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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Chryst’

#24 Michigan at #5 Wisconsin game preview

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

(Brad Mills, USA Today Sports)

It’s hard to believe that only two games remain in the 2017 regular season, but here we are with a chance for Michigan to either make a statement or continue what some believe to be a disappointing season. Never mind that Michigan lost 16 starters, they should be winning a national championship in Jim Harbaugh’s third season, the theory goes. Well, that’s not going to happen this year, but by beating Wisconsin and Ohio State the Wolverines could earn at least a share of the Big Ten East title, which, when taken in context, should be considered a major accomplishment.

Quick Facts
Camp Randall Stadium – 12p.m. EST – FOX
Wisconsin Head Coach: Paul Chryst (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 50-25 (31-6 at UW)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leonhard (1st season)
Last Season: 11-3 (7-2 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 14 – UW 7 (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan 50-14-1
Record in Madison: Michigan 21-6-1
Jim Harbaugh vs Wisconsin 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2016 (14-7)
Last Wisconsin win: 2010 (48-28)
Current Streak: Michigan 1
Wisconsin schedule to date
Opponent Result
Utah State W 59-10
Florida Atlantic W 31-14
at BYU W 40-6
Northwestern W 33-24
at Nebraska W 38-17
Purdue W 17-9
Maryland W 38-13
at Illinois W 24-10
at Indiana W 45-17
#20 Iowa W 38-14

Doing so is much easier said than done, however, as both Wisconsin and Ohio State rank in the top 10 nationally. Wisconsin has already booked it’s spot in the Big Ten championship game by winning the much easier West and has its sights set on a College Football Playoff berth.

The Badgers are 10-0, but find themselves behind a pair of one-loss teams, Clemson and Oklahoma because of their strength of schedule which has seen them beat just one ranked team. That was 20th-ranked Iowa last week and it was Iowa’s fourth loss of the season. They were only ranked because they used their Kinnick Stadium voodoo on Ohio State the week before that.

Wisconsin played a non-conference schedule that consisted of Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and a very bad BYU team. In conference play, they get to avoid Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State, which means Michigan is their last chance for a quality win before they get to Indianapolis.

Although Michigan holds a 21-6-1 advantage in Madison, they haven’t won there since 2001 when Hayden Epstein kicked a 31-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to give Michigan a 20-17 win.

Michigan won last season’s matchup 14-7, scoring on a 1-yard Khalid Hill touchdown early in the second quarter and a 46-yard Wilton Speight touchdown pass to Amara Darboh with eight minutes remaining. Jourdan Lewis sealed the win with a leaping, one-handed highlight-reel interception and Michigan’s defense held the Badgers to just 159 total yards.

Can they replicate that performance tomorrow? Let’s take a look at the matchup.


Offensively, Wisconsin ranks 24th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring (36.3 points per game), 18th and 2nd in rushing (245.0 yards per game), 95th and 10th in passing (188.1 yards per game), and 37th and 2nd in total offense (433.1 yards per game).

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook ranks seventh in the Big Ten in passing, averaging 186.3 yards per game, but is very accurate, completing 64.1 percent of his passes. However, he is prone to mistakes. His 12 interceptions are more than all but Nebraska’s Tanner Lee, so if Michigan’s defensive front can pressure him they could create some turnovers.

The harder task will be stopping Wisconsin’s running game, which features the Big Ten’s leading rusher, freshman Jonathan Taylor, who averages 152.5 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in seven of 10 games this season with a high of 249 on 10.0 yards per carry against Nebraska and a low of 73 yards on 6.1 yards per carry against Illinois. Northwestern, who features a rushing defense on par with Michigan’s, held Taylor to his lowest yards per carry of the season — 4.2 — though he did still score two touchdowns.

Defensively, Wisconsin ranks 3rd nationally and 1st in the Big Ten in scoring (13.4 points per game), 1st and 1st in rush defense (81.5 yards per game), 7th and 2nd in pass defense (166.1 yards per game), and 1st and 1st in total defense (247.6 yards per game).

The Badgers defense has shut down virtually everyone this season, allowing no more than 143 rushing yards or 271 passing yards in a single game. Maryland and Illinois both found some success on the ground against Wisconsin, both averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but they combined for just one rushing touchdown. Wisconsin has also done a good job of limiting big plays as only two teams nationally — Alabama and San Diego State — have allowed fewer explosive runs of 10 yards or more. Only three teams have allowed more 20-yard runs and Wisconsin is the only team in the country that hasn’t allowed a 30-yard run. Michigan’s running game ranks 10th nationally with 13 30-yard runs and fifth with nine 40-yard runs.

Wisconsin has also held six of ten opponents to 155 passing yards or fewer, including Iowa, who threw for just 41 yards last week. The same Iowa team that passed for 244 yards against Ohio State the week prior.

With Brandon Peters making his third career start at quarterback — and averaging just nine completions for 108 yards per game — it’s a safe bet to assume Wisconsin will stack the box to stop the run, which means Peters will need to be able to make plays with his arm for Michigan to win. That could make for a big day for Michigan’s tight ends, Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, who rank second and third on the team in receiving yards and lead the team with two touchdowns each.

This game features two great defenses and two average offenses, so expect a low-scoring game. The weather calls for rain in the morning, but it should be cleared up by game time and shouldn’t affect the game. With Michigan’s running game coming on the past few weeks and Peters’ ability to protect the football — he hasn’t turned it over yet — I like Michigan’s ability to break a couple of big runs even with a Wisconsin defense focusing on stopping the run. Defensively, Wisconsin is the type of offense that Michigan defenses can hold in check, so aside from a couple of early successful drives I don’t see Wisconsin doing much. Quinn Nordin redeems himself by making his only field goal attempt of the game and that’s the difference as Michigan pulls out a close one in Madison.

Score Prediction: Michigan 17 – Wisconsin 14

#4 Michigan 14 – #8 Wisconsin 7: Just enough

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

um-vs-wisconsin-by-bryan-fuller(Bryan Fuller)

It was ugly at times. It was sloppy at times. It got tense at times. But Michigan did what good teams do. Despite three missed field goals the Wolverines ground out a 14-7 win over 8th-ranked Wisconsin to remain perfect on the season.

After averaging 52 points per game through the first four weeks of the season, Michigan’s offense had trouble putting points on the board against the nation’s 7th-best scoring defense. But it was Michigan’s own defense that rose to the occasion and shut down Wisconsin’s offense, holding the Badgers to just 159 total yards — their fewest in at least 13 years.

The Wolverines recorded two sacks, but bottled up Wisconsin’s running game to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry and kept quarterback Alex Hornibrook under pressure all afternoon. The freshman who shined in a 30-6 win over Michigan State a week prior went just 9-of-25 for 88 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Final Stats
Michigan Wisconsin
Score 14 7
Record 5-0, 2-0 4-1, 1-1
Total Yards 349 159
Net Rushing Yards 326 70
Net Passing Yards 130 71
First Downs 21 8
Turnovers 1 3
Penalties-Yards 6-45 3-30
Punts-Yards 7-326 9-321
Time of Possession 35:41 24:19
Third Down Conversions 3-of-15 4-of-15
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-13 4-32
Field Goals 0-for-3 0-for-0
PATs 2-for-2 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-of-3 1-of-1
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-3 1-of-1
Full Box Score

Michigan moved the ball well in the first quarter with 108 total yards on 15 plays and scored the first points of the game on the first play of the second quarter. They also reached the Wisconsin 13 on the next possession before the drive stalled, but Kenny Allen missed a 31-yard field goal. He missed a 45-yarder on Michigan’s next possession and Michigan took a 7-0 lead into the half.

Michigan opened the second half with a promising drive, but it ended with the first interception Wilton Speight has thrown since his first pass of the season. Wisconsin capitalized with a 31-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. But Michigan’s defense clamped down the rest of the way, yielding just 34 yards on Wisconsin’s final six possessions — just 1.9 yards per play.

Michigan broke the deadlock with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Speight to Amara Darboh with just under eight minutes remaining. Three Wisconsin possessions later, Jourdan Lewis sealed the game with a spectacular one-handed interception.

The Michigan offense amassed 349 yards of offense, the most Wisconsin’s defense has allowed so far this season. Speight went 20-of-32 for 219 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. De’Veon Smith led Michigan with with 66 yards on 17 carries, while Ty Isaac and Chris Evans each got eight carries and went for 48 and 34 yards, respectively. Darboh caught six passes for 87 yards and the touchdown.

Defensively, Michigan held Wisconsin to its worst offensive performance of the season by far. The Badgers’ previous worst was 317 yards against Michigan State last week and Michigan held them to half of that. Corey Clement rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries and Wisconsin converted just 4-of-15 third-downs.

Michigan (5-0, 2-0) hits the road for the first time this season for a primetime tilt with Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) next Saturday. The Scarlet Knights lost 58-0 to Ohio State on Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Amara Darboh (6 catches, 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Michigan’s offense struggled to move the ball consistently for most of the game and converted just 3-of-15 third downs, but senior receiver Amara Darboh made two big plays in the fourth quarter that ultimately won the game. On 3rd-and-7 from the Michigan 39, Darboh caught a slant for a first down across midfield. On the very next play, he beat the Wisconsin cornerback down the sideline and caught a perfectly thrown deep ball for the game-winning touchdown.

Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)

Game Ball – Defense

Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
This week’s defensive game ball could have very easily gone to Ryan Glasgow for clogging the middle of the line and bottling up Wisconsin’s running game. But when a defensive back records two interceptions — and nearly a third — he gets the game ball. Channing Stribling has always played second fiddle to Jourdan Lewis in Michigan’s secondary, but although Lewis’ interception was the highlight of the game, Stribling shut down the Wisconsin passing game. His second interception, when Wisconsin was trying to put together a game-tying drive with less than four minutes remaining, effectively sealed the game.

Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)

#4 Michigan vs #8 Wisconsin game preview

Friday, September 30th, 2016


Michigan’s schedule has gotten progressively harder each week this season and the Wolverines have passed each test with flying colors. Tomorrow, Michigan faces its toughest test yet when eighth-ranked Wisconsin comes to town.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – ABC
Wisconsin Head Coach: Paul Chryst (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 33-22 (14-3 at Wis)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Justin Wilcox (1st season)
Last Season: 10-3 (6-2 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UW 48 – UM 28 (2010)
All-Time Series: Michigan 49-14-1
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 27-7
Jim Harbaugh vs Wisconsin First meeting
Last Michigan win: 2008 (27-25)
Last Wisconsin win: 2010 (48-28)
Current Streak: Wisconsin 2
Wisconsin Schedule to date
Opponent Result
#5 LSU W 16-14
Akron W 54-10
Georgia State W 23-17
#8 Michigan State W 30-6

Apparently Wisconsin is a part of the Big Ten. It’s true, I just looked it up. High schoolers right now probably don’t even remember the last time Michigan played the Badgers as the two teams haven’t faced off since 2010, when they wouldn’t have even been teenagers yet. Yes, that was two coaches ago for both teams. Rich Rodriguez graced one sideline and Bret Bielema graced the other. Those were different times indeed.

But now, both teams are back and will face off as top 10 opponents for the first time in series history. Although Michigan has owned the all-time series (49-14-1), Wisconsin has won the last two, beating Michigan 48-28 in 2010 and 45-24 in 2009. And while Michigan comes into this year’s matchup ranked higher, Wisconsin is the team that has already played and beaten two ranked opponents.

Wisconsin opened the season with a 16-14 win over then-5th-ranked LSU in a not-so-neutral site game at Lambeau Field. But that win has looked less and less impressive as the first month of the season wraps up. LSU let Jacksonville State hang around until the last minute of the first half. Then they squeaked by Mississippi State, 23-20. Then last week they lost to Auburn 18-13 and promptly fired Les Miles. They feature the nation’s 110th-best scoring offense and 111th-best total offense. Consider that Penn State ranks 72nd in scoring and 112th in total offense.

It remains to be seen whether or not the big win over Michigan State is as good as it looked. The Spartans have been dominant in recent years, but had an uninspired performance against Furman in the opener and then knocked off Notre Dame, who is just 1-3.

So is Wisconsin as good as its wins initially looked? Or is their ranking overinflated due to overrated opponents? The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Wisconsin has the ball

Wisconsin’s offense currently ranks 63rd nationally in scoring offense (30.8 points per game), 75th in total offense (410.5 yards per game), 58th in rushing (184.2 yards per game), and 70th in passing (226.2 yards per game).

Whereas Michigan’s offense hasn’t recorded fewer than 397 yards in a game this season, Wisconsin’s has exceeded that only twice — 400 yards against Georgia State and 586 against Akron. Against the two good defenses it has faced, it has averaged just 328 yards. Those defenses — LSU and Michigan State — rank seventh and 21st in S&P+. By comparison, Michigan ranks second.

Wisconsin started senior quarterback Bart Houston for the first three games after winning the competition in fall camp, but Chryst went with freshman Alex Hornibrook against Michigan State. Houston completed 62 percent of his passes for 527 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Hornibrook, meanwhile, has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 378 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks. Against Michigan State last Saturday, Hornibrook went 16-of-26 for 195 yards, one touchdowns, and a pick.

He has a couple of dangerous receivers to throw to in Jazz Peavy and Robert Wheelwright, who have combined for 31 receptions for 502 yards two touchdowns. Peavy had a big game against Akron with seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 96 yards against MSU. But Those two scores against Akron are the only two by the tandem thus far. Junior tight end Troy Fumagali is the only other pass catcher with double digit receptions. He has caught 14 passes for 169 yards. Interestingly, the most scoring production has come from lesser known tight ends Eric Steffes and Kyle Penniston and fullback Alec Ingold, who have caught 11 combined passes and three have been touchdowns.

The best player on the Badgers’ offense is senior running back Corey Clement, who averages 83.7 rushing yards per game. He missed the Georgia State game with an injury, but has scored two touchdowns in two of the three games he has played. However, Michigan State held him to just 2.3 yards per carry — one of those being a 22-yards run. Senior Dare Ogunbuwale is the second leading rusher with 186 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries and he’s the best pass catcher out of the backfield. Freshman Bradrick Shaw leads the team with an average of 5.7 yards per carry on 24 attempts.

The offensive line has allowed six sacks through four games, one more than Michigan’s has. But it’s a young line that struggled to open holes for the running game last season. Junior left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a transfer from UW-Stevens Point, is the elder statesman. Left guard Michael Deiter, center Brett Connors, right guard Beau Benzschawel, and right tackle Jacob Maxwell are all redshirt sophomores.

When Michigan has the ball

Wisconsin’s defense lead the nation in scoring defense a year ago, but defensive coordinator Dave Aranda bolted for LSU. Instead of promoting from within, Chryst hired Justin Wilcox, who had just been fired from USC. Wilcox has been considered one of the top up and coming coaches in football after having success as Boise State’s defensive coordinator from 2006-09 when the Broncs went 49-4. He went from there to Tennessee for a couple seasons, then Washington, and USC, but has yet to land a head coaching gig.

He inherited a lot of pieces from Aranda, including nearly the entire front seven. It’s lead by one of the best linebacking corps in the nation. However, it received a major blow this week when the Badgers announced that senior Vince Biegel will miss a few weeks with a foot injury. While that may make things a bit easier for Michigan’s offense, there is still plenty of talent there. Juniors T.J. Watt and Jack Cichy and sophomore T.J. Edwards are the team’s three leading tacklers and have combined for 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

The line isn’t the type of pass rushing line that Michigan features, but it mostly stands its ground and lets the linebackers do that. Junior end Connor Sheehy has one quarterback hurry, a tackle for loss, and half a sack, while fellow junior end Chikwe Obasih only has three tackles. Sophomore nose tackle Olive Sagapolu is a 6-foot-2, 340-pound space eater but not a threat to get to the quarterback.

The secondary is where some vulnerabilities may lie, as Wisconsin ranks just sixth in the Big Ten and 39th nationally against the pass. Senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton is a good one and junior Derrick Tindall is as well. They have a combined three interceptions and 10 pass breakups thus far. The safeties are junior D’Cota Dixon and senior Leo Musso, who have combined for 28 tackles, a sack, an interception, two quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery, which Musso returned for a touchdown last week.

The other third

Wisconsin is also without its starting field goal kicker, junior Rafael Gaglianone, who will miss the rest of the season for back surgery. While his status was still up in the air last week, Chryst played aggressively on offense, going 2-of-2 on fourth downs. Gaglianone’s backup, senior Andrew Endicot, did attempt one which he made from 41 yards out. It was the first of his career.

Freshman punter Anthony Lotti ranks last in the Big Ten with a 39.0-yard punt average, though he has downed four of nine inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

Peavy handles the punt return duties, averaging 4.8 yards per return, while Ogunbowale averages 22.8 yards per kick return.


Michigan and Wisconsin feature two of the nation’s best defenses, but I’m not sold on the offenses the Badgers have faced to date. That’s not saying that their defense isn’t great. But Michigan’s offense is light years better than those of LSU, Akron, Georgia State, and Michigan State. Michigan may not score the 52 points it averages, but it will move the ball semi-consistently and put a little bit of humility into Wisconsin’s defense. Look for a lot more Jabrill Peppers as a ball carrier, receiver, and as a decoy as Jim Harbaugh finds ways to neutralize Wisconsin’s linebacker strength.

Defensively, Michigan matches up nicely with Wisconsin’s offense. Hornibrook hasn’t faced the type of pass rush Michigan brings and won’t have the same accuracy he displayed last week. Without a spread threat, the defense will be able to focus on bottling up Clement and forcing third-and-longs where the Wolverines excel.

The first half will remain a close, defensive battle, but Michigan’s offense will find enough to pull away in the second. Wilton Speight will take care of the ball and put together a nice stat line with Jake Butt being his favorite target.

Michigan 33 – Wisconsin 13

First Look: #8 Wisconsin

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Sep 5, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; The Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badger takes the field before the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-226178 ORIG FILE ID: 20150905_lbm_am8_089.JPG

Michigan throttled Penn State in their Big Ten opener on Saturday and now faces their biggest test of the early season when eighth-ranked Wisconsin comes to town. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare four games into the season.

Wisconsin & Michigan statistical comparison
Wisconsin | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 30.8 | 52.0 63 4
11.8 13.8 7 | 11
Rushing Yards 737 919 322 490
Rush Avg. Per Game 184.2 229.8 58 29
80.5 122.5 10 40
Avg. Per Rush 3.9 | 5.4
3.2 3.4
Passing Yards 905 952 786 589
Pass Avg. Per Game 226.2 238.0 70 65 196.5 147.2 39 12
Total Offense 1,642 1,871 1,108 1,079
Total Off Avg. Per Game 410.5 467.8 75 40 277.0 269.8 12 11
Kick Return Average 21.4 15.7 67 121 14.6 20.0 6 | 52
Punt Return Average 6.8 23.6 76 2 17.5 17.5 119 119
Avg. Time of Possession 37:01 32:26 3 31 22:59 | 27:34
3rd Down Conversion Pct 45.2% | 54.4% 43 7
23.9% | 12.0% 11 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 6-30 | 5-34
39 | 29
11-65 | 17-144 32 | 4
Touchdowns Scored 14 28
5 | 7
Field Goals-Attempts 8-9 4-6
4-5 | 2-5
Red Zone Scores (14-18) 78%|(22-24) 92% 89 | 31
(5-7) 71%|(3-5) 60% 21 9
Red Zone Touchdowns (11-18) 61%|(18-24) 75% (3-7) 43%|(2-5) 40%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 27.7 36.6 80 23 14.6 9.1 6 2

Michigan and Wisconsin haven’t met since the 2010 season when Bret Beilema beat Rich Rodriguez 48-28. Jim Harbaugh was in his fourth and final season at Stanford and Paul Chryst was Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator. After a brief stint as Pitt’s head coach, Chryst returned to Madison last season and has maintained the success where Bielema and Gary Andersen left off.

While Michigan has played a weak schedule to date, Wisconsin has beaten two top-10 teams already. The Badgers knocked off 5th-ranked LSU, 16-14, in the season opener in Lambeau Field and blasted 8th-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing this past Saturday, 30-6. In between, they beat Akron (54-10) and Georgia State (23-17).

Wisconsin has done it mostly with its defense, which ranks 12th nationally in total defense (277 yards per game), seventh in scoring defense (11.8 points per game), 10th in rush defense (80.5 yards per game), and 39th in pass defense (196.5 yards per game).

The Badger defense has held three of four opponents under 100 yards rushing. LSU was the only one that cracked 100 behind Leonard Fournette’s 138 yards, but he didn’t find the end zone. Michigan State managed just 75 rushing yards on 27 carries. Georgia State is the only team to score a rushing touchdown against Wisconsin, but that came in a 28-carry, 33-yard performance.

The pass defense hasn’t been quite as dominant as the past two opponents have thrown for at least 250 yards. Georgia State went 20-of-30 for 269 yards and a touchdown, while Michigan State went 20-of-43 for 250 yards, but the Badgers were able to pick off MSU quarterback Tyler O’Conner three times.

Like Michigan, Wisconsin’s defense excels in getting off the field on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 23.9 percent, which ranks 11th nationally. Michigan is the nation’s best, allowing just 12 percent.

Offensively, Wisconsin is statistically comparable to where Penn State was entering last week’s game. The Badgers boast the Big Ten’s eight-best total offense (410.5 yards per game), eighth-best scoring offense (30.8 points per game), seventh-best rushing offense (184.2 yards per game), and ninth-best passing offense (226.2 yards per game).

Wisconsin features a better running game than Penn State, but a weaker passing game. The Badgers rushed for 294 yards and four touchdowns against Akron, but then again, Appalachian State rushed for 307 on the Zips. In the other three games, Wisconsin has averaged 147.7 rushing yards per game and just 3.4 yards per rush. Michigan State’s defense limited the Badger running game to just under three yards per carry on Saturday.

The passing game is pretty much a mirror of the running game. It had a big game against Akron — 292 yards and three touchdowns — but has averaged just 204 passing yards per game in the other three. It didn’t crack 200 yards against MSU on Saturday.

Special teams is an interesting area that Michigan may be able to take advantage of. Wisconsin isn’t dangerous returning kicks or punts, ranking 67th and 76th nationally, and has allowed a punt return for a touchdown. Jabrill Peppers leads the nation in punt return yards by a wide margin and already has one return for a touchdown — and barely missed another one last week.

Overall, Wisconsin is a solid team that is lead by its defense. That alone will keep the game much closer than Penn State was able to, as Michigan won’t be able to rush for 300 yards. Michigan boasts the nation’s fourth-best scoring offense, but expect a much lower scoring contest this Saturday.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 5

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

A full week of Big Ten games is in the books as the conference season officially kicked off Saturday with six intra-league battles and one nonconference matchup.

In the only cross-divisional game of the week, Michigan State topped Purdue in a nail-biter at Spartan Stadium. The East also picked up a win from Penn State, which snuck by Army. Meanwhile, a major power shift rattled the West Division as two of the division’s best teams went down to the wire in Madison.

Here’s a look at where the teams stand after one Big Ten game.

East Division
1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 34-27 This Week: Sat vs Maryland (2-3, 0-1), 12pm, BTN

It wasn’t an impressive performance for the No. 1 team in the country, but Ohio State held off a pesky Indiana team Saturday to pick up a win in the conference opener. Cardale Jones completed 18 of 27 pass attempts for 245 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. The defense surrendered over 400 yards, but was saved by Ezekiel Elliott’s 274 yards and three touchdowns. Elliott ripped off runs of 55, 65, and 75 yards in the game, keeping the Buckeyes afloat in the second half.

The Hoosiers came into the game undefeated, but OSU couldn’t pull away despite injuries to Indiana starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and star running back Jordan Howard. Much like in the opener against Virginia Tech, Ohio State needed an injury to Indiana’s best offensive player to swing the momentum and take the lead for good. Though they’re clearly one of the most talented teams in the country, the Buckeyes have underwhelmed in four of their five games and can’t find a consistent rhythm on offense. They shouldn’t have a problem getting to 6-0 this weekend as a lost Maryland offense comes to the Horseshoe.

2. Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 24-21 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (2-2, 0-1), 8pm, BTN

If not for Michigan’s opening loss to Utah, the Wolverines would be well above the Spartans in the power rankings based on the past few weeks. Saturday was Michigan State’s worst performance yet as it nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead to a Purdue team with only one win. Michigan State led 21-0 at the break and needed a stop on the Boilermakers’ final drive to secure a 24-21 win.

MSU’s secondary was a great concern early in the season, but it was Markell Jones, Purdue’s starting running back, who smacked the Spartans on homecoming. Jones gained 157 yards on 22 carries and found the end zone twice. David Blough completed fewer than half his pass attempts and threw for just 136 yards, but Michigan State couldn’t pull away, despite forcing three turnovers. Michigan State did outgain Purdue by 105 yards, but the worst team in the league shouldn’t be within a field goal of the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Connor Cook needs to escape from his funk (just 139 yards passing Saturday) and lift the Spartans to where they were last year on offense.

3. Michigan (4-1, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 28-0 This Week: Sat vs #13 NU (5-0, 1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

In a Week 4 win over BYU, Michigan scored all 31 of its points in the first half before playing to a scoreless tie in the second half. In Maryland, the Wolverines mustered only a pair of field goals before the break and exploded for 22 points in the second half. The common denominator? Neither the Cougars nor the Terrapins could put up a single point against a stout Michigan defense.

For the second straight week, the Wolverines surrendered just 105 yards, this time holding Maryland to seven first downs and fewer than two yards per play. Quarterback Caleb Rowe has struggled all season, but Michigan forced him into his worst performance yet: eight completions in 27 attempts for 47 yards and three interceptions. One of the picks came from emerging star Jourdan Lewis, who’s been near impossible to beat downfield all season. Lewis burst onto the scene as Michigan’s top lockdown corner last year and he’s already made enormous strides under Jim Harbaugh.

But it wasn’t all good news for Michigan at Byrd Stadium. The offense struggled to run the ball with De’Veon Smith out due to injury. Derrick Green and Ty Isaac rushed 13 times for just 43 yards and a pair of fumbles. Drake Johnson struggled in the first half, but made an adjustment after the break and finished with 68 yards on 13 carries. He also took a screen pass 31 yards and dove to the pylon early in the 3rd quarter to break the seal for the Wolverine offense.

Even more serious for Michigan going forward is the loss of Mario Ojemudia for the rest of the season. Ojemudia had developed into Michigan’s top pass rusher out of the buck linebacker position, but now those duties will fall on the shoulders of Royce Jenkins-Stone, a talented but largely unproven senior who made eight tackles last season. Northwestern will visit Michigan in the Big House this weekend in what promises to be a defensive slugfest. The two teams enter Saturday’s matchup ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country in terms of scoring defense.

4. Penn State (4-1, 1-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Army 20-14 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (4-1, 0-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State was the only Big Ten team to play out of conference in Week 5, holding off a second-half charge from Army to improve to 4-1. The Nittany Lions were bailed out by three Army fumbles that wiped out a 293-yard effort. Army outgained Penn State 293-264, picked up more first downs, and averaged more yards per play. Christian Hackenberg threw only 19 times, picking up 156 yards and a touchdown — a disappointing sequel to his 296-yard, three-touchdown effort against San Diego State. James Franklin’s team just doesn’t have anything going on offense this season, so it’ll rely on a top-tier defense to carry it through conference play.

5. Indiana (4-1, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #1 OSU 27-34 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Injuries to Jordan Howard and Nate Sudfeld couldn’t have come at a worse time for Indiana, which had a legitimate chance to dethrone the top-ranked Buckeyes in Bloomington before their top offensive threats went down. Indiana played its best defensive game of the season, but still allowed over 500 yards to the offensively-challenged Buckeyes. Two recovered fumbles and an interception kept the Hoosiers in the game, but three huge runs from Ezekiel Elliott handed Indiana its first loss of the season. The Hoosiers won’t do much damage in the Big Ten behind their high-powered offense and risk-taking defense, but the road ahead won’t get any easier as they visit Penn State and Michigan State and host Iowa and Michigan in the next five games.

6. Rutgers (2-2, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #4 MSU (5-0, 1-0), 8pm, BTN

Rutgers took an early week off after beating a winless Kansas team, 27-14, in Week 4. The extra preparation likely won’t do much good this weekend as the Scarlett Knights host an angry Michigan State team. They might not be competitive in another game until a Week 11 home date with Nebraska.

7. Maryland (2-3, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #22 Mich. 0-28 This Week: Sat at #1 OSU (5-0, 1-0), 12pm, BTN

Believe it or not, there’s a team in the Big Ten that would love to have Jake Rudock as its starting quarterback. Maryland’s situation under center is as grim as it gets, and those struggles were on full display against Michigan. Starter Caleb Rowe was pulled from the game after completing just eight of 27 passes for 47 yards and three interceptions. Rowe was replaced in the 3rd quarter by Daxx Garman, who went just 2 of 9 for 29 yards. Brandon Ross was smothered by the Michigan run defense, racking up just 44 yards in the team’s 105-yard effort. The defense was solid, allowing just 378 yards and 28 points despite spending over 34 minutes on the field, but with this offense, Maryland won’t be competitive for the rest of the season.

B1G East Week 5

West Division
1. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Min. 27-0 This Week: Sat at #18 Michigan (4-1, 1-0), 3:30pm, BTN

Wow. It looks like the Wildcats are even better than we thought they were, and we already thought they were pretty good. Northwestern steamrolled Minnesota on Saturday, holding the Gophers to 173 yards and scoring a season-high 27 points against Jerry Kill’s defense. Justin Jackson continues to quietly get the job done on the ground, picking up 120 yards on 20 carries to pace the offense. Clayton Thorson didn’t have a huge impact, but he completed 14 of 19 passes and didn’t turn it over. He also rushed for the team’s only two offensive touchdowns. Pat Fitzgerald’s team has climbed to No. 13 in the AP Poll with a chance to jump into the top 10 if it can knock off a streaking Michigan team in the Big House this weekend. Northwestern will need an outstanding effort from the defense allowing the fewest points per game in the country.

2. Iowa (5-0, 1-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #19 Wisconsin 10-6 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Northwestern might be the hottest team in the Big Ten, but Iowa picked up the biggest win in Week 5. The Hawkeyes knocked off perennial West Division champ Wisconsin in Madison by essentially out-Badgering the Badgers. Iowa scored just 10 points in the game, but controlled the clock with its own running game while holding Wisconsin to 2.5 yards per carry. C.J. Beathard was underwhelming, completing just nine of 21 passes for 77 yards as Iowa was outgained 320-221 overall. But the defense forced four turnovers and held Wisconsin to just 4 of 13 on 3rd down to sneak out of Madison with a power-shifting victory. Iowa is now in position to seize control of the West Division if it can win in Evanston on Oct. 17.

3. Illinois (4-1, 1-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 14-13 This Week: Sat at #22 Iowa (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Don’t look now, but Illinois is 4-1! Despite a pair of shaky performances leading up to the Big Ten opener, Illinois shut down the Nebraska offense on Saturday and came away with a thrilling, shocking victory in Champaign. The Cornhuskers opened the door for the Illini by throwing twice on the final drive instead of running the clock down inside 20 seconds. When Illinois took over with 55 seconds left, Wes Lunt led a 72-yard drive that lasted just 41 seconds and ended with a one-yard, game-winning touchdown to Geronimo Allison. Illinois’ record is a bit deceiving, as it was blown out by its only solid non-conference opponent (a 48-14 loss at North Carolina). If the Fighting Illini somehow win one of their next two games – at Iowa or at home against Wisconsin – that’ll be reason to buy in.

4. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 6-10 This Week: Sat at Nebraska (2-3, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

The Badgers are treading in unfamiliar territory midway through Paul Chryst’s first season as head coach. A rare home loss Saturday against Iowa landed Wisconsin behind the eight ball in the West Division and dropped the Badgers to 3-2 on the year. Joel Stave isn’t playing like a typical Wisconsin senior, turning the ball over twice on Saturday and failing to lead his team into the end zone in the 10-6 loss. Even stranger: Wisconsin’s running game has yet to awaken. Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale took 26 of the team’s 34 carries against the Hawkeyes but gained just 87 combined yards and an average below 3.5 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s defense was excellent, holding the C.J. Beathard-led attack to just 221 total yards and one touchdown. But the offense is struggling on all cylinders right now and there’s no NFL-caliber running back to pull it out of the rut.

5. Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #19 NU 0-27 This Week: Sat at Purdue (1-4, 0-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

Since nearly upsetting No. 2 TCU to open the season in early September, Minnesota has performed steadily worse each week. A pair of three-point wins over MAC schools preceded a 27-0 beat down at the hands of a Northwestern team that was struggling to score points before rolling over the hapless Gophers. Minnesota rushed for just 2.2 yards per carry and Mitch Leidner was awful through the air, completing 10 of 21 passes for 72 yards and a pick. A defense that had been leading the charge through four weeks surrendered 20 points and 312 yards on the night, though it was put in bad position by two offensive turnovers. The style points Minnesota gained by sticking with TCU have expired, and now it’ll need a desperation win in Purdue to get the train back on the tracks.

6. Purdue (1-4, 0-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to #2 MSU 24-27 This Week: Sat vs Minn. (3-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, ESPN

For the first time since a Week 2 thumping over Indiana State, Purdue showed a little fight in a 24-21 loss in East Lansing Saturday. The Spartans carried a commanding 21-0 lead into the half, but Purdue scored 14 unanswered points over the next 16 minutes to pull within a score. A 10-play, 28-yard drive stalled at their own 48-yard line as the Boilermakers’ comeback effort finally ran out of gas. Freshman quarterback David Blough was awful in the first half, but he finished the game with 136 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception after a solid 2nd half effort. If not for MSU running back L.J. Scott’s 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Purdue might have pulled the most shocking upset of this college football season.

7. Nebraska (2-3, 0-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 13-14 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

How could Nebraska possibly fall below a lousy, punchless Purdue team? It’s simple: Mike Riley’s team is playing a sloppy, ugly brand of football through five games and it starts with their junior quarterback. Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed less than one-third of his passes Saturday for 105 yards and an interception. He had zero passing yards in the team’s 76-yard touchdown drive in the 1st quarter and the offense mustered only 13 points against an Illinois team that allowed a combined 73 points to North Carolina and Middle Tennessee State the last two weeks. Nebraska could actually be undefeated at this point in the season – the three losses are by a combined nine points – but mammoth mistakes in the 4th quarter an overtime have dropped them to a disastrous start. If Nebraska can’t pull off a win over Wisconsin this weekend, it’ll have to knock off Northwestern, Michigan State or Iowa down the stretch to qualify for a bowl.

B1G West Week 5