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Posts Tagged ‘Penn State’

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 28

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Cardinals Stadium

Michigan’s College Football Playoff dreams took an enormous hit Saturday night when Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal split the uprights and cracked the Buckeyes in Columbus. The Wolverines not only lost a chance to control their own destiny in the Big Ten race, they also missed out on perhaps two opportunities to play against undefeated, top-five opponents.

Now everything falls into the hands of a Penn State that doesn’t look capable of keeping its star quarterback upright, let alone pulling off a monumental upset. Barring something insane, Michigan will have to settle for a nine or 10-win season, which is pretty incredible, considering the direction the program was trending the last seven years.

But until the final game clock hits zero, we’ll keep pursuing those slim championship hopes.

“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. 10 Michigan (home) over No. 8 Ohio State (12pm, ABC): As always, Michigan has to take care of its own business for any of this to even matter. Jim Harbaugh’s team has done nothing but improve all season and looks like it can compete with almost any team in the country. A win over Ohio State would make the 3:30 kick in East Lansing worth a glance.

Penn State (away) over No. 5 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): This one probably isn’t happening. Michigan State looks to have really hit its stride heading into the final weeks of the season, and Penn State is just limping toward the finish line. If the Spartans win, it’ll be a Big Ten East title for Mark Dantonio.

“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).

No. 4 Iowa (away) over Nebraska (3:30pm, ABC, Friday): On the off chance that Michigan does get into the Big Ten Championship game next week, it needs an undefeated Iowa, ranked in the top four, to boost its resume. A title game of that magnitude would really propel Michigan into the conversation during the final rankings.

Result: Iowa 28 – Nebraska 20

No. 19 TCU (home) over No. 7 Baylor (8pm, ESPN, Friday): This might be Michigan’s last chance to jump Baylor, as the Bears have only a home date with an awful Texas team remaining. A loss to TCU would put three of the four Big 12 contenders behind Michigan.

Result: TCU 28 – Baylor 21 (2OT)

No. 23 Utah (home) over Colorado (2:30pm, Pac12): Utah has been killing Michigan the last two weeks. Back-to-back losses to Arizona and UCLA has the Utes clinging to the edge of the top 25 and threatening to turn Michigan’s opening loss into a weak one. They cannot afford a loss to Colorado.

No. 16 Northwestern (away) over Illinois (3:30pm, ESPNU): The Wildcats have done nothing but help Michigan since being blown out in back-to-back games to the Wolverines and Hawkeyes. Northwestern needs only a win over Illinois to cap off a 10-win regular season and give Michigan one of the best wins (considering the 38-0 score) of the entire football season.

No. 13 Florida State (away) over No. 12 Florida (7:30pm, ESPN): Since Florida State’s resume pales in comparison to Michigan’s I don’t think a win over Florida would propel the Seminoles into the top 10. Florida, on the other hand, still has the slim chance to jump Michigan if it somehow knocks off Alabama in the SEC title game. A loss to FSU would take care of that worry.

No. 9 Stanford (home) over No. 6 Notre Dame (7:30pm, FOX): This is a tough one, because Michigan should pass the loser no matter what if the Wolverines knock off Ohio State. But if Stanford beats Notre Dame, there’s still a chance the Cardinal might lose to UCLA or USC in the Pac-12 title game. That would lift Michigan over both teams if it wins out. Also, Stanford has no business being ranked above Michigan in the first place.

No. 11 Oklahoma State (home) over No. 3 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): There’s definitely a chance Oklahoma State would jump Michigan with a win over vastly over-ranked Oklahoma, but there’s also a chance the Wolverines would hold serve with a win over Ohio State. This is the only scenario that gives Michigan a legitimate shot to shoot above all four Big 12 contenders.

“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.

South Carolina (home) over No. 1 Clemson (12pm, ESPN): Hey, it’s the last week of the regular season, why not root for some chaos? It’s not likely that Clemson can do anything to fall below Michigan at this point, but in a rivalry game, on the road, to a team coming off a loss to The Citadel, anything can happen.

Auburn (home) over No. 2 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS): The Iron Bowl is one of the biggest crapshoots in college football, and a loss to a bad Auburn team would really put pressure on the committee to (finally) punish Alabama. Would the Crimson Tide fall below Michigan? It would certainly have to be under consideration if Michigan beat Ohio State.

North Carolina State (home) over No. 14 North Carolina (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): Despite two FCS games and a laughable loss to South Carolina in the nonconference season, North Carolina has ridden a 10-game winning streak over unranked opponents right into the top 15. If the Tarheels did the unthinkable and won the ACC, they might vault Michigan in the rankings. A loss to rival N.C. State would erase any chance of that happening.

2015 Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

Power Rankings_header

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G East Week 12


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1G West Week 12

#12 Michigan 28 – Penn State 16: Wolverines take care of business in Happy Valley

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Jabrill - DeVenon vs PSU(

With Ohio State looming next Saturday for a potential shot at the Big Ten East division title, Michigan took care of business in Happy Valley with a workman-like 28-16 victory over Penn State.

The defense held Penn State to 207 yards of total offense — most of which came on three big plays — and sacked Christian Hackenberg four times. Jake Rudock continued his ascension with a 25 of 38 for 256 yards and two touchdown performance to lead the Wolverines to victory.

Penn State struck first with a 23-yard Tyler Davis field goal on its first possession of the game, but Michigan answered with a 7-play, 89-yard drive that was capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock to Jake Butt. After a Penn State three and out, Michigan made the first mistake of the game when Rudock was intercepted by linebacker Brandon Bell. But Michigan’s defense held strong and forced a punt.

Final Stats
Michigan Penn State
Score 28 16
Record 9-2 (6-1) 7-4 (4-3)
Total Yards 343 207
Net Rushing Yards 87 70
Net Passing Yards 256 137
First Downs 19 14
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 13-117 3-30
Punts-Yards 6-198 6-225
Time of Possession 33:22 26:38
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 3-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 4-26 2-10
Field Goals 0-for-0 3-for-3
PATs 4-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-4 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 3-of-4 0-of-3
Full Box Score

Defenses ruled much of the rest of the first half until Penn State found the end zone for the first time with 1:57 remaining in the half. On 3rd-and-6, Christian Hackenberg connected with freshman receiver Saeed Blacknall for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Nittany Lions ahead 10-7.

Michigan marched 70 yards in seven plays on the arm of Rudock, who completed passes of 26 yards to Amara Darboh, four and 11 to De’Veon Smith, 18 to Butt, and then a 11-yard wide receiver screen to Darboh who evaded Penn State defenders and found the end zone. Michigan took a 14-10 lead into the break.

Michigan took the opening possession of the second half across midfield, but stalled and punted it back to Penn State. After forcing a three and out, Michigan again had to punt, but this time return man DeAndre Thompkins muffed it and Jehu Chesson recovered at the PSU 9-yard line. Three plays later, Sione Houma scored from a yard out to put Michigan ahead 21-10.

Another defensive stand gave Michigan the ball back with a chance to put the game away, but Rudock had the ball knocked out of his hands by Bell and Penn State recovered at the Michigan 42. Four plays later, Hackenberg hit Chris Godwin for a 38-yard gain to the Michigan three. But the Michigan defense held strong and forced a 24-yard field goal.

Michigan’s offense went three and out, giving Penn State a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. The Nittany Lions mounted a 10-play, 62-yard drive, but couldn’t get past the the goal line and had to settle for another field goal, this time from 18 yards out.

With the game slipping away, leading just 21-16 with 7:53 remaining, Michigan needed to get something going. Enter Jourdan Lewis. The program’s single-season record holder for pass breakups took the ensuing kickoff and rumbled 55 yards to the Penn State 40-yard line, giving Michigan’s offense a much-needed boost. On the first play, Chesson took an end around 20 yards, and on 3rd-and-6, Chesson was interfered in the end zone giving Michigan 1st-and-goal at the PSU six. Two plays later, Smith broke the plane to put Michigan ahead 28-16. The defense held Penn State off the scoreboard the rest of the way and Michigan completed its first unbeaten road conference slate since 1997.

Although Michigan’s offense struggled to move the ball consistently against a very good Penn State defense, it still managed 343 total yards, and their 256 passing yards was the most Penn State’s defense has allowed all season. Michigan’s receiving trio was consistent as Darboh led the way with seven receptions for 68 yards and a score, Butt with five for 66 and a score, and Chesson with four for 69. Smith led Michigan on the ground with just 39 yards on 13 carries.

Michigan’s defense held Hackenberg to just 13-of-31 for 137 yards and one touchdown, while sacking him four times. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley, who entered the game as the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher, averaging over 100 yards per game, managed just 68 yards on 15 carries — 56 of which came on the first carry of the game.

Michigan, now 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, finishes the regular season next Saturday with rival Ohio State (10-1, 6-1). The Buckeyes suffered their first loss in 24 games on Saturday afternoon against Michigan State, taking some of the luster out of next Saturday’s matchup. The winner of that one needs Penn State to knock off Michigan State in order to advance to the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 5.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Rudock (25 of 38 for 256 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT,)
It maybe boring to some to give Rudock the game ball for the third straight week, but since Michigan had no running game and he spread the wealth evenly between the big three receivers, it’s really hard to justify anyone else. Rudock has quietly moved his way up the Big Ten quarterback charts the last three weeks. He has completed 69.7 percent of his passes (76 of 109) for 1,033 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions during that span. He’s a major reason Michigan has won the past two weeks and if he performs the same way next Saturday Michigan could send the Buckeyes back to Columbus with a second straight loss.

Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
Week 9 — Jake Rudock (18 of 25 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, 1 carry for 4 yards, 1 TD)
Week 10 — Jake Rudock (33 of 46 for 440 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 7 carries for 64 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks)
Everyone knew entering the game that Penn State’s offensive line was a sieve, giving up the most sacks in the Big Ten by a wide margin. The question wasn’t whether Michigan would be able to get pressure on Hackenberg; it was how many sacks would Michigan record? The answer was four and Charlton contributed half of those. In total, Michigan stopped Penn State behind the line of scrimmage 10 times and Charlton contributed three of those. While Penn State’s leading tackler had 12, and five different defenders had at least six tackles, no individual Michigan defender recorded more than five. But it was the tackles for loss and sacks that made the most impact, forcing Penn State into passing situations where they didn’t have much luck.

Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)
Week 8 — James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks)
Week 10 — Delano Hill (10 tackles, 8 solo, 1 PBU)

M&GB staff predictions: Penn State

Friday, November 20th, 2015


It’s simple, really. The winner of tomorrow’s Michigan-Penn State matchup remains in the Big Ten title hunt for at least another few hours, while the loser is relegated to playing spoiler next Saturday. Both teams know what they have to do and what’s on the line. Penn State got an extra week to prepare and gets the benefit of home field advantage. Michigan gets a red-hot quarterback-receiver tandem and a chance to play a meaningful Ohio State game for the first time in years. Let’s take a look at our picks.


While the more high profile Big Ten game with title implications is expected to be played in a cold Columbus rain, State College calls for no precipitation, a light breeze, and 47 degrees. In other words, a perfect mid-November Saturday for football.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn St.
Justin 23 20
Derick 30 24
Sam 22 19
Josh 24 27
Joe 27 24
M&GB Average 25 23

Michigan’s newfound passing game will be put to the test against a strong Penn State defense that hasn’t allowed more than 251 passing yards in a single game this season. Will the loss of Lucas provide a weak link for Jake Rudock to exploit? It all depends on how well the Michigan line holds up against one of the best defensive lines in the country. If he doesn’t have time to throw Michigan will have trouble moving the ball consistently.

The good news is I don’t expect Penn State’s offense to be able to move the ball consistently either. Michigan will place an emphasis on stopping Barkley on first and second down, forcing Hackenberg into third and long situations where the Nittany Lions have struggled mightily all season.

Remember last year’s 18-13 Michigan win? This one will be similar to that. Not many sustained drives, low scoring, and good defense both ways. Michigan will need its dynamic return game to give its offense good starting field position as it has done so well this season and that will make the difference against a Penn State kick return defense that ranks 118th nationally.

In my season preview back in August I predicted that Michigan would finish 9-4 with losses to Utah, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State. The first two of those have come true, but 11 weeks into the season I’ve had a change of heart. Michigan pulls it out and then has to hope the team down south can beat the team up I-96.

Michigan 23 – Penn State 20


For the second straight week, Michigan hits the road to play an extremely dangerous team. In the final road game of the season, Michigan will play against a 7-3 Penn State team that has no wins against winning power five teams. On paper, Michigan has been much better than PSU this year, but road games have really given Jim Harbaugh’s team trouble.

Penn State is a much better team than Minnesota or Indiana, two teams that easily could have beaten Michigan over the last month. The Nittany Lions are also undefeated at home, and Saturday will be the final game in Happy Valley for Christian Hackenberg and the seniors.

Unlike last weekend, this should be a defensive battle, though probably not of the magnitude we expected three weeks ago. Hackenberg is the X-factor for Penn State. If the future first-round draft pick plays one of his best games of the season, he will torch a Wolverine secondary that’s been exposed throughout the conference season. And if the defensive line gives Hackenberg as much time as it gave Nate Sudfeld, Michigan will need another 40 points to win the game.

I think Michigan can stop the run and make Penn State’s offense one-dimensional. The question becomes whether or not Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers can make enough plays to keep Jake Rudock and company out front. If Michigan runs the ball at all and plays with a lead, I like its chance to close things out and pick up a fourth road win. Michigan will escape Happy Valley with a narrow victory.

Michigan 30 – Penn State 24


The tables seem to be turning themselves of late for the Wolverines, as the once-dominant defense has slipped up lately behind a banged up defensive line while the once-shaky offense is rounding into form with back-to-back marvelous performances from Jake Rudock. At the same time, the tale of the opponents’ tape is also pulling a 180-degree turn over a course of two weeks. The good news for Michigan is that Penn State’s offense is not run nearly at the pace of Indiana’s, and their offensive line is mediocre. The bad news is that the Nittany Lions boast an impressive defense that should make things much more difficult on Rudock. I think Michigan’s defense will bounce back just enough to hold on at the end and give themselves a shot at the conference championship in The Game. Give me the Wolverines.

Michigan 22 – Penn State 19


Wow, what a scare last week was but we pulled out the win! Now on to Penn State, who presents a different challenge. Thankfully, it’s not at night. State College is a very intimidating venue at night, I love noon kickoffs.

On offense: Jake Rudock and the passing game has come on very strong as of late, and just in time since the run game seems to be lacking for whatever reason. However, Penn St. has an excellent front four and if they can pressure Rudock it will be a very long day with very little scoring. While I didn’t hold my breath for Rudock’s ability to complete some long balls it was apparent last week that he is more than capable, given time. I’m not so sure he’ll have that luxury against the Nittany Lions. If Michigan is to win this game they’ll need to keep Rudock upright, at least long enough to get some passes off, and that will be tough against guys like Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib. I’d expect 2-3 sacks by Penn State, maybe more. That said, they will be without stud safety Jordan Lucas, leaving a hole in the back of the defense, limiting the blitzing package that they usually employ.

I think Jake Rudock will lead Michigan in rushing, again. For whatever reason the run game has been stagnant, part of that is the offensive line not opening holes and part of it is our running backs not being able to find the holes. Against a very stout defense I expect another lackluster run game again. But at least now we know we can count on Rudock to win the game with his arm. Then again, this isn’t the Rutgers or Indiana defense.

On defense: Indiana, yes Indiana, absolutely gashed us on the ground last week to the tune of 300-plus yards. Yet that doesn’t concern me against a team like Penn State, despite having one of the top three backs in the Big Ten in Saquon Barkley. Why? Because Penn State is a slow pace team. A very slow pace team. Part of the reason IU had such success, aside from missing Ryan Glasgow, was their tempo was such that it didn’t allow Michigan to substitute as much as they may have wanted, leading to very gassed defensive linemen as the game wore on. That won’t happen with PSU. Sure, they’ll try to run temp to take advantage of that but they’re not built to run a tempo offense so I don’t think that will be much of an issue. That said, I still think Barkley approaches 150 yards on the ground, he’s just too good not to get those yards and our linebackers haven’t shown the ability to get to the edge quickly enough.

As far as Hackenberg is concerned I think he’s better than we’ve seen but he’s still susceptible to sacks, and lots of them. I’m pretty sure no one else in the Big Ten has been sacked more than him. If Michigan can get a good pass rush, and be able to rotate their line to keep them fresh, then expect to see more #SACKenberg than Hackenberg. The Penn State offense wouldn’t normally worry me but the last few games have exposed some massive holes in this defense and has shown it to not be an elite unit. Couple that with a big loss in Ryan Glasgow (this defense is only average without him IMO) and Penn State’s odd proclivity for big plays with Saquon Barkely and receiver Chris Godwin and you have a recipe for an upset.

I said in my season preview that I thought Michigan would lose to Utah, MSU, OSU and then one of the 50-50 games. PSU was one of those. After needing a last second goal line stand (made even easier with the Hoke-ian clock mismanagement) and double overtime to beat Minnesota and Indiana, respectively, I think Michigan’s late game luck finally runs out in Happy Valley. Penn State makes a few big plays (which they are very good at despite all their other struggles) and pulls off the upset. Sorry folks, but Michigan won’t be playing for a Big Ten East division title against the Buckeyes next week.

Michigan 24 – Penn State 27


This is a huge week H U G E ! ! !  I will assume that coach will have this team geared up and ready on both sides of the ball along with special teams. There is no way they start peeking ahead. This unranked PSU team is 7-3 and has the potential to put up some big numbers. Defensively, we have a big advantage and should control them up front. Rudock has progressed each week and will limit his mistakes. I think Butt will get his along with Chesson and Darboh. I have no idea who will get the bulk of carries as long as we mix in some Jabrill along the way. He is a GAME CHANGER and GAME BREAKER that we have not seen in a very long time. I think this one is closer than we all would like, but the good guys will come out on top. I have Michigan winning by three.

Michigan 27 – Penn State 24

#12 Michigan vs Penn State game preview

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Game Preview_PennState_banner

Only two games remain in the regular season and Michigan is still very much in play for a Big Ten championship. A lot still has to go their way — some of it out of their control — but it’s a nice spot to be in after the past seven years. Tomorrow is essentially the Big Ten East division semifinal taking place in State College, Penn. and Columbus, Ohio. Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan State all have varying degrees of a chance to face the West division champion in Indianapolis on Dec. 5, and all four face only each other this week and next.

Quick Facts
Beaver Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Penn State Head Coach: James Franklin (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 38-24 (14-9, 6-8 at PSU)
Offensive Coordinator: John Donovan (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Shoop (2nd season)
Last Season: 7-6 (2-6)
Last Meeting: Michigan 18 – PSU 13 (2014)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 11-7
Record in State College: Michigan 5-4
Jim Harbaugh vs Penn State: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2014 (18-13)
Last Penn State win: 2013 (43-40)
Current Streak: Michigan 1

For Michigan to have a shot at a likely date with Iowa in Indianapolis, the Wolverines need to beat Penn State and need Ohio State to beat Michigan State. That would set up The Game on Nov. 28 as a winner take all affair. The winner of that one would go to the title game and the loser would have to wait until bowl season to play again.

A loss to Penn State would put Michigan out of the race and leave next Saturday as an opportunity to play spoiler.

Penn State comes in at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference. In James Franklin’s second season, the Nittany Lions have defeated Buffalo (27-14), Rutgers (28-3), San Diego State (37-21), Army (20-14), Indiana (29-7), Maryland (31-30), and Illinois (39-0). They lost to Temple (29-10), #1 Ohio State (38-10), and #21 Northwestern (23-21).

At the start of the season the Temple loss looked like a bad one. But the Owls are currently 8-2 with a close, 24-20 loss to fourth-ranked Notre Dame. Suddenly, that Week 1 loss doesn’t look so bad. Yet the Nittany Lions have lost to the only two ranked teams they have faced — Ohio State and Northwestern. The Buckeyes routed them by four touchdowns while the Wildcats got a 35-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to steal a two point win in Evanston.

When looking at common opponents, one that sticks out is Indiana, who Penn State beat easily, 29-7, and Michigan snuck by in double overtime last Saturday. However, an important distinction is that Indiana was without quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard for that game. Yes, the two Hoosiers that accounted for 466 of the team’s 527 total yards and three of four field goals against Michigan.

So Penn State is really still looking for its first quality win of the season, an improvement in bowl position, and yes, still a slight chance at winning the Big Ten East. Although San Diego State (7-3) is the only team Penn State has beaten that currently has a winning record, Franklin’s squad could win the East by beating Michigan tomorrow and Michigan State next week, and seeing Michigan State beat Ohio State tomorrow.

With both teams playing for a chance to remain in the Big Ten title hunt, the White Out in Beaver Stadium is sure to be rocking. Thankfully for Michigan, which has lost its last three trips to State College, it’s a noon kickoff rather than a night game, but the Wolverines haven’t been sharp on the road yet this season. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Penn State has the ball

Penn State ranks 103rd nationally and 12th in the Big Ten in total offense (350.6 yards per game), 98th and 11th in rushing (143.2 yards per game), 89th and 11th in passing (207.4 yards per game), 66th and 7th in pass efficiency (131.0), and 93rd and 9th in scoring (25.2 points per game).

Third-year starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg still hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he arrived with. He currently ranks 9th in the Big Ten in passing with an average of 199.2 yards per game and 8th with a 128.4 passing efficiency. However, his completion percentage of 54.2 percent is better than only Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson (52.6) and Maryland’s Perry Hills (50.0). By comparison, Jake Rudock leads the conference with a 64.2 percent completion rate. One thing Hackenberg has done is limit interceptions, having thrown just three this season.

Hackenberg’s favorite target has been sophomore receiver Chris Godwin. He leads the team with 49 receptions for 808 yards and also has three touchdowns. After a consistent first six games in which he caught either four or five passes for 65 yards, Godwin has broken out with 100-yard games in three of the last four, including a four-catch, 135-yards, one touchdown performance against Maryland. Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton is the second leading receiver with 31 catches for 426 yards and he leads the team with five touchdown receptions. He hasn’t hit the century mark in a game yet this season but came close with 96 yards against Maryland. Sophomore tight end Mike Gesiki has the third most catches on the team with 12, but just 116 yards and one touchdown.

True freshman running back Saquon Barkley is the Big Ten’s third leading rusher, averaging 104.5 yards per game, which falls behind only Indiana’s Jordan Howard (149.9) and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (142.5). Barkley missed two games in the middle of the season and also got just one carry in the season opener. If you remove Week 1 — his first collegiate game — his average jumps up to 119.3 yards per game in the seven he has fully played. Last year’s leading rusher, redshirt junior Akeel Lynch, has seen his carries plummet to just 54 this season, though he’s still averaging 5.1 yards per.

The offensive line is one of the reasons Hackenberg has struggled. The Nittany Lions rank dead last in the Big Ten with 33 sacks allowed, an average of 3.3 per game. By comparison, Michigan has allowed 14. In fact, Penn State’s offensive line has allowed an astounding 99 sacks during the Hackenberg tenure.

When Michigan has the ball

Penn State’s defense ranks 13th nationally and 4th in the Big Ten in total defense (311.2 yards per game), 48th and 8th against the run (152.2 yards per game), 2nd and 1st against the pass (159.0 yards per game), 11th and 5th in pass efficiency defense (104.09), and 13th and 5th in scoring defense (17.7 point per game).

Senior defensive end Carl Nassib is the danger man along a tough defensive front that leads the Big Ten with 42 sacks. Nassib leads all conference individuals with 15.5 sacks of his own. His 19.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles are also tops in the conference. Mason Cole will have his hands full. But it’s not all just Nassib. The other defensive end, redshirt sophomore Garrett Sickels, and senior tackle Anthony Zettel have three sacks apiece. And we can’t forget redshirt junior tackle Austin Johnson, who ranks second on the team with 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. All told, that’s 27 sacks from the starting defensive line alone. By comparison, Michigan has 25 as a team.

Sophomore middle linebacker Jason Cabinda leads the team in tackles with 71 and also has 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. He’s also tied for the team lead with six passes defended and leads the team with five pass breakups. Outside linebacker Brandon Bell, a junior, has 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss of his own in eight games, while the other outside linebacker, Troy Reeder, has yet to record a sack but has 5.5 tackles for loss and an interception.

The secondary suffered a major loss when senior safety Jordan Lucas — a captain — was lost for the year against Northwestern. He ranked fourth on the team with 56 tackles. The other starting safety is sophomore Marcus Allen, who has 57 tackles and one sack. In Lucas’ place will likely be redshirt junior Malik Golden, who has 17 tackles and an interception as Lucas’ backup. The corners are sophomore Grant Haley and senior Trevor Williams, who have combined for 51 tackles, four for loss, three interceptions, six pass breakups, and nine passes defended.

The other third

Kicker Joey Julius has made 10 of 12 field goal attempts with a long of 40, though the hefty redshirt freshman was pulled in favor of redshirt sophomore Tyler Davis after having two extra points blocked by Illinois. Davis is 3 of 3 on the season with a long of 42. Sophomore punter Daniel Pasquariello ranks 9th in the Big Ten with an average of 40.2 yards per punt. He has booted eight of 43 punts over 50 yards with a long of 60 and landed eight inside the 20.

Redshirt freshman running back Nick Scott and redshirt freshman safety Koa Farmer are the main kick returners, averaging 23.8 and 28.1 yards per return, respectively. Fellow redshirt freshman receiver DeAndre Tompkins averages eight yards per punt return.


While the more high profile Big Ten game with title implications is expected to be played in a cold Columbus rain, State College calls for no precipitation, a light breeze, and 47 degrees. In other words, a perfect mid-November Saturday for football.

Michigan’s newfound passing game will be put to the test against a strong Penn State defense that hasn’t allowed more than 251 passing yards in a single game this season. Will the loss of Lucas provide a weak link for Jake Rudock to exploit? It all depends on how well the Michigan line holds up against one of the best defensive lines in the country. If he doesn’t have time to throw Michigan will have trouble moving the ball consistently.

The good news is I don’t expect Penn State’s offense to be able to move the ball consistently either. Michigan will place an emphasis on stopping Barkley on first and second down, forcing Hackenberg into third and long situations where the Nittany Lions have struggled mightily all season.

Remember last year’s 18-13 Michigan win? This one will be similar to that. Not many sustained drives, low scoring, and good defense both ways. Michigan will need its dynamic return game to give its offense good starting field position as it has done so well this season and that will make the difference against a Penn State kick return defense that ranks 118th nationally. Michigan pulls it out and then has to hope the team down south can beat the team up I-96.

Michigan 23 – Penn State 20

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

Five Spot Challenge: Penn State

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015


We have our first repeat winner of the season and it just happens to be back to back. Congratulations to Jaeschke for winning his second straight week in a row. Typically, just one of the five questions each week yields a large variance, but this week we changed it up a bit and added two — Michigan’s total yards and Indiana’s total yards. A third turned up with Jordan Howard’s rushing total, and all of that resulted in a range from the winner’s total deviation of 324 to last place deviation of 872.

Jeschke was the closest to Howard’s rushing yards (238) with his prediction of 130, and was consistently close across the board. He was third closest to Michigan’s total offense (581 yards), second closest to Indiana’s total offense (527 yards), and second closest to Blake O’Neill’s longest punt (45 yards).

Kashkaav‘s prediction of 450 was closest to Indiana’s total offense. Jim Mackiewicz was the closest to Michigan’s total offense with his prediction of 550, Michigan’s total combined yards of touchdowns (164) with his prediction of 175, and one of three contestants to correctly predict O’Neill’s longest punt. Kashkaav and tooty_pops were the other two. Unfortunately for Jim Mankiewicz, he was 227 away from Indiana’s total offense, which is why he came in third.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated.

This week, Michigan travels to Penn State to face a very good defense and a so-so offense. Here are this week’s picks.

First Look: Penn State

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Penn State White out

Michigan survived a scare at Indiana on Saturday, but no matter how you look at it, the Wolverines remained in contention for the Big Ten title. This Saturday is a big one in two ways. One is out of Michigan’s control as they need Ohio State to beat Michigan State. But the one part the Wolverines can control is on the field at Penn State. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Penn State team stats & Michigan comparison
Penn State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 25.2 | 32.6 93 | 49
17.7 | 14.8 13 6
Rushing Yards 1,429 | 1,688 1,522 1,032
Rush Avg. Per Game 142.9 168.8 97 67
152.2 103.2 47 8
Avg. Per Rush 4.1 | 4.3
3.8 3.1
Passing Yards 2,074 2,249 1,590 1,655
Pass Avg. Per Game 207.4 224.9 89 67 159.0 165.5 2 6
Total Offense 3,503 3,937 3,112 2,687
Total Off Avg. Per Game 350.3 393.7 103 71 311.2 268.7 13 2
Kick Return Average 23.4 32.6 28 2 25.8 21.0 118 66
Punt Return Average 7.8 12.3 72 24 5.3 13.5 32 113
Avg. Time of Possession 29:32 | 33:19 76 | 10
30:28 | 26:41
3rd Down Conversion Pct 28.0% | 43.0% 126 40
33.0% | 23.0% T30 | 3
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 33-180 | 14-74
T120 | T28
42-316 | 25-198
1 | T35
Touchdowns Scored 31 40
22 | 16
Field Goals-Attempts 13-16 | 14-18
8-12 | 12-15
Red Zone Scores (33-36) 92%|(40-42) 95% T12 3
(24-26) 92%|(18-22) 82% 121 T49
Red Zone Touchdowns (21-36) 58%|(29-42) 69% (18-26) 69%|(8-22) 36%

After a rough showing for Michigan’s defense in Bloomington, Penn State is a welcome sight — at least on paper. The Nittany Lions rank 93rd nationally in points per game (25.2), 97th in rushing (142.9 yards per game), 89th in passing (207.4 yards per game), and 103rd in total offense (350.3 yards per game). But before we start licking our chops, the last offense Michigan faced with numbers like that was Minnesota and well, the Gophers came up a yard short of knocking off the Wolverines.

If Michigan doesn’t shore up its run defense — which is sorely missing Ryan Glasgow, who hurt his pectoral muscle against Rutgers — it could be in for a repeat of this past Saturday. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley ranks third in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 104.5 yards per game. He missed two entire games and got just one carry in the season opener, which helps explain why Penn State’s rushing game is just 97th nationally. But he tore through Rutgers (195 yards on 21 carries), Ohio State (194 yards on 24 carries), and Northwestern (120 yards on 25 carries). He hasn’t had fewer than 62 yards in a game since Week 1, and that 62-yard performance came in the first half of the San Diego game before he got hurt and missed the rest of the game. By comparison, De’Veon Smith leads Michigan with an average of 64.7 yards per game.

The good news for Michigan is that Penn State’s passing game isn’t nearly as dangerous as Indiana’s, despite the hype of the last three years surrounding quarterback Christian Hackenberg. A big reason for his struggles is the pass blocking, or the lack there of. Penn State has allowed eight more sacks (33) than any other team in the Big Ten and ranks 120th out of 126 teams nationally in sacks allowed — just four short of the most. Hackenberg is completing just 54.2 percent of his passes, which is worst in the Big Ten by far. By comparison, Jake Rudock leads the Big Ten with a 64.2 percent completion rate.

Penn State also struggles to convert third downs. Their 28.3 percent conversion rate is better than only Kent State’s 23.3. The sacks and Hackenberg’s poor completion percentage are a big part of that, which means stopping Barkley on first and second down will go a long way toward coming out of State College with a win.

Defensively, Penn State will be one of the best Michigan has faced this season. Michigan’s pass offense has broken out the past two weeks with 777 yards, eight touchdowns, and just one interception. But Penn State’s pass defense hasn’t given up more than 251 yards in a game all season. Seven of 10 opponents have been held below 200 and four of those below 150.

The rush defense isn’t quite as formidable, giving up 152.2 yards per game on the ground. That ranks 47th nationally and eighth in the Big Ten. However, Michigan struggled to run consistently against Indiana’s 13th-ranked run defense, and if the Wolverines can’t pass at will, how will they move the ball?

If there’s one area that Michigan could capitalize it’s in the kick return game. Michigan ranks second nationally with an average of 32.6 yards per kick return. Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, and Jehu Chesson have done a great job of setting Michigan up with good field position and that could pay off this Saturday. Penn State has given up two kick return touchdowns this season — including one to Northwestern last Saturday — and they rank 118th nationally.

An early glance at the statistical comparisons between the two teams suggests a low-scoring defensive battle. Michigan will have to load up the box to stop Barkley and force Penn State into third and long situations, and Jake Rudock is going to have to take care of the ball the way he has the past two weeks if Michigan wants to force a winner takes all matchup with Ohio State the following week.

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