a combined 88 points. The final two games – Indiana and Rutgers – are winnable for the Terrapins, but first they have to get through four straight winning teams.

7. Indiana (4-3, 0-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Rutgers 52-55 This Week: Sat a #7 MSU (7-0 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

That’s right, Indiana slides in below the punch-less, coach-less dumpster fire that is 2015 Maryland football. The reason: Since falling just short of upsetting the No. 1 team in the country two weeks ago, the Hoosiers got sandblasted by Penn State and blew a 25-point lead in the final 18 minutes against Rutgers. Indiana did everything it could to lose the game: Allowing four straight touchdowns, including a 26-yard fumble return that really got the ball rolling for Rutgers. When you turn the ball over three times, hold the ball for fewer than 25 minutes and surrender nearly 600 yards you’ll rarely win in the Big Ten, no matter how many yards you gain.

B1G East Week 7

West Division
1. Iowa (7-0, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #20 Northwestern 40-10 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Maryland)

The West Division title talks are definitely heating up in Iowa this month. The Hawkeyes went into Evanston on Saturday and crashed Northwestern by 30 points, and now Iowa is home free barring a huge upset. Victories over Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road have given Iowa a huge leg up on its two toughest contenders in the division. A win over Illinois even looks big for the Hawkeyes as the Fighting Illini have only one conference loss. If Iowa finishes at least 4-1 against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska, the division is theirs.

2. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 24-7 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, BTN

Wisconsin wasn’t overly impressive in its 24-7 win over Purdue, but the Badgers have an easy road to the finish line and will probably finish second to Iowa in the West. That 10-6 home loss to Iowa is looking like the early decider in the West this season.

3. Nebraska (3-4, 1-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 48-25 This Week: Sat vs NW (5-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Mike Riley picked up his first road win as Nebraska head coach Saturday as the Cornhuskers pounded Minnesota, 48-25. It’s an uphill climb for Nebraska, which dug itself into a 2-4 hole, but the four losses came by a combined 11 points. Nebraska is only four plays (three of them flukey plays) from being a perfect 7-0, so don’t sleep on this team if it figures it out down the stretch.

4. Illinois (4-2, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (5-2, 1-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Illinois didn’t play this weekend, but took an extra week to prepare for a home date with Wisconsin. The Fighting Illini have played well since a 34-point loss to North Carolina and have a great shot to make it to a bowl game if they can win a few road games. Knocking off the Badgers would go a long way in making that bowl dream a reality.

5. Northwestern (4-2, 1-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to #17 Iowa 10-40 This Week: Sat at Nebraska (3-4, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

When it rains, it pours. Things have turned ugly quick in Evanston after a second straight loss by 30 or more points. The Wildcats didn’t respond well to their first loss of the season, wasting a chance to seize control of the West Division in their blowout loss to Iowa. Pat Fitzgerald’s vaunted defense allowed a combined 78 points to Michigan and Iowa and the schedule won’t get much easier going forward.

6. Minnesota (4-3, 1-2) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 25-48 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Michigan)

Bad Minnesota reared its ugly head again this weekend as the Golden Gophers found themselves on the wrong end of another blowout. Minnesota missed its chance at a crucial fifth win when Nebraska came to town this weekend and now, with Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa next on the schedule, it might be tough to clinch a bowl game.

7. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 7-24 This Week: Bye (10/31 vs Nebraska)

Purdue suffered a fifth straight loss Saturday, falling to Wisconsin, 24-7. Darrell Hazell’s seat is starting to get a little toasty as the Boilermakers fall farther and farther into the Big Ten cellar. Four of their losses have come by double digits and the best performance of the year came in a three-point loss to Michigan State. B1G West Week 7

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 6

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

For the first time this season, all 14 Big Ten teams hit the field against conference opponents as the first half of the college football regular season came to an end. And though there were no surprises in the outcomes of these games, some of the winning margins definitely stood out.

In the only intra-division battle, the third-highest East Division team beat the highest-ranked West Division team into a pulp, branding the former as the more dominant half of the conference. Four East teams are 2-0 in conference while only Iowa is unbeaten in the West.

As a whole, the Big Ten has a legitimate chance to send 10 teams to bowl games at the end of the season. Three 6-0 squads are already bowl eligible and another three are just one win away. Assuming Minnesota and Wisconsin can win two more games each, it’s up to Indiana to find two more victories to give the conference 10 bowl-eligible teams.

Here’s how both division stack up after six weeks of football.

East Division
1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 49-28 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (2-3, 0-1), 8pm, ABC

Ohio State holds onto the top spot this week because of the reemergence of the dangerous quarterback tandem that landed them the preseason No. 1 spot in the first place. No, being tied with Maryland in the 3rd quarter isn’t pretty, but the Buckeyes did pull away and win the game by 21 points. Cardale Jones completed 21 of 28 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns while J.T. Barrett got a few red zone chances and scored three rushing touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a cool 106 yards and two touchdowns to cap off one heck of an afternoon for the trio. Ohio State did allow nearly 400 yards to a team that struggled to reach 100 against Michigan last week, but a 499-yard effort from a Buckeye offense that limped into the game eased any concerns. OSU didn’t turn the ball over, controlled the pace with 31 first downs and even got Braxton Miller going – finding the receiver five times for 79 yards and a touchdown.

2. Michigan (5-1, 2-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #13 NW 38-0 This Week: Sat vs #7 Michigan St. (6-0, 2-0), 3:30pm, ESPN

That’s right, even though the Wolverines have a loss on their resume, they’ve finally jumped into the No. 2 spot in the rankings. Michigan put up one of the top performances of the year Saturday, dominating No. 13 Northwestern in all three phases for a 38-0 victory. Jehu Chesson drew first blood on the opening kickoff, returning it 96 yards for a quick touchdown. Michigan followed its first kick return touchdown since 2009 with drives of 59 yards and 75 yards against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country to stretch the lead to 21-0 in the 1st quarter. A Jourdan Lewis pick-six put the nail in the coffin before the Wildcats could even get to halftime. In addition to notching its third straight shutout, Michigan’s defense surrendered just 168 yards (after allowing 105 to both BYU and Maryland) and held Northwestern to 2-13 on 3rd downs. Jim Harbaugh has his team playing at a higher level than anybody could have expected this early in his regime. If the Wolverines can pull off an unthinkable sixth straight win on Saturday, it’ll enter into the Big Ten title discussion.

3. Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 31-24 This Week: Sat at #12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0), 3:30pm, ESPN

Mark Dantonio will probably use these power rankings as motivation for his team as it heads into Ann Arbor on Saturday. The Spartans drop out of the top two after needing a heroic Connor Cook-led drive in the final minute to beat a hapless Rutgers team. Cook made three legitimate NFL throws during the drive – highlighted by a 29-yard strike to R.J. Shelton on 3rd and 9 with MSU in danger of punting it back to the Scarlett Knights with three minutes remaining. Cook was great on the night, throwing for 357 yards and two touchdowns, but the Michigan State defense allowed recently-reinstated Leonte Carroo catch seven passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns to stay in the game. Carroo is an NFL talent, but the Spartan secondary is starting to look more and more porous as the season stretches on. Michigan doesn’t have the greatest passing attack, so if Jake Rudock can pick apart the Spartans on Saturday, it’ll be panic time for Dantonio.

4. Penn State (5-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 29-7 This Week: Sat at #1 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0), 8pm, ABC

Much like Utah’s resurgence has improved Michigan’s resume, Temple’s six-game winning streak to start the season is starting to make Penn State’s 5-1 start look much more respectable. The Nittany Lions smacked Indiana, 29-7, for their fifth straight win and have a chance to shake up the entire East Division in Columbus Saturday night. Christian Hackenberg was just average passing against a terrible Indiana defense – 21 of 39 for 262 yards and two scores – but rushed nine times for two more touchdowns. Indiana was without star running back Jordan Howard and quarterback Nate Sudfeld, so the PSU defense cruised in the victory.

5. Rutgers (3-2, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #4 MSU 24-31 This Week: Sat at Indiana (4-2, 0-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Maybe Rutgers has a little fight left after the return of Carroo to the offense. The senior wideout has caught six touchdown passes in just three games and gives the Scarlett Knights their only dangerous weapon on offense. Defensively, Rutgers can’t stop a nosebleed. Michigan State converted 11 of 17 chances on 3rd down en route to 489 total yards and 31 points. Only Norfolk State, an FCS team, and Kansas, the worst power five team in the country, couldn’t score at least 28 points against Rutgers this season. It’ll be up to the offense if Kyle Flood’s team wants to play in a bowl game.

6. Indiana (4-2, 0-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Penn St. 7-29 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (3-2, 0-2), 3:30pm, BTN

Poor Indiana. Just when it looked like the Hoosiers could make some noise in the Big Ten – 4-0 and beating top-ranked Ohio State in the 3rd quarter – they lost their two best offensive players and spiraled into a familiar abyss of irrelevance. A huge home game against Rutgers could get Indiana a step closer to bowl eligibility. If the Hoosiers drop that contest, they’ll need two road wins over Maryland and Purdue at the end of the season.

7. Maryland (2-4, 0-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 28-49 This Week: Bye (10/24 vs Penn State)

Despite hanging with Ohio State for the better part of three quarters, Maryland is the lucky recipient of this week’s Dumpster Fire Award. Firing head coach Randy Edsall won’t teach Perry Hills, or Caleb Rowe, or Daxx Garman how to throw the football. The three quarterbacks own a combined completion percentage of just 44.1 percent and have thrown 17 picks to just 10 touchdowns. Hills – 47.4 percent, five touchdowns and four interceptions – might be the best option, but he still won’t get the Terrapins anywhere near bowl eligibility. On defense, look no further than the three teams (Bowling Green, West Virginia and Ohio State) who put up well over 40 points apiece against Maryland. The next four weeks will be a train wreck for the Terrapins. Athletic Director Kevin Anderson might have actually done Edsall a huge favor.

B1G East Week 6


West Division
1. Iowa (6-0, 2-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 29-20 This Week: Sat at #20 NW (5-1, 1-1), 12pm, ABC

For the first time this season, a new team sits upon the West Division throne. Iowa wasn’t overly dominant in a 29-20 win over Illinois, but Jordan Canzeri proved he’s the real deal, carrying the ball 43 times for 256 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback C.J. Beathard did just enough in the passing game to open the field for Canzeri, completing 15 of 31 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target on Saturday was freshman Jerminic Smith, who made his first career catches (4) for 118 yards. As the only remaining undefeated team in the Big Ten West, Iowa sits in the driver’s seat heading into a crucial top-20 matchup in Evanston. If the Hawkeyes can escape with a win over Northwestern, the final five weeks will be a cakewalk to Indianapolis.

2. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #18 Mich. 0-38 This Week: Sat vs #17 Iowa (6-0, 2-0), 12pm, ABC

After winning five games to open the season and knocking off Stanford and Duke – neither of which has lost since falling to the Wildcats – Northwestern finally put itself on a national stage with the chance to make a statement. Simply put, it didn’t go well. The Wildcats fell behind by three touchdowns in the 1st quarter and never even made a peep as the Wolverines shattered their perfect record. Clayton Thorson’s best drive ended in a missed field goal and Justin Jackson rushed 12 times for only 25 yards. Luckily, Pat Fitzgerald only has to wait a week for a chance at redemption. A home win against Iowa Saturday would put Northwestern back on top of the West.

3. Minnesota (4-2, 1-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Purdue 41-13 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Minnesota finally broke out of its offensive slump in Week 6, rushing for 326 yards and dropping 41 points on Purdue. Mitch Leidner only threw for 59 yards, but there was little reason to pass as the Gophers had seven different ball carriers combine to average 6.8 yards per carry. The defense bounced back from the 27-0 drubbing it suffered against Northwestern, allowing just 275 yards and forcing four turnovers. Minnesota needs a win over Nebraska this weekend before dates against Michigan and Ohio State after the bye.

4. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 23-21 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Wisconsin nearly dropped to 0-2 in the Big Ten Saturday, but a 46-yard field goal from Rafael Gaglianone with four seconds left in the game lifted the Badgers over the Cornhuskers, 23-21. Joel Stave threw the ball an uncharacteristic 50 times, completing 24 passes for 322 yards and one touchdown. Dare Ogunbowale added 117 yards rushing to give Wisconsin just enough for its first conference win. Nebraska gained just 13 first downs against the Badger defense and scored only one in the second half. Wisconsin faces an easy four-game stretch – Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland – while it waits for Iowa to let it back into the race.

5. Illinois (4-2, 1-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #22 Iowa 20-29 This Week: Bye (10/24 vs Wisconsin)

For a few glorious moments in the 4th quarter, it looked like Illinois might actually pull a road upset at Kinnick. But the offense managed just two touchdowns as the Fighting Illini fell back to even in conference play. The Illini defense embraced the ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality Saturday, allowing 478 total yards but surrendering just three touchdowns. Marshall Koehn made three field goals after stalled Hawkeye drives to eventually outlast Illinois.

6. Nebraska (2-4, 0-2) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 21-23 This Week: Sat at Minn. (4-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Nebraska has really got this heartbreak thing down to a science. After losing on a last-second field goal on Saturday, the Cornhuskers have lost four games by a combined 11 points. Two of those losses came on Hail Mary passes and a third came in overtime. If Mike Riley can’t teach his team to finish, they’ll watch the rest of the conference from home during the bowl season.

7. Purdue (1-5, 0-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 13-41 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1), 12pm, BTN

To nobody’s surprise, Purdue’s near upset of Michigan State turned out to be a one-week wonder. The Boilermakers turned the ball over four times – including three picks by David Blough – in a 41-13 home loss against Minnesota. Purdue held the ball for under 24 minutes and converted just three of 17 attempts on 3rd down. Rutgers and Maryland have a better chance to play each other in a bowl game than Purdue has to qualify.

B1G West Week 6

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

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Chesson vs NW(

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Ball – Offense 

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

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

Game Ball – Defense

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

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

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

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, October 9th, 2015


Pat Fitzgerald

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

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

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

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 13

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

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 10

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

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

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

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7