Last time Michigan took the field, Sam was almost exactly right with his prediction of 27-21 Ohio State. The actual score was 26-21. It was Sam’s second win of the season, moving him into a tie with Chris, Josh, and Katie for second. If any one of them win this week, he or she will tie Matt for the weekly title. If not, Matt will win it outright. This is a tough one to pick because nobody really knows how Denard will be utilized and we aren’t that familiar with South Carolina. The Gamecocks are favored to win, so let’s take a look at our picks:
Justin (1): I’ve said it several times already, but I think Al Borges will determine who wins this game. South Carolina has a very good defense led by outstanding pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney and if Michigan’s offense is as predictable as it was in the second half of the Ohio State game, Michigan doesn’t stand a chance. I do think Michigan has the advantage of getting five weeks to prepare. Yes, both teams get that amount of time, but the way the offense changed when Denard was replaced at quarterback by Devin Gardner negates any advantage South Carolina’s defensive staff has to look at film. Nobody truly knows how Denard will be utilized and it’s up to Borges to call a great game, using Denard all over the field in a variety of packages and giving him the threat of throwing it. That’s the only way to keep South Carolina’s defense on its heels.
The Gamecocks will look to run right at Michigan and exploit J.T. Floyd’s replacement, Courtney Avery. Steve Spurrier will employ a two-quarterback attack to try to keep Michigan’s defense off balance. Connor Shaw is a dual threat, while Dylan Thompson is a more traditional passer.
It will take a flawlessly executed game by Michigan’s offense to win and I don’t see that happening. It will be a close game, but South Carolina’s defense will be too much for Michigan to execute perfectly. For more, see the First Look, this morning’s Game Preview, Friday’s Friend vs Foe, or my Q&A with Garnet and Black Attack.
South Carolina 24 – Michigan 20
Chris (2): This bowl matchup presents an interesting matchup for the Wolverines. South Carolina started the season with stud running back Marcus Lattimore in the backfield, but he was lost to a gruesome knee injury mid-way through the year. Since then, the Gamecocks have lacked a real threat in the running game and have gone to a more wide-open spread attack with mobile QBs Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. For being a Steve Spurrier coached team, South Carolina doesn’t pass as much as you would think.
On the other side, Michigan has lacked a true running game all season. Other than when Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner has run the ball, Michigan has been unable to move the ball on the ground. Like South Carolina, Michigan only really throws the ball when they have to. Once Denard injured his elbow during the Nebraska game, Gardner was able to provide a spark in the passing game despite not having played the position much so far in his Michigan career.
In 2012, defenses led both of these teams. Michigan led the NCAA in total pass defense for the majority of the season but was not very good against the run. South Carolina, on the other hand, looked to have one of college football’s best total defenses early on, but they were exposed in back-to-back weeks against LSU and Florida. Still, they are good against both the run and pass due to their overall defensive talent and speed. They also feature an outstanding pass rush, led by a freak of a player in All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
I think Michigan is going to have their hands full in this game. Without a running game to keep the defense honest, South Carolina will be able to focus on containing Robinson and Gardner in the backfield. As long as they don’t rush too quickly upfield, they should be able to limit their ability to escape the pocket. Even if they do get out in space, South Carolina is fast enough to limit their total yardage. I do think Michigan will be able to limit South Carolina in the passing game, but it won’t matter as that’s not the focus of the Gamecock offense. South Carolina will feature a balanced attack with a mobile QB and a lot of overall speed. While I’ll be cheering for the Wolverines, I think South Carolina wins.
South Carolina 30 – Michigan 17
Josh (2): Michigan has a chance to once again beat an SEC team. Something the rest of the Big Ten can’t seem to do lately; I’m talking to you Ohio St.
With Devin Gardner solidified as the starting QB, Michigan has gained a legit passing threat and Denard will no doubt be featured at various positions in his Wolverine finale. Just what those positions may be is yet to be determined, but rest assured he’ll be out there doing everything he can to help Michigan win another bowl game for Brady Hoke. Given Al Borges’ tendency for crappy play calling in big games recently I am not so optimistic heading into this match up. South Carolina isn’t as explosive on offense as they were with Marcus Lattimore but they aren’t anything to scoff at. However, Michigan’s defense should be able to keep the Gamecock’s offense in check giving the offense a chance to put some points on the board.
With the recent addition of a passing game Michigan know only needs to find its running game. With Fitz out that task rests on the shoulders of Denard Robinson, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith. I’m not sure who will step up, if anyone, but someone needs to help Gardner out with a rushing attack. Given what we’ve seen thus far, I’d say Denard is our only chance of having a rushing game though. If he can stay healthy and on the field, Michigan has a chance to win the game. But the Gamecock defense will be doing everything they can to hit Denard and hit him hard every time he has the ball. If Denard isn’t out there every play Michigan’s chances of winning this game drop dramatically. The Gamecock’s defense is not one you want to face with a one-dimensional offense.
The heart of that defense is what scares me (and most other teams) the most, Jadeveon Clowney. For me this game will come down to Michigan’s ability to keep Clowney from being a disruptive force as he has been all season. I just don’t see that happening. Taylor Lewan is an All-American, but I’m not so sure he’s even worthy of being an All-Big Ten lineman. I expect South Carolina to move Clowney around the defensive front to give Michigan different looks and to exploit mismatches as often as possible. Gardner and Denard are both great athletes and not prone to taking sacks, and Clowney may not rack up any sacks or TFL’s but I still think he will leave his fingerprints all over the outcome of this game.
Gardner is mobile and can definitely make plays but I just don’t see Michigan coming out of this one with a win if they cannot get the run game going as well. South Carolina’s defense is better than OSU’s, and poor play calling aside, the Buckeyes shut us down in the 2nd half of that game. The Ole Ball Coach is a wily veteran and as much as it pains me to predict a Michigan loss, that is what I am doing. I sure hope I’m wrong though!
South Carolina 31 – Michigan 21
Matt (3): What a great time of year this is. Although the end of the season always brings disappointment, knowing we won’t get that college football experience until next August, bowl games and the National Championship are always something to get excited for.
We Michigan fans haven’t had the greatest year, seeing as Michigan lost four games. Although, when you look at the losses, it’s not as bad as it seems. Losing to Alabama and Notre Dame, who are currently ranked #1 and #2 and will be meeting on January 7th in the National Championship Game, isn’t something to be too down on. The loss against Ohio State hurts, but they did go undefeated. The Nebraska loss was tough, and many feel if Devin Gardner came in instead of Russell Bellomy that it would have been a whole different ball game. But enough about that.
Michigan will be playing a New Year’s Day bowl game, the Outback Bowl, against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Another Big Ten vs SEC matchup.
If you compare ratings, these teams are similar. South Carolina gets the edge in rushing yards per game, but they are without Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks get the edge in passing yards per game as well, with Connor Shaw leading the team. Shaw has had an impressive year.
Michigan still has the dual-threat combination of Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner at quarterback, although we aren’t sure how Al Borges will decide to use them in the bowl game. Will they both be on the field at the same time? Or will they split snaps?
Looking at stats, South Carolina has held teams to less points compared to Michigan, but not by that many.
I think the key to Michigan gaining this victory is how Al Borges decides to play Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. If you have both of these incredible athletes on the field, you have the defense spread thin, having to cover both men very heavily.
Both are a huge threat at any position they play, although I prefer seeing Gardner at quarterback while Robinson is at running back or receiver.
It’s going to be a tough game for the Michigan Wolverines. South Carolina plays in the SEC. We all know the SEC is a top notch conference. Their only losses were at the hands of Florida and LSU. Michigan is definitely going to have their hands full. But I see Brady Hoke, Al Borges and Greg Mattison having these guys ready. And at the end of the 4th quarter, I see Michigan winning by a small margin.
Write it down folks! Michigan wins this one, 31-28. Go Blue!
Michigan 31 – South Carolina 28
Sam (2): [Sam didn't get a chance to submit a full write-up, but submitted his score prediction].
South Carolina 27 – Michigan 17
Katie (2): The outlook for this game looks to be pretty even. South Carolina is ranked just out of the top ten, and Michigan just inside the top twenty. Their defenses are #12 and #11, respectively. As for the offensive side of the ball, neither are in the top fifty, though the Wolverines do rank in at #6 in third down conversion, while the Gamecocks are a considerably lower #43. Michigan is also #40 in rushing offense, and while their opponent can’t better that they also lost their leading rusher Marcus Lattimore to a horrific knee injury this season. Michigan however, was able to bring back their wounded star for the Ohio State game, and though Robinson won’t likely be passing he still has the potential to be lethal with his feet, and perhaps even deadlier in some type of wildcat offense alongside Devin Gardner. But the Gamecocks won’t be any pushover even against a potent Michigan backfield, as they have a formidable rush and red zone defense, and a long tally of intercepted passes that will test the Wolverines oft scoring offense.
With the defenses being on par with each other, this match-up will be about how the offenses break down the opposing side. And Michigan should look to keep South Carolina to under 21 points, as only two losses were when they scored three touchdowns or less, and because they scored 30 or more points in seven games. With an average of just over 13 yards a catch offense, Carolina will keep Michigan’s #2 pass defense on their toes. Which means that the coaches will have to know what to dial in to switch up the game plan in case their team finds itself in a rut.
Overall, it looks to be a great New Year’s day game.
Michigan 30 – Ohio State 24
Posts Tagged ‘Staff Predictions’
Last week, none of us expected Denard to miss the entire game, but regardless it went about as expected. Katie picked up her first win of the season, nearly getting the score exactly right. Her 38-13 prediction was just three off of the 35-13 result. The rest of us were all close as well. This week, Michigan returns home to face Northwestern. Denard’s status is up in the air once again, but that shouldn’t change the outcome too much in this one.
Justin (1): Northwestern will put up its best effort, but Michigan will be too much in this one regardless of who pilots the offense. Look for more passing than usual, especially if Devin Gardner is behind center. Big games from Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, or Devin Funchess are in the crystal ball. The Wildcats will hang tough into the third quarter before Michigan seals the deal.
Michigan 28 – Northwestern 17
Chris (2): Northwestern enters this game with two losses (both in the Big Ten) and, like Michigan, is looking for help to make it to the Big Ten Championship. If they lose on Saturday, their chances of winning the conference are gone. Similarily, Michigan is also needing a win to stay in contention for the Big Ten title. However, the Wolverines only need Nebraska to lose one of its remaining games for them to make it to Indianapolis. So there is a lot on the line for both teams.
The strength of this Northwestern team is its rushing offense. They are ranked 13th nationally in total rushing behind Junior running back Venric Mark and dual threat quarterback Kain Colter. The passing game is a different story, however. The Wildcats rank #113 overall. So given this, the key for Michigan will be to stop Northwestern from moving the ball on the ground. I see Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison committing a safety down into the box to provide some extra run support and force Northwestern to the air where the Michigan defense excels.
Defensively, Northwestern is right in the middle of the pack in the NCAA total defense rankings at 60th. They do give up over 3 touchdowns per game and a lot of yardage through the air. This should bode well for either Michigan quarterback that starts the game. We know that Devin Gardner throws a nice ball and if Denard Robinson’s elbow is healthy, he will benefit from a young secondary which has been susceptible to the big play. Michigan will need to run the ball to win though. As we’ve seen with these guys, relying on only the pass to win is not a winning strategy. A good mix of run and pass should open up more plays and help move the ball down the field for the Wolverines.
On another note, expect an aggressive defensive game plan from Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, especially after seeing some of the holes which both Nebraska and Minnesota exposed in the Michigan offensive line. The line must play better than they have the last two weeks and keep the pressure from reaching either Denard or Gardner in the backfield before they can make a play.
I expect this game to be close as both teams are fighting for their seasons. I expect that the Michiagn defense will give up some points, but not more than what the much weaker Northwestern defense will. Northwestern will play on emotion and look to try to create some big turnovers to give their offense some extra possessions. But in the end, Michigan will win.
Michigan 27 – Northwestern 18
Josh (2): Pat Fitzgerald has done a great job in Evanston and Northwestern is not the pushover they once were. However, Michigan still has the better team and better coaching staff. Under Hoke Michigan is undefeated in the Big House and that trend should continue.
Northwestern doesn’t pass the ball much (just under 140 yards per game) but they have a versatile QB in Cain Kolter and they can run the ball very well. Kolter does not present the same type of threat Denard does but he is deadly with the ball nonetheless. His backfield mate, Venric Mark, is built from the Vincent Smith mold; small and quick but with more strength than you’d think.
It is yet to be determined if Denard will resume his duties in the backfield, but Devin Gardner is a capable backup and it shouldn’t matter which QB takes the field. If I had to guess, I’d say Gardner gets the nod as Hoke rests Denard for another week just to be safe. If that is the case look for Borges to try to air it out. This Northwestern defense allowed Taylor Martinez to go 27/39 for 342 yards and while improved he is not considered a great passer. Thomas Rawls should play more of a role as Michigan is still looking to get someone other than Denard going on the ground.
Michigan needs to win this game to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title game. Nebraska has Penn St. at home today, Minnesota next week and must travel to Iowa to end the season. Not the toughest road, but anything can happen.
Michigan takes control of this game late and pulls away in a closer than expected battle.
Michigan 31 – Northwestern 17
Northwestern has only lost two games this season. One to Penn State at Beaver Stadium, and one to Nebraska in Ryan Field. Of course we all know who Michigan has lost to, so let’s not even go there…
Michigan is ranked a little higher in passing than Northwestern, but the Wildcats are ranked higher in rushing. Northwestern has a duo of running backs that are really tearing up defenses. However, Michigan’s defense has turned into a beast this season. After playing horribly against Alabama, and not great against Air Force, our D has really stepped up. I don’t see it being any different this Saturday.
I think that Northwestern will come out being able to move the ball a little at the beginning of the game, but Michigan’s defense is going to wear them out. No matter how many running backs they want to use.
A big question about this game is, will Denard Robinson play? Last week we heard he was going to play. However he did not. Devin Gardner started in his place…and kicked some serious Golden Gopher tail. I heard Denard is day-to-day, which could mean anything. Will we see him Saturday? Not sure. But honestly, if Devin Gardner has to take the snaps as quarterback again, you won’t hear me complaining. But that’s just me.
Michigan comes off of an awesome victory against Minnesota, come into the Big House pumped, take down one of the best in the Big Ten, and never looks back. I predict Michigan will shut down Northwestern’s offense, only allowing a few scores.
Michigan by 25. And they are starting to get pumped for The Game in Columbus…
Michigan 35 – Northwestern 10
Sam (1): This Saturday’s Michigan-Northwestern football game is one big question mark as far as I’m concerned. Sure, Michigan has more talent overall, is the home team, and is playing for a conference championship. At the same time, however, Northwestern is a tough team to figure out, Denard Robinson’s status is up in the air, and the Wildcats won the last matchup between these two teams at the Big House back in 2008.
Still, the oddsmakers give the Wolverines nearly a double-digit edge for this weekend, perhaps because of Northwestern’s inability to close out the big game. And while Northwestern sits at 7-2 overall, with one loss coming at Penn State and another in a one-point heartbreaker against Northwestern, the best team they have beaten is one of Indiana, Vanderbilt, or Iowa – certainly no powerhouses this season. Nebraska and at Penn State are not bad losses for an average team by any means, but the fact that Northwestern blew fourth quarter leads in both of those games raises serious question marks about their ability to stay with and finish off better opponents.
Pat Fitzgerald’s team is quarterbacked by the dual-threat speedster Kain Colter, who has actually run for 100 yards and eight touchdowns more than he has thrown for. The likely reason for that, however, is Northwestern’s other quarterback, Trevor Siemian, who has attempted almost twice as many throws as Colter has but doesn’t have the legs to scare the defense. Fitzgerald will often utilize both of these guys on the field at once to maximize their speed of play and to give defenses a couple drastically different looks using the same exact personnel. Expect more of Colter than Siemian throughout, but I think we will see a decent dose of each.
In the backfield, the cat-like Venric Mark has been remarkable for the Cats, running for 1,072 yards on 166 carries (6.5 ypc) and nine touchdowns. As you may have guessed by now, Northwestern is a team that will keep the ball on the ground, having attempted exactly 150 more rushes than passes through nine weeks. Interestingly, their yards per attempt running (5.3) and passing (5.78) are very similar, hinting that Fitzgerald does a great job of spreading the field. In a running-spread offense, the point is to neutralize defenders and win the numbers game when pounding the rock, which Northwestern has clearly succeeded at so far. More yards per attempt passing would be ideal, but Northwestern just doesn’t have that go-to guy on the outside.
Four receivers for Fitzgerald have recorded at least 200 yards through the air, but no one has more than 266 yards or 26 catches, both fairly low numbers through nine games. Obviously the advantage in using this approach is that defenses need to focus on stopping the run first and cannot key in on any receiver when Colter or Siemian drop back to pass, but the disadvantage is that there isn’t that one reliable guy that can be counted on every night to have a serviceable game.
For Michigan, the receiving woes are quite familiar, as Jeremy Gallon leads the team with merely 22 receptions for 390 yards. The next-leading receiver is Devin Gardner with 16 catches. And Gardner will probably be throwing the balls instead of catching them this Saturday.
The big if for the Wolverines couldn’t be more obvious. If Denard Robinson can safely go, Michigan should have no problem running the ball, and the run should clear up the passing lanes a little bit. If Robinson cannot play, Gardner will step in at quarterback and likely throw and handoff a majority of the time despite his athletic ability because the coaches will do everything in their power to keep him protected; an injury to Gardner in the case of Robinson’s absence would likely see the non-fictional Jack Kennedy taking snaps.
Gardner, of course, will hand the ball off plenty, but the running backs haven’t exactly been a strength for the Wolverines either, as the once-touted Fitz Toussaint has yet to eclipse 100 yards a game, senior Vincent Smith averages just 2.8 yards per carry, and the remaining backs behind them are wildly unproven. This game plan could get very interesting very fast.
With all the uncertainties, a prediction is hard to come up with, but I suppose it’s a requirement to write for this blog. Northwestern has done an above-average job of stopping the run this season and only gives up a tick more than 22 points per game, but Michigan’s defense will be the difference in this game. Neither Colter nor Siemian are big enough passing threats to keep Michigan from stacking the box and slowing the effectiveness of the run. If Denard is back, Michigan has the game in hand going into the fourth quarter. If Gardner is quarterback, this game will come down to the last 10 minutes. Either way, Michigan wins.
Michigan 27 – Northwestern 17
Katie (1): This is where things get interesting. Nebraska and Michigan are tied for first in the Big Ten Legends division, but Michigan, having lost to the Huskers, needs to stay at one loss and see their rival at the top of the standings lose one of its next three conference games. This could very well be a problem if Nebraska goes to 5-1 this weekend by beating Penn State. After that they face a weak opponent in the Golden Gophers before going on the road to Kinnick Stadium to go up against a mediocre Hawkeye team that will likely be looking to play spoiler, and perhaps fighting to remain bowl eligible. That’s also saying that Michigan will finish the season with three more wins against Northwestern, Iowa, and Ohio State, which makes the loss to Nebraska look more and more like the crack that eventually leads to the breaking of the dam, and the washing away of the dream of a conference championship.
But there are still three weeks left of football to be played, and anyone who watches the top 25 rankings knows just how much can happen in one week, let alone three.
Northwestern is 7-2 (3-2) with losses to Penn State and Nebraska. They have yet to play a ranked team, and have built a record on beating Vanderbilt (the academic pride of the SEC), South Dakota, and a down and out Boston College team. However, their offense has been able to put up at least 21 points in every game. Defensively they have three linemen and a safety who all have more than 65 tackles, a pretty impressive statistic even when considering the caliber of teams they have faced. It’s those assessments that is likely why Northwestern has clawed its way into the AP polls at number 24.
The Wildcats also play two quarterbacks, and seem to do it relatively well. Mark Venric, their running back, has gone over a thousand yards on the season and has scored nine touchdowns, and their four top receivers are all over two hundred yards. Other than having a glorified running back as a QB who makes up much of our offense, Michigan fairs about the same statistically. However, with Hoke being tight lipped about who the starter will be in this weeks game, my vote is for Gardner who showed real determination and poise, albeit against Minnesota. It can’t be natural to switch position from game to game, and I want to give credit where it is due. That being said I think that either player will be able to do well under the helm, but as for passing ability I wouldn’t put the ball back in Denard’s hands just yet. I want to see what Gardner can do, especially when there seems to have been an agreement that he could shift back to the quarterback position next year. An offensive struggle seems to be in the cards this week.
This one should be close, and as the schools are academic rivals as well as athletic this match up should be fun to watch.
Michigan 30 – Northwestern 24
Last week, all predictions went out the window when Denard left the game with a nerve injury to his elbow. Russell Bellomy couldn’t get anything going on offense and Michigan was held without a touchdown for the second straight week. Denard is back this week and heaven forbid he get hurt again, we should have a pretty good idea of how this game will play out.
Justin (1): Michigan makes its first visit to TCF Bank Stadium for a noon (11am local time) kickoff against Minnesota. The time is important because the only chance the Gophers have of pulling this one out is if Michigan sleeps through its alarm because it’s so used to playing 3:30 (or later) games. As long as the Wolverines lay off the waffles and fake eggs from the hotel breakfast bar and come ready to play, they’ll get back on track for what is shaping up to be an epic clash with Ohio State at season’s end. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time.
Michigan will be, as the Black Eyed Peas sing, runnin’ runnin’ and runnin’ runnin’. Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls will see lots of carries until Minnesota proves it can stop them – which the Gophers haven’t been able to do against anyone this season. Michigan will build a big lead and let Denard give way to Bellomy in a good scenario this time. For more analysis, check out this morning’s game preview, Friend vs. Foe, and Monday’s First Look.
[Edit: I should also add that the only other thing that could prevent a Michigan win is another significant injury to Denard. If that happens, all bets are off].
Michigan 37 – Minnesota 10
Chris (2): With four games left in the regular season, the Wolverines enter this game at Minnesota knowing that they need to win out and get help with a Nebraska loss in order to make it to the Big Ten Championship. However, I think that it’s important that the team not be thinking about it this way. It’s one game at a time. No scoreboard watching. Everyone does their job. Give your all EVERY play. I think if they do that, they can win these last four games and end up in Indianapolis on Dec 1.
First thing’s first though. Historically, Michigan has dominated the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. They have won 14 straight trips there, winning by an average score of 40-13. Last time at Minnesota was back in 2008 (29-6 win). Minnesota enters the game at 5-3 (1-3 Big Ten) and are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.
Overall, this is a decent Minnesota squad that can sneak up on teams if they take them too lightly. Minnesota’s biggest weakness is their defense, especially when trying to stop the rush. In their three losses this season, they gave up big days on the ground to opposing running backs to the tune of 242 yards per game. Wisconsin’s running backs put up 337 by themselves. So far, this has been a season when Michigan has been unable to run the ball effectively with someone other than Denard Robinson. If there’s any hope for this running game, it will need to show on Saturday because it will provide the Wolverines with the best chance to win.
On offense, Minnesota has switched to true freshmen Philip Nelson at quarterback. Dynamic quarterback MarQueis Gray has been hampered by injuries this season, which prompted the switch. Just because Nelson is young and inexpereinced, the Wolverines can’t look past his skills. He earned Mr. Football honors in the state of Minnesota and they doesn’t hesitate to chuck the ball around when he’s under center. This bodes well for a Michigan pass defense which ranks as one of the best in the nation. Defensively, I don’t see the the Wolverines having much trouble. Minnesota isn’t going to control the line of scrimmage with three sophomores starting on the offensive line.
I like Michigan to win this game, but I don’t think it’s going to be by a large point differential.
Michigan 31 – Minnesota 14
Matt (2): We haven’t really taken Minnesota seriously. Overall, our record in the Battle for the Little Brown Jug, is 67-22-3. And Minnesota has only beaten us three times since 1968. However, looking past them is a big mistake.
Although the Golden Gophers seem to pale in comparison with the Wolverines, only being ranked higher than Michigan in passing by a small margin, and being ranked lower than Michigan in rushing yards, points for, and points against, the game is still being played in Minneapolis, and this is a rivalry game. You know what they say about rivalry games. Throw the records out the window.
However, is this really a rivalry? Is this anything like Michigan vs Notre Dame, Michigan State or Ohio State? The answer is simple, no. But we still want to hold onto that Little Brown Jug, and we still want to win the Legends Division, which could happen, but we need Nebraska to lose too!
Minnesota is ranked higher than Michigan in passing, although if you compare QBs, Denard has thrown over 500 yards more and three more touchdowns (that’s not counting the six Denard has scrambled in). Minnesota’s rushing game isn’t that great either, averaging 162 yards a game while Michigan averages 206.
And as far as defense goes, Michigan allows 17 points a game. Minnesota allows 23.
The biggest factor to this game, is going to be Denard Robinson. Is he going to be able to play? He left the Nebraska game with an injured nerve in his elbow. From there we got to see Russell Bellomy come in, and have a horrible game. I’m not blaming the kid. He’s new to all this. He isn’t supposed to be the starting QB. He’s supposed to watch as Denard tears defenses apart. So when Denard went down, Bellomy had that deer in the headlights look, and tried. I heard many people asking (and begging) Brady Hoke to put Devin Gardner in as QB instead. He did not.
News at Michigan practice his week, is that Devin did however take snaps as QB, just in case Robinson doesn’t end up playing this Saturday. Maybe Hoke heard the people.
I think Denard will play this Saturday. Will he injure the elbow again? Not sure. I don’t think he’ll play all game. I think Hoke will play him, but pull him every now and again to let Devin, and maybe even Russell get some snaps (that is if the game is in hand). We really need to rely on Fitzgerald Toussaint this Saturday. Al Borges needs to let Fitz run straight at the Golden Gophers defense, and ram the ball down their throats.
I have not done the best job at guessing the score this season, but here we go…
I don’t see this one being that close. Michigan is going to take the lead, and never give it back. The Little Brown Jug will stay in Ann Arbor for another season. Denard scores a couple TDs, and so does Devin Gardner (as QB, NOT WR).
Michigan 38 – Minnesota 17
Sam (1): Michigan wins. End of story.
Michigan 31 – Minnesota 13
Katie: Last week didn’t turn out nearly as well as was hoped for, but there is a consolation, this week we play Minnesota and the poor Golden Gophers are at the bottom of the Legends Division. But hey, it could be worse, the Leaders has two teams without a Big Ten win, and Minnesota has notched a W against the Boilermakers to make them 1-3 in conference play. Michigan on the other hand is living in disappointing times. Granted, the preseason polls were overestimated, the Wolverines have still lost three games so far this season, and while that’s not quite a debacle it will be if we go 5-3 in Big Ten play. Northwestern I’m sure would love nothing more than an upset at the Big House after what will likely be a safeguarding of the Brown Jug. Not to mention Ohio State, who will welcome Michigan into the ‘Shoe for the first time since coach Urban Meyer was instated, and with a definite chip on their shoulder due to their inability to play in the conference championship or a bowl game.
I’m not trying to overlook Minnesota. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I do know however, that one has to make the catch before running with it, and that the play can’t go down field until the ball is secured. Really though, did last years score against Minnesota have to look like a MAC team rollover. 58-0?
So while that sort of bullying hasn’t happened to the Gophers this year, they also have yet to play a ranked team. Though it is true that they played the Wildcats, who are now second in the Legends, within a touchdown. Now I am going to make the assumption that if we can’t beat Minnesota that the season is, for all intents and purposes, over. But on a positive note I’m not envisioning much of a problem. That is unless the offense collapses without Denard, and Devin Gardner, who could see a return at quarterback, looks worse than Bellomy. Not that the red-shirt freshman would look quite as bad as he did against Nebraska. I think that with more than a few minutes notice, and an away crowd that hasn’t been getting pumped for a night game for hours in advance, he should be able to pass more efficiently. With that being said I still would not hesitate to say that Gardner was our starting QB if number 16 wasn’t ready.
As for the stats, Minnesota’s aren’t too bad on either side of things, but they don’t look as good on paper as Michigan does, and Michigan has been fumbling around this season. The Wolverines best bet is on a strong defense that gives its offense as many opportunities to score as possible. Without Denard’s fleetness of foot Michigan could need time for some extended drives. Look for a Wolverines victory, but without last year’s margin.
Michigan 38 – Minnesota 13
Last week, we all underestimated Michigan’s offense and overestimated Purdue’s. Everyone expected Michigan to win, but not many people anywhere thought the Wolverines would shut down Purdue’s offense the way it did. Offensively, Michigan was unstoppable, except when it fumbled at the end of the first half leading the Purdue’s only touchdown. That opening drive when Michigan went 17 plays and just ran the ball down Purdue’s throat was beautiful to watch wasn’t it? Well this week should be similar, so let’s take a look at our picks.
Justin: Unbeaten in conference play. The two main challengers, Michigan State and Nebraska each have a loss. They also happen to be Michigan’s next two opponents. Beat them both and Michigan is in the drivers’ seat for the Legends division. That means Michigan will be looking ahead to next week, right? Doubtful.
Brady Hoke has been excellent at tempering expectations and keeping the team focused on one week at a time. He will run right at Illinois just like he did Purdue and throw the ball just enough to keep the defense honest. Michigan wins big. For more, check out this week’s Friend vs Foe and this morning’s game preview.
Michigan 48 – Illinois 10
Chris (1): Illinois enters this game with a 2-4 record, with their only FBS win coming against Western Michigan. They have looked poor on both sides of the ball, giving up an average of over 28 points per game while only scoring around 20 points per game. Coming into the season, hopes in Champaign were high for another bowl trip, as they returned 14 starters and a dual-threat quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase. However, injuries on the offensive line have limited the offense’s effectiveness and the defense has yet to show up for a game.
Am I worried that Michigan will lose this game on Saturday? No. But this game does happen at an interesting time on the schedule. With MSU coming up next weekend and Nebraska after that, the potential is there for a “look ahead” game. The Wolverines need to avoid letting that happen. If they sit back and think they are just going to roll Illinois without much of an effort, they may find themselves on the losing end. Scheelhaase can frustrate defenses with his running and his ability to create plays when the blocking breaks down.
The line for this game is currently sitting at 25 points. I think that’s about right. Denard Robinson will have a similar game this week as he did last week against Purdue and the Michigan defense will put a hurting on the Illinois offense. If anyone knows how to get the players to contain Scheelhaase, it’s defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Michigan wins.
Michigan 40 – Illinois 16
Josh (1): Illinois is not a very good team, to put it lightly. Their one “big” win came against FCS opponent Charleston Southern. They beat Western Michigan in their opener but have not played well against anyone of significance. They’ve been blown out in all four of their losses: Arizona State, Louisiana Tech, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Their leading rusher has 227 yards on the season. Denard had more than that last week. Nathan Scheelhaase is a decent quarterback but so far he has more picks (five) than touchdowns (three). In their four losses the defense has given up an average of 431 yards, while the offense has turned the ball over an average of 3.5 times per game. During those losses they’ve been outscored by 30 points per game.
This team gives up a ton of points and yards on defense and turns the ball over like it’s their job on offense.
Since the Air Force game Michigan’s defense has not given up more than 13 points to anyone. They may not be creating as many turnovers as Greg Mattison would like but they’ve been improving each week. Raymon Taylor made the most of his bump to starting cornerback last week and I expect him to improve as the season progresses.
Al Borges went back to Denard’s strengths last week and it yielded huge dividends. I expect much of the same against a porous Iliini defense.
This one shouldn’t be close and will be another good confidence booster heading into Michigan State week. I’d be shocked if Russell Bellomy and Thomas Rawls didn’t see a lot of action late in the game – maybe sooner for Rawls if Toussaint continues to prove ineffective. Michigan made Kirk Herbstreit eats his words of doubt last week against Purdue, and this week they’ll make him look good for jumping back on the Michigan bandwagon.
Michigan 45 – Illinois 9
Matt (2): It’s easy to think that Michigan will be able to defeat Illinois handily. Illinois has had a very off year, currently sitting with a record of 2-4. Michigan however…well, hasn’t been too bad. After a tough loss to Alabama and a loss also to Notre Dame, Michigan is 3-2.
Michigan has been lacking in quite a few areas this year in some games, and in others, they look outstanding. The play against Purdue last Saturday was amazing. Turnovers, touchdowns; it was outstanding.
I hate to sound like a pessimist, because that’s one thing I’m definitely not, but Michigan hasn’t had the kind of year we all were hoping for. But two losses isn’t the end of the year. Honestly, we can still win the Big Ten. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.
Many people chose Purdue as kind of the black horse of the Big Ten. Some analysts were saying they could quite possibly win the Big Ten. And if I’m not mistaken, the Big Ten Network seemed to be pretty impressed with Purdue before the season started. So…either Purdue isn’t as good as everyone thought, or Michigan is better than everyone is thinking.
Michigan versus Illinois usually seems to turn out to be a good game. I remember quite a few times watching this game end up being high scoring and very exciting. However, I do not believe that this year we will see a high scoring, or very exciting game.
I see Michigan coming out on fire. They are coming off of an impressive win over Purdue. The momentum should carry the Wolverines into this game ready to take the Illini down, and that’s just what they’ll do. I think that Michigan’s defense will continue to be dominant, and the offense will be able to put up some long drives and put points up on the board.
Dominant performance tomorrow! Go Blue!
Michigan 31 – Illinois 9
Sam (1): In last week’s Big Ten opener, Michigan did exactly what it had to to keep its Big Ten championship hopes alive and well in a 44-13 bashing of the Purdue Boilermakers. This week, expect much of the same. With one game before Michigan State takes the short trip to Ann Arbor to try to keep their winning streak against their arch rivals going, Michigan will likely run, run, and run some more. Al Borges and Brady Hoke want a win this weekend, and only a win. They don’t need to be flashy, they don’t need to run the score up, they just need to start the Big Ten season 2-0 and get ready for the Spartans.
Obviously Brady Hoke will tell you that Illinois is the only thing on Michigan’s mind right now, as it should be, but I’m pretty sure that the Wolverines have one eye on the schedule. Denard Robinson and the rest of his backfield mates carried the ball a whopping 54 times for 304 yards and three touchdowns last week in West Lafayette, and seeing as the Fighting Illini have given up 465 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in the last three weeks (all 20-plus point losses), look for more of the same.
Michigan also forced four turnovers one week ago; if that happens again, this game will be over at halftime. Illinois is led by dual-threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has completed 62.5 percent of his passes on the season so far but has thrown only three touchdowns to his five picks and has only run for 95 yards. His favorite target will be Ryan Lankford, who with 362 yards receiving has more than double that of the next guy down, but a number of other receivers could see the ball as well, as five receivers have caught double digit balls, including three with 20 or more.
Defense is obviously a huge problem for Illinois and will likely be their downfall again this weekend. They have given up 28.3 points per game in the middle of a not-so-powerful schedule that includes Western Michigan, Arizona State, Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech, and Penn State. Illinois hasn’t held an opponent under 30 since week one, when they beat Western 24-7, and they have given up more than 40 points three times in those five weeks since.
Meanwhile, Greg Mattison has his Michigan defense returning to 2011 form, a bad sign for the teams remaining on the Wolverines’ schedule. The Maize and Blue have given up only 13 points in three straight weeks, and haven’t given up more than 25 since being trounced by Alabama to start the year. Jake Ryan has emerged as a force rushing the passer and stifling outside run plays and the secondary has done its part in limiting the big play. It’s been an all around solid if not outstanding defense; I doubt the orange and blue will do anything to prove this sentiment otherwise.
There’s no sense in going into extreme detail for a game like this, so I’ll cut any extra details. Watch for Michigan to really try to get Fitgerald Toussaint going after yet another disappointing week running the ball and watch for at least one play-action pass to go for a 50-plus yard touchdown from Denard to Jeremy Gallon. In the end, this game should be in the bag by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. I’ll take Michigan to make it two in a row.
Michigan 43 – Illinois 10
Katie: Last week went well, as Michigan scored over forty points in a game for the second time this season. But Purdue also didn’t fair well against the Wolverine defense, and since the Boilermakers are the better of the two teams Michigan was pitted against in weeks five and six Michigan should be able to roll this weekend. Illinois is 2-4 coming into this Saturday’s game, Michigan is the first ranked team they have faced thus far. Their only two wins came against Western Michigan and a Charleston Southern team that’s having an equally hard time winning. That being said the Wolverines offense should be able to put up some great numbers.
The Fighting Illini have been outscored by their opponents 170- 127, while Michigan has raked up fifty more points than the teams they have faced. The total offense stat is pretty level, however the caliber of teams that the Wolverines has faced gives them the edge. Some people are even hoping that Notre Dame will make it into the National Championship game, which means our two losses have come to high quality teams. As for the running game the Illini backs could put up some numbers, though nothing like the yardage that Denard should scamper for, he already has 730 yards on the season. Not shockingly Illinois wins the receiving stats and the pass percentage, however, if those don’t turn into points then the Blue and Orange will be in deep trouble.
On defense Ashante Williams and Jonathan Brown could pose some problems for Michigan’s O-line, and possibly keep Robinson in check by forcing him to throw. If Illinois has any chance to stay in this game their defense will have to step up more than they have in the past six games. But with an offense that if firing on all cylinders can amass big numbers, I think that the Fighting Illini are going to have all that they can handle, and a bit more this Saturday.
Michigan still has its eye on the Big Ten Championship which means that this should be a full force effort, especially when the next home game is a fierce in state rival. I think Michigan takes charge early with methodical drives, and eats up the clock. This game is about proving our skills to those in East Lansing. We’ve broken the streak with the Buckeyes, it’s time to show Sparty that we’re back in business too.
Michigan 41 – Illinois 10
Last week, we all underestimated both teams’ offenses, although UMass’ lone touchdown was a defensive one. Matt nearly hit the score on the head with his 56-13 pick. Michigan’s final touchdown ruined his perfect pick, but it was a good one nonetheless. Games like that are always hard to pick because you never know how long the starters will stay on the field and how soon the coach will ease off the gas pedal. This week should be better. We’re all familiar with Notre Dame and nobody expects a blowout in either direction. Let’s take a look at our picks:
Justin: What’s that? Is that an echo I hear emanating from South Bend? The Irish, who have been largely dormant for the better part of a decade, if not more, have set off BCS buzz following their first 3-0 start since 2002. ND ventured to its homeland to crush Navy, and may have found a bit of luck that had escaped the fighting leprechauns of late. It carried over once back in the States, holding of pesky Purdue and dominating a top-10 Michigan State squad on the road. Now, Lou Holtz isn’t the only one clamoring over the postseason possibilities for the Blue and Gold. A win tomorrow would snap several years of misery and likely propel the Irish into the Top 10.
But you know what? To hell with Notre Dame. All the talk surrounding the Irish is just that. Talk. Sure they beat a Navy team that got trounced by Penn State. Sure they kicked a late field goal to hold off Purdue. Sure they won convincingly against an overrated MSU squad that has very little offensive firepower. Michigan has the trump card in the form of Denard Robinson. His exploits against the Irish have been well documented this week, and the fact is, Notre Dame is terrified of him because he has single-handedly ripped out their hearts, poured out their lucky charms, and stolen their pot of gold each of the last two years.
Notre Dame has a vaunted front seven but a MASH unit in the back. Michigan’s receiving corps is rapidly becoming the best it has had in years, which no one foresaw entering the season. As I said in this morning’s game preview, Michigan will come out firing and make the front seven back off in order to open up the run game. And Notre Dame’s offense doesn’t have the firepower to keep up. It will be close and Michigan will have its share of struggles, but Denard will pull it out and celebrate his 22nd birthday in style.
Michigan 33 – Notre Dame 27
Chris: This week the Wolverines face a tough test when they travel to Notre Dame Stadium to play the Fighting Irish in an Under the Lights game Part 2. ND has been tough to gauge after three weeks of the season, after a close home win vs Purdue and a fairly dominating defensive win against Michigan State in East Lansing. ND quarterback Everett Golson looked good last week, but the ND offense struggled to convert 3rd downs as they went 1-14, an issue that could prove to be a problem on Saturday. Defensively, ND has looked faster than expected, especially up front, where sophomore nose guard Louis Nix (6’3″, 326 pounds), and senior inside linebacker Manti Te’o, control the inside. To me, this looks like the best ND team that has been in South Bend since 2006.
At the beginning of the season, ND was set to return 14 starters from the 2011 squad. Then starting cornerback, junior Lo Wood, was injured. This past Saturday, ND lost another starter, senior Jamoris Slaughter, when he tore his Achilles’ tendon. This could be an opportunity for the Michigan offense if the offensive line can keep the pass rush from putting too much pressure on quarterback Denard Robinson. MSU was supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten this season, however the ND front seven pressured the quarterback all game and also held the running game to 50 total yards. The key for Michigan offensively will be how they handle this group and whether they can keep the rush off of Denard long enough for him to pass or make a play with his feet. The Michigan offensive line has improved in each of the first three weeks, but this will be a tough task. I do believe that ND will get pressure on Denard for the majority of the game, so it will be imperative that Denard not try to stand in the pocket and force passes to his receivers. Running lanes will be there and he will need to use his running ability to pick up yardage and move the ball. To counter this, I expect that ND will use one of the linebackers to “spy” Denard all game in an attempt to tackle him before he can get too many yards.
The ND offense is stronger this year as well. In addition to Golson, ND features the running back tandem of junior Cierre Wood and senior Theo Riddick. They are fast and strong and can pile up yards quickly. They also have a good offensive line which did well against an MSU defensive front which was predicted to be very good this season. Junior tight end Tyler Eifert will create match-up problems for the Wolverine defense, as linebackers are generally too slow and defensive backs are too small to cover him. I expect ND head coach Brian Kelly to use him similar to how Michigan’s Al Borges has used Devin Funchess this season and I think the potential is there for Eifert to have a big game. I think Michigan will come out and try to pressure Golson with a number of zone blitz schemes which defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is famous for. The goal will be to create turnovers by forcing Golson into making mistakes, as he is just a sophomore playing in this rivalry for the first time.
I believe that Michigan will face a tough scene at ND on Saturday. In addition to this being a night game, this will also be a revenge game for ND, as they try to return the favor to Michigan after they blew a 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter and gave up the game-winning TD with two seconds left on the clock last year in Ann Arbor. Michigan has improved as a team in Brady Hoke’s second season, but the inconsistent play by the offensive and defensive lines has me concerned for this game. That, combined with a raucous atmosphere in South Bend tells me that ND may have the advantage in this game. I think the game will be back and forth the entire time, but ND will win in the end.
Notre Dame 30 – Michigan 27
Josh (1): Ah, Notre Dame week. It doesn’t quite have the ring of Ohio week but it is a big game nonetheless. This game has a little more meaning for me this year, not in a ‘intra-family rivalry’ way like Justin, but in a ‘I live about a mile from Notre Dame stadium and see their fans everyday’ kind of way. Notre Dame has looked good, and bad, thus far. Michigan has looked bad (though who doesn’t against ‘Bama?), OK and finally good. I usually just go out and pick Michigan because they’ve owned the Irish recently but this year I’m not so sure. Notre Dame’s fronts (on both sides) took care of business last week against State’s lines, and those guys are big and physical. This worries me more than a bit. Michigan is heading in the right direction and I think they’ll be in the national title hunt come 2015, but at the moment they don’t possess Big Ten size and strength up front.
Notre Dame has seemingly solved their QB questions and Everett Golson is entrenched as the starter. While he he hasn’t put up really eye popping numbers he has played well and makes plays when needed. Reminds me of someone, less than stellar passer, comes up big when he’s needed. Now I am in now way shape or form comparing Golson to Denard (well, I am) but he has a similar skill set, though he doesn’t use his legs quite as often.
Michigan “righted the ship” last week, if you will. And got their offense back on track as they dominated an overmatched UMass team. Notre Dame is not UMass, but they are not the Notre Dame of old either. Notre Dame is putting up 30 points per game and only allowing 10, Michigan is putting up 36 and allowing 26; something has to give. Both teams have fairly balanced offenses. I think Notre Dame has the better passing attack but Michigan has the better ground game.
The loss of Blake Countess should rear its ugly head Saturday night and I fully expect Golson to try and take advantage of either Courtney Avery (we all know my comfort level with his coverage ability) or Raymon Taylor (he’s young and inexperienced but he has good upside and hey, a true frosh stepped up last year at CB). On defense, as always, the name of the game is stop Denard. And this will be no different. If the Irish can force Denard into a passing QB under duress or on the move (neither are his forte) then they have a great chance of winning this game.
Denard has had success against the Irish, with both his arm and his legs, and I expect to see more of the same come Saturday night. While the passing game has been much maligned and his struggles well documented (and those with faith in Denard’s arm dwindle in numbers) he is not an awful passer. He just needs to make better decisions and not throw off balance. With the emergence of Devin Funchess at WR/TE and the crazy athleticism of former QB Devin Gardner, Denard now has two big (literally) time receivers to help him out. I don’t advocate the jump ball, but if you’re gonna throw those 50/50′s those two guys are nice to have out there, not to mention their after the catch ability.
Notre Dame is at home and while they’re not the Notre Dame of old, it is always a tough place to play. Their fans are passionate and loud and they hate Michigan. The Irish should be playing with a little extra passion and vigor, they’re fresh off a big win over Michigan St. and they’re looking to not make it 4 straight losses to a bitter rival. A feeling we know all too well.
If Notre Dame can control the line of scrimmage it will be a long night for Michigan but I don’t expect them to come out and dominate like they did last week. I don’t expect them to roll over and die either. Last year the Irish lost the game with their numerous mistakes on which Michigan capitalized. Golson has only thrown one INT so far but he only has 5 total TD’s in three games, so I don’t think we’ll see as many turnover opportunities as we did last year.
For me, in the end it comes down to line play for both teams. Whichever team comes out and controls the LOS is going to create opportunities for big plays. This one should be another great game and it could really go either way.
I’m not very confident about this pick but it’s tough for me to pick against the Maize and Blue, at least when they’re evenly or only slightly overmatched. Michigan wins another close one and the Irish’s 4-0 start is derailed.
Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 23
Matt (2): Well here we are. Notre Dame week. And I have to admit, I’m probably more nervous for this game than any other Notre Dame game. It’s a big rivalry, and I have to say, they are tied for my second least favorite college football team alon with Michigan State (obviously Ohio State takes the number 1 spot, but more about them in November).
Michigan started out the season not lookin great. Getting clobbered by Alabama and beating Air Force by only six points. After that we beat up on UMass, but…it’s UMass.
Saturday at 7:30 we play Notre Dame in South Bend. And I tell you, the Fighting Irish look good this season. They gave Navy a good beating. Beat Purdue by three, and last week sort of embarrassed Michigan State. Did I already mention I’m nervous?
Anyway, Denard hasn’t looked terrible, although he is still over throwing wide receivers. Devin Gardner hasn’t had a whole lot of chances to prove how good he is at wide receiver, although I think he is going to prove that this year. One of the biggest offensive weapons we have been surprised with this season, is tight end Devin Funchess. Keep your eye on him in this game. Also keep your eye on Denard (obviously), as I think he’ll break a few nice runs.
It will be hard to follow up last year’s heart attack of a football game last year, and I don’t see it being quite as entertaining, or high scoring. Both team’s defenses have improved.
I think Notre Dame will come out with a couple of scores like last year, and seem to have our number. But I see Brady Hoke rallying the troops, and Michigan coming back for the victory.
Last week I almost hit the score square on the head. Let’s see how I do this week.
Michigan 38 – Notre Dame 31
Sam: For the Michigan Wolverines, this weekend presents a lot of firsts for the season: the first night game, the first (true) road game, and, of course, the first rivalry game. For star quarterback Denard Robinson, however, this Saturday will be the last game of his career against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, the team he has loved playing against more than any other college in the country.
You see, over the past two seasons as a starter, Robinson has absolutely feasted on the Golden Domers, rushing for 366 yards and three touchdowns and throwing for 582 yards and five touchdowns in 28-24 (2010) and 35-31 (2011) Michigan nail-biters. Michigan has won the past three matchups between these bitter rivals, but to extend it to a fourth straight under the lights this Saturday, Denard Robinson is going to have to make one hell of an encore.
Brian Kelly said in his weekly press conference that Shoelace will be the best player on the field, a statement that seems obvious. I’m not sure it’s as clear cut as most would say, however. Notre Dame’s hulking middle linebacker, Manti Te’o, is an All-American who likely would have been a first round NFL draft pick this year before deciding to come back for a final swan song, and perhaps a chance to taste victory against the Maize and Blue. Not only will Te’o be playing to avoid being shut out in his career against Michigan though; he will also be playing with a heavy heart and a head of steam as he continues to mourn the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend, both of whom died last week.
What is obvious is that Notre Dame’s whole defensive game plan will be to stop Denard Robinson at all costs, and that starts by keeping him bottled up in the pocket. It was Robinson’s arm that led Michigan to victory in the fourth quarter last year, and it will have to be his arm once again this year if Michigan is to have any chance. Sure, he will break a couple runs over 10 yards, but Te’o will have his eye on him the whole game.
Luckily for Michigan, Denard has been notably more accurate this season and will be testing a very inexperienced Notre Dame secondary. Kelly has already lost starting corner Lo Wood and starting safety Jamoris Slaughter for the season and will be starting freshmen in their places.
Having said all this, I still think Fitzgerald Toussaint is the key. If he goes for over 100 yards and finds the end zone, Michigan wins. That will not be an easy task, though, as Te’o and company come off a dominating performance against Michigan State in which the Spartans never made it past Notre Dame’s 30-yard-line and put up a total of three points on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately, I think Michigan’s defense has proven to be a bit weaker this season, especially up front. Freshman quarterback Everett Golson has been solid so far, throwing for 611 yards and three touchdowns while completing 58% of his passes through three games and will have weapons Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood in the backfield with him. Notre Dame hasn’t had any standout receivers thus far, but tight end Tyler Eifert is very good over the middle and could present some matchup problems. If Notre Dame’s offensive line is getting half the push Alabama’s did, say goodbye and good night, because Michigan’s not winning. If the Wolverines can at least contain the run, they should be in good position at the end.
Like the past three years, this game is going to be very close and shouldn’t be decided until late in the fourth stanza. And as much as I would love to see Michigan spoil Notre Dame’s night once again and as much as I know Denard Robinson loves playing against the Fighting Irish, I’m worried. Notre Dame pulls it off in the end, 27-24.
Notre Dame 27 – Michigan 24
Katie: I’m predicting a barn burner. Whether or not it will take place in the fourth quarter I cannot say, but for Michigan’s sake I hope that it starts with a few long rally’s early. After watching Michigan State struggle all day on offense last week, I’m confident that Michigan will be able to do better with a fleet footed quarterback, but as for the passing struggles, well, Michigan better not reflect its in state rivals productivity. The Wolverines have been doubling the number of points scored each successive week, but that’s only because the opponents have been lessening in rank each Saturday. As for Notre Dame, whose schedule makes Michigan look like a bit like a bear without teeth, they’ve beat a top ranked Spartan team, and a Leaders Division darkhorse in Purdue. After Michigan the Irish will go on to play at USC and Oklahoma, while playing Stanford at home. If ND is looking for a nine win season, Michigan is the lowest ranked top team they’ll need to beat in addition to the four unranked opponents that fill out the rest of their schedule.
Notre Dame’s starting quarterback is only a sophomore, but he has been the one under center at the beginning of each of the three games. And while his passes completed is only at 58%, he played a tough Michigan State defense that dropped his stat from the first two weeks which hovered around 66%. Really though, I should see this as a potential high note. Denard’s passing stat is a lowly 55%, so if we can keep the youngster Golson to completing around half of his passes it would hopefully lighten the load on the defense which is facing two strong running backs in Theo Riddick, and Cierre Wood. However, Riddick so far has only 190 yards, 107 coming off a thrashing of Navy. As for Michigan, it’s pretty obvious who our leading rusher is. The only issue is that other than Robinson no other rusher has yet broke past the 100 yard mark. In the receiving game Michigan is slightly ahead with four players over 100 yards, ND only has three. So if Denard can hit the broad side of a barn Michigan should be able to put up more points that the Irish, but it will be difficult under the circumstances, a night game in South Bend.
On defense Michigan has twelve players that have made 5 or more solo tackles. The Irish defense in its most recent game had 6 tackles for a loss, they also had a forced fumble and a recovery. They have also given up only 30 points total this season, as compared to Michigan’s 79. Granted, Michigan did get trounced by ‘Bama, but one can’t very well throw out those 41 points, especially given that Notre Dame’s only real holes on defense are in its secondary. Manti Te’o is also healthy and determined, and could cause serious problems for Denard who is not a prolific passer, and is definitely not when on the run. I see this being a pretty even match up, with Michigan having the offensive advantage, and ND the defensive. How much sway the home field crowd will have I’m sure will be tangible rather than negligible. I envision a nail-biter, and most tentatively, a win.
Michigan 33 – Notre Dame 30
Last week, all six of us were too high on Michigan’s point total and too low on Air Force’s. Matt was the closest overall, just four high on Michigan and five low on AF. Justin was the most confident in Air Force’s offense, just one short of their point total, but was two touchdowns and a two-point conversion too confident in Michigan’s offense. Chris picked Michigan to score 34 points, so he was the closest there, but he was nine low on the Falcons. This week should be fun since Michigan hosts the nation’s lowest scoring team through the first two weeks of the season. Let’s take a look at our picks.
Justin: One of the greatest rivalries in college football takes center stage on Saturday as Michigan looks to continue its winning streak over the Fighting Irish. What’s that? Oh, Notre Dame is next week? I guess I overlooked UMass. But don’t expect Brady Hoke and Co. to do so. This won’t be a repeat of the matchup two years ago or the stunning upset in 2007 of which we will not talk about. UMass is starting a true freshman quarterback and has a Michigan cast-off starting in the backfield (no offense to Mr. Cox). Six points and 323 yards of offense in two games is not a recipe for success at any level of football. They’ll probably score more than six points tomorrow, but in garbage time. If they approach double digits before halftime, then we have reason for concern the rest of the season. I don’t see that happening. See this morning’s game preview, yesterday’s Friend vs. Foe, and Tuesday’s First Look for more. And while we’re at it, enter this week’s 5-Spot Challenge for a chance to win a $20 M Den gift card.
Michigan 48 – UMass 9
Chris: Here we are in Week 3 of the 2012 season. The Wolverines play host the UMass Minutemen, a team they beat in 2010 in a closer-than-everybody-predicted game, 42-37. That was a different Michigan team and I certainly don’t expect that type of game again. In fact, I don’t think it will even be close. So, because of that, I’ll keep this short and sweet.
UMass enters this game with a 0-2 record and has been outscored 82-6 by UConn and Indiana. Last season, they went 5-6 playing an FCS schedule. In their only game against an FBS school (Boston College), a team that finished the year 4-8, they lost 45-17. That was last year you say. True, but the talent level hasn’t changed much. They do return nine starters on the defense and have a veteran offensive line, but they still are not close to the talent level of Michigan.
Michigan should win this game easily, and should have the game wrapped up in time to get the starters out early enough to get some of the second-team players some playing time. This is an excellent opportunity for offensive coordinator Al Borges to work on the offense which he plans to use for the rest of the season and work out the last few remaining kinks before Notre Dame and the Big Ten conference schedule begins. It is NOT an opportunity to run drop back passes and work on trying to make Denard Robinson better in the pocket. It is also a chance to give the O-line some work at opening holes in the running game for Fitzgerald Toussaint, something they will need to have confidence doing as the year progresses.
Michigan is more talented on both sides of the ball than this UMass team. I like both Denard and Fitz to run wild in this game and I’ll be looking for the Michigan defense to step up and take pride in not allowing a single point on Saturday.
Michigan 48 – UMass 10
Josh: After struggling the last two weeks against the top team in the land and one that employs a nightmarish offensive scheme, Michigan looks to get back in their groove this week against UMass. The Minutemen are a new FBS team and, as Justin mentioned in his preview, they almost beat the Wolverines a couple years back. This is not the same team, for Michigan or UMass.
Denard has been the offense for Michigan and they really need to get someone else involved, or to step up. Devin Funchess had a great game last week and should be heavily involved as the season continues. If Michigan is to right the ship, so to speak, they will need to get Fitz Toussaint involved and UMass is the perfect opponent to do so against. Look for Borges to try to involve the rest of guys on offense and get them back in the swing of things in what should be a walk in the park against the Minutemen, a team that got stomped by Indiana 45 – 6. Yes, Indiana!
UMass should not give Michigan much of a fight but it is still imperative that Michigan comes out and dominates like they should against a former FCS squad. This is their last tune-up before Notre Dame and their last chance to work out all the kinks. I expect them to come out and dominate UMass, letting plenty of guys get some garbage time in the end. If Indiana can put up 45 on this team then Michigan should be able to put up 70. I don’t expect them to do so, but I think Michigan exorcises some demons this weekend and rides high on the confidence as they head into South Bend the following week
Michigan 49 – UMass 0
Matt: Saturday at 3:30, the Michigan Wolverines host the UMass Minutemen. It seems like it should be a blow out, right? Seems like Michigan should destroy them, hands down, and Denard should rush for 200 or 300 yards, maybe run in 3 touchdowns, and throw a few more. Can the Minutemen come into the Big House and pull an upset over the Wolverines like Appalachian State did years ago (you do not understand how hard it is for me to even type that school’s name)?
I don’t think so either!
Michigan plays an important game next week, traveling to Notre Dame. We’ll get to that game next week, but Brady Hoke and company need to get this squad ready for that game because it’s going to be tough. So, I think this game against UMass is a great game to get them ready. Try out plays that maybe you wouldn’t want to “try out” against any other team, and be able to see the depth of your roster. Maybe we’ll see Devin move back to quarterback for a few plays. Maybe we’ll see Russell Bellomy play some QB. I really doubt we see Denard play the whole game, that is unless UMass makes it a game, and keeps it close. But I just don’t see that happening.
Sorry to make this short, but I just don’t see UMass giving us much trouble. Air Force last week hung in there, but I think Air Force is a far better team than UMass. I see Michigan coming out on fire, and it only getting better (for the Wolverines). Eventually I think we’ll see backups play, and we’ll see Brady Hoke put it on cruise control.
Michigan 56 – UMass 13
Sam: After a week one whipping at the hands of the number one team in the country, the Michigan Wolverines bounced back last Saturday with a closer-than-expected 31-25 edging of the Air Force Falcons. It’s been said before, but it needs to be said again: Michigan won’t really know what it has until next weekend’s night game at Notre Dame. That is, unless the Massachusetts Minutemen have something to say.
This Saturday, Michigan indeed takes on the Football Bowl Subdivision rookies from the east by way of the MAC. The Minutemen come into the Big House a huge underdog, and for good reason. Two games into the season, UMass has put up a total of six points and given up an unsettling 82 against mediocre BCS teams Connecticut and Indiana in 37-0 and 45-6 losses, respectively. While Michigan has certainly struggled to an extent to date, anything less than a three touchdown victory should be very worrisome.
On defense, Michigan must focus on improving the front seven against the run. Massachusetts does not run the ball well. In fact, after facing one of the better rushing offenses in the country last week in Air Force, Michigan will face one of the worst this week. Mike Cox (yes, that Mike Cox, he of Michigan lore) became a Minuteman for his fifth year of eligibility and instantly became the starter. To say he has been bad so far would be a horrible understatement. Yet he is still their leading rusher with a whopping 32 yards on 20 carries, good for 1.6 yards per carry. Their most efficient runner would be freshman quarterback A.J. Doyle, with nine yards on four carries, or 2.3 yards per. The more you think about it, Michigan should really be concerned if Massachusetts is in the black for rushing yards at the end of the game.
While Massachusetts’s passing game has been a little bit better, it certainly shouldn’t turn heads. Starter Mike Wegzyn has completed just over 56 percent of his passes for 207 yards and one interception. Marken Michel will be the focal point of the passing attack, as he has already recorded eight catches for 82 yards. What I’m trying to say is…well, let me just give a prediction. UMass will go for 87 total yards, 60 of those through the air trying to play catch up. If Michigan gives up triple digit yardage, there is a problem.
On offense, Michigan obviously should have no trouble moving the ball and will look to get backup quarterback Russell Bellomy into the game by the fourth quarter at the latest. Denard will get his in the first half, rushing and passing for over 150 each, but there is no sense in risking an injury and keeping him in for too long. Look for Roy Roundtree to finally get involved and then look for numbers that you haven’t seen for a couple years run onto the field.
All in all, this is the cupcake of cupcakes, the walk in the park of walks in the park. While a win is a win no matter what the score, Michigan really needs to put UMass away in the first half to gain some confidence and get the critics off their backs. The Wolverines should do just that.
Michigan 52 – UMass 3
Katie: Hopefully, this will be an easy hurdle after a win that was not thoroughly convincing. I mean it was a win, and it never seemed as though Michigan would shut down and lose, but it got tight enough to make fans uneasy, something that should not happen on September 15. UMass is now a member of the MAC, and returns 18 starters. However, the transition will likely not be the easiest, as is apparent in their schedule which opened with the Big East and is followed with two Big Ten schools. Not that UConn and Indiana were the heavyweights in their conferences – the Hoosiers are definitely lightweights – but nevertheless are bigger named teams. But as for the Minutemen’s start, it was less than stellar. They were routed, twice, and once by an Indiana team that went 1-11 last year and is not predicted to hit even this season.
In two games UMass has scored a total of six points, and given up 82. Michigan’s 66 points given up isn’t a great prospect, but then again the Wolverines played Alabama, so some things are allowed to be condoned. Basically I just can’t shake that 45-6 score that the Minutemen put up last week against Indiana. If Indiana can be them that bad, then well, that’s really all I want to know. Please Michigan, let this one be over by halftime.
Michigan 48 – UMass 9
It has been a while since we submitted picks for a game, but the last time we did, we all ended up happy with a win over Ohio State. Matt was a little bit off with his 100-0 pick but ecstatic nonetheless. Josh was third, picking Michigan to win 27-12, while Chris was a close second, predicting 28-17. But Justin picked up his fourth win of the year with a prediction of 35-17, moving into a tie with Josh for the season lead with four wins. Chris is right behind with three, while Matt had one.
With a correct prediction in tonight’s Sugar Bowl, Justin or Josh could take home the crown or Chris could make it a three-way tie. This week, we’ll be playing for this maize (sort of) and blue sugar bowl and a Virginia Tech pillow pet to lay our head on throughout the offseason slumber.
Justin (4) – Virginia Tech is a sound football team that will test Michigan on both sides of the ball. Despite the controversy surrounding the two teams getting BCS bids, this has a chance to be the best bowl game of the season as neither team looks to be that much better than the other.
When Michigan has the ball, look for a lot of Fitzgerald Toussaint until Bud Foster’s young front seven proves it can stop him. The zone read should help get Denard some open running lanes and if Michigan’s offensive line is getting a consistent push, it could be a banner day for Robinson and Toussaint. The Hokies had trouble stopping Clemson’s Tajh Boyd twice. Don’t expect Robinson to challenge cornerback Jayron Hosley often. He was a first-team All-American last season and is a lock to enter the NFL Draft this April. He has 12 interceptions in the last two seasons. Robinson was at his best in the last two games of the season when he only threw an average of 17.5 passes per game. If he’s forced to throw 25-30, Michigan’s offense will likely be playing catchup and will play right into Foster’s gameplan. The Hokie defense is one of the best in the nation at getting to the quarterback, having racked up 38 sacks. Look for a lot of quick screens and short routes in the passing game.
Defensively, Michigan needs to do the same thing the Hokies’ defense will try to do: stop the run. Virginia Tech loves to pound the ball with the nation’s 6th-best rusher, David Wilson. Tech runs the spread with a big bruising quarterback Logan Thomas, but it’s a physical spread rather than a speed-based one. The staple is the zone read and they love to get Wilson up the middle. They use it to set up play-action with quarterback Logan Thomas, who at 6’6″ 254 pounds, has a strong arm that isn’t always accurate. He has a good crop of experienced playmakers at receiver so Michigan can’t afford to completely sell out for the run. Look for an aggressive blitz scheme from Mattison’s defense designed to slow down Wilson while collapsing the pocket on Thomas, forcing dump offs as Clemson did so well. It may burn the Wolverine defense a time or two, but Michigan’s offense should be able to keep pace.
Michigan 24 – Virginia Tech 20
Josh (4) – When I think of VaTech, I, like countless others, think “Beamerball”. For as long as I can remember Frank Beamer has fielded teams with outstanding defense and special teams. This may not have been the most imposing VaTech team we’ve seen but they are still a good team. Consistency among the coaches year-in and year-out provides players a steady influence and makes them better players for it. VaTech will come out to shut down Denard and the rushing attack and force Michigan to pass, as most teams would prefer to see Denard beat them with his arm than with his untied shoes.
The Hokie D was ranked in the top 15 in total yards, giving up 313 per game – four less than Michigan – but it’s their rushing attack that worries me. David Wilson is one of the top backs in the country, rushing for 1,627 yards and nine touchdowns, and averaging a whopping 6.1 yards per carry. He was held under 120 yards only three times all season, though the bulk of his TD’s (five) came against Appalachian State and Virginia. Wilson has 4.4 speed and while not a physically imposing back he is still a load to bring down. Look for Tech to give Michigan a heavy dose of David Wilson.
Quarterback Logan Thomas has come on strong as of late and is a big, fairly mobile QB with a cannon for an arm. That said, he is young and fairly inexperienced. He is not a “threat” to run, but he does move around well and can make plays with his feet nonetheless.
Michigan’s defense has seemingly gotten better and better each week and with the extra practice time and time to heal before the Sugar Bowl I expect to see a fully rested, healthy defense out there Tuesday night. This game means a lot to Team 132, but especially to the seniors. They exorcised one demon in beating Ohio but this is their chance to shine on the national stage in a major bowl game. If you had told me a year ago that Michigan would be 10-2 and playing in the Sugar Bowl in 2012 I would have called you an irrationally unrealistic fan – also known as Notre Dame-itis. But here we are.
Brady Hoke will have his team ready to play and they will not take any stock in the “experts” picks of Michigan being the odds on favorite to win.
I see this being a tough game though. VaTech won’t lie down and they are a good football team, having only lost to Clemson (twice) all season long. Denard and the offense should be able to get something going, as Denard has played lights out the past couple of games both passing and running. The defense will be playing with a passion and intensity that we haven’t seen yet (not to say they haven’t been this season but they will step up their game considerably Tuesday night).
This game should be a close one but something tells me Michigan is out to send the world a message, and that message is “Michigan football is back!”
Michigan 38 – Virginia Tech 17
Chris (3) - So far in the bowl season, the games have been pretty good overall. But nothing will be more exciting than seeing the Wolverines playing in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. It has been a five-year drought since Michigan’s last BCS bowl and Wolverine Nation is ready to be back in the spotlight!
This game against the Hokies is an interesting matchup. Both defenses are ranked in the Top-20 in the nation. Both offenses are explosive, but in different ways. Michigan features the dynamic play-making ability of Denard Robinson. Virginia Tech has a young, but smart quarterback in Logan Thomas and a real running threat behind running back David Wilson.
For me, this game is going to come down which team wants it more. While Virginia Tech has played in these big bowl games recently, Michigan has not. I expect Brady Hoke to have his team excited and ready to play on the big stage in New Orleans. Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison will have had a month to put in place the schemes necessary to slow down Wilson. The matchup that I think everyone needs to keep an eye on is the Michigan secondary vs the Virginia Tech wide receivers. VT features a stable of good receivers who all catch the ball very well but aren’t terribly fast. Will Logan Thomas be able to get them the ball while facing the multiple blitz scheme that Mattison always brings? With four senior offensive linemen, the chances are good that he will have some time to get the ball out.
On the other side, Virginia Tech has always been known to have one of the better defenses in the country. They will also have had a full month to get ready for Denard Robinson. When having that much time to prepare, it certainly makes it easier to contain Robinson. The emergence of Fitz Toussaint in the backfield will force the VT defense to play the zone-read honestly. I expect Michigan to come into the game very ready to play and excited about the chance to play on this stage. I think they will come out with a fast start and then settle into the game in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. But VT is a strong team and this game will be close throughout. Michigan wins a close one.
Michigan 23 – Virginia Tech 20
Matt (1) - I have missed the last few weeks for personal reasons, but I have enjoyed writing on this site so much and hope to continue for years to come.
I would also like to congratulate Brady Hoke, all the Michigan coaches and all the Michigan football players. We have had a few tough seasons of football lately, but now we are headed in the right direction with an incredible coach leading the way.
I would also like to congratulate all of the fans! Michigan is going to the Sugar Bowl this year, and with the coaching staff we have, I am confident we can win!
I’m not going to deny it, Virginia Tech is a tough team. And in our last game we beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, but it was close. But hey, close or not, we won. No matter how many games were “close,” we have earned this. And on January 3, I believe that we will see our Wolverines take the field in New Orleans and bring a Sugar Bowl victory back to Ann Arbor.
I think Denard is ready for the spotlight, and although he filled papers out for the NFL Draft I think his heart is with Michigan and he will be with us next season. I predict Denard will come out on fire, and have a great game.
I also believe we will see Fitzgerald Toussaint fired up and ready to go, rushing for a couple of touchdowns. As far as guys like Roy Roundtree and Kevin Koger go, I think they will have their presence felt as well.
On the other side of the ball, I think we will see Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and company tear it up. Our defense has seemed to improve every week, and I don’t see that changing here.
Greg Mattison will have the guys disrupting the pocket and wreaking havoc on Virginia Tech’s offense.
Here’s my prediction…drum roll please!
Michigan 42 – Virginia Tech 32
Next up, September 1. Bring on Alabama! Go Blue!
None of us picked Michigan to lose to Iowa last week, but Chris was the closest to the actual score. He was only one point off Iowa’s final score, and the only one of us to predict Michigan would score below 35 points. But even he was almost two touchdowns too confident.
Justin (1) – I said in the game preview that this is a very important game for Michigan. A win gives Michigan much-needed momentum heading into the final two games against Nebraska and Ohio State. A loss will produce the sinking feeling that has plagued the program late in the season the past two years.
Illinois runs a lot, and with the predicted gusty weather in Champaign, expect a lot of running by Jason Ford and Nathan Scheelhaase. Ford is a tough downhill runner, but he’s not the only back the Illini have. Scheelhaase can run the option with Troy Pollard and Donovonn Young, so expect to see quite a bit of that to take advantage of Michigan’s inability to cut off the edge. If the run game sucks up Michigan’s safeties, look for some deep balls to A.J. Jenkins, the Big Ten’s best receiver.
Offensively, Michigan has to pick up yards on first down. I hope offensive coordinator Al Borges has a a short, quick passing game in the plans because dropping Denard back in the pocket is certain death against this Illinois pass rush. If Michigan can consistently stay away from third-and-longs, it should be a good day for the offense.
Expect a close and fairly low-scoring game, but I think Michigan will be able to get back on track and avoid another late-season disaster.
Michigan 24 – Illinois 20
Josh (3) - After starting strong at 6-0, Illinois has fallen on some tough times. Three straight losses to Ohio State, Purdue and at Penn State have the Illini hurting and looking for a way to get back on track. Michigan, fresh off a loss to Iowa, is the team Illinois sees as a step back in the right direction.
The Illini feature a balanced attack at just over 200 yards passing per game and just under 200 yards passing per game. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is their best player on offense, but more for his running than passing, a la Denard Robinson. Scheelhaase leads the team in rushing with 501 yards but is averaging a less than stellar 3.7 yards per carry. Running back Jason Ford isn’t a burner and has yet to gain 500 yards for the season but he is a big back at 235lbs. and we saw how Michigan struggled with a big back last week. Jason Ford is not Marcus Coker but he could pose some problems for the front seven of the Wolverines.
Defensive end Whitney Mercilus leads the B1G Ten in tackles for loss. In fact, he’s third in the country in that category. He also leads the conference and the country in forced fumbles at six. He, along with other DE Michael Buchanan, are big reasons the Illini boast a stout run defense, allowing only 102 yards per game. This is definitely a defense that could pose some issues for Michigan’s backs.
On offense, as I mentioned before, QB Nathan Scheelhaase is the Illini’s best player but his running overshadows his throwing. However, he has been sacked over 20 times thus far, and his measly 3.7 yards per carry average might allude to an inability to block and escape pressure.
After facing one of the conference’s two best WR’s last week, Michigan gets to face the other one. Illinois has a pretty good receiver, A.J. Jenkins, to complement its QB. Jenkins is averaging 7.5 catches per game and over 100 yards and has already gone over 1,000 yards for the season. He has seven touchdowns on the year and no other Illini receiver has more than one. If Michigan can keep tabs on Jenkins they might be able to slow him down.
Michigan bounced back after its first loss of the season and will look to do the same after last week’s heartbreaker at Iowa. Michigan played a terrible game and was still almost able to pull off the comeback. Look for Hoke’s crew to have regrouped and gotten ready for this game. Offensive Coordinator Al Borges has had some questionable play calling in the two losses, including four straight passes inside the five-yard line last week to end the game. If Borges can get back to calling plays that put the best players in the best position to help the team win, then Michigan will come out on top.
To me, this game is really a toss up. It wouldn’t surprise me to see either team win, and being in Champaign, I am slightly inclined to give the Illini the edge, especially given the way Michigan has played on the road. I don’t think Michigan’s offense, which seems to have regressed as the season wears on, is capable of putting up a ton of points on this defense. So it all comes down to how Michigan’s defense handles Illinois’ offense.
I think the second half collapses of the last two seasons still linger in the minds of the seniors and a loss this week would really put them in a bad spot, especially with the last two games against Nebraska and Ohio State. The Illini have a far superior defense but their offense doesn’t really scare me. I think Michigan pulls off the win in a close one and gets its eighth win of the season, equaling RichRod’s total in his first two years combined.
Michigan 24 – Illinois 21
Chris (3) - After last week’s debacle when Michigan couldn’t pick up three yards for a touchdown to give them a chance to tie the game against Iowa, I couldn’t even think about Michigan football until today. Talk about a frustrating and ridiculous set of play calls by Offensive Coordinator Al Borges. Let’s hope that this week Borges puts the ball in Denard’s hands and allows him to go win the game for the Wolverines! Seriously. There are only three regular season games remaining. There’s no reason to protect Denard. Give him the ball and let him do his thing.
Anyway, we move on from last week to this week’s game at Illinois. This is going to be another one of those games that is hard to get an accurate reading on the teams. Both teams started out the season strong and have fallen off the pace over the last three-to-four weeks. Both have offenses which are struggling to find an identity lately. And both teams have defenses which are generally strong, but give up big plays sometimes when it hurts.
Illinois’ strength is their 6th-ranked defense. Defensive end Whitney Mercilus leads the nation in sacks and fumbles forced. The Illinois linebackers are good and the secondary returned three of four starters from last year’s unit. They are giving up around 17 points per game.
Offensively, the Illini have multi-threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase leading the way. He will present a dynamic run/pass threat for the Michigan defense to contain, because unlike a lot of “running” QBs, Scheelhaase can throw the ball as well. It doesn’t hurt to have Wide Receiver A.J. Jenkins to throw to either. Jenkins has over 1,000 yards receiving and 7 TDs already this year.
I see this game as a toss-up. Without knowing if Borges will pull his head out of his butt and call a better game, it is difficult to predict how the Michigan offense will play. My hope is that Head Coach Brady Hoke will get the team ready to play again this week after the loss to Iowa in the same way that he did after the loss to MSU. Against Purdue, the Wolverines played inspired on both sides of the ball and they will need to do that again to win against Illinois. The truth is, Michigan still has an outside shot at winning their Division and playing for the Big Ten Championship if they can take care of business and get some help from the teams around them. I’m sure that’s a point which Hoke brought to the team’s attention this week.
I think this game will be a low-scoring, back and forth kind of game. I also expect there to be a decent amount of turnovers, probably at least two per team. My key stat for this game is that Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook is 1-7 at Illinois following a bye week. Because of that and my expectation for Michigan to be re-focused after last week’s loss, I am going to predict the Wolverines to win on Saturday.
Michigan 21 – Illinois 20
Last week, Josh was almost spot-on with his prediction of 35-17. The final score was, of course, 36-14, so Josh wins the Drew Brees Mcfarlane figure and the Kylie Minogue Locomotion record. He now leads the staff with three wins on the season.
This week, we’re getting our Marvel on with a two-piece set of Captain America and Hawkeye action figures, as well as a Keller USMC E-2C Hawkeye Model kit, because the season’s winding down, and we need something to do in the off-season. Seriously, can you believe there are only four games left in the season? Seems like it just started.
Justin (1) – Iowa is your typical Big Ten team, although not as good as its record shows. The best team the Hawkeyes have faced, Penn State, held Iowa to just three points and 84 rushing yards. Last week, Iowa lost to lowly Minnesota for the second straight year. Yes, it’s a rivalry game, but Minnesota was on pace to be one of the worst Big Ten teams ever, ranking near the bottom of the pack nationally in nearly every stat category.
Iowa runs a pro-style offense with an efficient quarterback who can make you pay if he gets time to throw, the Big Ten’s best running back in Marcus Coker, and one of the Big Ten’s best receivers in Marvin McNutt. The Hawkeyes also have a future first round draft pick at left tackle. Minnesota had success pressuring Vandenberg, keeping him uncomfortable in the pocket, and sacking him three times. Expect Greg Mattison to dial up some timely blitzes to keep Vandenberg from getting into a rhythm.
Offensively, Michigan will move the ball on these guys. Iowa’s defense was ravaged by the NFL following last season and has struggled to stop both the run and the pass this season. Minnesota’s Marqueis Gray was able to run well on the Hawkeyes and running back Duane Bennett had his best game of the season against the Hawkeyes.
Michigan is seventh nationally in third down conversions, while Iowa’s defense struggles to get off the field on third down, ranking 110th out of 120 teams in FBS. Iowa gave up 44 points to Iowa State, 22 to Minnesota, and 24 to Indiana, so don’t expect to see Michigan’s offense shut down in this one.
Kinnick Stadium is always a tough place to win for any opponent, but Michigan has had success there over the years. Iowa will likely put up a challenge for two or three quarters, but Michigan will have the game in hand in the fourth.
Michigan 38 – Iowa 27
Josh (3) - Iowa is 5-3 and coming off a loss to one of the bottom feeders of the B1G Ten, but don’t think that means they’ve been exposed and will be an easy opponent. Iowa City is one of the toughest road venues in the conference and Iowa is a very well coached team. Kirk Ferentz will have his boys ready to play, and they will be physical. They haven’t beaten anyone “impressive” yet, but Iowa usually has big, strong lineman and a bruising tailback.
Iowa is led by Junior quarterback James Vandenberg. On the season, he has passed for 17 touchdowns and only four picks, while averaging around 240 yards per game. He has the luxury of throwing the ball to a potential first round draft pick in Marvin McNutt. McNutt is a big, fast receiver who can go get the ball. Defending him won’t be an easy task. He is averaging six catches for over 100 yards and just better than a TD per game.
Sophomore Marcus Coker is Iowa’s lead back and he is a good one, leading the B1G Ten in rushing so far at 121 yards per game, to go along with 10 total rushing touchdowns. He is a big back, standing 6’1” and weighing 230lbs. He had a monster game last week in the loss to Minnesota, totaling 252 yards on 32 carries, for a healthy eight yards per carry average. He didn’t play against Michigan last season but look for him to get a lot of carries if Michigan struggles to stop the run game.
If Iowa is to win the game they will need to do just what Michigan State did: dominate the line of scrimmage, keep Michigan’s offense from getting into a rhythm, and create holes for Coker to run through. Iowa will be physical (but without all the unsportsmanlike penalties) and Michigan will need to match that physicality if they want to win this game. Iowa will be hungry coming in to this game after suffering the loss to Minnesota last week. If Iowa can control the line of scrimmage and run the ball like they want to then this could wind up being a long afternoon for Michigan.
Michigan is coming off a strong win against Purdue and has quelled the “second half collapse” rumors – for now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is not the same team we saw the past few years, even though it has most of the same players. They have a passion and enthusiasm that we haven’t seen in a while. They may not be the most physically gifted Michigan defense but they have improved their technique all season and always play with good heart.
Michigan has found its No. 1 tailback in redshirt sophomore Fitz Toussaint. If he can show some consistency, then Michigan should be able to keep pressure off the passing game and allow Denard to hit some short throws to open up the playbook. On defense, Michigan’s front seven has been playing well, and other than just getting plain outmuscled against MSU, has looked much better with each passing game.
Brady Hoke knows the importance of this game, and every game, and he knows that championships are won in November. Michigan will be ready to play this week. On defense, Michigan must absolutely play well up front (as always). If they allow the rushing game to get going they might be in for a long day as Iowa will keep pounding the rock until they get stopped. If Michigan is to win this game they must establish their own run game, outside of Denard, and stop Iowa’s run game. If they can jump out to a lead and force Iowa to pass the ball they should be in good shape. For me, it all comes down to who can stop the other team’s rushing attack.
Sitting at 7-1 (3-1 in the B1G Ten) this team still has a lot left to play for (even if they didn’t, I cannot imagine a Brady Hoke coached team ever packing it in and giving up) and I think they will come out and play hard. This should be a good game but I don’t think Iowa has the defensive talent to stop Michigan’s offense. Toussaint should continue his success on the ground and force Iowa to play catch up with the passing game, playing right into Michigan’s hands (stopping Iowa’s strength, it’s running game).
Michigan 37 – Iowa 24
Chris (2) – This week, Michigan must take on a road challenge at Iowa. Iowa is not as strong this year as they have been in the past, when they have had quality defenses, a powerful rushing attack, and a good game manager at quarterback. Running back Marcus Coker has over 900 yards rushing and has been efficient, and quarterback James Vandenberg has been efficient with a 17-4 TD-INT ratio. However, this year’s Iowa defense has been the biggest issue, as they are allowing almost 200 yards on the ground to their opponents.
This brings up another point: the Iowa schedule has been pretty weak overall, as they have played an FCS opponent, the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and three other FBS opponents with records under .500. So while the offense has averaged around 32 points per game against these opponents, the defense has given up about 23 points per game. Not too impressive.
Despite all of this, I do expect Iowa to come out motivated to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive after last week’s embarassing loss to Minnesota. Iowa also generally plays well at home, as Kinnick Stadium can get loud at times. I do not think that these things will prevent Michigan from winning this game, though. I believe that Michigan’s multi-weapon attack on offense will be too much for the Iowa defense to contain. As long as the Michigan defensive front can stop Coker from breaking any big runs, and the secondary puts the double-team on standout wide receiver Marvin McNutt, I think they will win a big road test.
Michigan 28 – Iowa 23
Matt (1) – This Saturday, Michigan will play Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. It will be Michigan’s third away game, and it will be quite the test. After this game, I am hoping we will have a little bit of a feeling of how we may fare against the likes of Nebraska and Ohio State.
Michigan has faired well this season, only losing one game, at Michigan State. Brady Hoke should be proud. He has done an amazing job.
Iowa has quite a few talented players. The two guys I am most concerned about are both on offense. One is sophomore running back Marcus Coker, who has 969 rushing yards with 10 rushing touchdowns. The second is junior quarterback James Vandenberg. Vandenberg has 1,918 passing yards with 17 TDs.
As good as those stats are for Iowa, I’ve gotta tell you, I haven’t bet against Michigan this season, and I’m not about to start now.
Michigan’s defense seems to get better every week, and I think they will stop these two star players. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and company will step up and cause a few turnovers, which they have been known to do a lot this season.
As far as our offense goes, I see Denard not tucking and running so much this game, but still scoring a rushing touchdown. I also expect to see Devin Gardner in the game with a few trick plays, and a few long scrambles.
I have got to say, the way Borges is running the offense, adapting to the players using a lot of spread offense type plays is awesome. I always wondered why RichRod didn’t do that.
Also, Greg Mattison has done a wonderful job, and I can’t wait to see more of him in the future.
The pink walls in Kinnick won’t phase Michigan. Iowa is going down! Go Blue!
Michigan 35 – Iowa 17