Michigan Opens As 16-Point Favorite over Penn State
My headline gives away my prediction, sorta. I’m picking Michigan, so you don’t have to read the rest if you don’t have time. I just got a phone call that ruined my day, so I don’t want to ruin yours.
I tell ya, we don’t get no respect. Not only did our Penn State Nittany Lions (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) get dissed on the starting board as 16-point ‘dogs as they travel to Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines (3-0, 0-0) in da Big House, but also the spread rapidly widened to 19. The early money is all meshuganah Michiganders’ and the mamas who love them.
Michigan is probably overrated, but they’re riding high on a 3-0 start in this early season wherein the only obstacles have been patsies. The Wolverines mauled Hawaii 63-3 in the season opener, then dismantled UCF 51-14, and shuffled off the Colorado Buffaloes 45-28, thus winning them there games by the combined score of 159-45. (I saved you the trouble of adding them yourselves. You’re welcome.)
Colorado Gave Them Some Moments
PSU isn’t the only football team that can’t handle noon starts. Against Colorado, Michigan blew it big time before they even had time to adjust their jock straps. The Buffaloes stampeded to a 7-0 lead and then good fortune shone on them once again as they recovered a Michigan fumble for their second touchdown. However, they screwed up, letting Michigan in on their punter deep in their own territory, setting up a block that the Wolverines quickly ran in. Still in the first quarter, the Buffs scored once again on a short pass. At the end of the first quarter, Colorado led 21-7.
Michigan came storming back, scoring 17 points in the second quarter to take the lead 24-21 at halftime. Colorado briefly bounded past the Wolverines again on a 70-yard pass play, which Michigan answered with a 42 yard run to pay dirt by De’Veon Smith to take a 31-28 lead barely two minutes into the third quarter, and would add two more touchdowns before the final gun. Final score, Michigan 45, Colorado 28.
I Still Believe They’re Overrated
I mean, who is Colorado, anyway? They’re kind of the Penn State of the Pac-12. ESPN’s meaningless power rankings put them at #37, while Penn State is #40. Michigan’s first two opponents ranked #118 and #98 on that list, respectively. So, Michigan is gradually moving up in class with respect to quality of opponents.
They tell me (“they” who?) that Michigan might have the best damn defensive line in college football, but that doesn’t show up in the above rankings — perhaps because the starters were pulled early in the two cupcake games.
Jim Harbaugh sure as hell deserves a lot of credit for picking up the pieces of Michigan Man Brady Hoke’s Epic Fail in Ann Arbor. Although he is crazy, he has driven his team to the upper echelon of the top NCAA division, and that ain’t Swiss Cheese.
However, through three games, two of which were arguably with the dregs of the FBS, Michigan ranks 47th in passing offense and 52nd in rushing offense (compare this with PSU’s 30th and 113th, respectively). So how the hell do they get to #4?
Is it the defense?
They allowed Colorado to score 28 points on them. Even lowly hometown UCF scored a couple of touchdowns against Michigan. The Wolverines rank 23rd in total defense and 18th in scoring defense. Still, does that look like a #4 team?
Jabrill Peppers Adds a Dimension Or Two
Imagine a linebacker who can do it all; Jabrill Peppers fulfills that description. The 6-1, 205 lb junior is third in the nation in punt returns, having run back eight for 173 yards and a touchdown in the first three games. And, oh, by the way, he has 25 tackles and two sacks thus far this season. This past week, Peppers made history by being the first player to be honored as the Big Ten’s defensive player of the week and special teams player of the week simultaneously. This guy is Mr. Excitement.
Speight of Hand
Redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight has a mere three career starts with Michigan, but he has quickly earned the respect of the team as well as Big Blue fans. He isn’t the most accurate thrower in college football, and he can sometimes drop the ball, not unlike our own McSorley. Nevertheless, the Ann Arbor News describes him as an “alpha quarterback”, who has taken command of the Wolverines.
He’s certainly got “alpha” size. The 6-6, 243-pounder from Richmond, Virginia was a 3-star recruit out of high school and red-shirted his freshman year at Michigan. In last year’s Minnesota game, he trotted out in relief of Jake Rudock, who had been injured. He looked awful until he got a pep “talk” from Harbaugh, meaning that Harbaugh corralled Speight on the sideline and started pounding his shoulders and hitting his chest, trying to loosen up the red-shirt freshman. It worked. Midway through the fourth quarter, Speight got the offense going and brought the Wolverines back from a five point deficit with five minutes to go, taking a three point lead that stood.
Speight throws to a group of talented receivers, including eponymously named tight end Jake Butt, who had seven catches for 87 yards in the Colorado game. Big play makers Grant Perry and Amara Darboh are dangerous weapons that will test the Penn State secondary if Speight can hit them in stride.
Rushin’ in the Bo Tradition
In the Colorado game, nine different runners got the ball from Speight, who himself is a drop back passer and not a running threat. In all, they had 41 carries for 182 yards plus three touchdowns. Senior running backs De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac split the running duties between them. Together, they accounted for 21 carries, chewing up 105 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns. Jehu Chesson, a senior wide receiver, had three carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Many Happy Returns
Yeah, Michigan has a return game. Against the Buffaloes, Jabrill Peppers returned two kicks for 81 yards, one of them a 55-yarder. Jabrill was also the prime punt returner, running back four for 99 yards and a touchdown. They could leave it to Jabrill, but there are some other talented dudes involved in punt returns as well.
The defensive line of Michigan is highly regarded. Although they lost Willie Henry to the NFL draft, the rest of the unit is intact from last year. What you have here is the crux of why Penn State will lose. Among others, Fox Sports has ranked Michigan as the top defensive line in college football. The Five Traffic Cones are seriously over their heads and they will wind up on their asses. They will be manhandled in the trenches, and that will be that.
I think the D-line might have dropped their guard a bit in Colorado, doing the noon start lapse. But Crazy Jim Harbaugh will have them pumped up for this game which is for both Michigan and Penn State the initial contest on the conference schedule. Oh, yeah, there’ll be shoulder pounding and chest punching going on there. Maybe Harbaugh will wind up strangling a player (like Bobby Knight did at Texas Tech) before the Ohio State game rolls around.
Notorious Alumnus of the Week – H. H. Holmes
Herman Webster Mudgett (M.D., 1884), better known under the name of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or more commonly just H. H. Holmes, was one of the first documented serial killers in the modern sense of the term. In Chicago, at the time of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Holmes opened a hotel which he had designed and built for himself specifically with murder in mind, and which would eventually be the location of many of his murders. While he confessed to 27 murders, of which nine were confirmed, his actual body count could be up to 200. He brought an unknown number of his victims to his World’s Fair Hotel, located about three miles west of the fair, which was held in Jackson Park. Besides being a serial killer, H. H. Holmes was also a successful con artist and a bigamist.
His is such a story, you wouldn’t believe. It is gruesome and compelling. Because I do not have the space or the stomach to present it here, I’ll direct you to Wikipedia to read all about H. H. Holmes if you dare.
Ultimately, in 1895, Holmes was put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Following his conviction, he confessed to 30 murders in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Toronto, plus six more attempted murders. On May 7, 1896, Holmes was hanged in prison at the age of 35. Sayonara, asshole!
It is still too early to worry much about the weather. AccuWeather says that on Saturday, Ann Arbor will be partly cloudy and will see a high of 70°F with maybe a shower, already. The weather will not provide any excuses for either team.
The Bottom Line
I suppose we’ll get to see how prolific the Penn State offense really is, as they face their first conference opponent, the overrated #4 Michigan Wolveroos. Current line is Michigan minus 18-½ with an over/under of 59-½. Thus, the money says Michigan will wind up on top by something like a 39-20 score.
My feeling is that we still have a porous defense, and that is a problem that could plague Penn State for the rest of the year. I hope they surprise me and learn how to tackle, but the injuries are troublesome. The offense that is necessary to offset the defensive deficit isn’t there yet, either, unless it can miraculously start converting third downs at a higher rate and hanging onto the ball. So, it cannot be a surprise at this point that I’m picking Michigan to win. Wolverines 47, Penn State 17. Take the over.
I’ll be back after the game with a post-mortem.