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Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

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

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


Cardinals Stadium

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

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

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

“I really, really need you”

In honor of Sanka Coffie from Cool Runnings, these teams completely hold Michigan’s fate in their hands. These are the teams that Michigan absolutely needs victories from on Saturday in order to keep the Wolverines’ CFP hopes alive. If even one of these teams falls, Michigan’s CFP dreams die.

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

Result: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 13

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

Result: Michigan State 55 – Penn State 16

“It could happen!”

In honor of JP from Angels in the Outfield, this is the “It could happen” group. These are the teams Michigan is rooting for that have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday. Wins by these teams either help the Wolverines move up in the rankings or improve their resume (in order of kickoff time).

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

Result: Iowa 28 – Nebraska 20

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

Result: TCU 28 – Baylor 21 (2OT)

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

Result: Utah 20 – Colorado 14

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

Result: Northwestern 24 – Illinois 14

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

Result: Florida State 27 – Florida 2

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

Result: Stanford 38 – Notre Dame 36

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

Result: Oklahoma 58 – Oklahoma State 23

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

In honor of Pepper Brooks, from Dodgeball, these are the true underdog stories. These teams have almost no chance to win, but if they do, it would really help Michigan.

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

Result: Clemson 37 – South Carolina 32

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

Result: Alabama 29 – Auburn 13

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

Result: North Carolina 45 – N.C. State 34

Michigan’s College Football Playoff rooting guide: Nov. 21

Saturday, November 21st, 2015


Cardinals Stadium

Upsets around the country kept Michigan’s razor thin playoff hopes alive in Week 11 as four top 10 teams lost, two of which fell below the Wolverines in the rankings. But the playoff committee still isn’t sold on Jim Harbaugh’s team, which moved up only two spots to No. 12.

Michigan will have its eye on another deep slate of games around the country Saturday, highlighted by a pair of Big Ten matchups necessary to keep its East Division title hopes alive. Can the Wolverines win in Happy Valley and slip into the top 10?

Here are the teams Michigan should root for:

“I really, really need you”

In honor of Sanka Coffie from Cool Runnings, these teams completely hold Michigan’s fate in their hands. These are the teams that Michigan absolutely needs victories from on Saturday in order to keep the Wolverines’ CFP hopes alive. If even one of these teams falls, Michigan’s CFP dreams die.

No. 12 Michigan (away) against Penn State (12pm, ABC): It goes without saying that the most important game of the weekend for Michigan is its own. Penn State is undefeated at home this season and Christian Hackenberg is playing likely his last game at Beaver Stadium. A loss would end the Wolverines’ national relevance.

Result: Michigan 28 – Penn State 16

No. 3 Ohio State (home) against No. 9 Michigan State (3:30pm, ABC): Does it feel dirty to read this? It should, but that’s what happens when you lose to MSU at home and put your destiny in someone else’s hands. Without an OSU win Saturday, Michigan can kiss its Big Ten title hopes goodbye.

Result: Michigan State 17 – Ohio State 14

“It could happen!”

In honor of JP from Angels in the Outfield, this is the “It could happen” group. These are the teams Michigan is rooting for that have a legitimate chance to win on Saturday. Wins by these teams either help the Wolverines move up in the rankings or improve their resume (in order of kickoff time).

Virginia Tech (home) against No. 17 North Carolina (12pn, ESPN): Despite an opening season loss to terrible South Carolina and a pair of cupcake wins over FCS schools, North Carolina is shooting up the playoff rankings. The Tarheels could be dangerous if they head into the ACC title game on an 11-game winning streak, so Michigan will be rooting for the Hokies.

Result: North Carolina 30 – Virginia Tech 27

No. 5 Iowa (home) against Purdue (12pm, ESPN2): This should be an easy win for Iowa, a team Michigan needs to stay unbeaten into the Big Ten championship game if it has any hopes of jumping into the top four.

Result: Iowa 40 – Purdue 20

No. 20 Northwestern (away) against No. 25 Wisconsin (3:30pm, BTN): I can’t stress how important this game is for Michigan’s resume. With a win, Northwestern would establish itself as a no-doubt top 15 team with four solid wins on the season. That would make Michigan’s 38-0 win over the Wildcats so much more impressive. Unfortunately, a loss might (unfairly) knock Northwestern out of the top 25 altogether.

Result: Northwestern 13 – Wisconsin 7

No. 13 Utah (home) against UCLA (3:30pm, FOX): Now that the Utes have dropped below the Wolverines in the rankings, Michigan needs Utah to keep winning. As long as Utah stays in the top 15, that loss back in Week 1 doesn’t look too bad.

Result: UCLA 17 – Utah 9

No. 22 Ole Miss (home) against No. 15 LSU (3:30pm, CBS): The College Football Playoff committee loves to overreact when one overrated SEC team beats another overrated SEC team. Michigan could get jumped by LSU if the Tigers win on the road against an average Mississippi squad, so Michigan needs this one to go to the Rebels.

Result: Ole Miss 38 – LSU 17

No. 6 Oklahoma State (home) against No. 10 Baylor (7:30pm, FOX): Unfortunately for most of the ranked teams currently on the outside looking in, the Big 12 played a cupcake-laden schedule through the first nine weeks of the season to inflate its rankings before matching up with any real competition. So Michigan finds itself behind three Big 12 teams with only two weeks to go. The problem is, the Big 12 teams are all playing against each other, so they can’t all lose. I won’t go over the entire scenario here, but there is a way Michigan can vault ahead of all four (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU). That scenario begins with an Oklahoma State win over Baylor Saturday.

Result: Baylor 45 – Oklahoma State 35

“It’s just not believable, Cotton”

In honor of Pepper Brooks, from Dodgeball, these are the true underdog stories. These teams have almost no chance to win, but if they do, it would really help Michigan.

Florida Atlantic (away) against No. 8 Florida (12pm, SECN): Well, the Gators did almost lose to Vanderbilt two weeks ago. If Florida Atlantic doesn’t take care of Florida, Florida State probably will.

Result: Florida 20 – Florida Atlantic 14 (OT)

Boston College (away) against No. 4 Notre Dame (7:30pm, NBCSN): This game will probably be over by the end of the first quarter.

Result: Notre Dame 19 – Boston College 16

No. 18 TCU (away) against No. 7 Oklahoma (8pm, ABC): Yes, TCU is ranked in the top 20, but I just don’t see the Horned Frogs having any chance on the road against the Sooners. TCU barely held on against a putrid Kansas team last year as the injuries appear to have caught up with the Frogs. Oklahoma has no business being in the top 10 after losing to Texas and playing only one ranked team in its first 10 games, but that’s how the committee operates.

Result: Oklahoma 30 – TCU 29

California (away) against No. 11 Stanford (10:30pm, ESPN): Apparently having better wins, better losses and better outcomes against common opponents isn’t enough to boost Michigan ahead of Stanford in the rankings. Unfortunately, it’ll be up to a bad Cal team to help the Wolverines change that this week. If the Cardinal loses this weekend, Michigan can root for it to knock off Notre Dame next Saturday.

Result: Stanford 35 – California 16

Charleston Southern (away) against No. 2 Alabama (4pm, SECN): This would never happen, but it would be hilarious if Alabama lost after Nick Saban’s rant about how good Charleston Southern is. Hey, maybe losing to an FCS school would drop Alabama out of the top 5.

Result: Alabama 56 – Charleston Southern 6

Utah 24 – Michigan 17: Harbaugh’s return spoiled

Sunday, September 6th, 2015


Jake Butt TD vs Utah(MGoBlue.com)

It was everything we thought it would be except for the outcome we hoped for. The launch of the Jim Harbaugh era featured power running, lots of tight ends, and hard-nosed defense, but also turnovers, missed tackles, missed holes, and overthrows that resulted in a 24-17 loss to Utah on Thursday night.

Utah took the first possession of the game and marched down the field before stalling at the Michigan 12. Andy Phillips kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the first point on the board. Michigan responded with a good drive of its own with Jake Rudock starting at quarterback and De’Veon Smith getting the nod at running back. A Rudock 24-yard pass to Jake Butt put Michigan across midfield for the first time this season, but on 3rd-and-5 from the Utah 21, Rudock was intercepted by Cory Butler-Byrd.

Michigan’s defense stepped up to force a three-and-out on Utah’s next two possessions, the second resulted in a Utah punt form its own 2-yard line and Michigan getting the ball at the Utah 41. Two plays later, Rudock found Amara Darboh for 28 yards, and as the second quarter began, Michigan got on the board with a 29-yard Kenny Allen field goal.

UM-Utah-small_Final
Final Stats
Michigan Utah
Score 17 24
Record 0-1 1-0
Total Yards 355 337
Net Rushing Yards 76 129
Net Passing Yards 279 208
First Downs 20 20
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties-Yards 3-25 6-55
Punts-Yards 3-130 4-192
Time of Possession 30:41 29:19
Third Down Conversions 6-of-16 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 1-6 0-0
Field Goals 1-for-2 1-for-3
PATs 2-for-2 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 3-of-3
Full Box Score

Utah responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that featured three plays of 10 yards or more. Star running back Devontae Booker carried it in from a yard out to put Utah ahead 10-3.

Two possessions later, Michigan drove into Utah territory, but Rudock was picked off for the second time, this time by Marcus Williams, setting the Utes up at midfield. But Michigan’s defense held strong, forcing a field goal attempt, which Phillips missed from 48 yards.

Michigan opened the second half with a nice drive to the Utah 26, but came up empty when Allen missed a 44-yard field goal. On the drive, sophomore tight end Ian Bunting caught a 12-yard pass and Daboh a 16-yard pass, but Michigan was unable to get any points.

Utah finally got its running game going on the ensuing drive, marching 74 yards on 10 plays to take a 14 point lead. Booker rushed for three yards, then 10 yards, followed by Joe Williams for seven and quarterback Travis Wilson for eight. The latter was called back for holding, but Booker came right back with a run of eight. Wilson completed a 15-yard pass to freshman Britain Covey, and two plays later Wilson found Harris Handley for 18. On the next play, Wilson found the end zone on a 14-yard run.

Still without a touchdown midway through the third quarter of its first game, Michigan needed one to get back in the game. And the Wolverines did just that, going 75 yards on 12 plays. The drive was aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty on Utah linebacker Gionni Paul that gave Michigan first down instead of 4th-and-9. On the very next play, Rudock connected with Jake Butt for a 19-yard touchdown.

Utah put together a good drive, but it stalled at the Michigan 28 and Phillips missed another field goal, this time from 46 yards. Rudock hit Darboh for 16 yards and Smith rushed for seven to get across midfield, but on 3rd-and-3, Utah corner Justin Thomas jumped in front of a Rudock pass intended for freshman Grant Perry and raced 55 yards untouched into the end zone to put Utah ahead 24-10.

Running out of time, Michigan advanced into Utah territory, but on 4th-and-1 from the Utah 35, Smith was stuffed for no gain, giving the ball back to Utah. After forcing a punt, Michigan took over with 2:46 remaining and put together a solid two-minute drill. Rudock connected with Perry for gains of six, 10, and 25, Jehu Chesson for nine, Butt for 16, and finally Darboh for a 10-yard touchdown to pull Michigan within 24-17 with just 54 seconds remaining.

Allen’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds and Michigan was out of chances.

Rudock finished the game 27-of-43 for 279 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Smith gained 48 yards on 17 carries (2.8 yards per carry). Darboh led all receivers with 101 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions, while Butt added 93 yards and a score on eight catches. Joe Bolden led Michigan’s defense with 13 tackles, while Chris Wormley recored three tackles for loss and Jabrill Peppers added two.

As a team, Michigan outgained Utah for the second straight year, 355 to 337, but both resulted in a loss. Michigan managed just 79 yards rushing. Michigan’s defense held Booker to just 69 yards rushing on 22 carries, well below of his per-game average a year ago.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards, 1 TD)
While the running game couldn’t get going and Jake Rudock had trouble with his accuracy downfield and turned it over three times, the one constant was Butt. The junior tight end entered the season expected to thrive in Jim Harbaugh’s offense did nothing to disappoint. He had catches of four, 24, six, three, four, 19 (TD), 17, and 16. Six of his eight catches went for first downs, three of which were on third down, which accounts for half of Michigan’s third-down conversions.
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh (8 rec for 101 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 solo, 3 TFL)
One of the question marks entering the season was who would step up on Michigan’s defensive line? It lost Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, and expected breakout player Bryan Mone suffered a preseason injury. Senior end Chris Wormley answered the challenge in Week 1, constantly ripping into the Utah backfield and recording three tackles for loss.
Honorable Mention: Jabrill Peppers (8 tackles, 7 solo, 2 TFL)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 27-43 279 6.5 2 3 28 0
Travis Wilson 24-33 208 6.3 0 0 20 1
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
Devontae Booker 22 69 3.1 1 16
Travis Wilson  12 53 4.4 1 14
De’Veon Smith 17 47 2.8 0 7
Ty Isaac 4 12 3.0 0 5
Jake Rudock 5 11 2.2 0 4
Joe Williams 1 7 7.0 0 7
Joe Kerridge 1 5 5.0 0 5
Derrick Green 2 1 0.5 0 2
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Amara Darboh 8 101 12.8 1 28
Jake Butt 8 93 11.6  1 24
Britain Covey 5 58 11.6 0 20
Devontae Booker 7 55 12.5 0 18
Grant Perry 3 41 13.7 0 25
Harrison Handley 2 25 12.5 0 18
Jehu Chesson 3 22 7.3 0 9
Bubba Poole 3 22 7.3 0 14
Siale Fakailoatonga 2 17 8.5 0 13
Kenneth Scott 2 15 7.5 0 9
Ian Bunting 1 12 12.0 0 12
Tyrone Smith 2 11 5.5 0 8
De’Veon Smith 1 6 6.0 0 6
Evan Moeai 1 5 5.0 0 5
Ty Isaac 1 3 3.0 0 3
A.J. Williams 1 2 2.0 0 2
Brian Cole 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 1/2 50.0 29 2/2 5
Andy Phillips 1/3 33.3 30 3/3 6
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Tom Hackett 4 192 48.0 2 0 74
Blake O’Neill 3 130 43.3 0 1 50
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 1 36 36.0 36 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Britain Covey 1 14 14.0 14 0

M&GB staff predictions: Utah

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015


StaffPicks_banner2015

Game day is finally here, 247 days after Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor as Michigan’s new head coach. This morning we posted our full game preview and now it’s time to allow each of the writers on our staff to make their prediction.

Justin: There’s no doubt that Harbaugh will have the team well prepared for the first game of the season. The question is how much have they improved since last fall? Expected starting quarterback Jake Rudock should provide an upgrade at the position if only because he will take care of the ball and manage the offense. If the offensive line can give him time, Rudock should be able to test the relatively inexperienced secondary. But the line will have to fend off Dimick and Fanaika. Utah ranked sixth in the Pac-12 against the run last season, so look for Harbaugh to pound his running back committee of De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, and Drake Johnson.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Utah
Justin 23 26
Derick 20 27
Sam 21 13
Josh 19 27
Joe 28 35
M&GB Average 22 26

Utah’s offense will do the same, feeding Booker early and often. If Michigan can stop him the Wolverines will have a great chance to win. Wilson wasn’t flashy last season, but he took care of the ball, so Michigan will need to find a pass rush from its unproven defensive line if it wants to force him to make a mistake.

Special teams will likely play a big factor in this game and the heavy favorite in that category goes to Utah, which has arguably the best kicker and punter tandem in the country. Michigan, meanwhile, will be breaking in a new kicker and punter. In last season’s matchup, Kaelin Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and Michigan may need to return the favor — perhaps from Jabrill Peppers — to get a win.

In a defensive battle where one team has a significant edge on special teams, and that team happens to be the home team, I just have to lean that way.

Utah 26 – Michigan 23

Derick: It’s been a crazy offseason for Michigan, operating under a new president and athletic director, flipping and losing big-name recruits and bringing in the highest profile coach in the country.

But now it’s finally time to hit the field and see what this team can actually do. There’s no doubt Jim Harbaugh inherited a talented roster, but how quickly can he turn around a program that’s been a hot mess for the better part of a decade?

Unfortunately for Michigan, the new system will make its debut on the road against a talented, veteran Utah team that won nine games last season. Running back Devontae Booker runs behind a solid offensive line that will put Michigan’s defensive line depth to the test right out of the gate.

Michigan will improve throughout the 2015 season. Nothing in Harbaugh’s track record suggests otherwise. But I think the Wolverines, behind a new quarterback and a thin group of wide receivers, will struggle to put together a consistent offensive attack in Week 1.

Michigan will battle the Utes in the opener, but fall.

Utah 27 – Michigan 20

Sam: (Sam was unable to provide a full breakdown this week but sent his score prediction)

Michigan 21 – Utah 13

Josh: On the road at night in Rice-Eccels stadium against a team that beat the crap out of you in your own house last year is a tough way to start the season. But thankfully we’ve got Harbaugh this time around. The bad news is it’s probably way too soon for the full Harbaugh effect to have taken place.

Utah is solid defensively and Michigan is probably not going to have a high-octane offense, even IF Drake Harris is who we thought he was. Devantae Booker this year is not the guy who only gained 30-some odd yards on Michigan last year, he’s likely to go over 100 yards and that will open up the pass game for Utah. Michigan has one corner, yes just one, that is proven right now so unless the combo of Stribling and Clark perform up to task they’ll see a lot of balls thrown their way with not so good results for Michigan.

Jake Rudock is a huge upgrade from Devin Gardner, not in talent but in consistency and making the right play-iveness (that’s a new word, mark it down). He won’t turn it over and if the run game can be halfway decent this could be an interesting game. However, I don’t see the run game doing much, and with no threat to take the top off the defense this is going to be a low scoring, defensive battle. That means it’s going to come down to special teams.

While Michigan has gotten an upgrade at special teams coordinator as well, these things take time. Again, Rome was not built in a day (or even one offseason). They’ll play well and we’re guaranteed to see 11 men on the field at all times but if this game comes down to kicking, and it likely will, Michigan is in a heap of trouble. Not one experienced kicker on the roster and no separation among them (word is it’s NOT because no one can miss).

Utah has their cupcakes and eats them too, courtesy of the sports authority publication that is Popular Mechanics. The Harbaugh era starts with a loss but the team does not look lost or too soft or just plain awful. It will get better as the season wears on.

Utah 27 – Michigan 19 (three touchdowns and two failed two-point conversions)

Joe: Game day is finally here and I am officially ready to get this show on the road. I haven’t been able to sleep all week. This has been one heck of an off season and should only get better as this team grows and takes on the coach’s personality. The only question I have is how long will that take to happen?

I think we will have a fundamentally sound team on both sides of the ball with Jabrill Peppers and Joe Bolden leading the way on a solid defense. The offense is led by a solid running backs corps. If Isaac is healthy , the running back threesome will turn some heads. Whoever the starting quarterback is will be asked to manage games and not turn the ball over. This could mean Rudock is the man…ZZZZzzzzzz……… While this doesn’t excite me, it could be for the best. With some “better than average” ball control, this unit can take over some games and surprise some people.

Special teams is still a huge question mark but should be okay with a very good punter in transfer in Blake O’Neill. Did I just reference a punter? Yep, it’s time to get some sleep. I can’t wait for game time, but think we will end up on the wrong side of things in Harbaugh’s debut. At least the tailgate food will be top-notch. Go Blue.

Utah 35 – Michigan 28 

Michigan vs Utah game preview

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015


Game Preview_Utah_banner

The day Michigan fans have been waiting for since Dec. 30, 2014 has finally arrived. When Jim Harbaugh defied outsider expectations and accepted the Michigan job, the 5-7 season the Wolverines had just suffered through was all but forgotten. The former quarterback, captain, and Bo disciple returned to bring his alma mater back to prominence. It’s a story that writes itself as long as it follows the script we all expect.

UM-Utah-small
Quick Facts
Rice-Eccels Stadium – 8:30 p.m. EST – FS1
Utah Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham (11th season)
Coaching Record: 85-43 (all at Utah)
Offensive Coordinators: Aaron Roderick (1st season)
Jim Harding (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: John Pease (1st season)
Returning 2014 Starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 9-4 (5-4 Pac-12)
Last Meeting: Utah 26 – UM 10 (2014)
All-Time Series: Utah leads 2-1
Record in Salt Lake City: First meeting
Record in Rice-Eccels Stadium: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs Utah: First meeting
Last Michigan win: 2002 (10-7)
Last UM win at Utah: First meeting
Current Streak: Utah 2

Tonight, Harbaugh shows the world his version of the Maize and Blue on a national stage, kicking off the college football season with a tough road test against Utah. After an offseason filled with throwing out first pitches, coaching first base for the A’s, hanging with the first lady and Ciara and Garth Brooks and Wonder Woman, taking trips to Paris and Peru, rocking cowboy hats and rapper hats, touring Selma, defending American Sniper, receiving a rocking chair from Cracker Barrel, prepping Jameis Winston and Bryce Petty for the NFL Draft, ticking off SEC coaches with satellite camps, and regularly dishing out words of wisdom on Twitter, the true reason he returned to Ann Arbor is here.

Utah beat Michigan 26-10 last fall and enters 2015 with sights set on competing for the Pac-12 title. The Utes knocked off UCLA, USC, and Stanford last season, but also lost to Washington State. Head coach Kyle Whittingham is looking for more consistency in his 11th season in Salt Lake City. But he’ll have to adjust to two new coordinators after offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left for Texas A&M and defensive coordinator Kilane Sitake bolted for Oregon State.

Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding were named co-offensive coordinators. Roderick has been on Whittingham’s staff since 2005 coaching quarterbacks and receivers, and was also co-OC in 2010. Harding is entering his second season on the staff after coming aboard as the offensive line coach prior to last season. He was co-OC at Wyoming in 2013. Michigan natives may remember Harding as the head coach at Troy High School — just an hour northeast of Ann Arbor — in 2008.

John Pease came out of retirement to replace Sitake as the defensive coordinator. In fact, it’s the second time the 72 year old has come out of retirement for Whittingham. In 2010, he returned to coach the defensive line for two seasons. Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years as an assistant in college and the NFL after beginning his career as a graduate assistant at Utah in 1968.

Michigan defense vs Utah offense

Last season, Utah’s offense ranked 76th nationally in total offense, 39th in rushing, 93rd in passing, 61st in pass efficiency, and 49th in scoring. The Utes’ 388.1 total yards per game ranked dead last in the Pac-12, although the rushing offense ranked third behind only Oregon and UCLA. The passing game was abysmal, ranking last with an average of just 197.7 yards per game. However, it was better than Michigan’s, which averaged just 170.2 passing yards per game.

The offense is powered by senior running back Devontae Booker, whose 1,512 rushing yards ranked second in the Pac-12 a year ago. He averaged 116.3 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and also accounted for 306 receiving yards and two more scores. Michigan held him to just 34 yards on 11 carries last season, his lowest total and yards per carry of the season. The following five games, however, he rushed for 811 yards, an average of 162.2 per game.

Senior quarterback Travis Wilson didn’t rank in the top 10 in the conference last season with 2,170 yards but he did have a solid 18 to five touchdowns to interception ratio. He has 27 career starts under his belt, spanning the past three seasons, and was the last starting quarterback in the country to throw an interception last season. But the Utes will need more production from Wilson if they expect to contend for the conference title. The good news is he has Booker to hand off to. The bad news is he has a lot of fresh faces to throw to.

Three of the top four receivers from a year ago — Kaelin Clay, Westlee Tonga, and Dres Anderson — have departed, leaving only Kenneth Scott and Tim Patrick as receivers who had more than 100 yards. Scott, a 6-foot-3, 208-pound senior, ranked second on the team with 509 yards and four touchdown. His 48 receptions led the team. Patrick caught 16 passes for 177 yards, but despite his 6-foot-5, 208-pound frame, he’s not likely to start. That spot will likely be manned by 6-foot-4, 188-pound freshman Tyrone Smith out of Fresno, Calif. The slot receiver will be converted running back Bubba Poole who led the team in rushing in 2013 before losing the job to Booker last season.

The offensive line returns 55 career starts compared to Michigan’s 77. Left tackle Sam Tevi (6-5, 300) is the only one with no starts, but he did play a total of 42 snaps in parts of three games last season after converting from defensive line. Left guard Isaac Asiata (6-4, 315) started every game in 2014, as did right tackle J.J. Dielman (6-5, 300), while right guard Salesi Uhatefi (6-4, 315) started five. Center Saiosi Aionno (6-2, 310) started 12 games and allowed just one sack.

Michigan offense vs Utah defense

Unlike the offense, Utah’s defense was one of the best in the Pac-12 last season. It ranked 58th nationally in total defense, 41st in rush defense, 77th in pass efficiency defense, and 42nd in scoring defense. Only Stanford allowed fewer total yards and passing yards per game than Utah did. But will the Utes be able to avoid a step back under a new coordinator?

The defensive line lost end Nate Orchard, who ranked second in the conference with 18.5 sacks and third with 21 tackles for loss. Junior end Hunter Dimick is back after a 10-sack, 14.5-tackle for loss campaign. He’ll be flanked by Jason Fanaika a former Utah State transfer who started eight games last season and recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. The tackles figure to be sophomores Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi who combined for 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss last season.

Last season’s leading tackler, Jared Norris, is back for his senior season at linebacker. The honorable mention All-Pac-12 honoree ranked third in the conference with 116 total tackles. Jason Whittingham and Gionni Paul are the other starters. Paul, a former Miami transfer, is poised for a breakout season after recording 61 tackles in nine games last season. He missed the final four games with a broken foot that required surgery. Whitingham is also back from injury after missing eight games in 2014. He has 20 career starts and was honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2013.

The secondary is where Utah has the most to replace, but it’s not like it could get much worse than last season. Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen both graduated and Domonique Hatfield was kicked off the team in July. Senior strong safety Tevin Carter and sophomore free safety Marcus Williams do bring some starting experience to the table. Carter, a transfer from El Camino Community College, was granted an extra year of eligibility after missing most of last season, but he picked up two interceptions in the few games he did play before the injury. Williams started six games at free safety in 2014, recording 59 tackles and a pick. One corner spot is a lock to go to junior Reginald Porter, who missed all of last season with an injury. He started two games in 2013. The other spot could go to junior Justin Thomas, who started eight games a year ago, or junior college transfer Cory Butler-Byrd, who was ranked the 17th-best juco player last season by Rivals.

Special Teams

First team All-Pac-12 kicker Andy Phillips is back after making 23-of-28 field goals with a long of 50. The former U.S. Ski Team alpine racer who walked onto Utah in 2012 has made 40-of-48 in his career. Punter Tom Hackett is the reigning Ray Guy award winner as the nation’s top punter. He averaged 46.7 yards per punt and led the nation with 19 punts downed inside the 10-yard line.

Prediction

There’s no doubt that Harbaugh will have the team well prepared for the first game of the season. The question is how much have they improved since last fall? Expected starting quarterback Jake Rudock should provide an upgrade at the position if only because he will take care of the ball and manage the offense. If the offensive line can give him time, Rudock should be able to test the relatively inexperienced secondary. But the line will have to fend off Dimick and Fanaika. Utah ranked sixth in the Pac-12 against the run last season, so look for Harbaugh to pound his running back committee of De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, and Drake Johnson.

Utah’s offense will do the same, feeding Booker early and often. If Michigan can stop him the Wolverines will have a great chance to win. Wilson wasn’t flashy last season, but he took care of the ball, so Michigan will need to find a pass rush from its unproven defensive line if it wants to force him to make a mistake.

Special teams will likely play a big factor in this game and the heavy favorite in that category goes to Utah, which has arguably the best kicker and punter tandem in the country. Michigan, meanwhile, will be breaking in a new kicker and punter. In last season’s matchup, Kaelin Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and Michigan may need to return the favor — perhaps from Jabrill Peppers — to get a win.

In a defensive battle where one team has a significant edge on special teams, and that team happens to be the home team, I just have to lean that way.

Utah 26 – Michigan 23

Michigan vs Utah projected starter comparison

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015


UM-Utah(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Michigan and Utah kick off the college football season tomorrow night. Both teams released their initial depth charts earlier this week, so before we get to our full game preview, we thought it would be fun to compare the projected starters based on their production from last season to see who has the advantage at each position.
Michigan-Utah starters 2014 comparison_Offense

 

Michigan has a pretty good advantage in terms of returning production with the exception of running back and left guard. At quarterback, Jake Rudock threw for 266 more yards than Travis Wilson, though Wilson threw two more touchdown passes. Utah lost three of its top four receivers — Kaelin Clay, Westlee Tonga, and Dres Anderson — so although Michigan didn’t see a lot of production from that position last season, the Wolverines still have a slight edge. Along the line, Michigan returns its entire unit and has a 77 to 55 advantage in career starts.

Michigan-Utah starters 2014 comparison_Defense

*at Los Angeles Harbor College

Defense is the expected strength of Michigan’s team heading into the season, but in terms of returning production, Utah has the edge in most spots. Chris Wormley is the only projected starter on the line that has more tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks than his counterpart on Utah. At linebacker, Desmond Morgan got injured in Michigan’s first game last season, so we used his 2013 stats for this. He has a big edge over Jason Whittingham. Michigan’s secondary has a lot of potential, but only Jourdan Lewis has more returning production than his counterpart.

Tomorrow we’ll dive into Utah in more depth in our full game preview.

Five-Spot Challenge 2015: Utah

Monday, August 31st, 2015


FiveSpotChallenge-Banner2015

Head full of doubt, road full of promise: Michigan preview 2015

Monday, August 31st, 2015


Harbaugh(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

With tremendous excitement surrounding the Michigan football program I felt it was fitting to spice up this year’s season preview. So instead of a simple paragraph and score prediction for each game, I’m pairing each game with an Avett Brothers song. In my opinion, they’re the best band out there right now, and certainly one of the most talented.

Growing up in the Midwest, it was hard to find someone that didn’t like country music, but that was me. Even now, I don’t. But while Barnes & Noble sells the Avett Brothers’ albums in the country section, they’re so much more than that. Their Americana blend of bluegrass, country, punk, folk, rock, and ragtime creates a unique sound the keeps getting better, even while every other band on the planet is beating banjos to death.

Sure, the Avett Brothers have nothing to do with Michigan, but they will visit Ann Arbor on Nov. 6 to perform at the Hill Auditorium. Since we’re fans of their music, Sam and I paired an Avett Brothers song with each game on Michigan’s schedule.

Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it 

When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

There was a dream
And one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid, with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream till I die or the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

Heading into the 2015 season we get a perfect dichotomy of doubt and promise. Michigan fans are battered and bruised after the last seven years, most recently a 5-7 season that had one of the worst offenses in program history. That offensive ineptitude — which spans the past two seasons –leaves us weary of getting our hopes up. We’ve heard it before. Brady Hoke would walk from San Diego to Ann Arbor if he had to to turn things around. Doug Nussmeier would be a huge upgrade from Al Borges.

But on the other hand, Harbaugh does, in fact, bring with him a track record of program turnarounds, and while most don’t expect a championship overnight, we can finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Promise abounds with a roster full of talent just waiting to be developed.

On Thursday, senior guard Kyle Kalis shed light on that notion:

“We’re definitely grasping more of how to play the offensive line, technique, footwork, stuff that we never would really practice or have a knowledge of before,” Kalis said. “Coach Harbaugh is awesome, and the way coach (Drevno) coaches us, it’s just working. We’ve had days where we’re rolling guys 10 yards off the ball, and that never happened before. It’s not that we couldn’t do it, it’s just we didn’t know how to do it.”

But how soon will it pay off? It all starts on Thursday in Utah.

Week 1 at Utah The Strangest Thing

The strangest thing that came to me was last night in my sleep
I dreamt you never left
I looked up to thank the moon
And saw a set of lights
A set of red tail lights

I said to myself
I thought that I would never change
but when I woke that night
the strangest thing had come to me, I finally was awake
I slept for seven years

What happened back there?
Nothing has gone like we planned
All of our dreams, they have fell by the way
The true love I once had is dead

And forever our song we will sing

What a strange journey the last seven years have been. Nothing has gone like we planned. Rich Rodriguez was brought in to modernize Michigan football, but after three years we realized a complete rehaul was never needed. Perhaps a tuneup could have sufficed. Brady Hoke came in to bring us back, but four years later, we’re still looking up at Columbus.

Jim Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor still feels like a dream to many of us. He’s been dubbed the prodigal son, the savior of Michigan football, but as his first game approaches it’s starting to feel like the Michigan football of old never left.

What happened those last seven years? The love we all shared is dead. But we haven’t stopped singing The Victors.

While all signs point to Harbaugh turning things around, he’s only had a month to work with them so far, so there will surely be growing pains. Unfortunately, Utah is a competent team to face in an opener, especially on the road in an elevation Michigan players aren’t accustomed to. Sure, the Utes lost both coordinators this offseason, but they still have head coach Kyle Whittingham and they return quarterback Travis Wilson and a good running back in Devantae Booker. The defense will still be solid even with a 72-year-old coordinator whose last coordinator job was with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001-02. Too many questions abound for Michigan on the road.

Utah 26 – Michigan 23

Week 2 vs Oregon State Backwards with Time

Folk always told me that my heart would grow
The older the man, yeah, the stronger the stone
Am I losing my mind?
Am I growing backwards with time?

Some say with age that a purpose becomes clear
I see the opposite happening here
Are we losing the fight?
Are we growing backwards with time?

The last time Harbaugh graced Michigan Stadium in a real game the Wolverines lost to Minnesota. But a week later he led Michigan to a 26-24 win over seventh-ranked Ohio State to capture a share of the Big Ten title. Now, 29 years later, he makes his return to the Big House an older man, leading the team he once captained. It’s almost unheard of in major college football for a former star return to his Alma mater as head coach. But when the team hits the field on Sept. 12 Harbaugh will receive a heroes welcome.

Oregon State is headed for a rebuilding year after losing the school’s and Pac-12’s all-time career passing leader, Sean Mannion. Storm Woods is a good running back that will benefit from offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin’s run-heavy system, but the OSU defense returns just two starters from last season. Harbaugh will pick up his first win in the Big House since Nov. 1, 1986.

Michigan 35 – Oregon State 17

Week 3 vs UNLV Will You Return?

I open my door and here’s what occurs
A pretty little gal with pretty little curls
Leans to the side, leans on my mind

I don’t want to live, but I sure don’t want to die
I’m stuttering again and tellin’ her goodbye
Oh m-m-my, goodb-b-bye

Will you come again? It’s hard to say
I surely hope so
Will you come again? It’s hard to say
I surely hope so

The only cupcake on Michigan’s schedule this season is UNLV. Sorry, Rebels, I’m not sending you a box of cupcakes. UNLV went 2-10 last season with wins over FCS Northern Colorado (13-12) and Fresno State by a field goal in overtime. That’s how close they were to a goose egg.

Flashy local high school coach Tony Sanchez was brought in to resurrect the program, and although he doesn’t have pretty little curls, he has a lot of work to do to bring the Rebels up to a competitive level. Michigan will breeze through this game as Harbaugh will look to send a message to the rest of the Big Ten that he’s not here to mess around. Michigan will then beg UNLV to come again, as they provide a bit sexier of a cupcake matchup than the traditional September yawners against Eastern, Western, and Central Michigan.

Michigan 56 – UNLV 13

Week 4 vs BYU – Please Pardon Yourself

How do I know when it’s time to stop?
Runnin’ from the things I do, being things I’m not
Oh I have tried, but I just changed my mind
Every night that falls, every morning light

How do I know that you will never stop?
Knowin’ me, and trustin’ me, and loving’ me a lot
Oh I have tried, but I just changed my mind
Every night that falls, every morning light

When Lloyd Carr retired, Michigan tried to be something it’s not. They brought in an offensive coach with a flashy style to completely change the program. But when that didn’t pan out, they brought in Brady Hoke to transition back to who they used to be. And when that transition didn’t work, Harbaugh was hired to bring them fully back to the teams of Bo, Moeller, and Carr.

But while the Michigan of old is what fans long for, the one thing it could never seem to stop was a mobile quarterback, and that’s exactly what BYU will bring to town on Sept. 26.  Before Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending leg injury in the fourth game of 2014, he averaged 219 passing yards per game with a 66 percent completion rate and 107 rushing yards per game with 13 total touchdowns. He runs the similar zone read offense as what Rodriguez had success with in 2010 with Denard Robinson. But he’ll have to do it without three-year starting running back Jamal Williams, who will miss the season for personal reasons.

Four games into the season, and coming off of big wins against Oregon State and UNLV, Harbaugh will have the Wolverines gaining confidence each week. The defense isn’t what we’re worried about, and with experience coaching mobile quarterbacks, Harbaugh will find a way to slow down Hill, leading to a close Michigan win.

Michigan 23 – BYU 20

Week 5 at Maryland The Perfect Space

Okay part two now clear the house
The party’s over take the shouting and the people,
get out!

I have some business and a promise that I have to hold to
I do not care what you assume or what the people told you
Will you understand, when I’m too old of a man?
Will you forget when we’ve paid our debts,
who did we borrow from? Who did we borrow from?

I wanna have pride like my mother has,
And not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad
And I wanna have friends that I can trust
that love me for the man I’ve become and not the man that I was.

Part one of Michigan-Maryland was an embarrassment to the Maize and Blue, making a winning record nearly impossible last season and giving the Big Ten newcomers the first bragging rights. Part two should be less embarrassing as Maryland returns the lowest production from last season in the entire conference. Only 29 percent of last season’s total offense, 36 percent of last season’s touchdowns, and 44 percent of last season’s total defense.  That certainly doesn’t guarantee a victory for Michigan, but in the conference opener, Harbaugh’s squad will show the Terps they’re not the same team as last year.

Michigan 33 – Maryland 17

Week 6 vs Northwestern I Wish I Was

I wish I was a flame dancing in a candle
Lighting up your living room high on the mantle
I could bring some romance without any scandal
And then when you were done you’d just put me out

I wish I was a tune you sang in your kitchen
Putting your groceries away and washing your dishes
I could roll around your tongue and ease the tension
And then when you were done you’d just quiet down

The last three meetings between Michigan and Northwestern have been nothing but torture for Northwestern coaches, players, and fans alike. In 2012, Roy Roundtree made a circus catch on a Devin Gardner hail Mary to set up a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. Michigan won in overtime. In 2013, Michigan strung together the most improbable of final-second field goals, featuring a Drew Dileo slide-into-place hold. Michigan again won in overtime. Last season, Michigan won an ugly 10-9 affair that no one wants to relive. Michigan holds a 56-15-2 all-time record against the Wildcats, including wins in four of the last five during the last seven years. In other words, Northwestern wishes they were Michigan.

This season, Northwestern figures to be a middle of the pack Big Ten squad, breaking in a new quarterback — redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson — and hoping for a winning record. Michigan will be coming off of a convincing road win to open Big Ten play and continue that momentum with another convincing win, this time not taking it right down to the wire.

Michigan 31 – Northwestern 15

Week 7 vs Michigan State Murder in the City

I wonder which brother is better
Which one our parents loved the most
I sure did get in lots of trouble
They seemed to let the other go
A tear fell from my father’s eye
I wondered what my dad would say
He said, “I love you and I’m proud of you both,
In so many different ways”

If I get murdered in the city
Go read the letter in my desk
Don’t bother with all my belongings
Pay attention to the list
Make sure my sister knows I love her
Make sure my mother knows the same
Always remember there was nothing worth sharing
Like the love that let us share our name

Michigan State has benefited more than anyone from Michigan’s downturn the past seven years, and if you ask those in East Lansing, they’ve replaced Michigan as the state’s top program. They’ve mastered the art of using manufactured controversies as motivation, ever since the Little Brother comment during Lloyd Carr’s final season, and have won six of the past seven meetings since then.

Whichever way they want to spin it, they have a long way to go before they catch up to Michigan in the family pecking order, but the upper hand may continue for another season. Connor Cook figures to be one of the top two quarterbacks in the conference, and possibly the first one taken in next year’s NLF draft, and while the Spartans have to replace running back Jeremy Langford and their top two receivers, they do return the third-most defensive production in the Big Ten. That spells trouble for Michigan’s still improving offense. Expect a defensive battle in this one with Michigan State pulling out a close one.

Michigan State 20 – Michigan 16

Week 8 at Minnesota – The Greatest Sum

This and who I used to be
don’t matter much at all to me
The pit you dug to plant your feet’s
a far cry from my destiny
Not even the clouds
Not even the past
Not even the hands of God
could hold me back from you

Dark and lonely is the ride
the devil always by my side
Though no match for what lies between
a thought of you, your trust for me
Not even the sun
a bullet from a gun
No nothing that this world could bring
Or anything someone could do
Could hold me back from you

What was lost in the Shane Morris concussion aftermath of the game that sealed Brady Hoke’s fate last seasonwas the loss of Michigan’s most beloved rivalry trophy to the Gophers. The Little Brown Jug has resided in Ann Arbor 76 of the 101 years it has been in use, including 30 of the last 33 years. Michigan even managed to hold onto it during Rich Rodriguez’s 3-9 season in 2008 and the first three years of the Hoke regime. But a 30-14 loss last season allowed allowed Minnesota to regain control.

Minnesota was one of the Big Ten’s surprise teams last season, going 8-5 overall and 5-3 in the conference, and aims to prove this year that it wasn’t just a fluke. With 54 percent of its total offense and offensive touchdowns back and 62 percent of its defensive production, the Gophers still figure to be a formidable foe. And Michigan has to travel to Minneapolis to get its beloved jug back. Coming off a loss to Michigan State, Michigan won’t let anything stop it from taking it back.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 21

Week 9 vs Rutgers Talk on Indolence

Well I’ve been locking’ myself up in my house for sometime now
Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’
and searching for reasons and missing the seasons
The Autumn, the summer, the spring, the snow
the record will stop and the record will go
Latches latched, the windows down, 
the dog coming in and the dog going out
Up with caffeine and down with a shot
Constantly worried about what I’ve got
Distracting my work but I can’t make it stop
and my confidence on and my confidence off
And I sink to the bottom and I rise to the top
and I think to myself that I do this a lot
World outside just goes it goes it goes it goes it goes it goes…
and witnesses it all from the blinds of my window
THREE, FOUR

I’m a little nervous ’bout what you’ll think
When you see me in my swimming trunks
And last night in New York I got raging drunk
Remember one time I got raging drunk with you

Last season was full of disappointment, but the loss at Rutgers may have been the one that drove us to drinking. A week after the Minnesota loss and ensuing concussion debacle, Michigan visited Rutgers for the first time in school history looking for a win to at least somewhat ease the pain. Instead, Michigan’s defense made quarterback Gary Nova look like Tom Brady and the Wolverines suffered a third straight defeat, dropping to 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1967.

When Rutgers comes to Ann Arbor on Nov. 7 for the first time ever, Michigan will need a win to keep its claim of not having a losing record against any Big Ten foe. Nova is gone, but Rutgers returns its entire running game and the Big Ten’s leading returning receiver. The defense has some experience up front but has to replace three starters in the secondary. Rutgers is looking at a potential step back from last year’s surprising 8-5 finish. If Michigan loses to Rutgers again, we’ll be getting raging drunk with you. But it won’t happen.

Michigan 38 – Rutgers 17

Week 10 at Indiana Love Like the Movies

Now in the movies they make it look so perfect
and in the background they’re always playing the right song
And at the ending there’s always a resolution
But real life is more than two hours long

So you want to be in love like the movies
But in the movies they’re not in love at all
And with a twinkle in their eyes
They’re just saying their lines
So we can’t be in love like the movies

Indiana wants football like the movies where Hoosiers can win state titles or walk-on Rudys get carried off the field to a crowd chanting their name. If football were like the movies, perhaps Indiana have more than one winning season in the last 20 years or more than one win over Michigan since 1968. But alas, it’s not and Indiana is destined for another Big Ten cellar-dwelling season.

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld is the one bright spot, returning from an injury. But running back Tevin Coleman is gone along with his 2,062 yards and 15 touchdowns. The leading returning rusher is backup quarterback Zander Diamont, who filled in for Sudfeld when he went down. Most of the receiving corps is also gone, leaving Sudfeld with a bevy of unproven receivers to throw to. The Indiana defense returns the second lowest production in the Big Ten (53 percent) from a unit that couldn’t stop anybody last year.

Sorry Indiana, this isn’t a movie. Behind UVLV, this is the closest thing to a sure bet for Michigan.

Michigan 52 – Indiana 13

Week 11 at Penn State – I Never Knew You

Well I guess it’s kind of funny how
I loved you so way back when
You say I wouldn’t know you now
Well I didn’t even know you then

We change a lot
And no one here can stop
That train before
It gets to where it’s going 
At all

Well I guess it’s kind of funny how
I loved you so way back when
You say I wouldn’t know you now
Well I didn’t even know you then

I heard about the company you’re keeping
And for someone who didn’t have much interest
In keeping us apart

For four decades Michigan and Penn State were known commodities. Stable, historic, winning programs. But now they’re hard to recognize. Michigan is on its third coach since 2008 and Penn State is on its second since 2012. Until 2008, Michigan dominated the series, winning nine in a row from 1997 to 2007. But Penn State captured four in a row before Michigan won 18-13 last fall.

This year’s meeting is in State College where Michigan has lost the last three trips. Penn State brings back the second-most offensive production (81 percent) and touchdowns (64 percent) in the Big Ten, most notably quarterback Christian Hackenberg who has been plagued by poor offensive line play the past two seasons. If that improves, Penn State will have a much improved offense. The defense should be among the Big Ten’s best, despite losing the Big Ten’s leading tackler, Mike Hull.

By this time in the season, Michigan should be much tougher than it was when the season started, but a road game in November the week before Ohio State spells loss for the Wolverines.

Penn State 26 – Michigan 23

Week 12 vs Ohio State Vanity

I’ve got something to say
But it’s all vanity, it’s all vanity
I found a tune I could play
But it’s all vanity, it’s all vanity

Call off the guards
Call off the search
Their heads are chopped off
They’re running in circles
They’re running in circles

While Michigan State has been the biggest beneficiary of Michigan’s downturn the past seven years, Ohio State is a close second. A national championship last season and wins in nine of the last 10 meetings have left the Buckeyes full of conceit. Seriously, is there a more vain fan base out there? They still worship the coach that put them on probation and the saddest part of all is that, despite a one-year falloff, it worked to their benefit. They got an even better coach.

Unfortunately, not much is going to change this season as they enter as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation and favorite to win the Big Ten. They return the most offensive production (88 percent) and touchdowns (83 percent) and defensive production (74 percent) in the conference. The only good news is that they have to come to Ann Arbor, but they’ve won four of the last five in the Big House.

J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones are as good as any quarterbacks in the conference and Braxton Miller transitions his talent to receiver. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is a Heisman Trophy favorite and the defense is full of talent and playmakers. Unless Michigan’s offense is light years better than it’s expected to be, Michigan doesn’t have much of a shot in this one. But that’s why they play the games.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Final Look: Utah

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014


Henry-Ryan sack(MGoBlue.com)

Another week, another clunker. Michigan couldn’t muster any offense against Utah, instead turning the ball over four times and failing to reach the red zone or score an offensive touchdown for the second time in three weeks. Despite a valiant effort from the defense, which held the Utes to half of their season average yards per game, Michigan fell 26-10.

This Saturday, Michigan hosts the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hoping to hang onto the Little Brown Jug for another year. But before we fully turn our attention to Minnesota, let’s take one last look back at the big plays, numbers, stats, and observations from Michigan’s loss last Saturday.

Three key moments

1. Lewis saves a touchdown

For the second straight week Jourdan Lewis made a big play defensively, and while it didn’t ultimately affect the outcome of the game, it did save four points. Michigan kicked a field goal on its first possession to take an early 3-0 lead, but was unable to do anything with its second possession. But Will Hagerup pinned Utah at its own 3-yard line, giving the defense an opportunity to make a stop and get the ball back in good field position.

Quarterback Travis Wilson completed a five-yard pass on the firs play and Michigan stuffed running back Bubba Poole for no gain on the second. On third-and-five, Wilson found Poole on a screen pass and Michigan’s defense was nowhere to be found. Poole raced down the left sideline with nothing but green grass in front of him. However, Lewis sprinted from the opposite side of the field and caught Poole at the 25-yard line, saving a sure touchdown. Utah wound up kicking a 35-yard field goal, but three points is much better than seven.

Willie Henry scored Michigan's first defensive touchdown of the season (MGoBlue.com)

Willie Henry scored Michigan’s first defensive touchdown of the season (MGoBlue.com)

2. Clay channels Desmond

Not all key moments will be positive ones, and this is certainly the case here. In my opinion, this was perhaps the biggest play of the game as it served as a soul crusher for Michigan. Utah had tied the game at three, and Michigan had the ball heading into the second quarter.

The Wolverines went three-and-out, but the defense had been holding strong. If it could continue to do so, perhaps the offense could eventually put some points on the board. But Will Hagerup’s 46-yard punt was fielded by Utah return man Kaelyn Clay at the Utah 34-yard line and he was off to the races. He made Michigan gunners Jehu Chesson and Dennis Norfleet miss and then out-ran the rest of the group. Hagerup nearly caught him at the Michigan 30, but was unable to knock him off balance. Clay raced into the end zone and struck the Heisman pose, a nod — or mockery — of the infamous Desmond Howard pose against Ohio State in 1991.

3. Big Willie style

Michigan’s offense was struggling to string together a consistent drive and the Wolverines were in danger of falling behind considerably. After an opening drive field goal, Michigan went punt, punt, punt, punt, interception. Midway through the second quarter, Michigan needed a spark to come from somewhere. Utah held a 10-3 lead after Kaelyn Clays returned punt. Starting Utah quarterback Travis Wilson had been knocked out of the game — for a while anyway — by Joe Bolen and backup Kendal Thompson came in.

On his first possession, Jake Ryan sacked him on third-and-4, forcing the Utes to punt. After a Devin Gardner interception gave Thompson the ball back again, defensive tackle Willie Henry took matters into his own hands. On third-and-12 from the Utah 13, Thompson dropped back to pass and tried to float a screen pass. But Henry reached up and snagged it out of the air at the 7-yard line and rumbled into the end zone to tie the game at 10. It was Michigan’s first defensive touchdown since Brennen Beyer did the same at Iowa last November.

The numbers game

2:25: The amount of time the rain delay lasted

360: Devin Gardner’s career completions. He passed Brian Griese for eighth on Michigan’s career list

5,860: Devin Gardner’s career total yards. He passed Todd Collins and Jim Harbaugh for seventh on the career list

13: Jake Ryan had a career-high 13 tackles

Drive Chart
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*Hover over team initials to see drive statistics, Dash indicates direction of drive, Green dash = scoring play, Grey = punt, Red = turnover, Pink = missed field goal, Black = end of half or turnover on downs, Shaded line = special teams or defensive touchdown

Vote for the performance of the game

Previous winners:
Appalachian State: Devin Gardner (13-of-14 for 173 yds, 3 TD) & Devin Funchess (7 rec for 95 yds, 3 TD) – Tie
Notre Dame: Devin Funchess (9 receptions for 107 yards)
Miami (Ohio): Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 88 yards, 1 TD)
People Lists on Ranker

Washed out: Utah 26 – Michigan 10

Saturday, September 20th, 2014


Michigan vs Utah(MGoBlue.com)

It took more than two hours longer than expected, but the result was what no one rooting for the maize and blue wanted. No, that’s not a riddle; it describes Michigan’s 26-10 loss to Utah on Saturday, although Michigan’s offense remains a riddle no one except opposing defenses can solve.

For the second time in three weeks, Michigan’s offense failed to run a play in the opponent’s red zone and failed to score a touchdown, this time resulting in a 16-point loss despite out-gaining the Utes 308-286. The game was delayed two-and-a-half hours midway through the fourth quarter, but the outcome remained the same and Michigan fell to 2-2.

The game didn’t start poorly, however, as Michigan took an early 3-0 lead on a 42-yard Matt Wile field goal on the first possession on the game. Michigan’s defense then forced a three-and-out and the offense marched into Utah territory once again. This time, after back-to-back completions to Devin Funchess of 19 yards and 24 yards, the drive was stalled by a holding penalty on Erik Magnuson. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the Utah 43, Michigan faced 1st-and-20 from the 43 and was unable to get the first down. Outside of field goal range, and facing 4th-and-13, Michigan punted and downed the ball at the Ute 3-yard line.

UM-Utah-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Utah
Score 10 26
Record 2-2 3-0
Total Yards 308 286
Net Rushing Yards 118 81
Net Passing Yards 190 205
First Downs 13 19
Turnovers 4 1
Penalties-Yards 3-20 6-50
Punts-Yards 5-194 5-213
Time of Possession 33:32 26:28
Third Down Conversions 9-of-19 6-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-4 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-30 4-22
Field Goals 1-for-1 4-for-5
PATs 1-for-1 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 0-of-0 2-of-3
Full Box Score

Utah got a big play on 3rd-and-5 from its own eight when quarterback Travis Wilson found running back Bubba Poole wide open for a screen pass and Poole raced 67 yards before he was brought down by Jourdan Lewis. Michigan’s defense held strong, forcing a field goal to tie the game at three.

Michigan’s offense went three-and-out, but Ute receiver Kaelyn Clay returned Will Hagerup’s punt 66 yards for a touchdown — his third return touchdown of the season. Suddenly, Michigan was down 10-3.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Wilson scrambled to his right and tried to hurdle a Michigan defender. Instead, he was hid mid-air by Joe Bolden, flipping over and landing awkwardly on his head. He was taken to the locker room and Michigan took advantage of his replacement, Kendal Thompson. On Utah’s next possession, Willie Henry sacked Thompson on 3rd-and-4, forcing a punt. Gardner was picked up on Michigan’s ensuing possession, but on 3rd-and-12, Henry made Michigan’s play of the game, picking off Thompson and carrying it into the end zone to tie the game at 10.

Utah responded with a 16-play, 54-yard field goal drive to take a 13-10 lead into the half, then went 67 yards in just five plays on its first possession of the second half. The drive was capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Wilson, who returned after getting stitches in his nose, to Dres Anderson.

After the two teams traded punts, Michigan moved the ball into Utah territory. On 3rd-and-8 from the Utah 45, Gardner completed a five-yard pass to Amara Darboh, setting up a 4th-and-3. Instead of punting to pin the Utes deep once again, Hoke elected to go for it, but Gardner’s roll-out came up a yard short. Utah took advantage of the short field position and kicked a 48-yard field goal to take a 23-10 lead.

Gardner was intercepted for the second time on the second play of Michigan’s next possession and Utah kicked another field goal, this time from 50 yards out to go ahead 26-10.

Shane Morris replaced Gardner, but threw an interception of his own that was returned 59 yards to the Michigan 17. A sideline penalty on Utah moved it back 15 yards, but then the skies opened up. The game was suspended for a total time of 2:24, and when it resumed with only a few hundred fans remaining — most wearing red — Utah missed a 41-yard field goal.

Morris lead what looked to be a promising drive, converting two long third downs, but fumbled at the Utah 47 and any hopes Michigan had of a comeback were dashed.

For the game, Gardner completed 14-of-26 for 148 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Morris went 4-of-13 for 42 yards, one touchdown, and one fumble. Funchess led all receivers with four catches for 82 yards, while Derrick Green led the way on the ground with 59 yards on 14 carries (4.2 yards per carry). Green was also Michigan’s second-leading receiver with two catches for 26 yards.

Wilson completed 14-of-20 for 172 yards and one touchdown, while Utah’s two star receivers, Anderson and Kenneth Scott, combined for 10 catches for 78 yards and a score.

Michigan’s defense held Utah to 81 yards rushing (2.2 yards per carry) and just 286 total yards — 271 yards below its season average — and just one touchdown and four field goals. Jake Ryan led the way with 13 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. Frank Clark added 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack, while Mario Ojemudia recorded 2.5 tackles for loss and Henry had the sack, interception, and score.

Michigan enters Big Ten play at 2-2, having out-gained every team it has played, but tormented by turnovers. The offense has yet to reach the red zone or score a touchdown against power-five teams, Notre Dame and Utah. The defense, however, has yet to allow an opponent to reach 300 yards of offense.

Minnesota (3-1) comes to town next Saturday looking to take back the Little Brown Jug. The Gophers have beaten Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, and San Jose State, and lost to TCU. The game will be televised by ABC at 3:30 p.m. EST.