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|Hey Ken, congratulations on the win yesterday! Some really odd choices by our coaching staff in that...|
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|College Football 2021: Week 5 Recap and Week 6 Preview||Thursday, 2021 October 7 - 2:35 pm|
|Everyone's a winner again, so this marks the point in the season where our overconfidence becomes dangerous.|
Michigan 38, Wisconsin 17
This was a game where Michigan comprehensively and thoroughly thrashed Wisconsin on defense, while gluing together enough offensive plays to make this a comfortable and impressive win. Wisconsin did next to nothing on offense, save for one possession at the end of the first half where Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz made this best throws of the day; a couple were to a receiver who was tightly covered by Dax Hill but made the reception anyway. There was also one garbage time touchdown against the backups. But on the whole, it's hard to remember when Michigan last played this well on defense. Is perhaps Wisconsin having a down year on its offensive line? Well, yeah, sure. And did Michigan thunderously knock Mertz out of the game on a blitz in the third quarter? Yes, so Wisconsin was forced to try to play from behind with a backup QB. But still, this was a really pleasant surprise on a day I really expected Michigan to struggle. Aidan Hutchinson was a monster, as usual, but DE David Ojabo had a breakout day as well.
On offense, it was a weird day; Michigan struggled in its run game against a very good Wisconsin front, but managed enough low-percentage completions and fourth-down conversions to salvage drives and put points on the board. There was a well-run flea-flicker for a touchdown right after a fourth-down conversion, and some late-game bombs to pad the victory margin, but between the big plays were a bunch of stuffed run attempts that made me a bit nervous about the offensive scheme. I'm not sure why Michigan continues to attempt to run the split-zone play when Wisconsin was clearly ready for it; if they don't get a little creative with the run game, they're gonna have trouble against the likes of PSU and OSU. I feel like Jim Harbaugh is perhaps tying Josh Gattis' hands and not allowing him to go full spread-offense, and that's becoming an issue.
But it's a good win nonetheless, and Michigan is somehow now ranked #9 after being picked by a lot of people to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten this year. There's still a gauntlet of tough opponents remaining, but I've upgraded Michigan's expected season win total from seven games to nine.
One more thing: as my friend Dan promised, the Fox sports announcers heavily promoted the Wisconsin fourth quarter "jump around" tradition as the greatest invention in the last 100 years of football... but Michigan got the last laugh as the Wolverine sideline danced and celebrated during the song as if it were their own. The Wisconsin fans and the Fox sports team didn't quite know what to make of it, and it certainly took all the intimidation out of the atmosphere. Give credit to the Michigan coaches and team for a masterful job of trolling there.
#9 Michigan at Nebraska, 7:30 PM ABC
Nebraska looked terrible in its opening loss to Illinois, but has since logged three wins against bad teams, and played #3 Oklahoma and #20 Michigan State close. Last week's 657-yard explosion against Northwestern, including 427 rushing yards, was eye-opening.
However: Nebraska has yet to face a defense of Michigan's caliber, even including Oklahoma. It's easy to see how Nebraska's option running attack might give anyone trouble, but it still depends on linemen making their blocks, and I don't think the Nebraska OL is up to the job against the likes of Hutchinson and Ojabo. I think Nebraska will break a few big runs, but will also eat a bunch of negative plays and find it hard to move the chains with consistency.
The Nebraska defense is... okay? Michigan State only managed 71 rush yards, though Oklahoma (who is not a good rushing team) racked up 194 at 5.5 YPC. I think a big key in this game will be Michigan's willingness to mix up its play calling, and getting Blake Corum into space.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Nebraska 13.
Penn State 24, Indiana 0
It's hard to find any negatives in this game for Penn State; this was unquestionably a dominant performance over a potentially dangerous Indiana team. I will say that Indiana doesn't look as good as they have in recent years, despite having an experienced QB in Michael Penix. But Indiana's offense looked absolutely befuddled against the ferocious Penn State defense, and things didn't improve when Penix was injured early in the second half and was replaced by Jack Tuttle. (Or is it Buttle?)
Penn State has also seemingly found its rushing attack, with Keyvone Lee ripping off a 44-yard run and the team gaining 209 yards on 5.0 YPC overall. I'd still like to see more production out of Noah Cain. But Sean Clifford contributed 58 yards on the ground himself, while also converting some key third and fourth downs through the air. He's a heady playmaker on offense... he's not always super accurate but he's got a knack for getting out of trouble.
#4 Penn State at #3 Iowa, 4:00 PM Fox
Well, here it is: a showdown between two extremely tough, physical, and talented teams. It's a strength-on-strength matchup: the Penn State receivers, including star wideout Jahan Dotson, will have to go up against two of the best cornerbacks in the country in Riley Moss and Matt Hankins. Both teams are very good in the front seven on defense. This could well be an old-fashioned Big Ten field position game, with the outcome hinging on turnovers and special teams. If someone manages to break a couple of big plays in either direction, that could be the difference too.
Both teams whacked their only common opponent this season (Indiana). Both have good wins against ranked teams. So it's almost a tossup here. But with everything else equal, I think I have to give a slight edge to the home team, unfortunately.
Prediction: Penn State 13, Iowa 16.
N.C. State 34, Louisiana Tech 27
NCSU barely escaped their hangover game after their big Clemson win. The Wolfpack never trailed in this game, but it never felt like they could put it away, either. There were plenty of breakdowns on both sides of the ball, and NCSU got outgained on the day, with LT racking up big yardage numbers in the second half especially. But two turnovers helped State come away with the win.
There's something to be said about a team that finds a way to win, and State did that, especially with a game-sealing 8-play, 72-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter after LT had cut the lead to 7. LT did score again after that and was threatening to tie the game late, but the defense held and nabbed an interception in the end zone on the final play of the game.
It's always easier to find things to build on after a win versus a loss, so NCSU will have a chance to improve and regroup during this bye week before facing Boston College on the 16th.
Um, how many top 25 teams suffered upset losses this week? Five? Let's run through them: #3 Oregon was stunned by Stanford 31-24 in OT, #10 Florida lost to Kentucky 20-13, #15 Texas A&M lost 26-22 to Mississippi State, #18 Fresno State lost to Hawaii 27-24, and #20 UCLA lost to Arizona State 42-23.
Meanwhile, #12 Ole Miss lost to #1 Alabama, #8 Arkansas lost to #2 Georgia, #9 Notre Dame lost to #7 Cincinnati, and #21 Baylor lost to #19 Oklahoma State. So in all, nine ranked teams lost this week, and none of those teams were in the Big Ten. The result: five of the top 11 teams this week are Big Ten teams. Whodathunkit.
Ohio State, meanwhile, shredded Rutgers 52-13 a week after Michigan struggled with them, so that's scary.
Games to Watch on TV
Saturday starts off with a bang as #6 Oklahoma plays #21 Texas in the Red River Rivalry game; that's at noon on ABC. #11 Michigan State is at Rutgers on BTN, and that just smells like a potential trap game for MSU. #13 Arkansas is at #17 Ole Miss on ESPN; each team is looking to rebound from their thumpings at the hands of Georgia and Alabama, respectively.
At 3:30, #2 Georgia plays #18 Auburn on CBS, but even though Auburn is ranked I'm expecting Georgia to win this convincingly. At 4:00, the #4 Penn State at. #3 Iowa game is on Fox, and that's your Game of the Week this week.
At 7:30, the #9 Michigan at Nebraska game is on ABC. #14 Notre Dame plays Virginia Tech on ACCN; the Hokies just might spring a surprise on the Irish here. LSU is at #16 Kentucky on SECN. At 8:00, #1 Alabama is at Texas A&M on CBS.
Posted by Ken in: sports
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