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Yeah, we've both had our share of hope and disappointment in this game. Let's just hope for a good b...
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CFB 2023: Week 8 Recap and Week 9 Preview
Friday, 2023 October 27 - 2:59 pm
Michigan stomps Michigan State; Penn State loses in a slugfest to Ohio State.

Michigan 49, Michigan State 0
Michigan ran out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and the game was already effectively over. Michigan's first three drives: 28 plays, 177 passing yards, 29 rushing yards, 21 points. Yes, Michigan's running game got a little bogged down at times, largely due to MSU's frequent run blitzes; but time and time again, J.J. McCarthy escaped pressure and made pinpoint passes to keep drives moving. I'm slightly concerned that some of the tight windows he found won't be available against better opponents; if McCarthy has any weakness, it's his penchant for getting a little overconfident in his ability to manufacture plays. I'll take it, though; we haven't seen this kind of playmaking chutzpah since perhaps the days of Tate Forcier. McCarthy ended his day in the third quarter, having passed for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Yow.

The Michigan defensive line had another monster game; it's like they're in an entirely different league than the opponents they've faced. We also saw some improvement in the defensive secondary, but then again, they weren't tested very much, so it probably won't be until the Maryland game to find out if that's real or not.

Meanwhile, Michigan State lost its composure near the end of the game, committing various personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, with one player even getting ejected for his egregious behavior. Typical. Fittingly, after a late hit on fourth-string QB Alex Orji, Michigan dialed up a touchdown run for him instead of running out the clock. Karma.

Michigan Bye
With the bye week here, I guess I have to talk about SignGate. Michigan has been accused of stealing opponents' play-calling signs, which isn't technically against the rules, but allegedly they've been doing it by sending people to future opponents' stadiums and taking video. In-person scouting of future opponentsis against the rules, mostly because smaller schools complained they didn't have the budgets to do such scouting and keep up with bigger schools. But is it considered "in-person" scouting if you send a third party to attend the game? A good lawyer might be able to make a case that it's not. And videoing the opponent during a game that you're playing is also against the rules, but it's a bit murkier whether that prohibition applies to in-person scouting, based on the wording of the rule.

At the center of this is a guy name Connor Stalions. First of all, that seems like a made-up name, but okay. He's basically a Michigan superfan who wormed his way into the program as an analyst, by claiming the ability to use his military intelligence background against football opponents. He's been suspended as part of this investigation, though he still draws a $55K/year salary.

Some salient points:
  • It's said that Stalions has a network of spies, for whom he's purchased game tickets on his own credit card, and there is video surveillance footage of those spies recording signs from opponents' sidelines. The fact that he's using his own credit card is dumb, because it's like he's waving a sign that says "I AM DEFINITELY A SPY, AND TO PROVE IT, MY NAME IS CONNOR STALIONS". It's also eyebrow-raising because it's unlikely he could afford for travel and tickets for all these games on his salary. If there's a money trail leading back to the UM athletic department, it would be bad. But Stalions also apparently has wealthy parents who have backed his hijinks for his entire life, so that might also be a source of his funding.
  • According to author and famed Michigan insider John U. Bacon, the source of all these allegations might be Jim Stapleton, a UM alum who has long held a grudge against the university for not hiring Ron English as HC back in 2008. He works on the NCAA infractions committee and reportedly "hates" Jim Harbaugh. I would argue that Stapleton should be recused from any involvement with the investigation, given his history.
  • There are some people trying to connect the dots with the mysterious dismissal of OC Matt Weiss last year, for "unauthorized computer access". Could it be that Weiss was accessing files provided by Stalions containing his research, and his firing was a way to contain the scandal? Weiss is still being investigated, though UM police indicate the investigation is not related to SignGate.
Here's what I think will happen.
  1. The process will drag out for at least a year, probably more with Michigan likely to appeal any negative outcomes. Likelihood: 80%.
  2. Conor Stalions will be fired, but with a secret hefty severance package intended to buy his cooperation and/or silence. Likelihood: 80%.
  3. Nothing will ever be connected to Harbaugh directly, and Stalions will end up taking most of the fall as a rogue agent acting on his own accord. Likelihood: 75%.
  4. No one will ever prove any competitive advantage for any specific game, though Ryan Day will try very hard to argue that case. Likelihood: 65%.
  5. Michigan will be found of violating the spirit of the rules, but not the letter. Likelihood: 65%.
  6. Michigan will receive penalties that include scholarship reductions and perhaps more game suspensions for Harbaugh, but will avoid vacating any wins or getting a post-season ban. Likelihood: 65%.
  7. The media will talk about this to death and it will be annoying. Likelihood: 100%.

Penn State 12, Ohio State 20
This was certainly a defensive struggle, as expected. The obvious difference in the game was OSU WR Marvin Harrison Jr., who caught 11 receptions for 162 yards. While Penn State rarely had an open receiver, Harrison frequently found openings in the PSU secondary and caught difficult passes.

Otherwise, neither team found much in the way of offense. I don't buy that the defenses were that good; rather, I think both offenses have issues that will cause problems down the line. Neither team could run the ball (1.9 YPC for both teams). Harrison contributed more yards than the rest of the OSU offense combined.

Drew Allar, for all his talent, showed a lot of signs of being a young quarterback. To me, he seemed to rush his progressions, and when the pressure of third down came, he folded. Penn State was 1 of 16 on third down conversions; the first such conversion didn't come until 45 seconds were left in the game.

Still, Penn State will be kicking themselves for what might have been. PSU LB stripped the ball from OSU QB Kyle McCord and ran it back for a touchdown... only to have the play negated by a defensive holding penalty. That turned into a 14-point swing and was arguably the single play that determine the outcome of the game.

Penn State vs. Indiana, 12:00 PM CBS
It gets easier against a woeful 2-5 Indiana team. Remember, these are the guys that Michigan just beat 52-7. It won't be a terribly meaningful game, but hopefully for PSU it'll be a chance to fine-tune the offense before big games against Maryland and Michigan in the coming weeks.

Prediction: Penn State 44, Indiana 6.

N.C. State vs. Clemson, 2:00 PM CW Network
After a week to rest up, State goes right back into the fire against a good-but-not-great Clemson squad, who finds themselves well out of the CFP running with three losses already. I suppose you could argue that Clemson has lost to three decent teams in Duke, Florida State, and Miami... but man, this is a team that seems to find ways to lose. The difference in the Miami game: three turnovers, including somehow, incredibly, back-to-back goal line fumbles. But also notable is the fact that Miami ran for 211 yards at 5.6 YPC. The Clemson defense is not great.

Unfortunately for N.C. State, the offense might not be able to take advantage. It's been sputtering, and I'm not sure the QB change has really helped all that much. State is still largely unable to run the ball, either. I'm not sure what this offense can lean on to move the ball.

The defense? Still pretty good, despite not looking great in the loss to Duke. Remember that in that game, Duke got 83 yards in one running play and 64 yards on one pass; for the rest of the game, Duke only managed 154 yards on 40 plays, a dismal 3.85 YPP. The lesson for State: don't give up big plays.

Prediction: N.C. State 12, Clemson 24.

Last Week's Notable Results
  • #4 Florida State 38, #16 Duke 20. Duke was competitive until QB Riley Leonard re-injured his leg and went out.
  • #5 Washington 15, Arizona State 7. Bizarrely bad game from UW, who was thoroughly outplayed by 1-6 ASU.
  • #6 Oklahoma 31, UCF 29. Say what you want about Michigan's soft schedule, but they haven't had any scares against mediocre opponents like some of these other top-ten teams.
  • #8 Texas 31, Houston 34. Another struggle by a top team; notably, Texas QB Quinn Ewers went out with an injury and may be out a couple of weeks.
  • #9 Oregon 38, Washington State 24. Oregon is still one of the teams to beat in the Pac-12.
  • Virginia 31, #10 UNC 27. The upset of the day; a truly bad Virginia team upstaged UNC and dashed their playoff hopes, mostly by pounding UNC with a strong running game.
  • #11 Alabama 34, #17 Tennessee 20.
  • #14 Utah 34, #18 USC 32. A wild and entertaining game. USC now has two losses and its playoff hopes are dim.
  • Minnesota 12, #24 Iowa 10. Iowa lost this game mostly because a punt return TD was negated by an illegal fair catch signal. Ouch.
Next Week's Big Ten Games
  • Indiana at #10 Penn State, 12:00 PM CBS
  • Maryland at Northwestern, 12:00 PM BTN
  • Michigan State at Minnesota, 3:30 PM BTN
  • Purdue at Nebraska, 3:30 PM FS1
  • #3 Ohio State at Wisconsin, 7:30 PM NBC
Other Games to Watch
  • #1 Georgia at Florida, 3:30 PM CBS
  • #8 Oregon at #13 Utah, 3:30 PM Fox
  • #20 Duke at #18 Louisville, 3:30 PM ESPN
  • Pitt at #14 Notre Dame, 3:30 PM NBC
  • #21 Tennessee at Kentucky, 7:00 PM ESPN
  • #11 Oregon State at Arizona, 10:30 PM ESPN
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Posted by Ken in: sports


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