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Posts Tagged ‘Rival Rewind’

Rival Rewind still won’t admit Irish are the best

Monday, November 26th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#1 Notre Dame 22 – USC 13
Record: 12-0
This Week: Regular season over

Notre Dame took the final step towards the BCS title game by downing USC in its season finale. Despite the Trojans missing their record setting quarterback, Matt Barkley, and replacing him with a freshman, I may be ready to change my tune on the Irish. All season long I have been reluctant, to say the least, to give Notre Dame full credit for being a top team. The rankings may say they are the No. 1 team in the land, but my football knowledge says they are far from the top team in the land. They struggled against Purdue, BYU and Pitt – none of whom are good teams. They barely beat Michigan despite being given the ball six times on turnovers. On Saturday night they beat a USC team with two future NFL receivers on offense (possibly the best receiver tandem in college football no less); but they did it against a freshman quarterback making his first start.

Theo Riddick celebrates the undefeated season (Danny Moloshok, AP)

However, Notre Dame has beaten all comers and I will not take anything away from their defense. They’ve held strong when they needed to and when it matters the most, like in the red zone. They have finally found their coach in Brian Kelly and he is poised to become yet another Irish head coach to win a national title in his third season.

Charlie Weiss may have recruited these seniors but Brian Kelly has turned them into winners. This Notre Dame team is good and given what they’ve done they deserve to play in the BCS title game. I will not concede they are the best team in all the land, yet. Nor will I proclaim they are back; I need to see consistency, not just one magical season. Regardless, they will be a worthy opponent for the SEC in the BCS title game, unlike Ohio State has proven to be against them in title games.

And now on to the game. The Irish took their opening drive and went straight into the heart of Trojan territory. However, they were held off inside the 10-yard line and held to just three points. USC and its redshirt freshman took the field and ran the ball four straight times with Curtis McNeill. With the “pressure” off their young QB, Lane Kiffin let the kid air it out. He missed on three straight attempts and USC was forced to punt. Notre Dame used a heavy dose of Theo Riddick through the air and on the ground as they made way for a Cierre Wood 2-yard touchdown run.

Up 10-0 ten minutes into the game and it looked like the Irish might run away with it. But as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend. Max Wittek regained his composure and went 5-of-5 for 48 yards and a touchdown to Robert Woods to get the Trojans back within three points. Notre Dame mounted another long drive but managed only a field goal. USC added another field goal their next time out, and then forced the Irish into a three-and-out to get the ball back with just over a minute and a half remaining and a chance to take the lead before halftime. The Irish defense had other ideas as they picked off Wittek’s first pass attempt; ultimately setting up Kyle Brindza for a career long 52-yard field goal, which he nailed. The Irish led 16-10 at the half, but it was far from over.

Max Wittek’s first pass of the second half was also picked off, but this time the Irish could not capitalize. It went back and forth until about the six minute mark in the third when Brindza hit his fourth field goal of the day to give Notre Dame a two possession lead at 19-10. USC added a field goal on their next drive to cut the lead back to six but that would be as close as they got.

Aided by a 60-yard kick return by George Atkinson III, the Irish were set up in great field position and used it to their advantage. They quickly marched inside the Trojan 10-yard line but were held out of the end zone. It didn’t matter because Kyle Brindza’s fifth field goal of the night proved to be the nail in USC’s coffin.

Next:

At 12-0 and the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings, Notre Dame is set up for the BCS title game against the winner of this weekend’s SEC Championship game, Georgia or Alabama. Both teams sport stout defenses and good quarterbacks. I’d give Georgia the edge in the passing attack (which could cause ND fits if they cannot get pressure) and Alabama the edge in the rushing attack. Regardless of which team emerges out of Atlanta we should have a great title game on our hands.

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Michigan State 26 – Minnesota 10

Dan Conroy's four FGs clinched a bowl bid for MSU (Paul Battaglia, AP)

Record: 6-6, 3-5 Big Ten
This Week: Regular season over

Michigan State was looking to get bowl eligible against a Minnesota team that just cannot catch a break. Le’Veon Bell made sure the Spartan offense did its part, rushing for 266 yards and a touchdown, while Dan Conroy made four field goals.

On defense, they looked like the Sparty of last year, holding the Golden Gophers to a mere 96 yards of total offense, 92 of which came through the air.

The Gophers took the lead 7-3 in the first on the heels of a pick six by Aaron Hill but that would be the only time they found the end zone. Conroy added a field goal, then Andrew Maxwell found Bennie Fowler for a 41-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes later to go up 13-7. Sparty picked off four passes and made the most of them as they held off a Gopher team without its head coach in the second half.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill suffered yet another seizure during halftime and did not return. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Next:

With the win Michigan State became bowl eligible. It wasn’t quite what they expected but they should be thankful to be going bowling at all. At this point we don’t know for sure who they’ll play but it won’t be a New Year’s day bowl, we know that much. We will find out the matchup on Sunday evening.

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Ohio State 26 – Michigan 21
Record: 12-0
This Week: Season over

We won’t rehash the tragedy that struck on Saturday, but Ohio State’s season ends before December due to NCAA sanctions. In true Buckeye fashion, they honored the man who put them on probation during the first quarter of Saturday’s game, giving him a standing ovation and lifting him onto their shoulders. That’s all you need to know about our rivals to the south.

A thousand words (Jay LaPrete, AP)

Rival Rewind is glad Braxton is ok, Paul is home, and ND will lose

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#7 Ohio State 29 – Purdue 22 OT
Record: 8-0 (4-0)
This Week: at Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) – 5:30pm – ESPN

They say a win is a win, but if I were an Ohio State fan (though I’d rather not consider what that is like) I wouldn’t be so cocky these days. Consider their games against Cal, UAB and Indiana; they almost lost all three, and a loss to Indiana is almost as bad as a loss to an FCS school. They have “resolve,” some Buckeye fans will say, “they never quit and always pull it out.” A close call is to be expected as the season wears on, but four close calls against four subpar teams is not resolve, it’s just plain awful.

That’s what happened again to THE luckiest team in college football this season. After almost losing to bottom feeder Indiana, OSU looked to right the ship and send Purdue back to West Lafayette with yet another conference loss. Record aside, Purdue is a good team and OSU made them look even better. After giving up a rushing touchdown to Braxton Miller to go down 7-6, Purdue took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the touchdown. It went back and forth in the third and Purdue answered back every time OSU scored.

Despite our hatred, we're glad it wasn't as bad as it looked (photo by Jay LaPrete, AP)

Braxton Miller suffered a scary moment for Buckeye fans near the end of the third quarter as he was dragged down hard by Josh Johnson. Miller was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and has since been cleared to go home and practice in preparation for this week’s game. The tackle was as about as close to a horse collar as you can get without being flagged. Head injuries are no joke and all hatred to our rivals to the south aside, I’m glad the kid is apparently okay.

With no Braxton Miller to work his magic it looked to be over with 10:11 in the fourth when OSU was flagged for an illegal block in the end zone, giving Purdue a 22-14 lead. After a Purdue punt, OSU converted a 4th-and-short and looked to be on the move until back up quarterback Kenny Guiton threw a pick and Purdue took over on its own 18 with 2:40 left in the game. All the Boilers had to do was run the clock out and victory was all but assured.

Sadly for Boilermaker fans, a false start dug them in a hole they could not get out of, and they punted the ball back to the Buckeyes with 47 seconds remaining. If Miller was in the game their improbable march down the field wouldn’t have been so surprising, but the fact that it was Guiton who led them down the field for six is quite impressive. Of course, if you take into account this should never have come down to the wire it is not impressive at all.

Oh, I forgot to mention that OSU was “aided” by a pass interference call on 3rd-and-10, giving them 1st-and-goal at the two instead of 4th-and-10 at the 11-yard line. For a game’s outcome to essentially hinge on an iffy call late in the game is nuts – pun intended, as this has benefitted OSU before. Remember the 2002 BCS title game? Regardless, OSU earned the right to force overtime and set the tone with a touchdown on its first possession. Purdue proceeded to throw four straight incomplete passes and once again OSU walked away with another close win.

This Week:

It has yet to be determined if Braxton Miller will be available for next week’s game against Penn State in State College, but as long as he’s cleared I’m sure Urban Meyer will roll with Miller. Speaking of next week, it should be a great game as these two teams mired in seasons of meaninglessness. Penn State’s punishment had nothing to do with its players while OSU’s, well, we all know about that already.

After dropping their first two games, the Nittany Lions have rattled off five straight and look to be a pretty good team. These aren’t JoePa’s Lions but they’re a tough team that has come together both on and off the field. I think this will be the week the Buckeyes’ luck finally runs out. Just look at their defense, depleted or not, it’s just not very good. OSU is giving up an astounding 396 yards per game, with most of those (272) given up in the passing game.

Contrast that to the Michigan defense: No. 10 overall giving up just 286 total yards per game and No. 4 against the pass giving up 143 yards per game. And the media wants to give love to OSU and hate on Michigan, go figure.

Penn State is a fairly balanced team, putting up 257 yards per game in the air and 149 per game on the ground, while hanging 28 points on the board and giving up just 15.7. If OSU allows the Nittany Lions those types of numbers it’s going to be tough for them to head back to Columbus sitting at 9-0. Happy Valley is a tough place to play and for two teams with nothing to play for this one should be a battle.

I expect Penn St. to pull off the upset in the “Ineligi-Bowl” and give Nittany Lion fans some hope for next season.

Prediction: Penn State 31 – Ohio State 24

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# 5 Notre Dame 17 – BYU 14
Record: 7-0
This Week: at #8 Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) – 8pm – ABC

Notre Dame faced a classic letdown/look-ahead game against a tough defensive BYU team in South Bend on Saturday. Justin was there in body if not in spirit to witness the Irish improve to 7-0, setting up a monumental showdown at Oklahoma this weekend.

Coming off an overtime win over Stanford that featured a goal line stand on fourth down – which Stanford actually scored – Notre Dame had to keep itself from looking ahead to the Sooners. The Irish got off to a good start, scoring first with a minute and a half left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. But BYU answered with two straight touchdowns, a six-yard pass from Reilly Nelson to Cody Hoffman and a two-yard pass from Nelson to Kaneakua Friel. ND hadn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in 17 quarters before surrendering the two in the span of less than three minutes.

Trailing 14-7 to begin the second half, Notre Dame continued to run the football and inch closer. With 2:25 remaining in the third, Kyle Brindza hit a 24-yard field goal to bring the Irish within four. It didn’t take long for ND to score again as George Atkinson III ran it in from two yards out just two minutes into the fourth quarter to put the Irish ahead 17-14.

BYU couldn't stop Theo Riddick (photo by Robin Alam, IconSMI)

BYU wasn’t done, however. The Cougars put together a 13-play drive to the Irish 31, but a nine-yard sack took them out of field goal position. The sack wouldn’t have happened had Nelson been able to connect with a wide open Hoffman for a sure touchdown just three plays earlier. It was a moment that nearly gave ND fans a heart attack, but Nelson’s pass was nowhere close. BYU had to punt on 4th-and-13 from the Irish 34 and never got the ball back.

Notre Dame rushed for 270 yards, led by Theo Riddick’s 143 on just 15 carries and Cierre Wood’s 114. Tommy Rees, starting in favor of an injured Everett Golson, completed 7-of-16 passes for 117 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

It was by no means a dominant performance, but once again, the Irish found a way to get it done.

This Week:

Notre Dame travels to Norman, Oklahoma for a primetime face-off with the eighth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. College GameDay will be there and the Sooners will be eager to improve their 1-8 all-time record against the Irish. Oklahoma would be ranked among the top five if not for a 24-19 loss to current No. 3 Kansas State. In the five victories, the Sooners have outscored their opponents 249 to 68. They have the nation’s fifth best scoring offense and ND has the second best scoring defense. What sets the two apart, however, is Oklahoma’s defense isn’t too shabby either, ranking 12th nationally, while ND’s offense is just 77th.

It will surely be a defensive battle, but Oklahoma’s offensive firepower is better than anything the Irish have faced to date and they have a defense to back it up. Sorry Irish fans, but this is finally the week your luck falls short.

Prediction: Oklahoma 23 – Notre Dame 13

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Michigan State 10 – #23 Michigan 12
Record: 4-4 (1-3 Big Ten)
This Week: at #25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) – 3:30pm – ABC

We all know what happened in the Big House on Saturday as Michigan ended its four year futility at the hands of the Spartans and brought home Paul Bunyan. While it wasn’t pretty and Michigan was held without a touchdown for the second time this year, the Wolverines defense shut down Le’Veon Bell and limited big plays, holding the Spartans to just 10 points – their second lowest total of the season. Bell gained just 68 yards on 26 carries (an average of just 2.6 yards per carry) and Andrew Maxwell completed 21-of-34 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Most importantly, Michigan won.

Welcome home

This Week:

Michigan State now has to travel to Madison to face an improving Wisconsin squad that has been perhaps the Spartans’ toughest rival the past couple of years. To make matters worse, a loss would drop Michigan State below .500 overall and put Mark Dantonio’s squad in danger of missing a bowl game. State would have to win two of its final three against Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota to even get to six wins. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

MSU and Wisconsin are pretty evenly matched. Despite four losses, Spartans’ defense is still one of the best in the country and Wisconsin’s offense hasn’t exactly been lights out. Both teams feature solid running games with top-flight running backs in Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball. Ohio State and Michigan both showed the blueprint for stopping Bell and Wisconsin will do the same.

Prediction: Wisconsin 20 – Michigan State 16

Rival Rewind is Struggling to Keep its Head Above Water

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011


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When Brady Hoke was named head coach in January, he immediately set the tone by referring to Ohio State as simply Ohio and made it very clear that beating Ohio was one of the supreme goals each season. And so we at Maize and Go Blue are taking it upon ourselves to dedicate a little time each week to our rival as well. In this weekly segment, we’ll give a brief recap of the previous week’s game and what it means for Michigan. For a full rundown of our rivals’ games, see Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8Week 9, and Week 10.

Previously on Rival Rewind, we saw Ohio State lose to Purdue in overtime. Last week, Penn State came calling in its first road game after the Jerry Sandusky allegations rocked Happy Valley. With the Big Ten Leaders Division title still in reach – albeit a longshot – and the big game against Michigan a week away, was Ohio able to focus on the task at hand and beat Penn State?

Ohio State: Lost to #21 Penn State 14-20
Record: 6-5 (3-4)

Penn State traveled to Columbus for its first road trip without Joe Paterno at the helm in 46 years and came away victorious with a 20-14 win over Ohio State to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten Leaders Division.

For the third straight week, Ohio State dug itself a 10-0 hole. Penn State got the ball to start the game and drove 80 yards on five plays, capped off by a 39-yard touchdown run by Stephfon Green. Ohio State started a promising drive which included a 39-yard pass to DeVier Posey, in his first game back from suspension, but a fumble by Braxton Miller took the Buckeyes out of field goal position and they had to settle for a punt.

Penn State took advantage, mounting a 15-play, 54-yard scoring drive. Anthony Fera kicked a 43-yard field goal to put the Nittany Lions ahead 10-0.

Ohio State answered with a 10-play, 77-yard drive of its own, capped by a 24-yard Miller touchdown run to pull within three, but Penn State came right back with a four-yard Green touchdown run. That score was set up by a 42-yard run by Silas Redd to the OSU 36 and a 20-yard pass from Matt McGloin to Derek Moye into the red zone.

DeVier Posey made his return from suspension - tats and all - with four catches for 66 yards (photo by Al Behrman, AP)

On Penn State’s next possession, Ohio’s Orhian Johnson picked it off and gave the Bucks the ball in PSU territory. Ohio State took advantage with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Miller to tight end Jake Stoneburner.

Penn State closed out the half with a 46-yard Fera field goal to widen the lead to 20-14.

Neither team could score in the second half and Penn State sent the Buckeye seniors home sad on senior day.

Miller connected on 7-of-17 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Buckeyes in rushing with 18 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. Posey caught four passes for 66 yards, while Dan Herron rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries.

What was most surprising was the ease of which Penn State was able to move the ball on the Buckeyes defense in the first half. Penn State had the nation’s 102nd-ranked total offense heading into the game having scored just 24 total points in its previous two games against Illinois and Nebraska. The Nittany Lions racked up 239 yards rushing against the Buckeyes, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Ohio State’s defense has gotten progressively worse as the season has gone on. What started out as the team’s strength has now given up an average of nearly 24 points per game over the last four – against Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State – not exactly the class of the Big Ten as far as offense is concerned, with the exception of Wisconsin.

In each of those games, Ohio State has given up at least 327 yards of offense, but it hasn’t always been the same way. Wisconsin did it through the air, throwing for 253 yards. Penn State did it on the ground with 239 rushing yards. Indiana and Purdue used a balanced attack.

Offensively, Ohio State is flat out struggling. The return of Posey certainly helps, but Michigan Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison should be able to draw up a game plan to force Miller to rely on his arm rather than his legs in much the same way he did to Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez last week.

Next: The Game, Saturday v. #15 Michigan (9-2, 5-2) – 12pm on ABC

Prediction: Coming Friday

Friday Pick’em – Nebraska Staff Predictions

Friday, November 18th, 2011


Last week, we all lowballed Michigan, both offensively and defensively. None of us had Michigan scoring more than 24 points and all of us had Illinois scoring at least 20. Sometimes, however, it’s good to be wrong…such as when Michigan dominates a game we didn’t expect them to dominate.

Justin was the closest last week, although we all picked almost the exact same score. This week, we’re vying for a box of Big Red gum and an autographed Bo Pelini Ohio State football card…you know, to provide some burning material for next week.

The picks:

Justin (2) – Nebraska and Michigan are very similar teams. Both like to run, both have mobile quarterbacks that are the most dangerous players on the field, both are coached by defensive-minded coaches, and both have decent defenses that rank about the same in most categories.

Michigan’s defense has handled mobile quarterbacks better than Nebraska’s has this season, but the complexity of the Nebraska offense is unlike anything Michigan has seen so far. Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison spoke highly of the threat the ‘Huskers present with the power run game, the option attack, and the fast tempo.

The biggest key to the game will be how quickly defensive mastermind Greg Mattison figures out the Nebraska offense (photo by MGoBlue.com)

I think the winner of this game will be decided in the first 30 minutes. If you remember the Northwestern game, Michigan had trouble adjusting to the quick temp spread attack in the first half and fell behind. Mattison was able to make the necessary adjustments to shut down the Wildcats in the second half and Michigan’s offense came alive to overtake them. In this one, however, Michigan can’t afford to fall behind by much. I think it will take a little time for the defense to figure out how to defend the ‘Huskers, and so the offense has to be able to keep pace in the first half. I’m fully confident that if Michigan has the lead, or keeps it close, at halftime (essentially “weathers the storm”), the Wolverines will pull it out in the second half.

Look for Mattison to dial up the same defensive pressure he’s brought all season to try to force Martinez to rush his throws. That’s when he is prone to make poor decisions.

Offensively, look for Michigan to run it right at the middle of the ‘Husker defense, which has struggled to stop the power run game this year, and also mix in a short passing game to keep the defense off balance. One thing the ‘Husker D is is fast, and even though it doesn’t tend to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, it can play well laterally. Defensive Coordinator Carl Pelini likes to rush just four and drop seven into man coverage. That won’t work against Michigan’s running game, so it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments he makes for Denard and Co.

Regardless, I think Michigan has the edge at home and will improve to 9-2.

Michigan 33 – Nebraska 27

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Josh (3) - Nebraska comes into A2 this weekend with an identical record as the Wolverines: 8-2. Nebraska has been a bit disappointing compared to expectations coming into the season but they are still a solid team. Nebraska suffered its first loss of the season at Wisconsin in Week 5, then bounced back by beating some school down south before trouncing Minnesota. They then took on Michigan State at home and sent the Spartans packing with a 24-3 defeat. The next game, however, they managed to somehow lose to Northwestern at home before beating Penn State in an emotional State College last week. Overall, they’ve beaten the teams they should have beaten except for one, Northwestern, but hey, we all lose to teams we should have beaten (cough cough, Iowa).

Nebraska’s rush defense ranks 66th in the country, bad by elite program standards but not completely awful. Overall, they’re giving up 352 yards per game, 38th in total team defense. While the rush defense is a weak point, the pass defense is not, giving up just under 191 yards per game. Michigan has been giving up just over 191 per game passing and just under 131 per game rushing, yet no one is talking about how good this defense is. Incidentally, Michigan is top 20 in total defense (I think that whole WMU rain game mess seems to have thrown off the stats a bit but regardless this Michigan D is MUCH improved).

Taylor Martinez is dangerous with his legs, but suspect when forced to pass (photo by Justin K. Aller, Getty Images)

Nebraska has a stout rush offense, averaging around 233 per game, compared to Michigan’s 236. All the talk is generally about Taylor Martinez, but Rex Burkhead is the key cog in this rushing attack. Burkhead has over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging a decent 5.1 yards per carry. Not quite Heisman quality YPC, but when you know you can run the ball three times in a row and your back will get you a first down nine times out of 10, you’re in great shape.

This is not to take anything away from Martinez; he’s a good option quarterback and can make plays with his feet as well as his arm. While he may not be the best player on Nebraska’s offense, Martinez is arguably the most important. At times he has looked like a Heisman candidate, while at others he’s looked like a third string QB. Against a good Michigan defense (and yes, they are good this year – not 1997 or 2006 good, but they are good nonetheless) in the Big House I think Martinez will more closely resemble a third stringer than a Heisman candidate.

We all know Michigan’s weakest link is the pass offense, and that’s fine because Nebraska is not a team that is going to shut down our running game anyway. I’m looking for 300-plus yards rushing from Michigan this weekend. With Vincent Smith’s ankle still bothering him and the way Fitz Toussaint has asserted himself as Borges’ workhouse back, look for Fitz to get 25-30 carries. Illinois has a far better run defense (even after Michigan went off on them, they still have a top 10 overall defense) than Nebraska but that doesn’t mean I think he’ll go off for close to 200 yards again on his own. If he can average 5-6 yards per carry and get up around the 150 yard mark, it should take enough pressure off Denard to make his runs more effective.

Given Fitz’s performance last week – the second time this season he’s gone wild – and Denard’s ability to kill you on any play, I think Nebraska will have a tough time trying to defend the run. The threat of Denard is always there, but now with another guy to worry about it opens things up for Michigan.

I only caught highlights of last week’s game as I was out of town and had no access to a TV, but from what I saw, Michigan was ALL about running the ball. After the MSU play-calling debacle and then going 0-for-4 inside the Iowa 5-yard line with four straight passes, I think Borges is finally giving up on trying to pass the ball 25 times a game. Don’t get me wrong; I like Borges, but I think Denard needs to be throwing less and running more if we’re going to get to 10 or 11 wins this season (including the bowl game).

Michigan’s pass defense matches up very well with Nebraska’s pass offense and Michigan’s rush offense should overpower Nebraska’s rush defense. This game should come down to how Michigan’s run defense handles Martinez and Burkhead, both very capable runners. Michigan’s defense is better than people say, and of course we here at Maize And Go Blue are biased, but look at the numbers.

After what Greg Mattison called a complete game last week, I think Michigan will come out with that same intensity on defense. If Michigan can run the ball well and stop the run they win this game. However, I think they need to do BOTH in order to win. In the end, I think Michigan should be able to establish the run, and I think the defense will be fired up enough to keep Burkhead and Martinez out of the end zone often enough for Michigan to pull out a win heading into next week’s game against some team down south that cannot seem monitor its players very well.

Michigan 27 – Nebraska 21

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Chris (3) - On Saturday, the Wolverines welcome Big Ten newcomer Nebraska to the Big House for what should be a close, physical game.  The Cornhuskers come in with a 1,000-yard rusher in running back Rex Burkhead and have a dynamic run-pass threat in quarterback Taylor Martinez.  Both teams sport good defenses, although the vaunted “Blackshirt” D from Nebraska is eighth in the Big Ten in rushing yards, allowing 161 yards per game.  Michigan’s defense has played better each week of the season, to the point now where Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison is creating confusion for every opposing offense that Michigan faces.

I believe that the key in this game will be the play of the QBs.  Whichever QB is able to limit his mistakes and make plays in the passing game will give his team a better chance to win.  I look for both offenses to try to open up the running game by using the pass.  If they can get the opposing defense to drop back off the line of scrimmage to respect the pass, the running game will open up.  This is where I see the advantage going to the Wolverines.  If Denard Robinson’s wrist is healthy enough to throw some accurate passes and gain yardage through the air, then I see an opportunity for Michigan to stay in the shotgun and pick up some chunks of yardage on the ground with the zone read.

If Offensive Coordinator Al Borges is looking for any pointers, he would be wise to check the tape from the Northwestern-Nebraska game.  While not the exact same type of option, Northwestern was able to spread the Cornhuskers out and get the ball both out on the edge, as well as up the middle.

With the Michigan defense bringing pressure from different directions on every play, I like them to contain the combo of Martinez and Burkhead.  This will force Nebraska to pass, and I believe that Michigan’s secondary has a slight advantage over a mediocre Nebraska receiving corps.  This is especially true with the pressure that Michigan’s front seven can get on Martinez.  Even though I think that Michigan has the advantage in this game, I still believe that the game will be close all game.  With Michigan playing at home where they have played their best all season, I like Michigan to win.

Michigan 24  - Nebraska 20

Rival Rewind Says the Fat Lady Has Sung for Ole Brutus

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named head coach in January, he immediately set the tone by referring to Ohio State as simply Ohio and made it very clear that beating Ohio was one of the supreme goals each season. And so we at Maize and Go Blue are taking it upon ourselves to dedicate a little time each week to our rival as well. In this weekly segment, we’ll give a brief recap of the previous week’s game and what it means for Michigan. For a full rundown of our rivals’ games, see Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9.

Now that Michigan has already played Notre Dame and Michigan State, we don’t care about those teams. The weekly Rival Rewind segment is going to transition into a sole focus on the lone rival remaining: Ohio State. It will provide a more in-depth look at each Ohio game and preview its upcoming game.

Previously on Rival Rewind, we saw Ohio State struggle for three-plus quarters against Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana before ultimately winning. It looked as if everything was falling right into Ohio State’s lap in the Leaders Division, with Purdue on the slate next, Penn State at home, and then Michigan to end the season. So were the Bucks’ able to capitalize?

Ohio State: Lost to Purdue 23-26 in OT
Record: 6-4 (3-3)

With a perfect chance to grab control of the Big Ten Leaders Division due to Penn State’s loss to Nebraska, Ohio State squandered any chance of advancing to the first ever Big Ten Championship game by losing to Purdue last Saturday.

Purdue has gotten trounced by Notre Dame, Michigan and Wisconsin this season, scoring 26 or more points just twice all season, against Middle Tennessee and FCS Southeast Missouri State – teams with a combined record of 5-14.

But on Saturday, Purdue looked like the better team for 55 minutes against the once proud Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s offense has become increasingly one-dimensional and Buckeye fans have been criticizing offensive coordinator Jim Bollman all season. The first quarter possessions went like this:

First drive: Herron rush 2 yards, Herron rush 4 yards, Miller pass incomplete, punt
Second drive: Herron loss 2 yards, Miller rush 1 yard, Miller rush no gain, punt
Third drive: Herron rush 7 yards, Herron rush no gain, Miller sack, punt

Through the first quarter, Ohio State ran 9 plays for 11 yards.

During that time, Purdue capitalized with a 10-play, 57-yard field goal drive and a 11-play, 60-yard touchdown drive to take a 10-0 lead.

Ohio State finally came to life in the second quarter with a touchdown drive of its own, capped off by a 38-yard pass from Miller to Jordan Hall on 3rd-and-10.

After trading punts, Purdue struck again, this time going 88 yards on 13 plays to take a halftime lead of 17-7.

In the second half, Ohio State forced a punt and drove 58 yards for another touchdown, this time a 6-yard Braxton Miller run. On the drive, the Buckeyes didn’t throw a single pass, running eight times.

After a punt fest the rest of the third quarter, Purdue widened the lead to 20-14 with a 44-yard field goal just minutes into the fourth.

With 6:15 to play, Ohio State began a drive from its own 34. Using a healthy dose of Herron and Hall, with a 12-yard pass sprinkled in, the Bucks drove down to the Purdue 13. Facing 4th-and-3, Miller scrambled around, escaping a sack and found a wide open Hall in the end zone.

Ohio kicker Drew Basil missed a 33-yard field goal in overtime (photo by Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

With just under a minute remaining, it seemed as if OSU was going to escape with another win in the final minutes. But Purdue blocked the extra point to keep the game knotted at 20 and send it to overtime.

In the first stanza, Ohio State was held to a field goal attempt, which Drew Basil missed from 33 yards out. Purdue took over needing just a field goal, but converted a 3rd-and-4 and a 3rd-and-12 before quarterback Robert Marve carried it in from a yard out to give Purdue the upset.

It was the second straight time Purdue upset the Buckeyes in West Lafayette and makes it nearly impossible for Ohio State to win the Leaders Division. To do so, they would have to beat Penn State and Michigan, Wisconsin would have to lose to Illinois, and Penn State would have to lose to Wisconsin. It’s not completely out of the question, but it’s very unlikely.

Ohio State is such a strange team this year. At times (against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois), the defense looks as good as nearly any defense in the nation. At other times (against Toledo, Miami, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue), it looks like an average Big Ten defense at best.

The offense is essentially just a rushing offense, but it seems to work best when Miller scrambles around long enough for running backs or receivers to become open. That’s how nearly all of Miller’s completions happen. When he actually drops back to pass, there’s a good chance of something bad happening for the Buckeyes, which is why he virtually never does. Against Purdue, he threw 18 passes, but many of those were broken plays.

The more the season goes on, the more I like Michigan’s defense to match up. With the emergence of Blake Countess, as well as J.T. Floyd stepping up and Troy Woolfolk’s move to safety, Michigan has the corners to match up with Ohio State’s receivers. That allows the rest of the defense to focus on stopping the run. Granted, Ohio State is supposed to get talented receiver DeVier Posey back next week, so it’s yet to be seen how that will change the complexion of the offense.

This week, Ohio State hosts Penn State, which is coming off a heart-wrenching loss to Nebraska in the first game since the Jerry Sandusky scandal. If that was rough for the Nittany Lions, at least they had the comfort of the home crowd. This week will be their first road trip without Joe Paterno in 62 years, which will surely have an effect. I don’t see Penn State winning another game and Ohio State should cruise in this one.

Next: Saturday v. #21 Penn State (8-2, 5-1) – 3:30pm on ESPN/ABC

Prediction: Ohio 30 – Penn State 17

Anytime Purdue beats Ohio, the season is made (photo by Michael Conroy, AP)

Rival Rewind Likes Near Upsets, but Prefers Real Upsets

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named head coach in January, he immediately set the tone by referring to Ohio State as simply Ohio and made it very clear that beating Ohio was one of the supreme goals each season. And so we at Maize and Go Blue are taking it upon ourselves to dedicate a little time each week to our rival as well. In this weekly segment, we’ll give a brief recap of the previous week’s game and what it means for Michigan. For a full rundown of our rivals’ games, see Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8.

Now that Michigan has already played Notre Dame and Michigan State, we don’t care about those teams. The weekly Rival Rewind segment is going to transition into a sole focus on the lone rival remaining: Ohio State. It will provide a more in-depth look at each Ohio game and preview its upcoming game.

Previously on Rival Rewind, we saw Ohio State follow up its win over then-No.16 Illinois with an upset of 15th-ranked Wisconsin. While Illinois appears to have been an early season mirage, the win over Wisconsin showed the Buckeyes are for real and steadily improving as the season progresses. This past weekend, Indiana limped into Columbus without a single FBS or Big Ten win on the season. Easy, right? Well, as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend.

Ohio State: Beat Indiana 34-20
Record: 6-3 (3-2)

Ohio State entered the Indiana game perhaps too overconfident after upsetting Illinois and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks and it almost paid the price. Instead, the Buckeyes walked away with a narrow victory over the Big Ten’s bottom-feeder.

Indiana was driving to tie the game with just just over four minutes to play, but Ohio State defensive back Travis Howard picked it off at the OSU 28-yard line and a few plays later Carlos Hyde scored to put the game away.

It was a back-and-forth game throughout, as Indiana jumped ahead 10-0 on its first two possessions of the game. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller brought the Bucks within three with an 81-yard scamper to end the first quarter 10-7 Indiana. The true freshman completed just 5-of-11 passes for 55 yards and an interception, but the passing game wasn’t really needed as he was one of three Buckeyes to rush for over 100 yards, compiling 105 yards on 14 carries.

In the second quarter, a pair of OSU field goals and one by Indiana sent the two teams into the locker rooms tied at 13.

Ohio State took the lead early in the third on a 15-yard Dan Herron touchdown run, but Indiana would not go away. Freshman quarterback Tre Roberson connected with Kofi Hughes on a 34-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 20.

At the end of the third, facing a 3rd-and-20, Miller took off up the middle, untouched into the end zone for what was ultimately the winning touchdown. Indiana’s comeback attempt fell short when it missed a 40-yard field goal and then threw the interception at the OSU 28.

Ohio State's defense gave up 333 yards and 20 points to the 1-8 Hoosiers (photo by Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

It was an impressive rushing performance by Ohio State as three Buckeyes topped 100 yards, including Herron’s 141 on 14 carries, Hyde’s 105 on 15 carries, and Miller’s 105 on 14. It was the first time that has happened since a 1989 game against Northwestern. Altogether, Ohio State tallied 346 yards rushing on 46 attempts.

What wasn’t impressive, however, was Ohio State’s defense which has been its strength all season. Indiana, which has just one win this season – over FCS South Carolina State – moved the ball fairly well, gaining 333 total yards, converted 10-of-17 third downs, and turned the ball over just once.

With just three games remaining, it’s clear what interim head coach Luke Fickell wants to do – run the football. Since Herron returned against Illinois, Ohio State has thrown the ball just 27 times in three games, an average of nine per game, and rushed 155 times for 825 yards, averaging 275 per game.

Fortunately for Ohio State, Purdue is up next, in West Lafayette. The Boilers limp in at 4-5 (2-3 in the Big Ten), fresh off back-to-back losses to Michigan and Wisconsin. Their only conference wins are over Illinois and Minnesota, and out of conference, the Boilers beat Middle Tennessee and FCS Southeast Missouri State.

With Michigan’s loss to Iowa on Saturday, the Wolverines remain a long shot to win the Legends Division, but Ohio State is still very much in the thick of the Leaders Division race. The Bucks need to win out – beating Purdue, Penn State, and Michigan – and need Penn State to lose one of its remaining games – very likely against Wisconsin and Nebraska, and especially considering the sex abuse scandal and Joe Paterno’s announced end-of-season retirement swirling around Happy Valley this week.

We could very well be looking at Michigan’s chance to play spoiler on Nov. 26.

Next: Saturday at Purdue (4-5, 2-3) – 12pm on Big Ten Network

Prediction: Ohio 35 – Purdue 17

Braxton Miller has Buckeye fans eyeing the Big Ten title game (photo by Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

Rival Rewind is Setting Up a Meaningful Showdown

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named head coach in January, he immediately set the tone by referring to Ohio State as simply Ohio and made it very clear that beating Ohio was one of the supreme goals each season. And so we at Maize and Go Blue are taking it upon ourselves to dedicate a little time each week to our rival as well. In this weekly segment, we’ll give a brief recap of the previous week’s game and what it means for Michigan. For a full rundown of our rivals’ games, see Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7.

Now that Michigan has already played Notre Dame and Michigan State, we don’t care about those teams. The weekly Rival Rewind segment is going to transition into a sole focus on the lone rival remaining: Ohio State. It will provide a more in-depth look at each Ohio game and preview its upcoming game.

In its previous game, Ohio State entered its bye week with an energizing 17-7 victory over then-No. 16 Illinois, ending a two game skid, and pushing the Buckeyes’ record above .500. This past weekend, the Buckeyes hosted the 15th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers who were fresh off a stinging defeat at the hands of Michigan State. Were the Bucks able to stay hot?

Ohio State: Beat #15 Wisconsin 33-29
Record: 5-3 (2-2)

Ohio State continued its upward climb this past weekend, knocking off 15th-ranked Wisconsin 33-29 in the Horseshoe.

The game started off slow, looking like a classic defensive battle, as Wisconsin took a 7-3 lead into the half. But in the second half, the floodgates opened and Ohio State’s anemic offense suddenly looked like it had never missed a beat.

Braxton Miller scored a one-yard touchdown run to put the Bucks ahead 10-7 just three minutes into the half. The touchdown was set up by a 57-yard romp and a 18-yard run by Dan Herron. Ohio State forced Wisconsin into a punt situation and blocked the punt, giving the Bucks possession at the Wisconsin 1-yard line. Three plays later, Jordan Hall punched it in to widen the lead to 17-7.

Wisconsin punted again, but Hall fumbled the punt and Wisconsin recovered at the OSU 27-yard line. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball carried it in to pull the deficit to three.

Ohio State tacked on a field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter and Wisconsin was stopped on 4th-and-2 from the Ohio State 38 with just over eight minutes remaining. Six plays later (all runs), Miller took it in to put Ohio State ahead 26-14. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

Wisconsin wasn’t finished, however, scoring on just four plays, set up by Ball’s 40-yard run to the OSU 17. Russell Wilson connected with Jared Abbrederis to pull the Badgers within five at 26-21.

Ohio State was forced to punt and Wisconsin used two timeouts to get the ball back with 2:36 remaining. Once again, it took just four plays as Wilson and Abbrederis hooked up again, this time for a 49-yard touchdown to shock Columbus. The two-point conversion was good and suddenly, Wisconsin had a 29-26 lead with 1:18 to play.

Fans in Columbus celebrated a win over 15th-ranked Wisconsin like it was 2002 (photo by Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

Ohio State got a good kick return and moved the ball to the Wisconsin 40-yard line with less than a minute to play. Needing only a field goal to force overtime, Miller took the snap, flushed to his right towards the line of scrimmage and the sideline and let loose a bomb across his body toward the end zone. Those watching on TV couldn’t see the wide open Devin Smith behind the Wisconsin secondary and immediately assumed interception, but as the TV cameras panned to the left, the ball floated into Smith’s arms and set off bedlam in the ‘Shoe.

Wisconsin’s last-second prayer fell short and Buckeye fans stormed the field, for at least a night of forgetting all about the problems that have plagued the program for nearly the past year, and are still to come when the NCAA hands down its sanctions.

Right now, it seems as if this Buckeye team is coming together. Everybody knew Ohio State’s defense was a force to be reckoned with this season, but the offense was struggling to move the ball with Joe Bauserman under center. When interim head coach Luke Fickell decided to switch to Miller, the true freshman, it signaled a turn to the future.

But it was much more than switching between Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. While still young and inexperienced, Miller is a playmaker and a threat with his legs as much as his arm. He’s still erratic at times but as the broadcasters kept saying during the telecast, he keeps his eyes downfield while running, allowing him to find open receivers as the play breaks down. And that’s what makes him dangerous.

The scary thing is the Ohio State offense is just going to keep getting better. Offensive tackle Mike Adams returned a couple weeks ago, as did running back Herron. Three weeks from now (barring any further penalty) receiver DeVier Posey will return to give a shot to the arm of the passing game, and with every passing week, Miller will continue to gain confidence.

Ohio State has the fortune of playing Indiana and Purdue the next two weeks to likely push its record to 7-3 before returning home to host Penn State and then traveling to Ann Arbor for The Game. To be honest, Ohio State winning the past couple of weeks and reenergizing the fan base is a good thing.

For one, it keeps the Buckeyes in the thick of the Big Ten race, and as long as Michigan keeps winning, could set up a showdown with major implications on Nov. 26. For the first half of the season, it appeared The Game wouldn’t be a major factor in the Big Ten race.

Secondly, with Ohio State at a likely 8-3 or, at worst, 7-4 heading into The Game, it will be that much sweeter when Michigan turns the tide of the rivalry. Beating a downtrodden program, like OSU has done to us the past three years, will just inspire excuses from down south. Beating a team on a five-game winning streak with a spot in the Big Ten Championship game on the line is the kind of thing that shaped the rivalry over the past 100-plus years.

This week, Ohio State hosts Indiana at noon on the Big Ten Network, the same time as the Michigan game, which means none of us will be watching. Not that we need to. Indiana comes in at 1-8 (0-5 in the Big Ten) and ranks 114th out of 120 FBS teams in scoring defense, giving up 36.2 points per game. The Hoosiers haven’t beaten an FBS team yet (the only win was against FCS South Carolina State), so don’t expect to see anything worthwhile in Columbus this weekend.

Next: Saturday v. Indiana (1-8, 0-5) – 12pm on Big Ten Network

Prediction: Ohio 46 – Indiana 10

Devin Smith catches the game-winning catch with 20 seconds to play as Ohio State upset #15 Wisconsin (photo by Jay LaPrete, AP)

Rival Rewind is Now a One Game Season

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named head coach in January, he immediately set the tone by referring to Ohio State as simply Ohio and made it very clear that beating Ohio was one of the supreme goals each season. And so we at Maize and Go Blue are taking it upon ourselves to dedicate a little time each week to our rival as well. In this weekly segment, we’ll give a brief recap of the previous week’s game and what it means for Michigan. For a full rundown of our rivals’ games, see Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6.

Now that Michigan has already played Notre Dame and Michigan State, we don’t care about those teams. The weekly Rival Rewind segment is going to transition into a sole focus on the lone rival remaining: Ohio State. It will provide a more in-depth look at each Ohio game and preview its upcoming game. Coming out of the bye week, this week’s recap/preview will be a little light, but will intensify the rest of the season leading up to the big late-November matchup.

Ohio State: Beat #16 Illinois 17-7
Record: 4-3 (1-2)

Just like Michigan, Ohio State enjoyed a bye week this past weekend, allowing for the chance to work on certain things and get healthy for the remainder of the season. Unlike Michigan, the Buckeyes went into the bye week fresh off a big win.

Ohio State upset previously unbeaten and 16th-ranked Illinois 17-7 in Champagne. The Bucks’ defense has been solid all season, holding Michigan State to just 10 points and ranking 12th in the nation in points against. But this game, the offense finally came alive just enough to get the win, thanks in large part to the return of suspended running back Dan “Boom” Herron.

Ohio State threw the ball just four times the entire game (completing one) but rushed for 211 yards behind Herron’s 114 and ground out the win.

The Buckeye defense held Illinois to 165 yards and 24 points below its season average while forcing three turnovers. Two of those turnovers led to Buckeye touchdowns. A fumble gave Ohio State the ball on the Illini 37-yard line, while an interception was returned to the Illini 12. Both turned into Ohio State’s two touchdowns.

So is Ohio State really showing improvement, or is Illinois just worse than it appeared through the first six weeks of the season? It’s probably a little of both, but this was much more of a defensive win for Ohio State than a major offensive improvement.

Herron certainly helps, as does left tackle Mike Adams, who was also suspended for the first five games. The two at least give freshman quarterback Braxton Miller experienced and talented weapons that he lacked at the beginning of the season. However, this is still far from a potent offense. Ohio State will live and die with its defense this season.

This week, Ohio State hosts #15 Wisconsin in what will be a great measuring stick for both teams. Wisconsin suffered an agonizing defeat on a last-second hail marry at Michigan State last week and will be hungry to bounce back. Ohio State gets a chance to build on its momentum and capture a season-defining victory.

As good as the Buckeye defense is, it will have a hard time slowing down Russell Wilson and Wisconsin like MSU did last week. Offensively, OSU will struggle to move the ball against a stout Badger defense that still allowed just 109 rushing yards in last week’s loss.

Michigan fans: pay close attention to Dan Herron to see if he’s able to have another big game against another good defense. Also watch closely at how Miller handles one of the nation’s top defenses when he’ll likely be forced to put the ball in the air more than just four times.

Next: Saturday v. #15 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) – 8pm on ESPN

Prediction: Wisconsin 24 – Ohio 10

Boom Herron's return shot some life into OSU's offense (photo by Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)