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Opponent Watch 2016: Week 4

About Last Week:

Hurst smash

Penn State ran so much stuff that ALMOST worked.

The Road Ahead:

Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Won at Michigan State, 30-6

Recap: This game wasn’t quite as lopsided as the score would indicate. The two teams finished roughly equal in terms of total yards and yards per play, and neither team could run the ball. Seven of Wisconsin’s points came off a 66-Yard fumble return for a touchdown. The big difference in this game was the quarterbacks. Wisconsin got a sufficient level of quarterback play. Michigan State didn’t. That was the ballgame.

That’s not to say that Alex Hornibrook was fantastic. He was okay-to-good. He threw for 195 yards at 7.5 yards per attempt with a pick (albeit on a last-play-of-the-half Hail Mary type object), a lost fumble, and a 1-yard touchdown pass. He has a rather notable lack of arm strength; on the last play of the first half, Wisconsin had the ball on the MSU 37, and Hornibrook didn’t get the ball anywhere near the end zone. He struggled at other times to push the ball downfield with velocity.

That said, he managed the game well, hit the open receivers, put some balls into tight windows, and generally avoided mistakes. He looks much more comfortable than the guy he replaced, Bart Houston. Is it because Hornibrook has a better last name? Maybe. Probably.

This team is as frightening as: Bald Bull. A real opponent, but this ain’t Tyson. Fear Level = 8

Michigan should worry about: Michigan struggled up front with a 3-4 defenses in the UCF and Colorado games.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Wisconsin scored plenty in the Akron game. In their other three games, they have scored six offensive touchdowns. Those drives averaged a start on the opponent’s 47 yard line. It is unlikely they can string long drives together against Michigan’s defense. And Wisconsin ALSO ranks towards the bottom in the country in offensive explosiveness (#114, per Bill C)

When they play Michigan: Michigan wins.

This week: at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ABC (Michigan -10.5)

[AFTER THE JUMP: The path looks clearer, with one terrifying exception]

Rutgers (2-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last week: Lost at Iowa, 14-7

Recap: This was quite the Pyrrhic victory for Rutgers. Except it was a loss. Is a “Pyrrhic moral victory” a thing? Never mind, this is Rutgers. There is totally such a thing as a Pyrrhic moral victory.

Rutgers played Undefeated For Three Weeks Iowa to the wire; they managed to tie the game at 7-7 in the fourth quarter, and drove as far as the Iowa 17 yard line with under five minutes left before turning the ball over on downs. Still, this was a closer game than almost anyone would have predicted.

The Pyrrhic part was that in the effort, Rutgers lost their most dynamic (and probably best) player, Janarion Grant, for the year to an ankle injury. They also lost starting defensive end Quanzell Lambert to a knee injury. They were bad, but now they are bad and boring.

This team is as frightening as: Austria-Hungary. Was once apparently a thing. Peaked in the 19th century. Constantly losing turf to neighboring powers. Wear goofy helmets.


(Pictured: a ridiculous vestige of a foolhardy third-class power torn asunder by its own terrible leadership decisions. And a goofy-ass helmet.)

Fear Level = 2

Michigan should worry about: DON’T PUNT TO oh right never mind.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Rutgers is #125 (of 128) in the country in passing success rate and #115 in standard down success rate.

When they play Michigan: Rutgers has punted 25 times, and of those 25 punts they have allowed ten punt returns. Only 6 of their punts have been fair caught. Jabrill gon’ take one to the house.

This week: at… oh. Oh no. They’re at Ohio State. Oh no no no. The Fence is not rated for this.

Illinois (1-2, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: Sunburning the tops of your feet. If it happens, it’ll hurt like hell, and you will have no one to blame but yourself and people will laugh. Fear Level = 3.5

Michigan should worry about: Looking ahead? Maybe?

Michigan can sleep soundly about: This is a home game against one of the worst teams in the Big Ten after a bye week.

When they play Michigan: Michigan has to show up to this one. Literally. Like, they have to come to the stadium with shoes and helmets and stu

This week: at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2 (Nebraska -21)

Michigan State (2-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Wisconsin, 30-6

Recap: That could have gone better.

Michigan State was kept out of the end zone for the first time in a conference game since 2011. Tyler O’Connor did not look like a viable Big Ten quarterback. The offensive line couldn’t do anything. The secondary allowed numerous Wisconsin receivers and tight ends to roam free. In short, they sucked.

To make matters worse, Riley Bullough missed the game with an undisclosed injury that is probably a shoulder injury. They also lost Jon Reschke in the 3rd quarter to what Michigan State is calling a sprained ankle but is probably not a sprained ankle. He may be out for the year.

And to make these worse matters worser, Michigan State’s previous week’s win over Notre Dame took a serious shot to the dangly bits, as the Irish lost to a Duke team who had already lost to Wake Forest and Northwestern.

This team is as frightening as: Must… not… #DISRESPEKT… Fear Level = a gentlemen’s 8

Michigan should worry about: He’s still raw, but Donnie Corley looks legit.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Remember 2013 Michigan/Michigan State? Where Michigan State’s dominant defensive line engulfed Michigan’s line? This feels like that.

When they play Michigan: This is the year.

This week: at Indiana, 8:00 p.m., BTN (MSU -7)

Maryland (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: No fear. Maryland. Fear Level = 2.5

Michigan should worry about: Maryland is 3-0 for the first time since 2013. They have Purdue and Penn State in the next two weeks, which would get them to 5-0 for the first time since 2001. Surely that counts for something.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Howard, FIU, UCF, Purdue, and Penn State don’t count for much.

When they play Michigan: Kicker Adam Greene has kicked the ball off 20 times, but only has 2 touchbacks. His average kick is only 58.5 yards. Jabrill gon’ take one to the house.

This week: vs. Purdue, 3:30 p.m., There is no TV. There is no Line. There is only Zuul. (Zuul -45.5)

Iowa (3-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last week: Beat Rutgers, 14-7

Recap: Iowa. Bubby. We need to talk.

We all defended you (to an extent) when you lost to North Dakota State. “This wasn’t some random FCS team; this was a really good team,” we said. “This isn’t like they yakked one up to Rutgers or something,” we said. And how did you repay us? By going out and DAMN NEAR yakking one up to Rutgers.

Iowa had trouble on both sides of the ball. Robert Martin and Justin Goodwin were able to churn out a combined 180 yards at 5.6 YPC, and Janarion Grant caught 5 balls for 98 yards in 26 minutes before he left with that ankle injury. However, it was the offense that should really be concerned. They only mounted two scoring drives, and one was only 21 yards, set up by a Rutgers fumble.

Adding injury to insult, Matt VandeBerg broke his foot in practice this week. VandeBerg has 19 catches and 284 yards. No other receiver has more than 7 catches or 97 yards. The biggest issue CJ Beathard has had this year has been locking onto VandeBerg. So, at least they have solved THAT problem.

This team is as frightening as: Welcome back, old friend.


Fear Level = 6.5

Michigan should worry about: Akrum Wadley ran for another touchdown (a nice tight rope job along the sidelines) and is averaging 7.3 YPC. Iowa is giving LeShun Daniels about 50% more carries than Wadley, who only got four carries against NDSU, and both are good, but Wadley could be a difference-maker.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Rutgers, man. Rutgers.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will bring more talent to the table than either the team that just beat Iowa or the team that just took Iowa to the brink. By a couple of standard deviations.

This week: vs. Northwestern, noon, ESPNU (Iowa -13)

Indiana (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Lost to Wake Forest, 33-28

Recap: Indiana outgained Wake Forest 611-352 in total yardage, a result of gaining more than three and a quarter yards more per play (7.73 to 4.46). Richard Lagow threw for 496 yards at 10.6 yards per attempt. Ricky Jones had more yards receiving (208) than Wake Forest had rushing (180) OR passing (172).

So, of course, Indiana lost. #CHAOSTEAM

It isn’t too hard to figure out why, of course; In addition to throwing for a billion yards, Richard Lagow also threw five interceptions, including one in the end zone and a one that Wake returned to the house. For those who were worried that Indiana’s brand was being diminished, though, this game should serve as a reminder that Indiana is the little guy in white. Don’t look away. Because you know he’s gonna do something. And you know it’s gonna be awesome.

Little Guy

This team is as frightening as: A battle between the mafia and the Yakuza on your front yard over pretzel territory. Fear Level = why are my references all so dated? Am I soout of touch? No. It's the children who are wrong.

Michigan should worry about: There is a 100% chance that there is a 0% chance we know how this game is going to go. Even if a time traveler told you the final score, and asked you to guess how it got like that, you would be way, way off.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Simmie Cobbs was one of the best receivers in the B1G, and he’s out for the foreseeable future after ankle surgery.

When they play Michigan: We’re going to invent a new emotion: boredomcitement

This week: vs. Michigan State, 8:00 p.m., BTN (MSU -7)

Ohio State (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last week: Bye

Recap: No recap. Bye.

This team is as frightening as: That dream where you’re in school and you aren’t wearing pants and you have a test you haven’t studied for and you’re being chased by a clown and then you’re just falling and falling and falling and then the hot girl in class sees you without your pants. Fear Level = 9

Michigan should worry about: Ohio State is running for over 300 yards per game at over 6 yards per carry, including more than 250 yards and 5.5 yards per carry in every game.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: The 77 points Ohio State scored against Bowling Green looks a *little* less impressive after Memphis put up 77 points on them this weekend.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will not give up, nor score, 77.

This week: vs. Rutgers, noon, The Torture Channel (Ohio State -38) (seriously) (and yet, I’d give the points)

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

Hawaii (1-3)

Last week: Bye

Recap: A bye week in Hawaii sounds okay.

This week: vs. Nevada, midnight. Do not watch.

UCF (2-2, 0-0 AAC)

Last week: Won at FIU, 53-14

Recap: UCF may have a pulse? After all, they beat FIU by a wider margin than did Maryland or Indiana. They allowed fewer yards and yards per play (3.26) than did Maryland (5.47) or Indiana (4.87). They put up more yards than did Maryland or Indiana. S&P+ has them at about a 50/50 chance of getting to 6-6 this year, which I will remind you would be 6 more wins than they recorded last year. Looks like all that hittin’ is starting to pay off.

This week: at East Carolina, noon, CBSSN (ECU -4)

Colorado (3-1, 1-0 PAC-12)

Last week: Won at Oregon, 41-38

Recap: This artisanal brew contains a rich bouquet of resume booster, with top-notes of vicarious confirmation of the world order. And clove. And maybe some nutmeg. It is pumpkin spice Transitive Football season, after all.


(If you’re curious, this picture, courtesy of Oregon Athletics, comes from a Statesman Journal article entitled “Brady Hoke’s Intensity Already Changing Culture on Oregon Duck’s Defense.” Wheeeeeeeee)

Colorado ran roughshod over Brady Hoke’s defense. Gaining 260 yards on 52 carries (5.0 YPC) on the ground and 333 yards on 32 attempts (10.4 YPA) in the air. And while it is tempting to say “Oregon lost to the same team that Michigan beat relatively handily,” that is true but misleading. The team Michigan beat handily played a combination of Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez at quarterback. The portion of the Michigan/Colorado game in which Steven Montez played was an absolute stomping; Montez finished 0-7 passing, and had 4 carries for -4 yards. In the six drives Montez played against Michigan, Colorado gained 16 yards of offense on 21 offensive plays (0.76 yards per play). And even THAT is inflated, because they gained 17 yards on run-out-the-clock carries after Michigan held them to -1 yard of offense on the first five drives.

So now, Colorado has gained at least 578 yards in three of their games… and 325 against Michigan. They’ve beaten Oregon by the same margin as Nebraska did, and while Nebraska did so at home, Colorado went TO Autzen. And the Colorado State team that Colorado dismantled took Minnesota to the wire. This is starting to look like an actual quality non-conference win; Colorado is up to #43 in the S&P+ rankings, and once their mediocre preseason expectations are dropped from the calculation, this is an also-receiving-votes type of team.

This week: vs. Oregon State, 2:30, PAC-12 Network (Colorado -17.5)

This post first appeared on Mgoblog, please read the originial post: here

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Opponent Watch 2016: Week 4


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