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Recent Comments
On Big Ten Football 2020: Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Pre...
Dan* said:
Ooof. What a horrible season for both of us so far.

At this point, I've mostly lost interest in thi...
On Big Ten Football 2020: Week 1 Recap
Ken said:
I stand corrected. I looked at the ESPN play-by-play to count IU's timeouts and they must have not i...
On Big Ten Football 2020: Week 1 Recap
Dan* said:
Hi Ken, good to see you back for another season of commentary! Looking forward to some football.

C...
On College Football 2019: Final
Ken said:
Hey Dan, thanks for being my only subscriber! Yeah I'll be rooting for Penn State (Memphis is a weir...
On College Football 2019: Final
Dan* said:
Thanks for the great articles this year Ken! I hope the Big 19 kicks ass in the bowl games. See you...


<< Previous: Big Ten Football 202... | Next: Big Ten Football 202... >>

Big Ten Football 2020: Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Preview
Monday, 2020 November 16 - 6:53 pm
Man, oh, man. Michigan and Penn State both lose. Again.

Michigan 11, Wisconsin 49
My prediction turned out to be pretty close, actually. We got an early indication where things were going when Joe Milton threw an interception on Michigan's first play on offense... and then another one on the sixth. Michigan was thoroughly thrashed on both offense and defense, and the special teams unit gets a raspberry too for a running-into-the-kicker penalty that kept a Wisconsin drive alive. I found myself watching this game much like I watched games during the Rich Rodriguez era: just trying to find some tiny positive thing so I could have hope for the future.

So yeah, Cade McNamara came off the bench and led a largely meaningless four-play 75-yard touchdown drive. The receivers made some big plays. But I can't believe that Cade is the solution to Michigan's ills. The problems are with the coaching staff. There's no other way to see it.

On a fourth-and-goal from the half yard line, Michigan lined up in a shotgun formation. Wisconsin, upon seeing the formation, called timeout. Michigan came back and lined up in the same formation, and called a quarterback run behind a fullback lead block, and got absolutely stuffed. Now, generally I'm a proponent of spread offense principles, but not when a quarterback sneak with a thousand pounds' worth of fullbacks pushing the pile from behind is clearly the right call.

But still. That wouldn't have fixed the linebackers' woeful inability to play pass coverage, or the front seven's inability to set the edge against outside runs. Michigan couldn't stop anything on defense. They can't run the ball. This is the worst Michigan team since 2008. You can point to injuries on both lines, but Michigan exacerbates the problem by game-planning as if they still had a talent advantage. NFL-style passing schemes don't work if your line can't pass protect and your quarterback can't make the reads. Power running plays don't work if you can't sustain blocks. No coverage scheme works when three defenders end up in the same place covering nobody. It's as if the coaches had assumed all of our young players were athletic enough that they didn't need to be taught fundamentals. And this certainly isn't the first time we've seen the team so woefully unprepared for an opponent... we see it every year against Ohio State.

So really, it's time we started talking about who will replace Jim Harbaugh, because that is starting to feel inevitable. I'll put that list at the end of this post.

Michigan at Rutgers, 7:30 PM BTN
This game might be worth watching because it might be Michigan's last win of the season. Or Harbaugh's last win at Michigan. Or the loss that sends him out the door. Who knows with this Rutgers team: they beat MSU and gave OSU some trouble, but then lost to a truly terrible Illini squad.

Prediction: Michigan 30, Rutgers 28

Penn State 23, Nebraska 30
Like the Indiana game, this is one of those games where you look at the box score and wonder how Penn State possibly could have lost. PSU racked up 501 yards of offense, to Nebraska's 298. But again there were critical turnovers, including a fumble-six. There were long drives that led to field goals or came up empty.

Is Will Levis the answer at quarterback? Sean Clifford got pulled after the fumble and Levis looked sharp at times. A 14/31 completion rate isn't anything to write home about, but Levis avoided the big mistakes and in most games, that'll be enough for Penn State.

It might be just time to figure that Penn State is having a cursed season. This is a good team that has run into a lot of bad luck.

Penn State vs. Iowa, 3:30 PM BTN
Hmm. This is a really solid Iowa team; they started with two close losses but have looked dominant in the last couple of weeks. Iowa is a narrow favorite in this game. In most years I'd say Penn State should be able to pull this one out, but this year I'd be worried about a crazy turnover or a blocked kick determining the outcome of the game.

Prediction: Penn State 17, Iowa 19

Games to Watch on TV
#9 Indiana plays #3 Ohio State at 12:00 PM on Fox, and the entire country will be rooting for Indiana in this one.

#10 Wisconsin plays #19 Northwestern at 3:30 PM on ABC. Northwestern is sneakily good this year and Wisconsin needs to worry about overconfidence after beating a really bad Michigan team.

Potential Harbaugh Replacements

There's no one in the Michigan coaching tree that will probably make the grade. There are Scot Loeffler and Nick Sheridan, both of whom have had unspectacular careers. Mike Hart is just a running backs coach with no coordinator experience. If Michigan is going to find a coach, it will be outside the Michigan family.

Let's not talk about Les Miles or Urban Meyer or other high-profile but extremely unlikely candidates. Here are the top names I'd be looking at, if I were Warde Manuel:
  • Luke Fickell, HC Cincinnati. His one-year interim stint at Ohio State was a failure, but he's been red-hot at Cincinnati, who is 7-0 this year. He's going to be fielding a lot of offers at the end of this season, and he'd probably love to get his hands on a Big Ten job.
  • Matt Campbell, HC Iowa State. You gotta like a coach who's able to win in a difficult conference with players that weren't highly recruited. He has Midwest ties, including a long stint at Toledo just down the road.
  • Steve Sarkisian, OC Alabama. His head coaching experience gives him an edge over the coordinators on this list; his history of substance abuse might make the Michigan athletic department wary.
  • Tony Elliott, OC Clemson. He'll be another hot commodity, but will he move up north? He's been a Clemson guy forever.
  • Brett Venables, DC Clemson. Like Elliott, his Clemson success will make this valuable, but his lack of Michigan ties will probably keep him away.
  • Mario Cristobal, HC Oregon. He's mentioned a lot, but it's hard to see the appeal that Michigan would have over a solid program like Oregon, unless Michigan dumped an enormous pile of money on him.
  • Dave Clawson, HC Wake Forest. Kind of a dark-horse candidate; he's another guy who's found some success despite obvious recruiting disadvantages.


Permalink  Comment (1)   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: sports

Comments

Comment #1 from Dan (Guest)
2020 Nov 17 - 1:03 am : #
Ooof. What a horrible season for both of us so far.

At this point, I've mostly lost interest in this season. I'll still follow our scores, and may tune in for parts of the games, but I feel like there are better uses of my Saturdays now. But if you keep writing, I'll still be reading. Hey, at least one of us will get to win a game on Thanksgiving weekend!

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