Posts Tagged 'michigan state'

Week 9 College FootBlog 3rd & 1

Week 8 in college football was saw another big upset and saw a Heisman contender move to a Heisman front-runner.  We cover these topics and more in this week’s edition of our 3rd & 1.

1st:  Oklahoma’s lack of a vertical passing game finally caught up with them.  Whether it is conservative play calling or zero confidence in quarterback Landry Jones, the Sooners’ lack of the intermediate and deep passing game was finally exposed by the Missouri Tigers this past weekend.  In match ups against Florida State, Texas and Mizzou, it was abundantly clear that the OU coaching staff does not want the sophomore QB to make reads down the field.  Until the Mizzou weekend, Jones’ weaknesses were somewhat masked by a barrage of bubble screens and the fast pace of the no-huddle offense.  Mizzou walked their safeties and corners up to the line of scrimmage and kept the bubble screens in check, and begged OU to challenge their pass defense.  Still, the OU play calling was bubble screens and quick slants, and it cost the Sooners one loss and could easily cost them another if the coaching staff doesn’t improve the passing game.

QB Cameron Newton has led Auburn to an 8-0 start this season (google images)

2nd:  The Heisman Trophy is Cameron Newton’s to lose.  Auburn’s  junior signal-caller eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in last weekend’s victory over previously undefeated LSU.  Although his passing numbers were far from explosive (10 for 16 for 86 yards), the elusive QB rushed for over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a LSU defense that had previously only allowed one player, Tennessee’s Tauren Poole, to break 100 yards.  Newton is 9th nationally in total yards per game with 305.1 and has already accounted for 27 touchdowns, despite going against the stout defenses of the SEC.  If he can put up similar numbers in the Iron Bowl, not only will he have a great shot at the Heisman, but he will have the Tigers in position for a BCS Championship.

 

3rd:  Oregon’s offense is scary-good.  The Ducks lead the nation with just under 570 yards per game.  Their lowest scoring output so far this season was against Arizona State, when the Sun Devils “held” them to a mere 42 points.  Last Thursday’s 60-point, 582-yard thrashing of UCLA gave the rest of the nation an opportunity to see just how explosive the 2010 Ducks are.  Quarterback Darron Thomas has made everyone forget about Jeremiah Masoli’s departure last spring.  The sophomore QB has accounted for over 1,500 yards passing and 17 TDs to go along with 269 yards and two TDs on the ground.  Sophomore running back LaMichael James has picked up right where he left off last season and currently leads the nation in rushing yards per game with just over 161 YPG.

….and 1:  Only Iowa stands in the way of a Big Ten Title for Michigan StateThe undefeated Spartans invade Iowa City this weekend and face the Hawkeyes, who lost a heart-breaker at home last weekend to Wisconsin (who Michigan State beat earlier this month).  MSU has the luxury of not having Ohio State on the schedule this year, and after this weekend’s trip to Iowa, they wrap up the rest of the regular season with home games against 1-7 Minnesota and 4-3 Purdue, before traveling to Penn State for the finale.  If the Spartans can knock off Iowa this weekend, they can still afford to lose one game and be guaranteed at least a share of the conference title.  Look for Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes to give MSU all they can handle in what should be a great game.

College FootBlog Spotlight: Denard Robinson

Heading into the 2010 college football season at Ann Arbor, it wasn’t even clear who the starter at quarterback would be, so there was obviously no talk of Heisman

Oh, what a difference a few weeks can make.  It’s very early in the season, but Denard Robinson has put himself and his team back on the map, and in the process, he may also be saving his head coach, Rich Rodriguez’ job. 

All Robinson has done to this point is lead the nation in total offense and beat hated Notre Dame in week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we examine three reasons for optimism for Michigan fans, and we also break down the three biggest hurdles standing in his way to making the trip to New York this December.

Feeling Optimistic?  Robinson has done more than his part to be in the national spotlight, but here are three factors that play in his favor to continue his momentum:

1.  Opposing Defenses:  With Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin left on the schedule, you would think this would be a negative.  True, going against three of the best defenses in the country will provide a significant challenge, a closer look at the rest of Michigan’s opponents, and more notably, the defenses they will face, should have Robinson salivating.  Of the final nine games of the regular season, the Wolverines will face only two (Ohio State and Iowa) that are currently ranked in the top 25 in total defense.  And next week’s opponent, Bowling Green, is ranked 111th nationally in that category.

Denard Robinson has put himself in the mix for this year's Heisman race (google images)

2.  National Television:  If Michigan can continue to win, they have a chance to play nationally televised games against Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin and the showdown against the Buckeyes on November 27th.  This could backfire if Robinson has a bad game or two, but with his explosiveness and knack for the big play, it could also play hugely in his favor.  He has proven so far this season that the more opportunities he gets, the more big plays he produces.

3.  Ohio State:  With the defensive woes that Michigan has shown (most recently against FCS opponent UMass last weekend), there is very little chance that Michigan will be in the hunt for a Big Ten title this season, and by the time the Big Game against the hated Buckeyes rolls around, the Wolverines could have nothing to lose.  This actually plays into Michigan and Robinson’s favor.  Rich-Rod has been known for trick plays and gambling, but look for him to pull out all stops against OSU.  If the game stays tight, even against one of the best defenses in the nation (OSU), Robinson has the speed and athleticism that is impossible to defend.  This scenario could provide Robinson with a couple of opportunities for a signature Heisman moment if the Wolverines were to pull off the unthinkable and take down the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the final week of the regular season.

Not so fast, my friend.  Here are the three factors that could keep Robinson from punching his plane ticket to New York City:

1.  Ohio State:  Just as this game could catapult Robinson to center stage of the Heisman race, this game could also be catastrophic.  Since his arrival at OSU, Jim Tressel has owned the Wolverines, going 8-1 in this rivalry game.  Of this success, there has been one constant–defense.  Tressel has consistently produced top 10 defenses since coming to Columbus, and the 2010 version could be his best yet.  Also, considering this game is at the Horseshoe, it could be a rough finale to the regular season for Robinson.

2.  Michigan’s Final Record:  Unless Michigan can find a dominant defense in the next two weeks, they will inevitably lose some games this season, and despite the 3-0 start, they have quite a task if they want to finish out the season with 7-8 wins.  Although it is not a requirement that you win your conference to take home the Heisman, the numbers are telling.  Six out of the last seven Heisman winners played on teams that won their respective conference.  Robinson would likely have to “buck” that trend (no pun intended).

3.  Robinson Must Stay Healthy:  At 6’0″ and 188 lbs., Robinson is not the biggest, most physical QB in the Big Ten.  His style of play and the number of carries as he gets into the thick of conference play in the Big Ten could prove to be a difficult task.  If he can stay healthy and continue to get the number of carries he has managed to this point, the stats will be there.  One big hit, however, could be the difference maker in whether or not he continues to light up the scoreboard like he has so far this season.

2010 College Football Big Ten Preview (#1-#5)

As the summer months approach, we get closer and closer to August, which, at least to the college football fanatic, means that two-a-days are just a couple of months away, and the CFB season will be underway.  Last week, we broke down each division of the ACC, and this week, we take a crack at the Big Ten.

Yesterday, College FootBlog released our Preseason Rankings for Teams 6-11 (see link) in the Big Ten.  In today’s edition, we break down our top five. 

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will look to build off his MVP performance in last year's Rose Bowl (google images)

1.  Ohio State:  Look for quarterback Terrelle Pryor to build off his Rose Bowl performance last season.  Running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron will follow another strong and experienced offensive line.  Brian Rolle leads the defense along with All-Big Ten Second Team selection Thaddeus Gibson anchoring the defensive line.  The Buckeyes have a difficult trip to Iowa City, but an improved Pryor and the Buckeye running game could simply be too much for the Hawkeyes to handle, even in Iowa City.  Pryor’s athleticism coupled with head coach Jim Tressel’s dominant defenses should be too much for the rest of the Big Ten. 

2.  Wisconsin:  Look for running back John Clay to put together an even better season than a year ago, when he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns.  If he does as expected, he will make the trip to New York for the Heisman presentation at season’s end.  Bret Bielema put a 10-win season together, which was capped off by a dominant performance against the Miami Hurricanes in the Champs Sports Bowl.   This could be the season that puts Bielema over the hump, but in order to do so, he will have to out-slug Iowa at Iowa City on October 23rd.

3.  Iowa:  Running back Adam Robinson returns after a solid 2009 campaign, and quarterback Ricky Stanzi and favorite target Marvin McNutt return as well.  The losses on the offensive line, most notably, last year’s Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Bryan Bulaga may have a negative effect on the ‘Hawks ground game.  Kirk Ferentz is one of the most talented coaches in the country and will have another great defense, but unless Stanzi is more consistent this year, Iowa will have a very difficult time winning out, although they do get Ohio State and Wisconsin at home this year.

4. Penn State:  Joe Pa’s squad should be solid again this year, but replacing quarterback Daryll Clark will be a tall order.  Running back Evan Royster and a seasoned offensive line that, coming out of spring ball looks to have four seniors and a junior should help the starter at QB, which appears to be sophomore Kevin Newsome going into summer workouts.  Defensively, the Nittany Lions lose Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick all three starting linebackers, but as usual, Paterno has more than adequate talent in the wings.  A strong running game another stout PSU defense should keep PSU in the hunt this season.

5:  Michigan State:  Quarterback Kirk Cousins returns for the Spartans and will try to build on his 2,600-yard, 19 touchdown performance from last season.  Defensively, MSU returns senior linebacker Greg Jones that adds CB Johnny Adams after missing last season.  Head Coach Mark Dantonio is now entering his fourth year in East Lansing but he is 0-3 in bowl games so far.  Dantonio has recruited some solid players and they are beginning to fill starting roles.  He must improve on last year’s 6-7 record, and that seems likely with Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue all at home this season.  The Spartans also have hated Notre Dame in their backyard this year as well and will look to take advantage of the new coaching regime for the Irish.

Check back next week for more articles and predictions for the upcoming CFB season, and let us know your feedback!

College Football Week 6 Preview: Michigan at Iowa

This college football weekend is headlined with several bigtime match ups, and while most eyes will be on the Florida vs. LSU game, football fans may not realize that there is another great game in the Big Ten–yes, I said it.  The Big Ten has had some exciting games this season, too, and with a combined record of 9-1, the MichiganIowa game this weekend should be a good one.

College FootBlog will break down each team’s strengths, weaknesses and we will show what each team will need to do to come out of the weekend with a very important win in Big Ten play.

Iowa 

DE Adrian Clayborn will try to shut down Forcier and the Michigan offense (google images)

DE Adrian Clayborn will try to shut down Forcier and the Michigan offense (google images)

Strengths:  The Hawkeye defense has been very good this season, holding a veteran Penn State offense to just ten points in Happy Valley a couple weeks ago.

Adrian Clayborn and company will have to continue to play sound defense as they square off against one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country this weekend in Tate Forcier.

Key Concerns:  Although quarterback Ricky Stanzi has shown significant improvement this season, his stats are still far from stellar this season. 

With the departure of Shonn Greene, the Hawkeyes have had to rekindle the offense.  Stanzi has thrown the football with much more confidence this year, but his 58% completion percentage and 8/7 touchdown to interception ratio is not going to get him All-Big Ten recognition.  If Iowa is going to win this game, Stanzi is going to have to put up better numbers than he has so far this season.

 

Tate Forcier has stepped up like a seasoned veteran this season (google images)

Tate Forcier has stepped up like a seasoned veteran this season (google images)

Michigan

Strengths:  Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier has given head coach Rich Rodriguezhis trigger-man for his spread offense.  Forcier has kept the Wolverines in each game, and very nearly brought his team back against rival Michigan State last weekend.

Forcier has accounted for over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and eleven touchdowns with his feet and his arm.  More importantly, the young signal-caller thrives in big games.  Expect him to bring his A-game this weekend.

Key Concerns:  The Wolverine defense has been sliced and diced this season when playing formidable opponents.  If you take away the games against Eastern and Western Michigan, Michigan has given up 93 points in three games.

While Iowa is not an offensive juggernaut, neither is Indiana.  Even the Hoosiers racked up 467 yards and 33 points against the Big Blue.  The defense will have to play much better if they expect to come out of Iowa City with a win.

Iowa Offense vs. Michigan Defense

While Ricky Stanzi has been a little up and down this year, look for him to have a solid game in front of the home crowd at Kinnick Stadium this weekend.  Michigan’s defense is a little behind Rodriguez’ offense, and it has shown.  The lack of a shutdown defense ended up catching up with the Wolverines last weekend and nearly cost them against Indiana and Notre Dame.  Stanzi’s passing and the two talented freshmen running backs, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher should have a solid day.  EDGE:  Iowa

Michigan Offense vs. Iowa Defense

Kirk Ferentz once again has a solid defensive unit.  They have played extremely well all season, but they have not faced a dual-threat quarterback like Forcier.  The ‘Hawks should slow down the Michigan attack, but stopping Forcier all together is a tall order.  Michigan will represent the best offensive attack that Iowa has faced so far this year.  Look for Forcier to lead his team to some scores this weekend.  EDGE:  Michigan

Special Teams

Iowa’s junior kicker Daniel Murray will get to kick in the friendly confines of Kinnick, and the kick returners, Brandon Wegher and  5’9″ speedster Paul Chaney are very solid.  Michigan will counter with senior place-kicker Jason Olesnavage and two very talented return men in Greg Matthews and Martavious Odoms.   EGDE:  Push

Prediction

Lately, College FootBlog’s predictions have been the kiss of death for the predicted winner.  This game is very evenly matched, but I think Iowa’s defense and the game being in Iowa City could give the Hawkeyes the very slight edge in this one.  Score Prediction:  Iowa wins 27-24

 

 

  

 

Michigan Football: Practice Makes Perfect?

Just two weeks into this college football season, Rich Rodriguez and his Michigan Wolverines have already had their share of highs and lows.  Only days before Michigan’s first game of the 2009 season a couple weeks ago, media outlets reported that former and current players had come forward with allegations that Rodriguez and his staff had blatantly broken several NCAA rules, most of which dealt with the limitations of practice hours for student athletes.

Rodriguez and his coaching staff are making serious headway in 2009

Rodriguez and his coaching staff are making serious headway in 2009

Not only did they win their opening week game against Western Michigan in dominating fashion, the Wolverines took down hated rival Notre Dame this past weekend with an exciting 38-34 victory in front of the packed house at Michigan Stadium.

While the University of Michigan says it is investigating the practice allegations, the controversy seems to have brought the team together, and in his second season at the helm in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines are starting to click.

Like him or hate him, Rodriguez’s success should not be a surprise.  In his first year at West Virginia, he coached the Mountaineers to a feeble 3-8 season, but he led them to a bowl game and a 9-4 record in his second season there.

Starting to sound familiar?  Last season, coaching with players that did not match up with his offensive or defensive schemes, Rodriguez guided Michigan to a 3-9 record.

With last Saturday’s win over the Irish, the Wolverines are 2-0, and have a great opportunity to be 7-0 when they take on Penn State at the Big House on October 24th.  The toughest challenges in the coming weeks for Michigan will be at Michigan State on October 3rd and at Iowa the following weekend.

Michigan State no longer has Javon Ringer to shoulder 45+ carries a game for them, and they fell to Central Michigan at home last Saturday.  Iowa should present a challenge in Iowa City the following weekend, but the Hawkeyes just squeaked by FCS foe, Northern Iowa 17-16 at home.

Besides the NCAA allegations bringing this Michigan team closer together, Rodriguez is getting some great production from some young players who fit his system, and some of the veterans that Rodriguez did not recruit to Ann Arbor are stepping up as well.

Last weekend, senior running back, Brandon Minor gashed the Notre Dame defense for 106 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.  The story of this offense in early this year, however, has been true freshman quarterback, Tate Forcier, who threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns, and he added another 70 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

Fellow freshman QB, Denard Robinson has added 95 yards rushing and a touchdown for Rodriguez’s squad as well, but it is Forcier who leads the Wolverines in total yards rushing on the year, with 107.

It will, indeed, be an interesting year in Ann Arbor this season, but if the first two weeks of the 2009 season are any indication, the Wolverines are going to find themselves right back in the thick of the BCS conversations sooner rather than later.


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