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CFB 2023: Week 10 Recap and Week 11 Preview
Monday, 2023 November 6 - 9:47 pm
Michigan blasts Purdue; Penn State wallops Maryland; N.C. State upsets Miami. Also more about the SignGate nonsense.

Michigan 41, Purdue 13
Another routine pasting of an overmatched opponent. I did underestimate the Purdue defensive ends, who were by and large pretty good against Michigan's tackles. They held the Michigan running game largely in check, though it's noteworthy that in Purdue's cover-1 (man-free) defense, there was always an extra safety in the box too... plus Michigan stayed pretty vanilla with the rushing attack. Aside from a few jet-sweep type plays, we didn't see the variety of blocking schemes we know Michigan has in its arsenal. I'm guessing they're keeping that off the film and saving that for Penn State.

At any rate, it's kind of pick-your-poison with Michigan, because with Purdue's focus on the run game, they frequently left receivers in man coverage. As a result, J.J. McCarthy torched them for 335 yards, despite a few drops by his receivers.

The defense: still very good. Purdue did manage to eke out 125 yards on the ground at 4.3 YPC, but otherwise, Purdue's offense was completely ineffective. Third down was effectively death: they were 1 of 14 on conversions, mostly because QB Hudson Card never had time to get passes off.

We'll talk about the upcoming big matchup against Penn State shortly.

Sigh Let's Talk About SignGate
So, first, let's review some new facts that have come up lately:
  • Connor Stalions resigned from Michigan. In a statement, he indicated that no other Michigan staff were involved in any wrongdoing.
  • Someone who bore a resemblance to Connor Stalions was captured on video at the CMU-MSU game, wearing CMU gear and standing on the CMU sidelines. CMU says Stalions did not have access to a sideline pass for the game; they are investigating to see if he was in fact there.
  • Over the weekend, Michigan President Santa Ono sent a fairly strongly-worded letter to the Big Ten indicating that Michigan intends to fight any charges with all of the weapons at its arsenal, particularly since the NCAA investigation is not complete and Michigan has not been afforded due process with a chance to respond to the charges.
  • Today, the Big Ten has notified Michigan that it is the subject of potential disciplinary action.
And now let's get to rumors and speculation:
  • Reportedly, some ADs around the Big Ten are pushing for an indefinite suspension of Jim Harbaugh.
  • The initial NCAA investigation has found no link to Harbaugh.
  • Michigan may have evidence that other teams have been involved in sign-stealing over the past few years, including taking videos of Michigan's practices and sharing a document detailing Michigan's signals.
  • Michigan may have evidence that someone illegally hacked into computers in order to find evidence of sign-stealing. They may have evidence that a private investigator with ties to Ohio State may be involved, though reportedly, the NCAA investigation has found no such ties.
  • Michigan lawyers may be preparing to file for an injunction in court against the Big Ten.
And here are just some of my own thoughts:
  • Michigan fans are grumbling that perhaps UM should threaten to leave the Big Ten; they could join the ACC, join the SEC, or go independent. That sounds like a delicious idea, as that would be a heavy loss for the Big Ten, but I don't know how feasible it actually is. Michigan is likely locked into a long-term rights agreement with a heavy exit penalty (though, Michigan could likely afford to pay such a penalty.)
  • I think there will be no link to Harbaugh ever shown, but the conference will still try to pin any wrongdoing on him, since the head coach is deemed ultimately responsible even if he has no knowledge of the infractions being committed. There will be little to no appetite for any penalty on the players involved. But I think Michigan will do its best to indicate that Michigan coaches had no idea what Stalions was doing as an independent rogue agent, and that Michigan never used any information about opponents' signs that wasn't obtained through proper and legal methods (e.g. television footage). It might be a stretch here (this isn't a criminal proceeding, after all, and Michigan doesn't get the benefit of being innocent until proven guilty) but it'll be ammunition for the lawsuits.
  • I think Michigan can and will go scorched-earth with any opposition research it might have on other schools, and the Big Ten will be forced to acknowledge that. Sign-stealing is an open secret across the entire NCAA, and everyone knows it. If Michigan goes public with its evidence, the Big Ten will either be forced to levy penalties on other schools... or, it'll do the smart thing and make the whole thing go away in order not to tarnish its brand. Michigan needs to remind the Big Ten of what's at stake here.
Okay. Enough of all that for now. Let's get back to football.

Penn State 51, Maryland 15.
It turns out that maybe, just maybe, Maryland isn't that good. After a 5-0 start, Maryland's loss to PSU is its fourth straight. Not to say that Penn State didn't have an excellent day; it most certainly did, piling up 404 yards of offense. But Maryland turned the ball over four times; it rushed for negative 49 yards... even if you exclude the six sacks, Maryland still ran for negative yardage.

But you know, the PSU defensive line is legit. It's held every other rushing attack down, including Ohio State's. The question will be if the secondary can hold up its end of the bargain. Taulia Tagavaoila passed for 283 yards, with a bunch of chunk plays.

And the offense was pretty efficient as well. Even though Drew Allar is still mostly dinking and dunking his way down the field, Penn State scored on 9 of its 11 possessions, with 6 touchdowns and 3 field goals. I don't think all the problems from the OSU game have been excised yet, but the team is trending in the right direction.

Michigan at Penn State, 12:00 PM Fox
And so we get to the showdown. It's the first true test for Michigan, whereas Penn State has already faced fire against Ohio State. These are the top two defenses in the country by a considerable margin, and I think we'll see that Saturday. I don't expect either team's running game to get much traction. For all of Blake Corum's talent, the Michigan OL struggled against the Purdue DL and will probably struggle a bit against Penn State as well, though much might depend on the return of star DE Chop Robinson from injury.

The other thing to watch: whether Penn State has to bring down a safety and load the box to deal with Michigan's running game. Against a light box, Michigan has had a lot of success this year, mostly due to its excellent tight ends and their ability to threaten both run and pass. But do you leave the defensive backs in single coverage? J.J. McCarthy just showed what can happen when you do that. Roman Wilson isn't Marvin Harrison Jr. but he is awfully fast and get open in a hurry, and he's just one of five or six dangerous receiving threats that Michigan brings now.

When Penn State is on offense, the question will be if the offensive line can keep Drew Allar upright. They've given up some sacks this year, and we've seen how Allar can get a little jittery in the pocket under pressure. The key for Penn State will be to establish a running game. Michigan's defensive line is really good against interior runs, but they've given up a couple of busts with misdirection, and Penn State will need to exploit that.

I dunno man, this game will likely be a rock fight. Field position, special teams, turnovers... all that unsexy stuff will probably be hugely important. The running games for both teams will struggle; both QBs will be under pressure all day. But here's the difference: J.J. McCarthy is passing at a near 90% clip when out of the pocket, which is insane. Drew Allar is talented, but he's a year behind McCarthy in his development, and I think that shows up when he's pressured. That will probably be the difference in the game.

Prediction: Michigan 20, Penn State 13.

N.C. State 20, Miami 6
This was perhaps N.C. State's best defensive performance of the year, as they came up with 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery, and that made all the difference. Despite another lackluster offensive showing, State did just enough at just the right times. WR Kevin Concepcion continues to impress. Meanwhile, there's a new wrinkle: while M.J. Morris started at QB and played most of the game, Brennan Armstrong came in on wildcat plays and ripped off 51 yards on eight carries, leading the State rushing attack. Maybe that's the spark the running game needs, as the other RBs certainly aren't contributing much.

With the win, the script for the season has suddenly flipped again. NCSU is bowl eligible and has winnable games remaining. Even the UNC game, which originally looked daunting, now seems plausibly competitive, as UNC has struggled of late. It could still be a 6-6 season, sure, but it could also just as well be 9-3. Who knows with these guys.

N.C. State at Wake Forest, 2:00 PM CW Network
Wake Forest has not been great. They've not been awful, playing competitively in losses to Clemson (17-12) and Duke (24-21). But their four wins are against Elon, Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, and Pitt, who are all pretty awful. They're not a great passing team; QB Mitch Griffis has been sacked a LOT this year, and he's thrown 7 interceptions against 9 touchdowns. They have a committee of running backs who are averaging 4.7 YPC, which is decent, but they have trouble sustaining drives at times. That could be tough for them against NC State's defense.

Defensively, the Deacs are something like 64th in the country; middling to say the least. I'd expect Concepcion to get his yards, but I'm still not expecting big things from the State offense. Will they do enough? Like I said... who knows with these guys. The team we've seen the last couple of weeks can get it done; the team we saw against Duke can't. Let's hope the right one shows up.

Prediction: N.C. State 23, Wake Forest 16.

Last Week's Notable Results
  • #1 Ohio State 35, Rutgers 16. Rutgers actually led at the half thanks to a fun trick play, but a pick six turned the tied in the third quarter.
  • #2 Georgia 30, #12 Missouri 21. This was a competitive game; a few plays go the other way and Missouri might have scored the upset.
  • #5 Washington 52, #20 USC 42. Defense optional. USC is now definitively out of the playoffs.
  • #6 Oregon 63, Cal 19. The likely Washington-Oregon rematch for the Pac-12 will be a barn-burner.
  • #7 Texas 33, #23 Kansas State 30 (OT).
  • #8 Alabama 42, LSU 28. Alabama is returning to form at the right time.
  • #22 Oklahoma State 27, #9 Oklahoma 24. A wild and entertaining game; with the upset, Oklahoma needs help to get to the Big-12 title game.
  • #10 Ole Miss 38, Texas A&M 35. A missed FG sealed the win at the end.
  • Clemson 31, #15 Notre Dame 23. I think Notre Dame might actually not be that good. Which means, transitively, that perhaps Ohio State isn't that good either. Fingers crossed.
  • #16 Oregon State 26, Colorado 19. Not hearing so much hype about Colorado any more, aww.
  • Arizona 27, #19 UCLA 10. Arizona is making some noise these days.
  • Army 23, Air Force 3. A stunning upset as Air Force loses its first game of the season to previously 2-6 Army.
  • Indiana 20, Wisconsin 14. The Big Ten West is a dumpster fire.
  • Michigan State 20, Nebraska 17. See above.
  • Illinois 27, Minnesota 26. See above.
  • Iowa 10, Northwestern 7. The score was 0-0 at the half... as you probably expected.
  • Duke 24, Wake Forest 21. Duke wins on a last-second FG.
Next Week's Big Ten Games
  • #2 Michigan at #9 Penn State, 12:00 PM Fox
  • Indiana at Illinois, 12:00 PM BTN
  • Maryland at Nebraska, 12:00 PM Peacock
  • Rutgers at Iowa, 3:30 PM BTN
  • Minnesota at Purdue, 3:30 PM NBC
  • Northwestern at Wisconsin, 3:30 PM FS1
  • Michigan State at #3 Ohio State, 7:30 PM NBC
Other Games to Watch
  • #13 Utah at #5 Washington, 3:30 PM Fox
  • #14 Tennessee at #16 Missouri, 3:30 PM
  • #10 Ole Miss at #1 Georgia, 7:00 PM ESPN
  • Duke at UNC, 8:00 PM ACCN
  • USC at #6 Oregon, 10:30 PM Fox
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