Thursday, November 29, 2012
Brady Hoke set a high standard for
Michigan when he took the job, indicating
that anything less than a Big Ten Championship is a disappointment.
While that is the right thing to say to the fan base, I can’t say I agree with the mindset.
is a team that should go into each season expecting to contend for the Big Ten
title and be among the favorites to win it. But last season saw the Wolverines
get 11 wins with no title. That is not a failure.
again finds itself out of the running for the Big Ten title, but the season
wasn’t a complete wash.
Unlike last year, I would say this season has been somewhat disappointing.
The Wolverines went 8-4, but three of their losses seemed like very winnable games.
It seemed that
could have beaten Nebraska
had Devin Gardner been prepared to backup an injured Denard Robinson. I wouldn’t
say that the Wolverines definitely would have won that game, but the offense
clearly would have been more productive than it was with Russell Bellomy at
Ohio State, the game seemed to be Michigan’s for the taking, but a lack of
adjustments on offense allowed the Buckeyes to squeak out a victory.
You can read more into
Michigan’s season by the four losses than
the eight wins. Truth is, Michigan
failed to beat the good teams it faced this year. Of the eight wins, the best
win seems to be against Northwestern (9-3), but it took a late miracle to get
the win, and I don’t think many view the Wildcats as a nationally respected
Overall, the offense wasn’t as explosive this season and the defense was just a shade worse than it was a year ago.
An 8-4 record is okay this year, but if Brady Hoke wants to live up to the standards he set when he took the job, things have to get better next year. The Big Ten was not that strong this season. There is no telling that it will be this weak again in the future.
Given the record and the quality of victories
Michigan had, I give
them a grade of a B-. I am hesitant
to say C because Michigan
still won eight games and could get a solid bowl victory. I don’t think the Wolverines
deserved a B because of the lack of quality wins and the failure to make the
Big Ten Championship Game.
What are your thoughts on
Monday, November 26, 2012
I am sure I am not alone when I say I didn’t expect that.
Coming into the season, the Spartans had some questions, but none of them seemed worrisome enough to keep MSU from having a winning record.
Despite the new quarterback and young receivers most expected MSU to be carried by its strong defense and be a contender in the Big Ten race.
To a degree, the expectations played out on the defensive side of the ball. The Spartans led the Big Ten in points and yards allowed per game and were 10th nationally in defensive scoring, allowing just 16.3 points per contest.
Where things all went wrong was on offense. The Spartans averaged just 20.3 points per game, which was down nearly 11 points from last year’s average (31.0).
Early on, the receivers were dropping passes. Midseason, the offensive line was banged up and not providing enough running lanes for Le’Veon Bell and pass protection for Andrew Maxwell. At the end of the year, Maxwell looked like he wasn’t progressing as he should.
The Spartans never really clicked as an offense outside of a lopsided win at
Central Michigan. It will be a
concern heading into next season with a defense that can’t be expected to be as
strong as it has been the last two years.
It’s not a big surprise to call this year a disappointing one for
. It’s not just about a 6-6 record,
or a 3-5 Big Ten record, or even an 0-5 conference record at home. The Spartans
took more than a step back. They completely fell flat on their back. Michigan State
The momentum MSU built the previous two seasons to be recognized as a legit program in the national spotlight has been lost. It will take some work to get back to that point.
For all those reasons, I give
a D for the season. The only reason
I don’t given them an F is because they did manage to make a bowl. A losing
record would have been the absolute failure in my eyes. Michigan State
What are your thoughts on this season for MSU?
What grade would you give MSU this season in football?
Saturday, November 24, 2012
I expected there to be plenty to talk about following Saturday’s games, and there is. There were interesting developments for both
This is a game that looked to be
for the taking at halftime, but an awful second half on offense kept the
Wolverines from getting a big win in Columbus.
The fumbles are one thing. They happen. Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner could have tried to do a better job of protecting the ball, but ultimately, I thought it was the play calling that cost
Michigan in this one.
Throughout the game, especially in the second half, I kept saying to myself: “Denard has to throw one of these times, right?”
But the clock kept ticking, and each time Robinson took the field, it was a run play. Not only was it a run play, it wasn’t a real creative run play.
figured out what
everyone in the world had figured out, that if Robinson is taking the snap, it
is a run. The Buckeyes could commit their entire defense to stopping the run,
which it did. The Wolverines couldn’t convert third downs because they were
essentially giving away what they were doing based on who took the snap. Ohio
I know Robinson broke the big 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but he was unable to do anything in the second half because
adjusted to the way Michigan
I had no problem with Robinson being on the field, but
Michigan needed to have him on the field with Gardner to keep the
defense honest. Ohio State Michigan
showed those looks in the first half, but went away from them in the second
If Robinson was still not healthy enough to throw a slant or even a bubble screen, then why put him under center at all?
I expected the defense to play worse than it did.
still had nearly 400 yards, but I thought the Wolverines did a good job of
containing Miller’s running ability and they also held strong in some tough
spots when the offense turned the ball over. Ohio State
I was surprised Brady Hoke decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the
48 to open the second half. It may have been a different game had it worked out,
but I thought there was more risk than reward in that case. I don’t think it
the game, but it certainly gave a big momentum swing to the Buckeyes to open
the second half.
Saturday’s loss certainly puts a negative on the season perspective for the Wolverines. An 8-4 season is clearly not bad, but no Legends Division title and a loss to
has to be
considered a disappointment, especially when the conference was so up for grabs
this year. Ohio
four losses this season seemed to be games they could have won with a few
changes here or there. The Wolverines controlled their destiny for the most
part and couldn’t find their way to a championship when it was there for the
A win to go 6-6 doesn’t turn MSU’s season from awful to good, but the Spartans came out and put on one of their best performances of the season.
The defense was dominant again, allowing just 99 yards of offense from the Gophers. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, it is difficult to hold a team under 100 yards of offense.
was once again a work horse, pounding out 265 yards on 36 carries.
Andrew Maxwell struggled with accuracy, going just 13 of 29 passing. That has to be concerning at this stage of the season. Maxwell has not taken many strides throughout the course of the season that would give MSU fans much confidence for next season.
But, getting back to the overall point on this game,
fans should be happy that their
team didn’t quit. It would have been easy to. Michigan State
The Spartans came in with high expectations this season and missed them all by a wide margin. Making a bowl isn’t something that players can often get up for when they had hopes for a conference championship.
I give credit to the Spartans for not wanting to end their season on Saturday. A bowl victory can still salvage a little something to build on for next season.
But, make no mistake, this season has still been a step back for the program.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Saturday marks the end of the regular season for both
Michigan and , with both teams
playing very meaningful games. Here are my predictions for both contests. Michigan
This game really feels like more than just an annual rivalry game.
is looking to get an undefeated season while Michigan is seeking a ninth win. Both
coaches (Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke) are looking to make a statement against
the other for the sake of the rivalry.
I expect this game to be similar to last year’s game, where it is an offensive showcase that could come down to the final possession. I think
will be able to move the ball on the Michigan
defense thanks to the play-making ability of Braxton Miller. I think the
Wolverines will also be able to find plenty of offense against an
defense that isn’t all that strong. I think Ohio State Michigan will pull out all the stops on
offense, incorporating Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson at multiple positions
to keep the Buckeyes guessing.
Ultimately, I see the Buckeyes winning this one. This game means everything to
Ohio State (no offense, Michigan fans). With no bowl game and no Big
Ten Championship opportunity, this is the national title game for .
Meyer has built this game up to be everything for the fan base and the players,
and it will take place in the Horseshoe. I think Ohio State Michigan
puts up a fight, but finds a way to win
in the closing moments. Ohio
I know it’s easy to assume that MSU will just waltz in to Minnesota and win and become bowl eligible, but what have the Spartans done this year to prove that would be a given?
Mark Dantonio may have guaranteed victory in his weekly press conference, but the only guarantee I expect is that this game will come down to the final possession just like all other MSU games.
I am still going to pick
as the Spartans are more desperate for the win. A loss for MSU would make an
awful season even worse. I don’t expect it to be pretty, but some way, the
Spartans will find a way to win. Michigan State
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
There is plenty of blame to go around at
this season for the Spartans’ current 5-6 record. Michigan State
Of all of the blame that is getting passed out, it seems the most is going on second-year offensive coordinator, Dan Roushar.
It seems fair to say that the MSU defense has played better than the 5-6 record this year, which means that the offense is coming up short.
When you look at where the Spartans fit in the Big Ten picture, they currently rank 11th in scoring (19.7 ppg), ninth in yards (365.7 ypg), fourth in passing (2,482 yards) and ninth in rushing (1,541 yards).
In the national aspect, MSU ranks 110th in the nation in scoring, 70th in passing and 89th in rushing.
Another big stat working against Roushar this year is scoring in the red zone. The Spartans have scored at least a field goal in 32 of 39 red zone appearances this year, but have just 20 touchdowns in those 39 opportunities.
Settling for field goals instead of touchdowns has been a crucial reason for why Michigan State has come up short, especially when you consider its five Big Ten losses have come by a combined 13 points.
Roushar is just the play caller, and it takes the players to execute the plays that are called. But when the same issues come up week after week, someone has to shoulder the responsibility.
Against Northwestern, the Spartans fumbled in the red zone on a third and one, and later, were stopped on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line as Le’Veon Bell was hit for a 3-yard loss as soon as he touched the ball.
The Spartans have had injury issues this year and have worked in a lot of new pieces at receiver, and certainly at quarterback with Andrew Maxwell replacing Kirk Cousins.
But the numbers have taken a dramatic dip from last year as MSU averaged 31 points per game.
So, should the blame be on Roushar, or should it be on the likes of Maxwell and the offensive players?
MSU head coach Mark Dantonio says the blame should be on him. He pointed that out during his weekly press conference on Tuesday saying:
“The responsibility for how we play, falls on me. That’s how it’s got to be. Everybody is soul searching, but it has to start at the top and trickle down, and that’s with me.”
Dantonio also said that evaluating his assistants is about a lot more than just what happens on the field.
Dantonio has always been a loyal guy and protective of his staff and players. Roushar has been with MSU since Dantonio has been head coach and the two were together for two years at
Cincinnati. It would be surprising to see Dantonio
fire Roushar after one bad season, but the pressure will be on Roushar next
season to improve the offensive numbers and help improve the win total.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Last Saturday saw another sizeable win for the
Michigan football team,
but it came in a little different style.
After missing the last two games with an injury to his elbow, Denard Robinson returned to the field against
Iowa and was creatively used alongside
backup quarterback Devin Gardner.
Robinson didn’t throw a pass in the game. He was instead used as a running back and a receiver.
Defenses still had to respect Robinson for his speed and his quickness while
remained the quarterback. Gardner
finished with 314 yards passing and three touchdowns while running for two more
offense totaled over 500 yards and looked as good as it has all season, but the
real question is, why now?
Obviously the answer for Saturday was to get Robinson on the field for his final home game with
But, when you see what this offense is capable of with
Gardner at quarterback
and Robinson used as a running back/receiver, you have to scratch your head at
why this wasn’t implemented earlier. Last season saw Gardner take some occasional snaps at
quarterback with Robinson, but it wasn’t anything like what we saw on Saturday.
Could this combination have helped in games against
Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska?
Digging up this kind of success this late in the season doesn’t do much good for
Michigan outside of
possibly beating Ohio State, but even a win over the Buckeyes won’t get
them a Big Ten title unless Nebraska
Is it fair to say that Brady Hoke and the
Michigan coaching staff missed the boat
Coaches always say they have to put their best 11 on the field each week.
It is starting to appear that the Wolverines haven’t had their best lineup on the field most of the season.What are your thoughts on how Michigan used Robinson/Gardner against Iowa
Friday, November 16, 2012
Another Saturday of college football is upon us. Here are my predictions for the two games taking place.
I think this is a game
Michigan can win with some ease. The
Hawkeyes are a mess right now, having lost four straight. The Michigan
defense shouldn’t break much of a sweat to keep the Iowa offense in check and the Wolverines
should continue to build off their offensive performances of the last two
weeks. Devin Gardner has played well thus far at quarterback and I expect that
to continue. If Denard Robinson is given his shot to play in what is his final
home game, I think he will come through with some big plays. Essentially,
anything less than a comfortable win would be surprising to me. Michigan needs to carry some momentum into next week
against Ohio State
and Iowa is a
perfect opponent for that to happen.
Despite MSU’s strength against the run defensively, I still expect Northwestern to be able to move the ball on the ground. The Wildcats have found a way to be competitive in every game this year and I don’t see that changing against the Spartans. For the MSU offense, I expect a solid showing, as the Wildcats are giving up nearly 400 yards per game. Le’Veon
Bell will get his chance
to shine, but I think it will be the MSU passing game that ultimately guides it
to a victory. We have seen the Wildcats give up big plays in the secondary
recently and should look to
attack them deep. I do think this game will be close and come down to the end,
but I see the Spartans edging the Wildcats to become bowl eligible. Michigan
Michigan still fights
for a potential spot in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday against Iowa, finds itself with
an important game as well, though the rewards are not nearly as sweet. Michigan
A win over Northwestern at home on Senior Day will make the Spartans bowl eligible.
I think it is fair to say that few expected it to take to Game 11 for
to get bowl
eligible this year. Michigan
Coming into the season, expectations were high for the Spartans. Whether it be a Big Ten Championship or a 10-win season, few saw MSU doing all it could to have winning record at the end of the year.
Saturday will be telling for
for a few reasons. Michigan State
The first will be if the Spartans can beat an above-average Northwestern team.
The Wildcats proved last week that they aren’t to be overlooked and certainly
hasn’t proven it
can look past anyone. If you can’t beat Michigan
at home, you can’t just step on the field at Spartan Stadium and expect to walk
wants to remain a
program that has some high expectations, it has to win this game. Michigan
The second reason this game will be telling is on how the Spartans (players and fans) celebrate if they do win.
Is getting bowl eligible a big enough accomplishment for the program?
Mark Dantonio has led MSU to a bowl in each of his five seasons as coach. That is an accomplishment to be proud of given the Spartans were shutout of the bowl season three straight years before his arrival.
However, Dantonio had been building
into something more than just a bowl team, as MSU had been at the forefront of
the Big Ten title picture the last two seasons. Michigan State
As an outsider, I consider this to be a disappointing season for
. The Spartans should have expected
more and shouldn’t be satisfied with a 6-or-7-win season. Michigan State
When you consider the talent on the defensive side of the ball, this was a prime opportunity for
to contend for the Big Ten title. Michigan State
You can also expect all four of those teams to keep getting better, which may leave the Spartans as the odd team out in the Big Ten picture for the future.
It’s not crazy to think most of the top talent on MSU’s team this year could be gone next year. Le’Veon
Bell and William Gholston have to consider
moving on to the NFL when you think of the injury risks that come with going
through another season.
Should Spartan fans just be happy with making a bowl game year-in and year-out, or should it expect to win a Big Ten Championship and play in the Rose Bowl once every handful of years?
MSU needs to define its expectations and decide if it wants to be an average program or if it wants to be a force in the Big Ten.
Last year when the Detroit Lions made the playoffs, head coach Jim Schwartz said “There's going to come a time when we don't celebrate going to the playoffs, or getting into the playoffs. It's not going to be tonight.”
Tomorrow (if MSU wins) will not be a time for celebrating. If the Spartans really want to be considered in the same discussion as
Michigan as a football
program, you don’t celebrate just making a bowl.
Making a bowl should be the first in a long list of goals and expectations each year if you are going to be a great program.
The Wolverines have already locked up a bowl win, but their fan base is still largely upset with the season because
Michigan doesn’t control its own destiny in
the Big Ten race with two games left.
I know this comes off like a
fan belittling , but it’s not. Michigan
The Wolverines were awful during the Rich Rodriguez era and I wasn’t sure
expectations would ever get back to where they were when Lloyd Carr was coach.
But, Brady Hoke arrived, won 11 games last year and is in contention to win 10 this season if it wins out.
Hoke has essentially created his own monster because now
Michigan fans won’t
tolerate a letdown season. He must get to nine wins or more each year, and even
some won’t accept that.
So, to get back to my point, will MSU fans accept this season? Is it okay for Mark Dantonio to have this team win just six or seven games? Should he feel some pressure going into next season if he can’t get MSU back to 8-to-10 wins?
It’s a thin line, but what side you stand on in this argument defines your expectations for what the MSU program should be.Is becoming bowl eligible an accomplishment in college football
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
His value to the Spartans is obviously high.
But, just where does
sit amongst running backs in the national picture?
Early in the season,
was being mentioned as an All-American candidate.
Phil Steele actually listed him as a midseason First Team All-American.
But, of any players with over 1,000 yards rushing this season,
has the second-most carries (283) and is last in yards per carry (4.4).
I would credit his low yards per carry to the injuries to the offensive line for
State Bell doesn’t seem to get much help in terms
of big running lanes being opened for him.
A lot is being asked of
Bell. In each game that he has rushed for over
100 yards this season, it has taken a minimum of 29 carries to do it.
His top two rushing performances were in the first four games of the season.
His pass catching production has dropped significantly.
Bell has just nine
receptions for 20 yards over his last five games. He had 20 catches for 133
yards in the first five games of the season.
Again, it’s hard to criticize
Bell too much because he has taken on a giant
work load already this season.
He is a talented back and a big contributor for the Spartans, but I don’t feel he is at the All-American level.
elects to return for a senior season, he will be an All-American candidate, but
he will need to lead the Spartans to better than a .500 record.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Obviously Robinson is a tremendous athlete.
He has put up historic numbers as a member of the
Michigan football team,
but he hasn’t been able to win over the entire Wolverine fan base.
There is a significant part of the fan base that feels Robinson is what is keeping
from truly taking a step forward at the national level.
Their point has been emphasized over the last two games with the play of Devin Gardner.
Gardner, who also has the capability to run or pass, has shown much better passing abilities than Robinson.
Over the last two weeks,
Gardner is 28 of 47 passing for 520 yards
with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also rushed for 68 yards and
In Robinson’s starts this year, he has thrown for over 210 yards in just one game. He has nine passing touchdowns with nine interceptions.
What he lacks in passing, he makes up for in rushing, as he has rushed for 946 yards and six touchdowns.
Saturday’s game with
marks the final home game for seniors, including Robinson.
On Monday, during his weekly press conference, Brady Hoke indicated that Robinson is still day-to-day with his elbow injury that has lingered on into its third week.
When asked if senior day will impact his decision to get Robinson in the game against the Hawkeyes, Hoke indicated that Robinson’s health is the only thing that will impact whether he plays or not.
I would suspect that
can beat Iowa
with Robinson or Gardner under center. The real question is about . Ohio State
Will the Wolverines need a consistent passing effort to win in
so, do Michigan
fans trust that Robinson can be the player to provide that effort?
Robinson did go 14 of 17 passing for 167 yards and three scores against the Buckeyes last year, but I suspect that
State’s defense will be stronger this
year with Urban Meyer as coach and the added emphasis on beating Michigan this year since
the Buckeyes can’t compete in postseason play.
That is just my opinion.
What is your opinion? Give me your vote as to who you think should be
quarterback going forward.
If both are healthy, who should be Michigan's current QB
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Northwestern is a name doesn’t bring out a lot of fear in college football fans, but the Wildcats have been a pretty good team this year and I had a feeling that Saturday’s game would be a tight one.
winning 31-24, so I am happy with that as my predictions have been way off
I certainly didn’t see the game coming down to a miracle at the end of regulation, but that seems to be something Northwestern lets happen.
The thing that was lost in the finish was the importance of Roy Roundtree finding a way to make that amazing catch. Sure, there was a penalty on the play, but in college pass interference is just a 15-yard penalty. Had Roundtree not made the juggling catch, the ball would have been put at the Northwestern 47 with eight seconds left. It would have been very tough for
Michigan to get enough
yards while stopping the clock to get a lengthy field goal.
Roundtree’s catch was clutch and he and Jeremy Gallon made some great plays during the game. That catch by Roundtree could go on to define the season if
is able to get to a possible 10 wins (including a bowl victory).
The defense struggled on Saturday, but they aren’t the first to do so against Northwestern. Colter made some great plays for the Wildcats. It’s okay to expect the Wolverines to do better, but they are still going to have some down performances during the season.
As high as the win was for
fans, I am sure they have to be disappointed about Nebraska’s
win over . Penn State
An upset seemed to be brewing with the Nittany Lions up 20-6 at halftime, but
found a way to win. The Cornhuskers were the benefit of a big call on the
McGloin “fumble” at the goal line, but that is how it works when you don’t
control your own destiny.
I think Robinson deserves the right to be the quarterback if healthy, but certainly you have to keep
In fairness to Robinson,
Gardner hasn’t faced impressive defensive
units in his two games as a starter.
Friday, November 9, 2012
I haven’t posted in a few days but I wanted to get up my prediction for Saturday’s lone game. Here is my take on what to expect for
, Noon Michigan
No matter who is at quarterback,
Michigan should be able to move the ball.
Northwestern is allowing just under 400 yards per game on defense this season.
This is a defense that Denard Robinson should be able to carve up with his legs
or Devin Gardner should be able to carve up with his arm. Where Michigan will have to be
sharp is on defense, as Northwestern is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at
30.4 points per game. The Wildcats are very quick on the ground and Michigan will have to
contain running back Venric Mark, who has posted over 1,000 rushing yards this
year. I don’t see Michigan
being able to really dominate this game. Northwestern has had its two losses
come by a combined 12 points. Look for this game to be more of a shootout than
a defensive battle. Ultimately, Michigan
will make enough plays to win, but it will be a battle.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I plan on jumping heavily into basketball once the regular season of football is over, but I thought I would give my preseason picks for the Big Ten today before the season actually begins.
Here is how I look for the Big Ten to play out this year.
– The Hoosiers have the
experience and the talent. It was a slow rebuild for Tom Crean, but patience
seems to be paying off for Indiana Indiana.
– Things can go really well for Michigan
this year or really poorly. The Wolverines are relying on a lot of new faces,
but they are expected to be a talented group of new faces. Hardaway Jr. and
Burke will need to stay healthy throughout the season.
– The Spartans have a lot of talent, but the loss of Draymond Green will
hurt in more ways than one. Leadership issues could lead to struggles during
the season. If Nix and Payne take a big step forward in their progression, the
Spartans could win the conference. Michigan State
– The loss of Jared Sullinger and William Buford are big for the Buckeyes.
They will have to rely more on their defense this year, led by Aaron Craft. I
don’t see them being able to consistently win big games in the conference. Ohio State
– The Badgers return a solid
core from last year but lose their playmaker in Jordan Taylor. Not sure where
the points will come from for Wisconsin Wisconsin,
but they should be strong defensively once again.
– The Golden Gophers could be
the dark horse in the Big Ten as they return their top five scoring leaders
from last season. The question is, even with the returning talent, do they have
the talent that the other teams in the Big Ten have? Minnesota
7. Purdue – The Boilermakers were hit hard with losing the likes of Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith. Purdue will be a team that is stronger later in the season as it develops new go-to players.
8. Iowa – The Hawkeyes took a step forward last year and I think that will continue some this year as they threaten to earn a NCAA Tournament bid.
Iowa’s concern is not having a lot of depth
to work with after losing four players from last year’s squad.
9. Northwestern – Some see Northwestern higher, but the loss of John Shurna will be a lot to overcome. The Wildcats still have some talent, but they don’t have a game-changer like Shurna to turn to. Drew Crawford will attempt to take that role, but I’m not sure he can do it with added defensive focus put on him.
– I like the addition of John Groce as the coach, but he doesn’t have a lot
to work with this season at Illinois.
Look for the Illini to struggle most of the year, but pull off a few upsets
late in the season.
Penn State –
It’s hard to say if it’s good news or bad news, but
lost four players from a 12-20 team last season. I see it as the Nittany Lions
having little talent, and now, even less depth. Penn State
– What Nebraska
can accomplish in football with a move to the Big Ten, it loses in basketball.
The Cornhuskers are a mess of a basketball program. Similar to
lost five players from a 12-18 team. It will be a long year for new coach Tim
Miles. Penn State, Nebraska
Saturday, November 3, 2012
It was an eventful day for football fans in the state of Michigan. Both Michigan and MSU had some interesting storylines come out of their games. Here are my final thoughts on the games.
Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24
Was the pass interference call late in the game a bad one? I think so.
But, in no way can the whole game be blamed on that one call.
For one, Nebraska was still in field goal range to tie the game. Even without the penalty, the Cornhuskers were within reason to force overtime. Whose to say MSU would have won in OT?
Second, Michigan State had plenty of opportunities to close that game out and managed to not do it.
The most notable of those opportunities was on Darqueze Dennard’s interception of Taylor Martinez on the MSU 4-yard line that he returned for a touchdown. The score would have put the Spartans up 31-14 with 10:42 to play. Instead, the return was called back because of a personal foul hit by Johnny Adams on a Nebraska player.
Adams, who was completely out of the play at the time of the foul, lowered his shoulder into a Nebraska player and wiped him out. There was no need for the hit. It didn’t help Dennard or his team in any way. In fact, I’d argue the hit ultimately cost his team the game.
MSU’s offense sputtered from there and Nebraska came back on the next possession to score a touchdown and get back in the contest.
After the penalty, the MSU defense had multiple chances to close out the game, including a key fourth and short in Spartan territory, but they failed to make the stop.
Nebraska tallied 493 total yards in the win and Taylor Martinez rushed for 224 yards on his own.
The MSU defense failed to close out a game, which has been a problem in the past. The offense actually provided 24 points, which should have been enough to win this game.
After the game, I was disappointed to see the reaction of the players on Twitter. MSU has already had problems with players running their mouths on Twitter this season and tonight was no different. Here were a few choice cuts from running back Le’Veon Bell:
@L_Bell24: #ShoutOut to the refs...yall won the game tonight! Toughest team we played all year..”
@L_Bell24: We legitimately lost ONE game this year...and that was Notre Dame! The black & white team beat us 4 times
Bell removed the tweets afterward but the mindset of MSU blaming their losses on anyone but themselves is a disturbing trend this year and speaks to why the team is currently 5-5.
The Spartans need some accountability. Adams showed no accountability on the INT return and that led to a loss.
Bell is showing no accountability on Twitter and if the players carry this mindset the rest of the way, there will be more losses to come.
Michigan 35, Minnesota 13
The Wolverines not only won on the football field, but they won with the relief of knowing they have a quarterback they can turn to next season.
I’m sure Michigan fans were pretty nervous when they found out Denard Robinson wasn’t playing, and the first quarter didn’t do much to settle those nerves, but Devin Gardner settled in nicely and made some great plays with his arm and his feet to lead the offense to a victory.
His ability to buy some time on his 45-yard touchdown pass to Drew Dileo for Michigan’s first score seemed to spark the offense and give Gardner confidence the rest of the way.
He finished 12 of 18 passing for 234 yards while also rushing for 23 yards and a score. He doesn’t have the legs of Robinson, but he has a better arm and he looks like a player Michigan can turn to next season.
With a summer of focusing on being the starting quarterback, I think Gardner can be successful and keep Michigan from taking a step back next year.
I am sure Brady Hoke will put more emphasis on having Gardner ready to backup Robinson the rest of the way.
Friday, November 2, 2012
Let me start by saying my picks last week didn’t go so well (0-2). Perhaps it is best if I pick against your team. Either way, here is what I think will happen in today’s contests.
I think this game will be tougher than many expect.
Minnesota has a lot to play
for, as it needs one more win to get to bowl eligibility, and it is coming off
an impressive win over Purdue at home last week. I think Denard Robinson is
coming into this game with that elbow injury still lingering a little bit. I could
see it impacting the way he plays and making him more tentative, which will cause
the offense to struggle at times. Even with that happening, the Michigan defense should still be able to limit Minnesota’s offense and keep
the Wolverines in the game. From there, Robinson will make enough plays down
the stretch to get Michigan
a win on the road.
- Be smart with Denard – It is fully expected for Denard Robinson to play on Saturday, but he may not be 100 percent. If the Wolverines are going to have a shot at the Big Ten title, they need Robinson to play the rest of the season. Against a team like
Minnesota, Michigan should be able to move the ball on
the ground with players like Fitzgerald Toussaint. The Golden Gophers have the
third-worst rushing defense in the Big Ten, so Michigan should be able to exploit that with
a healthy mix of ball carriers other than Robinson. I’m not saying don’t
utilize Robinson, that would be silly, but keep his touches lower than normal
and try to avoid piling up the hits on him.
- Stop the obvious players –
doesn’t have much in regards to big offensive stars. Running back Donnell
Kirkwood is the top player, as he has 609 yards rushing with three scores this
season. Michigan can live with Minnesota trying to win
the game on his legs. I don’t see Minnesota
being able to establish enough of a running game to be a one-dimensional
offense. Where Michigan
needs to avoid a letdown is in the passing game. Minnesota will take some chances, but their
lone receiver with any stats of note is A.J. Barker, who has 30 receptions for
577 yards and seven touchdowns. The next closest receiver has just 13 catches
for under 200 yards. If Minnesota
is going to air it out, it will be to Barker. Michigan needs to stay close to him and
focus a lot of coverage his way. If someone is going to beat the Wolverines on
Saturday, make sure it is not him.
- Slow the game down early – Coming off their 44-28 win over Purdue last week, the Golden Gophers have some new life and will be looking to start Saturday’s game with a bang to get the crowd into it.
needs to avoid getting caught up in that and play a smart, methodical pace on
offense. Don’t come out of the gates looking for the 70-yard score. Steady
drives down the field will take the crowd out of the game and keep the Minnesota offense from
being on the field. Michigan
can send its biggest message by controlling the line of scrimmage and dictating
the pace of Saturday’s game.
- Pressure on
Martinez – knows what it’s
like to meet up against mobile quarterback. They have had success against
Denard Robinson but struggled against the likes of Braxton Miller. In this
game, the Spartans need to have the same mentality they had against Robinson.
They need to keep Michigan
in the pocket and now allow him to get to the outside where he can make plays
with his legs. If they can contain the pocket and apply pressure on the ends,
it should lead to turnovers. Martinez
is a better passer than Denard Robinson, but he still has his flaws and will
makes mistakes if he tries to force throws under pressure.
- Line improvement – I am not sure if this is a realistic possibility, but the offensive line has to play better. The Spartans need to avoid penalties and missed assignments up front. If
can’t establish a
steady run game with Le’Veon Bell, the offense will continue to struggle as
they have most of the season. Michigan
has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the Big Ten, so their defensive
line is not exactly a powerhouse. The Spartan linemen need to challenge
themselves and win the battle up front to help the offense finally have a
- Make the plays that need to be made – Like most MSU games, this one will probably come down to a handful of plays late.
Michigan State made the key plays last week at Wisconsin and a lot of
that had to do with quarterback Andrew Maxwell and his receivers stepping up. The
same needs to be done this week. Maxwell has to play with confidence and make
the tough throws in a small window. The receivers need to make the tough
catches and avoid the drops that hurt them early in the season. Perhaps last
week’s finish will lead to an improved offense. We will find out soon enough.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
As I do each Thursday, let’s take a look at the stories coming from the opponents of
Michigan and this week. Michigan State
Pelini has led the Cornhuskers to at least 9 wins every season thus far, but he is lacking in much hardware to show for his efforts. That has not been lost on the local media covering
Sam McKewon, of the Omaha World-Herald, wrote a column this week saying it is time for
Nebraska to close out
the season and win the Big Ten title.
Pelini’s teams have struggled as the front-runners. They battle their way off the wall after an ugly loss, and their backs seem to instinctively seek out the wall again. The Huskers’ maturity should guard against a letdown. Of course, that maturity hasn’t exactly guarded against penalties and turnovers. NU can occasionally play like a team at odds with its self-interest. Like the offense did on those three plays inside
5-yard line. Michigan
But the road to
much clearer or cleaner than this. I know: Four games left, good opposing
defenses, breaks of the game. But let’s not make any of the remaining opponents
out to be something they’re not. Indianapolis
has a significantly better offense than all of them. A better kicker than all
of them. More team speed than all of them. More momentum than all of them. Nebraska
That MSU and
’s offenses would struggle
to pitch coins in a fountain. That Iowa has an immobile
quarterback who played poorly at home vs. the Huskers last year. That Penn
State ’s quarterback
just turned 19. That it’s closing time for Bo and the Blackshirts. Minnesota
The Cornhuskers dropped two of their final three games in 2010 in their final season as part of the Big 12.
Will the trend continue this year for
get the nod over the Cornhuskers, who have had problems winning on the road
consistently? Michigan State
Nebraska sputters in the
final four games, will Pelini start to feel some pressure from the Nebraska fans and
However, the Golden Gophers are lacking in much of a home-field advantage these days.
Phil Miller, of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, talks about
current issues with filling their stadium.
Only 41,062 tickets were sold to the Gophers' game against Purdue last Saturday, already the smallest crowd in TCF Bank Stadium's four-year history, and it looked like there were several thousand no-shows, too. It's a shame that so many Gopher fans missed the most impressive victory of the season so far.
But Jerry Kill said Tuesday he knows who is to blame for such a dispiriting turnout: He is.
Well, sort of. It's not really his fault that the Gophers don't draw well, but it is his responsibility, he said, for making sure that changes.
"If we continue to win, that place will be packed out and we'll have to build on to it," Kill said at his weekly news conference. "If you don't win, that's the way it is. ... It's our job. It's not our fans -- I'm not going to blame anybody. We've got to put a good product out there. That's what I was hired to do a year and a half ago, and that's what we'll do."
TCF Bank Stadium has a listed capacity of 50,805, which isn’t much for a Big Ten program.
The fact that the Gophers are having troubling filling the stadium is somewhat surprising considering
Minnesota is 5-3 this year and just one win
away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.
Perhaps last week’s win over Purdue at home will inspire more Gophers fans to get out to TCF Bank Stadium this week.