Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reaction to Michigan's 59-9 win over CMU

It was a 59-9 win for Michigan, so what is there to complain about?
Maybe nothing, but the Wolverines’ victory on Saturday sure didn’t quite feel like a 50-point win.
But, perhaps that is a good thing for Michigan.
Both Brady Hoke and quarterback Devin Gardner felt there was plenty to still work on and I can’t disagree. I wrote a column for The Oakland Press on Gardner being the one that will make or break this team.
The Michigan offense came out a bit rusty, especially Gardner. The junior quarterback made some questionable throws early, but once he settled in, he played a strong game (10-for-15 162 yards 1TD, 2 INT; 7 rushes, 52 yards 2TD). It is clear that Michigan does have the ability to make plays in the passing game with the current roster. Jeremy Gallon (4 receptions, 47 yards) had a number of difficult catches and tight end Devin Funchess (2 receptions, 47 yards) has all the potential in the world.
The running game was steady, but none of the handful of running backs that were used put a real stamp on being “the man”. I thought freshman Derrick Green (11 carries, 58 yards) looked solid and has potential to be a great back. He seemed to earn himself more carries next week against Notre Dame.
The Michigan defense only allowed 210 total yards and was flying to the ball. Granted, the Wolverines faced an offense that lost its starting quarterback and starting running back in the first quarter, but Michigan was going to limit Central Michigan regardless.
The Wolverines got some big plays from all three units, including special teams right off the bat. There are plenty of reasons to nitpick and point out what went wrong, but you have to remember this was a season opener and mistakes will take place. The key for Michigan was, it was still able to score a lot of points and allow very few despite those mistakes. That’s not something the Michigan State offense could say for itself against a similar opponent on Friday.
Michigan obviously faces a tough test next Saturday and that game will provide more of a picture as to what fans can expect from the Wolverines in 2013.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Reaction to MSU's 26-13 win over Western Michigan

It was the start of the 2013 college football season for Michigan State Friday night, but it looked more like a replay of the 2012 season.
Sure, the Spartans picked up a 26-13 win over Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium, but Michigan State did little to calm the concerns many have had about this team.
First off, of the 26 points MSU had on the night, 17 were from the defense. The Spartans had two defensive touchdowns and the defense handed MSU three points with an interception inside the red zone that the Spartan offense failed to punch into the end zone.
Michigan State’s offense really didn’t look any different than it did a year ago. Jeremy Langford rushed for 94 yards, but still only averaged 4.7 yards per carry against a Western Michigan defense that probably isn’t going to set records this season. When it comes to the passing game, Michigan State didn’t attack downfield, averaging just 3.1 yards per pass. When MSU did try to make some plays through the air, the Spartan receivers (mainly Bennie Fowler) dropped passes.
Both Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook did little to plant themselves in as the clear starting quarterback of this team. Each struggled with accuracy. Cook made some plays with his legs but was also lucky to not have had a few interceptions to his credit. Maxwell continued to throw short of the sticks on third down and didn’t show much presence in the pocket when the opportunities were there for him to scramble.
The longest play from scrimmage for MSU was a 26-yard pass to Fowler that was 23 yards of running after the catch. Michigan State lacked in explosive plays and if the Spartans can only average 3.9 yards per play against the Broncos, what are they going to do against good defenses?
On the other hand, MSU proved it once again has an elite defense. The Spartans will be in every game this season because of their defense. They can blitz, they can tackle and they can make plays in the secondary. Pat Narduzzi once again has put a great group together and knows what buttons to push.
The problem for the defense is it has this offense to work with. If Michigan State had any ability to consistently score, it could certainly contend for the Big Ten title.
As good as the defense can be, it will still give up the occasional big play or score. It’s very difficult to pitch a shutout in college football.
It is just the first game of the season, but it was the first game against a weak opponent. I don’t think anyone on MSU’s football team or in the Spartan fan base feels very good about this performance.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Predicting Michigan's 2013 season game-by-game

Michigan has emerged as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten Legends Division by many publications. The Wolverines have the talent, it is just a matter of if they can put it together in 2013. Here are my game-by-game picks for U-M.

Aug. 31 vs. Central Michigan – The Chippewas are breaking in a new quarterback in the Big House. Good luck with that. (1-0)
Sept. 7 vs. Notre Dame – If not for so many turnovers, Michigan would have won at Notre Dame last year. I think the Fighting Irish are in for a rough night in Ann Arbor this time around. (2-0)
Sept. 14 vs. Akron – Another MAC opponent, another lofty win. (3-0)
Sept. 21 at Connecticut – The first road game always poses some challenges, but this should be a win without too much trouble. (4-0)
Oct. 5 vs. Minnesota – The Golden Gophers just won’t have the athletes to keep up with Michigan (5-0)
Oct. 12 at Penn State – The Nittany Lions will make this tough, but the NCAA penalties will start to be felt. Look for Michigan to grind out this win. (6-0)
Oct. 19 vs. Indiana – Take the over. (7-0)
Nov. 2 at Michigan State – I think this is the year Michigan gets a win in East Lansing again. It will probably be “bowling-shoe ugly,” but I think Michigan stays unbeaten. (8-0)
Nov. 9 vs. Nebraska – The Cornhuskers have struggled on the road in previous seasons and I suspect that will continue. Michigan gets the win here in an entertaining game. (9-0)
Nov. 16 at Northwestern – It’s not entirely that I think Michigan will lose to Northwestern, but I feel this final five-game stretch is too tough to go unscathed. I will say the Wildcats avenge last year’s loss to the Wolverines at home. (9-1)
No. 23 at Iowa – Another tricky road game late in the season. Iowa isn’t what it used to be, but it still isn’t easy to get a win in Iowa City. Michigan will win this game, but it won’t be pretty. (10-1)
Nov. 30 vs. Ohio State – Ohio State will probably have a lot to play for and can play spoiler to Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes. Despite my picking a loss to Northwestern, I see the Wildcats dropping a few games along the way as well. If Michigan wins, it will play for the Big Ten title. Ohio State could play conservative and play for the following week, but an unbeaten season could be on the line too. Urban Meyer is building a national power in Ohio State, but the Buckeyes aren’t quite that dominant force yet. The Wolverines don’t need to take a backseat to Ohio State right now and I think they get a win over the Buckeyes at home. (11-1)
Dec. 7 vs. Ohio State (Big Ten Championship) – As good as the win was for Michigan the previous week, the loss this time around will have a greater impact. Ohio State will pull out all the stops and find a way to win on a neutral field. (11-2)

If my predictions hold up, this will still be a strong season for Michigan. Brady Hoke says winning the Big Ten is always the expectation, but reaching the title game is still a good accomplishment as he continues to build up the program again. The schedule isn’t too difficult, but it also ends with a very tough stretch. Winning the Legends Division won’t be easy, but Michigan seems equipped to do so if it can keep its stars healthy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Predicting MSU's 2013 season game-by-game

Michigan State has some high hopes to improve on its 7-6 record from 2012 and this year’s schedule sets up nicely for the Spartans to do that. Here are my game-by-game predictions for MSU this season.

Aug. 30 vs. Western Michigan – Give the Spartans a W here. Western Michigan has a lot of new things to incorporate and the Spartans will be eager to put on a show in the season opener. (1-0)
Sept. 7 vs. South Florida – This could be a close non-conference game at home, but I ultimately think the MSU defense will be too strong for the Bulls. (2-0)
Sept. 14 vs. Youngstown State – Not much needs to be said here. It’s a win. (3-0)
Sept. 21 at Notre Dame – I think this will be a low-scoring contest and the Spartans won’t be able to find enough points to come away with a victory. (3-1)
Oct. 5 at Iowa – Going on the road to face Iowa is always tricky, but the Spartans will be coming off a bye and should have a good game plan going in. Give MSU a win here. (4-1)
Oct. 12 vs. Indiana – MSU can’t sleep on the Indiana offense, as it will be dangerous. The Spartans will need to score some points to win, which they should be able to do against the Hoosiers. Despite a few tense moments late, I see MSU getting the win. (5-1)
Oct. 19 vs. Purdue – Michigan State gets to face another team with a new head coach here. The Boilermakers are probably going to have a long season. (6-1)
Oct. 26 at Illinois – The Illini should be better in their second season under Tim Beckman, but MSU should still pick up a road win if the defense shows up. (7-1)
Nov. 2 vs. Michigan – I know MSU has had Michigan’s number at home recently, but I think the Wolverines are the better team on paper. Barring injuries, I see the Wolverines grinding out a win. (7-2)
Nov. 16 at Nebraska – MSU will have to contain Taylor Martinez, which could be a problem. Martinez ate up the 2012 MSU defense, which I think was better than this year’s group. I don’t see Michigan State getting this road win. (7-3)
Nov. 23 at Northwestern – I think Northwestern is going to be very tough this year. The Wildcats offense should be very challenging to stop. The Wildcats may still be playing for the Legends Division title at this time, so I give them the nod at home. (7-4)
Nov. 30 vs. Minnesota – The Spartans will end the regular season on a positive, beating Minnesota at home. (8-4)

An 8-4 record isn’t too bad considering the question marks the Spartans have on offense. Mark Dantonio created new expectations with a pair of 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, but I just don’t think this team has that capability.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Week 1 Odds for Michigan State and Michigan

Kickoff week has officially arrived. Both Michigan and Michigan State face in-state opponents this week to start the season. Here is a look at the odds for both games:

Michigan State -27 vs. Western Michigan
The Spartans kickoff the season at home against the Broncos on Friday night at 8 p.m. MSU has done pretty well against the Mid-American Conference the past few seasons, beating Central Michigan 41-7 in 2012, Central 45-7 in 2011 and Western Michigan 38-14 in 2010. I have plenty of doubts about how strong the MSU offense will be, but I do think the Spartans will look good on offense against the Broncos. Western Michigan is breaking in a lot of new parts, including a new head coach. It will take some time for all pieces to come together for the Broncos. Also, the Michigan State defense will probably be very stingy this season, so I can see WMU struggling to score points. In the end, 27 points is a lot to cover, but I think the Spartans will be able to do it in this instance.

Michigan -31.5 vs. Central Michigan
The Wolverines will host the Chippewas for their first meeting since 2006 on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Michigan has plenty of buzz coming into the season with Devin Gardner firmly planted as the team’s starting quarterback. The Michigan offense shouldn’t have too much trouble moving the ball on the Chippewas, who allowed 432 yards per game last season. Central Michigan will probably have its own problems on offense as well, as it breaks in a first-time starter in the Big House. While the Chippewas have a talented group of running backs, they no longer have Eric Fisher at left tackle to anchor the offensive line. Michigan should win comfortably, but the question is, can they win by at least 32 points? The Wolverines come into the game 5-1 against the spread in their last 6 games against MAC opponents, but CMU comes into the game 6-2 ATS in its last 8 games against the Big Ten. If Michigan is going to cover, it is going to need at least one defensive or special teams touchdowns, which is entirely possible.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What are your expectations for Devin Gardner in 2013?

The Denard Robinson era of Michigan football is officially over.
Now the Wolverines’ offense is solely in the hands of Devin Gardner.
Some Michigan fans have been waiting a few years for this time, while others feel Robinson was one of the all-time greats in Michigan’s football history.
Either way, now is Gardner’s time and the expectations for him are great.
The junior is a clear upgrade in terms of his passing. He completed 59.5 percent of his passes last season, going 75-of-126 during the year, which spanned five games and four starts. Gardner averaged 243.8 passing yards per game in his five appearances and he accumulated 11 touchdown passes to five interceptions.
I don’t think it is asking too much for Gardner to throw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, as long as he stays healthy. I would expect Michigan to keep Gardner more in the pocket and not have him do too much running, like it did with Robinson.
Gardner averaged just 2.1 yards per carry last season, and while he is a great athlete, he is not nearly as comfortable running with the football as Robinson. I don’t think the Wolverines will shy away from having Gardner run a few times each game, but I don’t expect them to put Gardner in a position to get hit often.
Gardner gives Michigan the ability to run a pro-style offense that should be very effective and should get the Wolverines’ receivers more involved in the offense. Michigan hasn’t averaged more than 250 passing yards per game in a season since Lloyd Carr was the head coach. That could change this season.
What are your expectations for Devin Gardner in 2013? Will he ultimately be the quarterback that Michigan fans want?