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Posts Tagged ‘Staff Predictions’

M&GB staff predictions: Hawaii

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


Michigan opens its season against Hawaii tomorrow, which means it’s time for our staff to make our picks. Last season, Sam collected the most weekly wins (five) and Derick won the season-long point spread title, just three points better than Justin. Here are our picks for tomorrow’s game:

Staff Predictions
Michigan Hawaii
Justin 52 10
Derick 45 7
Sam 48 7
Josh 45 13
Joe 49 3
M&GB Average 48 8

Cal quarterback Davis Webb showed Michigan how to carve apart a porous Hawaii defense, but with Wilton Speight making his first career start, it’s a safe bet to assume he won’t be given the opportunity to chuck it up 54 times. Instead, Jim Harbaugh will look to make a statement on the ground and Michigan fans will get their first chance to see how much the offensive line has improved — although that won’t be truly evident until the Wolverines face a good team.

Last season, Hawaii traveled to Columbus and hung with Ohio State in the first half, trailing just 14-0 at halftime, but the Buckeyes wore them down for a 38-0 route. With a better offense under Rolovich this season, Hawaii would like to at least put some points on the board, but Michigan features one of the nation’s best defenses. I don’t think Michigan gets the shutout here, but I don’t think it’ll be close either.

Michigan scores early and often, Speight looks crisp and make smart decisions, the running back trio of De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans wear down Hawaii’s defense for over 250 yards, and Michigan rolls to an easy victory. The defense allows 10 points just as it did the last time Harbaugh faced Hawaii, as a quarterback in 1986, but the offense scores more than the 27 it did back then.

Michigan 52 – Hawaii 10


For the first time in almost a decade, Michigan kicks off the football season with championship expectations. The Wolverines are ranked in the preseason top 10 and have enough talent to play with any team in the conference on any given day.

The road begins with a home matchup against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were awful last season and already got waxed by California in their opener last week. Their greatest weakness in 2015 was defending the run, and Michigan will want to force the issue on the ground Saturday, especially if it builds a big lead. If things get ugly, expect to see some of the athletic freshmen Jim Harbaugh is so excited about.

On offense, Hawaii faces the tall task of blocking a Michigan front loaded with NFL talent. Redshirt senior quarterback Ikaika Woolsey took over the starting job this season, so star defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill will be looking to capitalize on any mistakes. Pay attention to how Michigan uses Jabrill Peppers, who moved to linebacker but could move all over the field.

Michigan will probably get ahead early and turn to the ground game to speed up the clock. I see the Wolverines winning big.

Michigan 45 – Hawaii 7


As Jim Harbaugh recently pointed out, college football is one of the few sports that has no preseason. If we’re being honest with ourselves, however, Michigan will open their Path to the Playoffs with something that should closely mimic an exhibition. All signs point to Wilton Speight leading an offense riddled with playmakers onto the field while captain Chris Wormley will trot out alongside a potentially devastating defense. Tomorrow, we’ll get our long-awaited first look at some touted prospects (looking at you, Rashan), our first taste of Michigan Football in Fall 2016, and our first glimpse of what we all hope is a special year in Harbaugh’s second season home. If the game isn’t decided by halftime, I’d be shocked. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 48 – Hawaii 7


Hawaii is not a very good team overall, but they did manage to put up a total of 12 big plays (8 run and 4 pass) on Cal last week. No, Cal does not have the best defense but the potential is there. So I went back and watched the game and about half of those big runs and all of the big pass plays aren’t ones that would have gone very far against Michigan.

Running back Diocemy Saint Juste’s 54-yard touchdown was aided by not one but two defensive linemen having him dead to rights and missing tackles behind the line and several linebackers and defensive backs taking bad angles and just plain whiffing. Michigan would have had Saint Juste for a loss. That said, breakdowns happen and Michigan hasn’t had any actual live fire, if you will, with their new defense. I think Hawaii will bust a few big runs that will lead to a score or two.

Michigan will win this handily, that is not in doubt, but I’m interested in seeing a few things as the ‘kinks’ are worked out with a new quarterback and a new defensive scheme.

When Michigan has the ball: What is their run/pass balance? I think we’ll see more runs than pass attempts (since there are several running backs that could be contributors this year) but I don’t expect anything exotic. Harbaugh will keep things close to the vest, as he does, and much like last year he’ll roll out new wrinkles every week. What is Wilton Speight’s (assuming internet rumors are true) command of the offense? I was never in the ‘O’Korn as the heir apparent’ camp. I think Speight’s floor is much higher and Harbaugh was going to sacrifice upside for a steady hand at quarterback given the defense they have. I think Speight will look better than most expect — not late season Rudock but definitely better than early to mid-season Rudock. I think we’ll see something we can all get behind and say “this guy can lead us to a Big Ten title” but not a “holy cow this guy is gonna break all the passing records.” And I’m fine with that.

When Hawaii has the ball, I don’t expect a ton of blitzes. Some, yes, but not a lot. Again, Harbaugh is gonna keep things close to the vest. I mean, this is the guy who refused to give Hawaii some scrimmage tape before the game, so why would he tip his hand to future opponents? I am very interested in seeing how Rashan Gary plays, as we all are, but more importantly I want to see how much havoc the defensive line as a whole creates. If they can be who we think they can be then the linebacker depth/experience does not become an issue later on. Yes, caveats apply here as Hawaii is not very good but if Michigan is not completely dominant then I might have some concerns.

On the back end I’d like to see a pick or two. Ikaiaka Woolsey is not an accurate passer (50 percent) and if he’s being pressured I think we’ll see a few errant throws. Michigan needs to take advantage of these opportunities this year. Remember, only SIX teams forced fewer turnovers than Michigan did in 2015. If they want to compete for a playoff spot that has to change, and taking advantage of opportunities to pick off some passes is where it will likely come.

Harbaugh is not opposed to playing his starters deep into games nor is he afraid to run up the score (ask Pete Carroll or Rutgers) but I think we’ll see plenty of the back-ups in the fourth quarter of this one.

Michigan 45 – Hawaii 13


It’s really here.  I can’t believe we start the season in less than 24 hours. The build-up has been like nothing I’ve ever seen as a Michigan fan and I hope it lives up to the hype.  I think this one goes Michigan’s way from the first play and is lead by a stout defensive line. They will get after a tired Hawaii team from the very start.  We will see a constant rotation of bigger, stronger, and faster Wolverines against an inferior Hawaii squad.

Coach Brown will attack initially and try and set the tone to build on. I think we will see a lot of pressure from the linebacking corps as well as the defensive line. This will lead to several turnovers and give the good guys great field position.

As far as the offense goes, I think Speight will get the nod and lead the Wolverines to several first quarter touchdowns. Michigan will establish the running game and wear down the Rainbows with an elite offensive line. This one gets ugly early and fun to watch late as the Wolverines win big.

Michigan 49 – Hawaii 3

M&GB staff predictions: Rutgers

Friday, October 3rd, 2014


After losing the Little Brown Jug to Minnesota, Michigan now hits the r0ad where they have struggled under Brady Hoke. Tomorrow, they travel to New Jersey, where they haven’t played in nearly a century, to battle college football’s oldest program, Rutgers, who they have never faced.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Rutgers
Justin 20 24
Sam 17 29
Derick 21 27
Josh 13 38
Joe 20 28
M&GB Average 18 29

Justin: The adversity swirling around the program right now will serve as a galvanizing force that the team will rally around in New Brunswick. Devin Gardner will play with a purpose like he showed in his brief time last Saturday in relief of Shane Morris, and the Michigan offense will look better than it has all season against power-five teams.

Unfortunately, it won’t be enough. Rutgers leads the nation in sacks and Michigan’s offensive line hasn’t shown it is capable of protecting the quarterback yet. While the offense will move the ball, it will get bogged down by untimely sacks. The defense will look to capitalize on Gary Nova mistakes, but the home crowd will carry Rutgers to a narrow win.

Rutgers 24 – Michigan 20

Sam: It’s amazing what a couple weeks of college football can do, eh? Just about a month ago, Ann Arbor was a frenzy of excitement, a melting pot of hope for the football team. Fast forward five games and we have easily the most discontent fan base in America, a massive concussed-player-left-in-the-game controversy on our hands, an athletic department and coaching staff that contradict each other on every possible occasion, a petition with more than 11,000 signatures calling for Dave Brandon’s removal making the rounds, and students marching on the (U of M) president’s lawn. And, oh yeah, Brady Hoke is the deadest of dead men walking.

With two straight embarrassments on the football field, Michigan faces what looks to be a serious uphill battle to even make a bowl game. What’s even worse is that Devin Funchess and Jabrill Peppers’ statuses are still up in the air. With a road game at Rutgers this Saturday, I’m not hopeful at all despite a growing sentiment that the players will certainly be fired up for this one. I’ll take the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers 29 – Michigan 17

Derick: Michigan needs to get away from Ann Arbor, where the fans and media are up in arms about the team’s actions both on and off the field. Though the team has struggled on the road under Brady Hoke, it may benefit from getting away from the distractions and playing far from home.

That being said, the Michigan team that showed up each of the last two weeks is nowhere near strong enough to compete with teams in the Big Ten, and Rutgers finished off an unbeaten non-conference slate last weekend. I think Michigan will fall in New Jersey, despite a much cleaner performance with Devin Gardner back under center.

Rutgers 27 – Michigan 21

Josh: I want to believe Team 135 has some fight in them and will rally around their coach and go out and win one for the Hokester. I want to believe but what we’ve seen on the field is just about the polar opposite of fighters. The offense has regressed at a pace no one thought possible and now even the defense is stepping back. Rutgers isn’t all that great, but Michigan’s road woes (and offensive woes this season) spell doom for our beloved Wolverines.

The good news is Rutgers’ defense isn’t all that great, yardage wise anyway. The bad news is they can get to the quarterback, which basically means Michigan will lose. More good news is one of Rutgers’ running backs (Paul James) is out for the season so that might help ease the pain of the beating they’ll get. Aside from the monstrosity that was the Penn State game (five interceptions) the Knights’ quarterback, Gary Nova, has been pretty solid and I expect more of the same against a Michigan secondary that will likely be without its best player, Jabrill Peppers, who Desmond Howard said was the only kid on the roster who looked like he wanted to be great and wasn’t just going through the motions.

If the Penn State version of Gary Nova (turnover happy like Gardner can be) shows up, then Michigan might actually stand a chance. How much of a chance is anyone’s guess and at this point I’d be willing to bet there aren’t many of us going out on a limb to say it’s a good one.

Michigan can win this one. I know I was down on this team heading into the season (8-4) and I’ve been vocal on Twitter that Hoke may be in over his head and can’t develop these kids to save his life and Devin Gardner is basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but hear me out. We’ve seen what Devin Gardner can do when he’s on (Notre Dame and Ohio State last year). If, and it’s a BIG IF, he’s on he could single-handedly win this one. However, when he’s bad he’s so bad it’s like a car wreck you can’t look away from. That said, Gary Nova was Devin Gardner bad against Penn State. So if that Nova shows up AND good Gardner shows up Michigan can win this game.

That said, I don’t think either of those happen and Michigan falls farther into the abyss. Sadly, it’ll just make the Harbaugh supporters even louder. Honestly, I don’t see why either of them would come to Michigan and I’ve set my sights on more realistic (though still optimistic) targets, like Dan Mullen. Anyway….Michigan loses and we all look forward to basketball season and another potential Final Four run. Thank God for John Beilein. This must be how Sparty felt until recently: great basketball and horrendous football.

Rutgers 38 – Michigan 13

Joe: This is becoming more and more difficult to predict, watch and ultimately, enjoy on my Saturday afternoons. As much as it hurts to watch this team go through their offensive struggles and defensive lapses, I’m still a die hard fan and will pull for them no matter what.

I’m looking for something to hang my hopes on each week and have decided to concentrate on two of the young guns. Derrick Green on offense and Jabrill Peppers back on defense. They have shown some promise, in bunches at times, and they will need to keep it up this week against a “pumped up” Rutgers squad.

Rutgers senior quarterback Gary Nova has been extremely accurate at times but can also turn it over when pressured. The key for Michigan will be to get some pressure from the defensive line and mix in some corner blitzes. If they are not able to get in his face, it will be a long night. I think this will be a close game but will only make Hoke’s seat even hotter. As much as it hurts to say, I thing the Scarlet Knights pull one out over our Wolverines.

Rutgers 28 – Michigan 20

M&GB staff predictions: Notre Dame

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Last week, we were all pretty similar with our predictions, but Katie ended up the closest with her 48-10 pick. None of us thought Michigan would score as many points as they did or give up fewer than ten points, but if there’s ever a time to be wrong, it’s when the game goes better than expected. This week is sure to be a tougher pick with Notre Dame coming to town. Prior to last season’s offensive dumpster fire, the previous three meetings were high scoring, down-to-the-wire affairs. Will it return to that, or will we see another defensive battle?

Justin: Michigan’s offense is more balanced and harder to prepare for than it was the past few years and the defense has more depth than we’ve seen in a long time. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has probably taken a step back from last year’s improbably run to the BCS National Championship game. I think Irish fans are underestimating the impact that Te’o’s departure will make. Was he the fastest linebacker? No. Was he the best? No. But he simply had a knack for being in the right place at the right time and was the heart and soul of that defense. Without him, the middle of the Irish defense is vulnerable and look for Michigan to attack it with a heavy dose of Drew Dileo and Devin Funchess.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Notre Dame
Justin 27 17
Chris 27 17
Josh 24 14
Sam 34 24
Derick 35 31
Katie 27 24
M&GB Average 29 21

The ND defensive front might be the best Michigan plays all season, but don’t expect Gardner to sit in the pocket much. A mix of a quick passing game, getting the ball to Dennis Norfleet in space, and a stretch running game with play-action off of it will be the formula to negate Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt.

On the other side, sit the safeties back to prevent the big plays that Notre Dame likes to capitalize on. Force Tommy Rees to make short and intermediate passes and the unproven running game to carry the load. Do that, and the Irish offense won’t score 20 points. Give up big plays and it will become a shootout.

Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 17

Chris: Michigan wins as long as they can limit turnovers and establish some sort of running game to have balance on offense. The offensive line will be tested by the Notre Dame defensive front, but I think Michigan wins at home.

Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 17

Josh: Refer to yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full game breakdown.

Michigan 24 – Notre Dame 14

Sam: As expected, historical powerhouse college football programs Michigan and Notre Dame easily dispatched of first week opponents Central Michigan and Temple, respectively. This weekend, however, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish will face each other in just the second night game in Michigan football history.

We all know what happened in the first Under the Lights matchup between these two squads: a back-and-forth instant classic that was capped off by a Denard Robinson touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree in the corner of the endzone for a 35-31 win after the Irish turned the ball over five times. Last year, Notre Dame got payback in the form of a 13-6 victory despite mustering only 239 yards of offense as the Maize and Blue choked the ball away six times and never found pay dirt.

What did each of these games have in common other than being played at night and being close battles? Sloppiness and eight turnovers, to be exact. Tommy Rees, who has come full circle in South Bend and is Brian Kelly’s full-time starter again, was the culprit in Ann Arbor while Denard Robinson returned the favor a year later, and turnovers will certainly play a role in the outcome again.

Michigan hopes to produce another iconic moment like Roy's game-winning catch in 2011

As usual, the quarterbacks’ play will be crucial for both teams. Devin Gardner threw two ugly interceptions last week and scrambled frequently when his receivers couldn’t get open, which could lead to some nervous fans as Michigan takes on an elite defense while Rees was sharp against the Owls, completing 16 of 23 pass attempts for 346 yards and three touchdowns.

A second key will be the play of Michigan’s young interior offensive line against Notre Dame’s behemoth defensive tackle Louis Nix III. The Wolverines were able to run the ball against Central Michigan and Gardner frequently had seemingly endless time in the pocket, but this will be a sterner challenge.

In the end, it should be another thriller that could come down to the last five minutes, but Michigan’s running attack and stout defense will be just enough to win the last game between these rivals for the foreseeable future. I like Michigan to win.

Michigan 34 – Notre Dame 24

Derick: Michigan’s rushing attack and strong defensive performance from the opening week carry over and the Wolverines beat the Irish in front of a raucous home crowd. Toussaint runs for over 100 yards and puts Notre Dame away late in the game. I think the final home game against Notre Dame will be as close as the first, with Michigan and Greg Mattison doing just enough to pull out the win.

Michigan 35 – Notre Dame 31

Katie: The matchup this weekend looks pretty even between Michigan and its perhaps soon to be distant rival Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish come in ranked number 14, just three spots ahead of Michigan, and while they ended their three year losing streak in South Bend last year, revenge for the Big House heroics in 2011 are very likely to be a palpable factor in this game.

Coming in both Notre Dame and Michigan have quarterbacks looking to prove their skills as the leaders of their respective offenses. ND’s Rees went 16-for-23 against Temple last week, and while Devin Gardner got off to a rough start, throwing an interception while backed up near his own goal line, he ended the day 10-for-15 and passing for a total of 162 yards. The pressure will be on these two to keep the everything on their side running smoothly, as last years parade of turnovers jilted both offenses and made for a lackluster 13-6 Notre Dame finish.

As for defense the Irish have Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, and Louis Nix, all of whom could make trouble for the Michigan offense. But the Maize and Blue gain back two experienced safeties they were without in their opener, and while still missing the integral linebacker Jake Ryan, their defense should prove to be more potent.

It’s early in the season, under the lights, and a rivalry game on top of it all. I’m figuring on some first half jitters that smooth out towards half time, and as the players acclimate to the atmosphere of the Big House (meaning significant home field advantage).

Michigan takes it in a close one.

Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 24

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Notre Dame game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with Ryan Ritter of the ND blog Her Loyal Sons; a look back at the man who will be honored prior to tomorrow’s game, Tom Harmon; and First Look: Notre Dame. We also returned the favor and answered some questions for HLS and participated in a blog roundtable for 247 Sports.

Also check out game previews from Maize n Blue Nation, Maize and Blue News, Maize n Brew, Touch the Banner, The Big House Report, UMGoBlog, The M Block, and MGoBlog.

On the opposing side, previews from Subway Domer.

M&GB staff predictions: Central Michigan

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Every Friday throughout the season last year we submitted our staff predictions, which involved a long-winded breakdown and then a score prediction from each of us. This season, we’re doing the same, but toplining the breakdown. We feel that while we aim to provide one consistent message throughout the site, the variety of opinions of each individual writer is important, so this is their opportunity to present those. We make it a contest internally, and we hope the varying opinions help make your viewing experience on Saturday more well-rounded.

Justin: Like I said earlier, I really like Central Michigan as a season opening opponent this season. Don’t get me wrong; the anticipation leading up to the Alabama game last season was fun, but the result wasn’t. I’m not opposed to season openers against high quality opponents, but let’s get back to that level ourselves first and then bring on all comers.

Central provides a matchup with a very solid running back and a receiver that will be tough to stop, which means Michigan will receive a bit of a challenge. But aside from that, there isn’t much else that can compete with the kind of depth and speed Michigan has. Throw in a quarterback making his first career start, and a retooling offensive line, and it’s a great opportunity for Michigan’s front four to get started on a high note.

Michigan will have the game well in hand by the third quarter, allowing Shane Morris and the rest of the young guys to gain some playing time. Expect a heavy dose of Fitz and the rest of the running back group. I’m most excited to see the rest of the backs, as well as Jehu Chesson’s debut.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Central Michigan
Justin 41 17
Chris 40 14
Josh 42 17
Sam 45 10
Derick 41 14
Katie 48 10
M&GB Average 43 14

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

Chris: Has been out of the country for the week, so no breakdown, but did provide a score prediction.

Michigan 40 – Central Michigan 14

Josh: Refer to yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full game breakdown.

Michigan 42 – CMU 17

Sam: This Saturday at the Big House, as Michigan kicks off its 134th season of college football, two in-state non-rivals will be breaking in two full-time starting quarterbacks – redshirt junior Devin Gardner for the Wolverines and junior Cody Kater for the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Maize and Blue figure to march up and down the field against a Central defense that gave up a putrid 32.4 points per game last season while playing a schedule peppered with MAC teams and just one ranked squad – Michigan State.

For Gardner, it’s a chance to prove that his five successful outings at quarterback to book-end last season were no fluke, and the matchup is seemingly perfect for him. Sophomore tight end Devin Funchess should be next to unguardable for the Chippewa defense, and will find the end zone twice on the day. Michigan’s stable of running backs, led by Fitzgerald Toussaint, will also get plenty of light work, and highly-touted freshman Derrick Green figures to see a handful of carries as well. Pay special attention to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jehu Chesson, who will get the start opposite Jeremy Gallon in Amara Darboh’s year-long absence, and on defense keep a close eye on the play of the safeties. Sophomore Jarrod Wilson was being talked up all spring before nearly losing a starting spot recently to the now-injured Courtney Avery. If Michigan gets burned deep more than once, Brady Hoke will have a quick leash.

On Central’s side, there simply is not much to talk about other than running back Zurlon Tipton, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, and Titus Davis, the leading receiver on last year’s team with 860 yards and eight touchdowns on 43 catches. Both of those guys should figure to eclipse the 1,000-yard marks in rushing and receiving, respectively, but expect the bulk of their production to come after Greg Mattison’s defense shuts down the Central attack and forces three turnovers this weekend. Michigan will score first and never look back on the way to a rout.

Michigan 45 – Central Michigan 10

After an impressive freshman season Devin Funchess earned the #87 Legends jersey and is expected

Derick: Central Michigan gets the honor of showing the world what Michigan’s post-Denard offense can do. With the night game against Notre Dame on the horizon, Borges will likely want to use week 1 to test his new arsenal and prepare for that much bigger challenge. Devin Gardner will hopefully spread the ball around his receiving core, including new receiver Jesu Chesson and tight end Devin Funchess.

Michigan will showcase multiple running backs in this contest, as the preseason depth chart seemingly has four backs that could be anywhere from #2-#5 on the list. Along with starter Fitzgerald Toussaint, Drake Johnson, Thomas Rawls and De’Veon Smith will apparently receive carries before 5-star recruit Derrick Green. No matter who is on the field, the Michigan running game will be crucial this year, and they should be able to run over the Chippewa’s defense on Saturday.

Though Hoke, like many Michigan coaches before him, will probably refuse to run up the score, I think Michigan will put a pretty good beating on CMU with a balanced offensive attack. Hopefully the defense can hold a MAC offense off the board until the second string comes in.

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 14

Katie: Great to be back for another season of Michigan football.  I can’t wait to see what our Wolverines have in store for us this year.

Now to the home opener against an instate foe, the Central Michigan Chippewas. I know that they aren’t ‘Bama by any stretch of the imagination, and that most of us take for granted that this will be an easy tick mark in the win column. But the Chippewas could put up a few touchdowns if junior Cody Kater (who replaced last year’s starter Ryan Radcliff) can show that his skill is palpable even against a Big Ten secondary, a task I’m not sure he’ll be up to.

They beat the Iowa last year, but the Hawkeyes had already lost to Iowa State and would also lose to Indiana before going 4-8 on the season. So while Central has some firepower, the loss of Radcliff will hurt, and a Michigan defense that includes a fifth-year senior strong safety in Thomas Gordon, another fifth-year senior outside linebacker in Cam Gordon, and a sophomore safety with a lot of potential in Jarrod Wilson, won’t likely help them heal.

That being said, Central Michigan does return Zurlon Tipton, a senior running back who put up just under 1,500 yards rushing last year, and a wide receiver Titus Davis who averaged 71 yards a game. With two touted starters in the  offensive line, a powerful center and left guard, Central could look to keep Michigan on their feet.  And with the Chippewa defense seeing the return of three top play-makers, one of whom, Justin Cherocci, a linebacker, had 132 combined tackles last season to put him at 19th nationally, the visitors could cause some trouble for the Wolverines offense.

Some trouble. As in keeping the Wolverines under fifty points trouble. With Devin Gardner starting this season, protected by 6’8″ fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, with fifth-year wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and an up-and-coming tight end Devin Funchess as targets, as well as a long list of potential running backs, I’m not seeing the offense having trouble finding a comfortable rhythm and staying in it. If Gardner could amass 1,200 yards passing in five starts last year, there’s no telling what he may be able to accomplish as the designated leader of the Michigan offense. It’s a lot of pressure I realize, but from what I’ve seen he has a level head, and from backing up Denard Robinson, I assume he also picked up that winning spirit of never being down and out.

Michigan shouldn’t have a problem beating the Chippewas in their opener.

Wolverines 48, Central Michigan 10

M&GB Staff Predictions: South Carolina

Monday, December 31st, 2012

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: Michigan 20 – South Carolina 24

Chris: Michigan 17 South Carolina 30

Josh: Michigan 21 – South Carolina 31

Sam: Michigan 17 – South Carolina 27

Katie: Michigan 30 – South Carolina 24

Matt: Michigan 31 – South Carolina 28


Average: South Carolina 27 – Michigan 23

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.

Connor Shaw started most of the season but will share time with Dylan Thompson on Tuesday

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.

Jadeveon Clowney has been dominant all season

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.

Dylan Thompson's great game against Clemson earned him playing time in the Outback

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

M&GB Pick’em: Iowa staff predictions

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Last week, Katie captured her second straight win with her 30-24 prediction. The rest of us predicted a much lower scoring game. This week, Michigan closes out its home schedule with the Iowa Hawkeyes. As has been the case the last two weeks, Denard’s status is unknown, but Iowa features one of the worst offenses in the country and Michigan should win regardless of who plays quarterback. Let’s take a look at our picks.



Justin: Michigan 35 – Iowa 17

Chris: Michigan 31 – Iowa 13

Josh: Michigan 27 – Iowa 13

Sam: Michigan 31 – Iowa 3

Katie: Michigan 38 – Iowa 13

Matt: Michigan 41 – Iowa 13


Average: Michigan 34 – Iowa 12

Justin (1): There’s no doubt Michigan will win this one. What I’m more interested in seeing is Denard’s send-off. Whether or not he goes on to an NFL career he will go down as one of the greats to ever don the maize and blue. His injury is unfortunate in that he has missed two and a half games worth of stats that would have continued his assault on the record books. But Denard will always tell you he’s not concerned with stats. Michigan may never see a player like him again and he epitomizes the Michigan Man in every sense of the phrase. Will he start? Will he just see a few snaps? Nobody outside of the Fort knows. But what is certain is that he, and the other 22 seniors deserve a salute that only the fans of college football’s all-time winningest program can give.

Michigan 35 – Iowa 17

Chris (2): Saturday’s matchup against Iowa looks like it could be a nice tune-up for the Big Game on Thanksgiving weekend against Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have muddled through this season with a record so far of 4-6 (2-4 Big Ten). They need to win their last two games just to become bowl eligible.

On offense, the Hawkeyes lack any kind of firepower in both the rushing and passing attack.  They are near the bottom of the NCAA statistical rankings in almost every offensive category. Senior QB James Vandenberg has had a pedestrian year and the leading rusher, Sophomore Mark Weisman, wasn’t even listed on the depth chart to begin the season. His status for Saturday in Ann Arbor is unknown as he is dealing with a leg injury and has missed the last two games. Given the way the Michigan defense has played this season and the fact that Iowa hasn’t been able to put much together when they have the ball, I don’t see many points being scored on the Iowa side.

If this Iowa team has any sort of strength to their team, it’s their defense. Coming into this game, they are ranked 29th in the nation, giving up 22 points per game. These numbers sort of surprise me because I would think that the 29th best scoring defense would be giving up less than 3 touchdowns per game. Any way you look at it, the defense still has a lot of holes that can be exploited by a Michigan offense which has been very productive with Devin Gardner under center. Even if Denard Robinson plays on Saturday, and the offense doesn’t throw the ball as often, the offense should be able to move the ball and score points.

Regardless of who plays, Michigan will win (photo by the Detroit News)

I’m not expecting this game to be as close as last week. I think Northwestern had more talent and better athletes than this Iowa team. One good thing that came from last week’s overtime win is that it likely got the players’ attention and showed them that if they keep fighting until the very end, they can win even if it means making a large comeback. Saturday presents the opportunity to clean things up before the finale in Columbus. As long as the team isn’t looking ahead to that game, I see them winning by a comfortable margin. Michigan wins.

Michigan 31 – Iowa 13

Josh (2): Iowa has one of the worst offenses in college football. Michigan has one of the best defenses. On paper this one should be in the books. They say the game is not played on paper, but I think it’s safe to say Michigan’s seniors will exact revenge on another team they have never beaten.

Iowa started the season strong at 4-2, with their fourth win coming in double OT vs. MSU. Since then, however, they have lost four straight; the last two coming against Indiana and Purdue. With an inept offense and a line that looks nothing like a typical Kirk Ferentz line, Michigan’s defense should have a field day. The Wolverines gave up over 400 yards to Northwestern last week but was only giving up around 250 in their previous seven. Look for Michigan to keep Iowa to under 200 total yards and possibly pitch a shut out.

There is no word on whether Denard will be available, though I suspect he will sit out again to rest up and fully heal for the battle in Columbus the following week. Even if Denard does not play I’d be surprised if he did not at least take the field for one play. It is senior day and Denard Robinson has been one of the all-time greats to ever play in the Big House. He will leave a lasting legacy behind and the impact he has made on this program will be felt for some time. Decades from now his name will still be all over Michigan’s record books. I’m getting a bit misty-eyed thinking about what he’s meant to this team since he arrived in 2009. Moving on..

Devin Gardner has proved he is more than capable of leading this team and while he may not be quite as electric with his feet as Denard, he more than makes up for it with his passing and decision making.

Expect more under-center action and look for Borges to get Fitz and Thomas Rawls in a groove, in preparation for the Buckeyes.This will be a great tune-up game for Michigan but don’t think they will be looking past Iowa. Hoke will have these kids ready to roll. Michigan will keep its unbeaten streak at home alive (under Brady Hoke) and continue to do its part in the race for the Big Ten title game.

Michigan 27 – Iowa 13

Matt (2): What a win against Northwestern last weekend! I said that they scared me, and that game may have knocked a couple years off of my life. That catch by Roundtree… Oh my gosh! And Devin Gardner. I love that kid.

Damon Bullock was held to just 2.6 ypc in the last two games

This week, is Michigan’s last game at the Big House until next season. So hopefully it will be a good one. Michigan will be taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Although the Big House visitors locker room isn’t painted pink like Iowa’s, I still think Michigan is going to have quite the advantage this week. Iowa had a lot of hype going into the season. But after their week 1 win against Northern Illinois, they took a loss to Iowa State, and then alternated wins and losses sort of like playing a drum before losing four straight. Michigan is going to look to make it five.

Let’s not forget, next week the Wolverines play Ohio State, in Columbus. This is kind of the warm up game you could say. This is the game Michigan needs to make sure they have everything ready to go, so they can rattle the home town crowd of Columbus and defeat Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes.

I’m getting ahead of myself huh?

Iowa’s senior QB, James Vandenberg, just like his team, started the year with quite a bit of hype. That hype has since dissipated. Vandenberg has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards, but has thrown only five touchdowns, and six interceptions. Michigan’s defense is going to look to take advantage of these shaky stats. Iowa’s running game hasn’t been that stellar either. Their whole team has really had an off season. I see Michigan taking advantage of that at full force, forcing turnovers, pressuring Vandenberg, and completely dominating Iowa’s offense.

Their defense hasn’t been too strong either. But there is still no word if Denard or Devin is going to start at quarterback. Another advantage to Michigan I’d say, because Iowa isn’t sure how to prepare. Devin Gardner hasn’t been the running quarterback that Denard has been, but Gardner is still a threat on the ground, and obviously, by air.

Either way, I see Michigan shredding Iowa’s secondary, and punching in a couple of touchdowns on the ground as well. I’d really like to see Fitzgerald Toussaint have a good outing in this one, because he just hasn’t had a rushing season as we all had hoped.

Like I said, I see Michigan running away with this one…big.

Michigan 41 – Iowa 13

Sam (1): For one final time, Michigan’s 23 seniors will run out of the Big House tunnel and onto the field this Saturday as members of the football program. Among them include star offensive players, walk-ons-turned-starters, backups, career special teams’ players, and others who have never sniffed the field during a game. Many will be remembered for years to come; others will come back next year unrecognized and have to pay for a parking spot. All of them, however, are part of the Michigan football team, the 133rd Michigan team in school history, and all of them will be honored for their role on this team over the past four or five seasons.

For one more game, they will play in front of their fans in their city, and they will go out on a high note. If there was ever a game to call before it happened, this is it, as Michigan’s Senior Day opponent, Iowa, is reeling out of control, having lost four straight Big Ten games to middling to bad teams.

Iowa OC Greg Davis is sorely missing Vince Young and Colt McCoy

The Hawkeyes have no running game to speak of, score barely more than 20 points per game, and have seemed to give up hope. Included in the six teams to hand Iowa losses this season are lowly Purdue, Indiana, Central Michigan, and Iowa State. Their last win, a double overtime, barn-burning 19-16 victory over Michigan State, was basically handed to them on a platter. Iowa’s second-best win is over Minnesota. The point is, this team is very, very bad.

Michigan will likely be led again by quarterback Devin Gardner, who has been a revelation in his two starts, wins over Minnesota and Northwestern. The most famous of the seniors, Denard Robinson, continues to suffer from a nerve injury in his throwing arm. Robinson will probably get on the field once to please the fans and to give him one final memory at Michigan Stadium, but coach Brady Hoke is certain to do everything he can to get him healthy for Ohio State next weekend.

If Iowa is to have any chance this weekend, quarterback James Vandenberg will need to step up in a big way and get his 500-yard receivers, Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley, involved early and often down the field. Unfortunately for Kirk Ferentz and company, Michigan’s pass defense continues to impress and has given up the fewest passing yards per game in the country. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s run defense has been a little bit inconsistent, but when it counts, the Wolverines always seem to come up with the big stop, and Iowa’s run offense has been an absolute disaster throughout the season after an offseason full of injuries and suspensions that led to a former walk-on linebacker taking over the starting running back spot.

So as the old exits and the new continues to usher itself in, Michigan fans will have one last time to see Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Vincent Smith, and many others take to their home field. It’s always a bittersweet feeling to see favorite players exhaust their eligibility, but it should be a happy ending come Saturday for those 17 players who have played through so much. There are more games to be played this year, but Michigan can’t let themselves look ahead to next week. Even if they do, though, they’d probably still win big. Vincent Smith will score his final career touchdown as Michigan rolls.

Michigan 31 – Iowa 3

Katie (2): Iowa’s schedule to date lacks any convincing factor that could as much as hint that they could come into the Big House and walk away with a win.  Of course, there will always be upsets, but Michigan knows how important this win is if they are to have any chance at the Big Ten Championship, and so I doubt that they will put on the cruise control until the regular season is over.  Standing now at an unimpressive 4-6 (2-4) the Hawkeyes have had a rough four weeks, losing to Penn State, Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue (the other two losses to Central Michigan, and Iowa State).  That, along with a quarterback who has struggled late in games, and the loss of both a fullback and a running back will not help Iowa to put up the points it will need to beat Michigan, nor will the absence of two offensive linemen.

The highest score they’ve amassed so far is 31, but even doing so twice doesn’t matter much since they were scored against Minnesota and Central Michigan.  It also doesn’t bode well that the only offense as potent as Michigan’s, the Nittany Lions, put up almost 40 points on the Hawkeyes.  And I would credit the incentive to beat the Wolverines to have a better chance to make it into a bowl as a factor if the last game for Iowa wasn’t against an even higher ranked Nebraska team.

This should be pretty much set in stone by the third quarter.

Michigan 38 – Iowa 13

M&GB Pick’em: Northwestern staff predictions

Friday, November 9th, 2012

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: Michigan 28 – Northwestern 17

Chris: Michigan 27 – Northwestern 18

Josh: Michigan 31 – Northwestern 17

Sam: Michigan 27 – Northwestern 17

Katie: Michigan 30 – Northwestern 24

Matt: Michigan 35 – Northwestern 10


Average: Michigan 30 – Northwestern 17

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.

Check out the game preview, Friend vs Foe and First Look for more.

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.

Colter doesn't pass often, but completes a high percentage (photo by Nam Y. Huh, AP)

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

Matt (2): This game is going to be a good one. It scares me a little. To tell you the truth, it has scared me since the beginning of the season. I knew Northwestern would be good this season. Pat Fitzgerald is doing good things there. He’s a good coach. I knew he’d be able to build them up and make them a player in the Big Ten, something that Northwestern hasn’t been in a while.

Tyler Scott leads the Big ten with seven sacks

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.

The diminutive Venric Mark is always dangerous

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.

Pat Fitzgerald hopes to keep his Wildcats in Big Ten title contention (photo by Terry Gilliam, AP)

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

M&GB Pick’em: Minnesota staff predictions

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

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: Michigan 37 – Minnesota 10

Chris: Michigan 31 – Minnesota 14

Josh: Michigan N/A – Minnesota N/A

Sam: Michigan 31 – Minnesota 13

Katie: Michigan 38 – Minnesota 13

Matt: Michigan 38 – Minnesota 17


Average: Michigan 35 – Minnesota 13

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.

Donnell Kirkwood averages 4.4 yards per carry (photo by Jesse Johnson, AP)

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.

Jerry Kill is trying to get the Gophers bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 (photo by Jesse Johnson, AP)

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

M&GB Pick’em: Illinois staff predictions

Friday, October 12th, 2012

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: Michigan 48 – Illinois 10
Chris: Michigan 40 – Illinois 16
Josh: Michigan 45 – Illinois 9
Sam: Michigan 43 – Illinois 10
Katie: Michigan 41 – Illinois 10
Matt: Michigan 31 – Illinois 9


Average: Michigan 41 – Illinois 11

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

Tim Beckman is already feeling the heat in Champaign (photo by Seth Perlman, AP)

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.

Fitz Toussaint had a big game against Illinois last season (photo by the Ann Arbor News)

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.

Linebacker Jonathan Brown is the team's second leading tackler (photo from

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

M&GB Pick’em: Notre Dame staff predictions

Friday, September 21st, 2012

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: Michigan 33 – Notre Dame 27
Chris: Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 30
Josh: Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 23
Matt: Michigan 38 – Notre Dame 31
Sam: Michigan 24 – Notre Dame 27
Katie: Michigan 33 – Notre Dame 30


Average: Michigan 30 – Notre Dame 28

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.

Tight end Tyler Eifert will be tough to stop (photo by Michael Conroy, AP)

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.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt already has five sacks this season (photo by Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

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.

Michigan will most likely employ some pressure via blitzes and hope to make Golson move around and force him into some bad throws. Golson can make plays with his legs but that is not his game, so if Michigan can get him out of his comfort zone they can force him into some poor decisions. On offense the Wolverines need to build on their momentum from last week. Fitz needs to be heavily involved and the receiving corps needs to continue to make strides.

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.

Theo Riddick scored two touchdowns against Michigan last season (photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

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.

Hopefully we'll see more of vintage Brian Kelly tomorrow (photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

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