Penn State Game Prediction

While nobody in Fort Schembechler will ever apologize for a 5-0 start, few outside it will concede that their record has been indicative of their play.

Look no further than Vegas opening the line in Saturday’s game with Michigan as a one point favorite in Happy Valley against a Penn State team with even more youth than Michigan, and depth issues due to their NCAA restrictions.

Michigan did themselves no favors with poor efforts in games against Akron and UConn, and while last week’s game against Minnesota was an improvement, there are still several issues to work on.

In the 2+ year stint of Brady Hoke, Michigan is a .500 team, going 6-6 in the 12 games away from Michigan stadium.

Penn State licks it’s wounds after its routing at the hands of a potent Indiana Offense which put up 44 on them last week.

All these things factor into many thinking this game will be much closer than it probably should be.

There are other factors that lead me to believe it won’t be that close, however. First, the changing up along the offensive line proved to be effective, in spite of still having great room for improvement. Chris Bryant looked good at times, lost at others, but undoubtedly is talented, and big, and has a nasty streak.

Secondly, moving Funchess to WR was a great move. With Jake Butt needing reps and AJ Williams having the injury bug, they had no choice but to keep him at TE.  But with Funchess out wide, putting bracket coverage on Gallon, and putting 8 in the box like teams have shown won’t work, without giving a 6’5, 235 pound super athlete in single coverage. It should prove to not only open things up for Gallon and the run game, but also should give Devin Gardner more time in the backfield.

On defense, Jake Ryan has been cleared to play, and expect him to take some snaps this week and next, utilize the bye week before MSU to get into total game shape, and be ready for the Spartans.

One comes back, and one leaves, with Soph NT Ondre Pipkins being out for the year with an ACL injury sustained in the Minnesota game. A loss of course, but I expect Quintin Washington to take more of the starter snaps, and Willie Henry to continue to get snaps.

Having experienced Happy Valley first hand for the 2006 UM game, it can be electric. But they also are very similar to Michigan Stadium. When things aren’t going as planned, a pin drop can be heard in spite of 100,000+ people being there.  Take care of the ball, keep the playbook simple, and pound the rock. On defense, we won’t like watching the bend but don’t break, but making a freshman quarterback beat you is just what makes Greg Mattison happy. Expecting him to nickel and dime you without making any mistakes is unlikely and I like Michigan’s chances to keep PSU in check for the most part.

Michigan, 34, PSU 23

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Central Michigan Game Prediction

Finally the incredibly long off season is over, and Team 134 is ready to take the field. While many have been saying the 2014 season will be the one where Brady Hoke has a full compliment of "his" players and will finally be removed from the speed bump known as the Rich Rod era, this team should hardly be discounted. Devin Gardner - 11

There has been a continual building of talent since Brady took over in January 2011. With only 15 seniors, the talent on this team is obviously young but it’s top notch.

While Michigan is replacing 3 OL, with all due respect to Team 133, it will be an upgrade, at least at some point in the season. Jack Miller, Graham Glasglow and Kyle Kalis, look to bolster subpar line play, and bookend tackles Lewan and Schofield might just be the best tandem in the country.

The stable of running backs harken back to the days of Bo stomping the sidelines, with several potential great backs toting the leather this fall. Fitz Touissant will be the first, and if OC AL Borges has his way, will carry the lion share of the load. Drake Johnson, fresh off his redshirt, comes in after impressive bowl practices and spring camp, looking for carries, as do true freshman Derrick Green and Deveon Smith, both among the nations top tailbacks.

Jeremy Gallon has grown into QB Devin Gardner’s favorite target, and with the fall camp injury to likely #2 Amara Darboh, there are some questions as to who will step up. I believe RS Freshman Jehu Chesson will be that guy . He has the talent, but is still somewhat raw. Speed is one of his strengths however, so stretching the field at 6’3 is a good thing.

While QB is a position of strength for Team 134, depth isn’t there. Many close to the program have raved about Devin Gardner’s ability to make plays. He has great talent, but still only has 5 career starts under his belt. Shane Morris coming in as a true freshman has obvious 5* talent, but needs to learn the offense, and hasn’t played much in a year since missing a large part of his senior year of HS with mono.

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2013 Defensive Depth Chart Preview

I expect the 2013 defense to be strong once again despite losing some solid contributors such as Jordan Kovacs, Will Campbell, Craig Roh, Kenny Demens, and JT Floyd. Here is how I see the 2013 depth chart shakinBrenen Beyer - MGoBlogg out with no true freshman included.

SDE: 1. Brennen Beyer – Junior

2. Tom Strobel – RS Freshman

3. Keith Heitzman – RS Sophomore

4. Chris Wormley – RS Freshman

Analysis- After two seasons at the WDE position, I see Brennen Beyer moving to the strong side next year. He will need to gain weight, but his strength is stopping the run. Strobel has earned praise from people close to the program, and I really liked him coming out of high school. He is the future of the position. Heitzman saw some playing time in 2012 and should contribute again in 2013. Wormley already has NFL size and could be a star player in the future if he recovers fully from his injury that he sustained in camp this season.

WDE: 1. Frank Clark – Junior

2. Mario Ojemudia – Sophomore

Analysis- Beyer’s pending move to the strong side is also because of the talent Michigan has at WDE. Clark showed great potential against OSU and is an explosive player. Ojemudia, in a perfect world, would have redshirted in 2012 but saw the field because of his pass rushing ability. Michigan will be solid on the weak side in 2013.

3T: 1. Jibreel Black – SeniorJibreel Black2

2. Nathan Brink- RS Senior

3. Matt Godin – RS Freshman

Analysis- Black showed some flashes of being a dominant 3Tech defensive tackle in 2012. He has been versatile since arriving in Ann Arbor playing three positions along the defensive line. Brink didn’t contribute nearly as much in 2012 as he did in 2011, but provides solid depth at the position. Godin could play SDE or 3Tech in the future, but assuming he gains weight this offseason I see him as a future starter at defensive tackle.

NT: 1. Quinton Washington – RS Senior

2. Ondre Pipkins – Sophomore

3. Richard Ash – RS Junior

Analysis- Q was probably the biggest surprise on either side of the ball in 2012. He showed that he can be an anchor in the middle and should have a solid senior campaign. Pipkins showed flashes in 2012 of the skill set that made him a highly touted DT coming out of high school. As with all young defensive linemen, the offseason will be crucial for Ondre. Richard Ash will need to have a great offseason to contribute.

Will: 1. James Ross – Sophomore

2. Royce Jenkins-Stone – Sophomore

Ana102911_SPT_UMich_vs_Purdue_MRMlysis- Ross pretty much solidified himself as the future of the position late in the 2012 season. He is extremely athletic will instincts that cannot be taught. I see future All-Big Ten potential with his game. RJS will likely start at Will, but could play all three linebacker spots because of his athleticism.

Mike: 1. Desmond Morgan – Junior

2. Joe Bolden – Sophomore

3. Mike Jones – RS Senior

4. Kaleb Ringer – RS Freshman

Analysis- Because of Ross’ late season play, I see Morgan moving to Mike for 2013. He is a solid tackler that lacks ideal athleticism to continue to hold down the Will spot. Joe Bolden had a solid freshman campaign and will (along with Ross) provide a great future at the inside linebacker positions because of his instincts and tackling ability. Jones and Ringer provide adequate depth assuming Ringer recovers from his injury.

Sam: 1. Jake Ryan – RS Junior

2. Cam Gordon – RS Senior

Analysis- Jake Ryan will be the center piece of the Michigan defense in 2013. One of the few defensive playmakers in the 2012 season, Ryan provides a unique combination of skills with underappreciated athleticism. Cam Gordon has bounced around throughout his career at Michigan but will contribute again at Sam in 2013.

CB: 1. Raymon Taylor – Junior

2. Blake Countess – RS Sophomore

3. Terry Richardson – Sophomore

4. Delonte Hollowell – Junior

Analysis- Taylor was another big surprise in the 2012 season and locked down one corner spot heading into the 2013 season. If Countess recovers from the injury he sustained against Alabama, Michigan could have one of the best corner combos in the Big Ten. Richardson needs to add weight in the offseason but is a great athlete. Ditto with Hollowell. Michigan could see some freshman contribute in the 2013 season at the cornerback position.

NB: 1. Courtney Avery – Senior

Anaylsis- Avery is undersized as an outside corner, but provides a solid option when Michigan brings in the nickel package. He has seen significant time throughout his MiThomas Gordon - Rivalschigan career and I expect that to continue in 2013.

SS: 1. Thomas Gordon – RS Senior

2. Marvin Robinson – Senior

3. Allen Gant – RS Freshman

4. Jeremy Clark – RS Freshman

Analysis- I see Gordon moving over to the strong safety position in 2013 following the departure of Jordon Kovacs. He has the skill set to play either safety spot and I expect him to be a solid starter once again in 2013. Marvin Robinson will definitely push at the position. He is a great athlete who just has to put it all together in his senior campaign. Gant and Clark are young but both have impressed the coaches this season.

FS: 1. Jarrod Wilson – Sophomore

2. Josh Furman – RS Junior

Analysis- Jarrod Wilson is the main reason I see Gordon moving spots in 2013. Wilson has underrated athleticism and has shown the intelligence and cover skills to be the future at the position. Furman is a freak athlete and one of the fastest players on the team. He could definitely push Wilson with a strong offseason.

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Grading The Performance: Northwestern

Quarterback

Wistert - UMGoBlue.comDenard Robinson remained sidelined thanks to the wrath of the elbow gods and Devin Gardner saw his 2nd start of the season. There were thoughts after last week that Gardner’s performance was simply the result of playing a weak opponent in Minnesota. Those ideas where put to rest on Saturday as Devin led Michigan to a come from behind victory over a ranked Northwestern team. Devin continues to learn facets of the offense and how to deal with different game situations on the fly, but so far he has handled it very well. Devin was poised for the majority of the game on Saturday and his ball placement was excellent throughout the game. There are times when the ball gets away from Devin, particularly when he throws over the middle. Locating backside defenders continues to be an issues for Devin and Michigan was fortunate to only turn the ball over once through the air. Devin is very adept when throwing to the sideline and vertically downfield. Devin dropped the ball into holes in the defense like a seasoned vet and put his receivers into great situations simply because of the ball placement. Devin did potentially cost Michigan the game with a very poor decision to force the ball into Devin Funchess on a wheel route, resulting in a horribly timed interception late in the game.

Devin continues to be decisive in the run game. Escaping pressure and scrambling to daylight is one of Devin’s strengths and Michigan was rewarded with a productive 47 yds on 9 carries, including 2 TDs. The great thing about Devin is not just his ability to throw the ball and add to the Michigan playbook, but he is still a very capable runner and dual-threat that opposing defenses have to account for.

Grade: B+

Running Back

Fitzgerald Toussaint was finally able to break off a big run during a meaningful stretch of the game. Unfortunately the play ended with a fumble but it was still good to see Fitz flash the same level of explosiveness that he showed last season. The 50 yd run skewed the day that Fitz had from a statistical standpoint. Fitz ran hard but if you take out the one big run, the numbers show 42 yds and a 2.5 ypc average. The 50 yd run was big and must be taken into account when evaluating the running game but room to run was still hard to come by which effected the production of the backs. Thomas Rawls had just 3 carries, one helped Michigan convert for a 1st down while another was a goal line TD.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers/TEs

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Grading The Performance: Illinois

Quarterback2012-umillinois-04

Eliminating turnovers has been the point of emphasis for Denard Robinson since the spring. Through the early part of the season Denard had seemingly ignored what had been stressed to him by the coaching staff all off season. While Denard was responsible for a fumble a week ago, Denard has cut out the interceptions that plagued him through the first 4 games of the season. While the play calling certain has played a significant role in reducing the number of interceptions, Denard’s footwork, accuracy, and decision making has also improved. That improvement was on display against the Illini as Robinson completed 63% of his passes for 159 yds and 2 TDs. While the passing numbers weren’t out of this world, they represent the kind of passing game that Michigan is likely to have success with in the future. Denard was efficient with the football and had great location on his passes.

Denard racked up 128yds on the ground in addition to his passing numbers. There weren’t as many huge runs as last week against Purdue but Denard picked his spots and consistently picked up 8-9 yds when he kept the ball. Denard also did a much better job on the zone read this week vs. last week.

Russell Bellomy saw his first semi-extended playing time in relief of Denard Robinson. Bellomy wasn’t asked to do much but he didn’t show any signs of the moment being too big for him. Bellomy didn’t have to do more than hand the ball off on his first series but he threw two accurate passes on his 2nd series, both of which were dropped. Bellomy again showed his athletic ability, picking up a first down on a nice QB draw. Bellomy’s lone mistake was a fumbled snap in garbage time after Robinson had returned to duty. There still isn’t a big enough sample size to evaluated what kind of QB Bellomy will be longterm but at the very least coaches and fan know that Bellomy can handle the offense in a pressure situation.

Grade: A-

Running Back

Al Borges has often discussed how much he likes having one back carry most of the load. Going into the year everyone assumed that Fitzgerald Toussaint had established himself as that one back but his production has been average at best heading into Saturday. Michigan switched things up against the Illini using 4 different backs through the course of the game. Toussaint, Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, and Dennis Norfleet all received snaps at RB in the 1st half with varying degrees of success. Fitz had his 2nd best day on the ground on Saturday from a statistical standpoint, racking up 62 yds on 18 carries. The 3.4 ypc average fell well short of the 5.6 yds that Fitz gained a year ago. Fitz did run with more effort and burst than he showed against Purdue but still wasn’t able to post the kind of numbers that Michigan fans have come to expect from him. Thomas Rawls had the best game of his Michigan career gaining 90 yds on just 9 carries including a 62 yd TD run late in the contest. Rawls ran extremely hard on Saturday and was had several critical short yardage runs in the game that netting the Wolverines first downs. Justice Hayes showed the kind of burst and agility that made him such a highly recruited back out of high school. Hayes actually finished with more rushing yards that Toussaint despite receiving 8 less carries.

Michigan fans have been hungry for more production out the backs and their wish was granted in this game. The backs gained 217 yds as unit, by far the most impressive showing of the season.

Grade: A

WJeremy Gallon - UMGoBlue.comide Receivers/TEs

Saturday may have been the weirdest day for any group of receivers to have played at Michigan. The unit combined for 6 catches and 153 yds and no player registered more than a single catch. Jeremy Gallon kicked off Michigan’s scoring affair with 71 yd TD off a screen pass. Gallon continues to operate as an unheralded figure outside the Michigan fanbase, despite the number of big plays that he has been involved in over the last 2 years. Roy Roundtree recorded his longest catch of the season, catching a 33 yd jump ball from Denard Robinson in the 1st quarter. Roy also dropped a critical pass from Russell Bellomy when Michigan needed the senior to help his young QB out.

Devin Funchess made another spectacular play in the passing game, this time on a jump ball in the back of the endzone. Funchess has carved out a nice niche for himself on this football team and is now firmly established as a threat that opposing defenses need to account for. Like Roy, Funchess dropped a sure first down from Russell Bellomy when Michigan really needed a catch. Brandon Moore returned from injury in this game but found himself behind the other TEs in the rotation.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

Michigan ran for 353 yds on Saturday and that doesn’t happen without a dominant performance from the offensive line. Michigan employed a variety of schemes up front and used more traps and isolation run plays than have been used throughout the season. The offensive line did a great job of not only handling the man in front of them but also climbing to the second level and taking on LBers and safeties. Ricky Barnum played surprisingly well despite a 1st quarter injury that saw him leave the field. For the last two years Brady Hoke and Al Borges have talked about their desire to effectively run the power play and push people around and Michigan was able to do those two things effectively in the 2nd half of the game. Once the Illinois defense got worn down, the Michigan offense line produced the most success the Wolverines have had to date using the power play.

The Wolverines pass protection continues to stymie opposing pass rushers at a high rate. The tackles played especially well on Saturday, including Taylor Lewan who continues to play at an All-American level.

Grade: A+

Defensive Line

2012-umillinois-026Michigan was fortunate that Jibreel Black piled drove Nathan Scheelhaase into the ground. Prior to the injury to its starting QB Illinois was moving the ball on Michigan at an unusually high rate. Quinton Washington has experience his share of ups and downs throughout the season. In the first two games Washington really struggled with the physical play up front and holding up at the point of attack. Washington has come a long way in just a short period of time and is not actively making plays as a disruptor in the backfield. On Saturday, Quinton recorded his first full TFL on the season and even provided pressure on the QB which is not something most of have seen from his over the last 2 years.. Ondre Pipkins played well on limited snaps and continues to improve as both a pass rusher and run stuffer. Pipkins has always done a great job of getting of blocks and making plays in pursuit, now it is just a matter of getting Pipkins to play with more physicality inside and start penetrating into the backfield.

The DEs had their best game of the season, especially in run support which they once again held the edge and maintained containment. Mario Ojemudia recorded the first sack of his Michigan career, something the Michigan coaches feel should happen with more regularity. Right now Ojemudia’s major asset on the team is as a situation pass rusher and he finally broke through on Saturday.

Grade: B

Linebackers

The LBers played their best game of the season by far. Jake Ryan led the way on defense from start to finish and was an absolute terror wherever he lined up. Ryan made plays in the backfield, out in space, and as pass rusher off the edge. Ryan was all over the field collecting 11 tackles including 3 behind the line of scrimmage plus 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Ryan wasn’t the only LBer to play well. Kenny Demens had his best game of the season registering 8 tackles, a critical TFL, and an interception. It is encouraging to see the kind of improvement that Demens has made over the last 3 weeks of the season. Freshman James Ross made several nice plays in relief duty. It is easy to see why the coaches try to get him on the field. Ross has a ways to go from an experience and consistency standpoint but his athleticism and instincts continue to impress.

Grade: A+

Secondary

Playing as a member of the Michigan secondary became much easier on Saturday once Scheelhaase went down. The passing g2012-umillinois-023ame has never been the strong point of the Illinois offense but once Scheelhaase left the game it became a non-factor. Michigan finished the game holding Illinois 29yds passing, a record low. The major contribution from the secondary occurred against the run. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon didn’t finish the game with a lot of tackles but they did a great job of forcing plays back inside and kept opposing players in front of them.

Grade: C

Special Teams

It finally looked like Dennis Norfleet was going to get the return TD that most have been expecting for weeks now. Unfortunately, Norfleet wasn’t able to get past the punter on what ended up being a 42yd punt return. Illinois was held scoreless meaning the only kick return for Michigan occurred at the start of the 2nd half.

Matt Wile punted the ball 3 times on Saturday, all of which were downed inside the 20 yd line. Michigan has found a nice balance between Will Hagergup as the long distance punter and Wile as the short yardage punter. Hagerup’s lone punt travel 43 yds, it was also downed inside the 20 yard line.

Brendan Gibbons had a very busy day kicking extra points but wasn’t asked to do much more in the game. Gibbons connected on his lone FG attempt of the day, an 18 yd kick in the 1st quarter.

Grade: B

A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.

B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.

C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with several errors.

D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.

F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.

Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.

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