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College Football 2013: Week 7 Recap
Thursday, 2013 October 17 - 8:39 pm
Ugh. And ugh.

Michigan 40, Penn State 43 (4OT)
This game was painful to watch. Michigan went down 21-10 in the first half mostly thanks to an anemic rushing game and three first-half turnovers. Michigan surged ahead in the second half, but in the waning minutes, went to an extremely conservative game plan in an attempt to run out the clock. Penn State got the ball back at their own 20 with a minute and a half left, and proceeded to march down the field on some spectacularly acrobatic passing plays.

In overtime, both teams failed to move the ball much and settled for field goal attempts... and each team missed twice. In the fourth overtime Penn State faced a fourth-and-one and instead of playing for the tie, they went for the win and got it. Game over.

The reason the game was infuriating was because Michigan seemed like they were playing not to lose. In Michigan's second-to-last drive, with the chance to put the game away, they were content to run the ball into a nine-man front instead of throwing to cavernously open receivers, because they wanted to simply run the clock down as much as possible. The drive ended with a punt on 4th and 17 from the PSU 35; the punt went into the end zone.

In overtime, after Penn State missed their first field goal, Michigan ran for zero yards three straight times before attempting a field goal. The field goal was blocked. Why not at least try to advance the ball first? Maybe Penn State misses a tackle in the open field and Michigan walks into the end zone for the win. There's practically nothing to lose; a turnover just means a second overtime. Instead, we play it as safe as possible and end up with the worst possible result.

Penn State's decision to go for it in the fourth overtime was fitting. They took a gamble and were rewarded. That's sometimes how football works, and I wish Michigan coaches would take a lesson from that.

The blame for this loss lies solely with offensive coordinator Al Borges. Any game plan that results in your tailback rushing 27 times for 27 yards is a failed one. Yes, the offensive line failed to execute blocks. But you're asking six or more guys (many of them underclassmen) to execute perfect blocks on each play, and every blocking mistake is magnified when you're running your tailback into a stacked front. Meanwhile your slot receiver and wide receiver are handwavingly-open and a simple pitch-and-catch play would net you eight yards.

The defense played well despite the final score: several Penn State scores came on short fields after turnovers, and Michigan stopped the majority of Penn State drives with turnovers or field goal attempts. This game is in some ways the polar opposite of Rich Rodriguez in 2010, where a well-coached offense played well enough to win but inept defensive play-calling and execution let Penn State walk away with the win. This time, the defense did everything that they could and made few mistakes, but the offense was an inexcusable tire fire. I gave Borges some slack in the past, thinking that he saw an eventual way forward with this offense. Now, it just looks like stubbornness. For God's sake: throw a bubble screen, run a counter, run more than one kind of read option play. Or just quit.

At this point, every remaining game looks like a possible loss. Ugh.

Heroes: Devin Funchess, Frank Clark, Desmond Morgan.
Goats: Al Borges, Al Borges, Brady Hoke (damn it, put on a headset once in a while, when the game is on the line).

Next week: Indiana (who beat Penn State handily, by the way.)

N.C. State 10, Syracuse 24
What. Just what.

Somehow State managed to make Syracuse look like an NFL team. State utterly failed to stop Syracuse's rushing game. Syracuse had more offense against State than they did against Tulane. There were two runs that went for more than 50 yards. Meanwhile, State looked inept on offense, getting just 2.9 yards per rush and converting only 7 of 23 third down attempts.

It's becoming clear that State has simply suffered too many injuries and doesn't have the athletes to keep up with most teams. Clemson was something of an aberration, I suppose.

State has a bye to try to get healthy; there's a good chance Brandon Mitchell will be ready to return, which should give the offense a lift. The bad news is that the next opponent in week 9 is Florida State. Eek.

Other Notable Games
A lot of upsets, so at least Michigan's misery was spread around a bit.

#2 Oregon beat #16 Washington 45-24, which probably means Oregon is even better than we all thought. I'd take Oregon over Alabama at this point.

#3 Clemson had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat Boston College 24-14.

#5 Stanford lost a shocker to Utah 27-21. Utah stopped Stanford's last drive at the goal line to win the game. I'm sure Stanford fans are about as angry as Michigan fans this week.

#25 Missouri beat #7 Georgia 41-26. If Missouri beats Florida this week and South Carolina the week after, completing their three-game gauntlet, then they'll be in the driver's seat to win the SEC east.

#9 Texas A&M won a wild shootout against Ole Miss 41-38. A&M will be competitive in every game thanks to Johnny Manziel, but that defense, man... it'll cost them.

#10 LSU beat #17 Florida 17-6.

Texas beat #12 Oklahoma 36-20. I kinda saw this coming; Oklahoma hadn't looked great and Texas was due for a big win.

Wisconsin utterly crushed Northwestern 35-6. This was a big surprise to me. Northwestern couldn't run the ball, which I might have predicted, but I didn't also expect that Wisconsin's pass rush would disrupt Northwestern's quarterbacks so much. With that, Wisconsin remains in the hunt for the Big Ten Leaders division, while Northwestern is staring at an 0-2 conference hole.

Michigan State somehow found its offensive groove against Indiana and won 42-28. While that makes me somewhat more optimistic about Michigan's chances against Indiana, I'm utterly terrified of the game against MSU.

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