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College Football 2019: Week 9 Preview
Friday, 2019 October 25 - 11:31 am
Michigan's comeback falls short against Penn State. N.C. State gets blasted by Boston College.

Penn State 28, Michigan 21
I dunno, man. Penn State blasted out to a 21-0 lead before Michigan started doing anything, and you could argue that maybe Penn State took its foot off the gas for a while. But if you look at the box score, Michigan meaningfully outplayed Penn State: the advantage to Michigan was 26 to 14 in first downs, 417 yards to 283, 41% to 31% in third down conversions.

So what gives? Well, I hate to play the ref card, but there were some egregious missed pass interference calls in the first half: an obvious push-off by Freiermuth on Penn State's first touchdown, and a crucial fourth-down pass attempt where the defender wraps his arms around Tarik Black. And no, refs don't explain the gigantic coverage busts that Michigan had against K.J. Hamler, but... cumong, man. These were crucial situations in the game. The NCAA should take a page from the NFL and make PI calls and non-calls reviewable.

And even with all that, Michigan had a chance to tie the game, but a pass attempt to Ronnie Bell slipped through his hands. I feel bad for Bell; yes, he's had some baffling drops through the season, but he's also made circus catches and has been perhaps the best route runner among the talented receiving corps. Bell was clearly emotional after the drop and suffered some undeserved flak from asshole Michigan fans. There's no place for that, guys.

So, I'm upset and I'm not. On the one hand, yeah, Michigan lost a game it could have won. On the other, Michigan's offense seemed fully operational for the first time all season, and cranking out 417 yards against the Penn State defense is no small achievement. And the Michigan defense had multiple answers for their nemesis, crossing routes. I guess this falls into the "moral victory" column.

Meanwhile, what should Penn State take away from this? Well, they have a clear star in K.J. Hamler, who will singlehandedly keep them competitive in most games. On the other hand, the defense wasn't as stout as we've come to expect, especially on the edge, and the line wasn't able to generate much pressure against the Michigan OL. They'll still need to get better before facing OSU.

Next week for Michigan: #19 Michigan vs. #8 Notre Dame, 7:30 PM ABC.
It doesn't get much easier, as Michigan faces its second top-10 opponent in a row. Notre Dame's only loss came against then-#3 Georgia, and they've beaten decent teams in Louisville, Virginia, and USC. But some of the shine came off when Georgia lost to South Carolina, and so I guess you could say that Notre Dame isn't fully proven yet.

Notre Dame's offense is full of playmakers in the backfield and beef on the offensive line, and it'll be hard to keep them out of the end zone. On the other hand, Notre Dame's defense, while fast, is undersized; the Irish depend on a lot of blitzing to keep from being simply run over.

It's worked so far, mostly. But the Irish have to find it worrisome that they gave up 426 yards to USC, making them comparable to BYU in their overall performance. It's a good but not dominant defense, and will be prone to giving up a lot of YAC if Michigan can make some short completions.

If Michigan can get over the hangover from Penn State, I think this could be an important statement game, in front of a rowdy home crowd playing under the lights at Michigan Stadium.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Notre Dame 28.

Next week for Penn State: #6 Penn State at Michigan State, 3:30 PM ABC.
This one's no picnic for PSU, either. Michigan State's inept offense isn't much to fear, but the MSU defense is still legit, particularly against the run. PSU's offense will probably get one-dimensional quickly, and it'll be up to Clifford, Hamler, and Freiermuth to save the day again. Or, PSU could just lean on its defense and probably be fine.

MSU is coming off back-to-back blowout away losses against OSU and Wisconsin, and will want to redeem itself at home. They might be able to keep it close for a while if they can find a way to contain Hamler. But I simply don't think the offense is capable of putting up enough points.

Prediction: Penn State 20, Michigan State 6.

N.C. State 24, Boston College 45
Yikes. What on earth happened to the defense? State got gashed repeatedly, and gave up a staggering 429 yards rushing. BC tailback A.J. Dillon had 223 yards rushing on his own, and didn't have any runs past 30 yards to pad his stats. It was not a performance you'd expect from what had been a pretty good N.C. State defense.

This was a game State really needed to win. With this loss, State's looking at the possibility of missing out on a bowl game. Upcoming games include a ranked Wake Forest team, #4 Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, and UNC. Of those, only Georgia Tech seems like a probable win; a 5-7 season is definitely possible.

Next week: Bye.
State gets a week off to prepare for a dangerous Wake Forest squad.

Last Week's Big Surprises
There can't be a bigger surprise than #6 Wisconsin losing to unranked Illinois, 24-23. This loss can be chalked up to three turnovers from the Wisconsin defense; yeah, funny how turnovers can make a difference in a game, eh, Wisconsin? It's a bit disappointing for the Big Ten, though; Wisconsin was the standard-bearer for the West, and now the likelihood that the Big Ten might miss the CFP has just gone up a bit.

Games to Watch on TV
#13 Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State at noon on Fox was gonna be the marquee matchup of the day; some of the luster has come off, but it's still the Game of the Week.

#6 Penn State at Michigan State is at 3:30 PM on ABC. #9 Auburn at #2 LSU is on CBS at the same time. It might be worth peeking into Maryland at #17 Minnesota on ESPN; I'm having a hard time believing that this Minnesota team is legit. Duke vs. UNC is at 4:00 PM on the ACC network.

At 7:30 PM, #19 Michigan plays #8 Notre Dame on ABC. We also get Boston College at #4 Clemson at the ACC network, which could be interesting.

At 10:30 PM, there's a good nightcap came as Washington State plays at #11 Oregon on ESPN.
Permalink  1 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: sports


Comment #1 from DANIEL STAHLMAN (Guest)
2019 Oct 31 - 11:49 pm : #
Almost 2 weeks later, and I finally watched my recording of the game. It's probably good that I didn't see it live because my blood pressure would have been dangerous. Total domination by Michigan in the second half, no doubt about it. From my perspective, it was mainly the Michigan D stepping up and shutting down our offense, which lead to a lot of short possessions, which in turn left our defense out there way too much. They were just dead by the fourth quarter. It was all eerily similar to the OSU comebacks against us the last 2 years. James Franklin still hasn't learned how to finish these kind of games against good teams. He got lucky in this one.

On the PI calls, I'll agree with you on one and disagree on the other. The Freiermuth push-off was almost impossible to see in real time (I watched it 6 times, knowing it was there, and still could barely see it). It looks obvious in slow-mo, but even there, you can tell that it didn't affect the outcome of the play. I'll bet that gets a no-call 98 times out of 100. The John Reid play on Tarik Black, on the other hand, was definitely PI and was a crucial moment. I feel a little bit bad about it, but only a little :-) Maybe we will see PI replays in college soon, and if we do, it will be because of plays like that one.

Finally, was Chris Fowler drunk or something? He made all kinds of mistakes in this game. Kept using the wrong player names, screwed up the down and distance a few times, and even referred to "crossing the line of scrimmage" when questioning a possible backwards pass that had nothing to do with the LOS. Weird.

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