Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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18 Oct 2008

7th Day Adventure: Numbers Check

by Russell Levine

The SDA Podcast



So much for crowing about my record last week.

I followed a 7-1 week by throwing a 1-6-1 mark on the board. I blame Rich Rodriguez.

This is the annual road-trip week at SDA headquarters, destination Happy Valley, Pa. More on the matchup in the podcast and below, but in case you're wondering I'm looking forward to the trip anyway. Penn State is my favorite road venue to watch Michigan. It offers the best mix of insane-level fan interest, miles of RV tailgating, and yet with enough reason thrown in that it's never a negative experience.

That said, Michigan has won three of the four games I've attended at Beaver Stadium, and I do have a sneaking suspicion that 12 years' worth of frustration might yet boil over if the Lions win in the expected rout on Saturday.

Nonetheless, my former SDA partner Vin and I shelled out $300 on the secondary market for a pair of lousy seats to the game. I guess I have faith in the Penn State fan base.

This Week's Guest

Brian Fremeau, creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index weekly college football ratings (which are updated each Wednesday on Football Outsiders), has been kind enough to supply picks to run against mine in SDA each week.

I wanted to give him a chance to come on the podcast for several reasons. One, because he helped me break down all the bowl games last year and was an outstanding guest (despite being a holder of a Notre Dame degree). Two, to give him another outlet to explain his ratings and how they work for those in the SDA audience that may be statistically inclined but unaware of his work. And three, because what I've asked him to do -- pick eight cherry-picked games against the spread -- and put them out there for public consumption, is not the best way to represent his work.

Brian has some terrific insights into why his system likes some of the top teams far better than others, and also some thoughts on what to expect out of Penn State, Texas, and Alabama the rest of the way.

For being such a good solider, I threw him a softball and asked if Michigan 2008=Notre Dame 2007. There are actually a surprising number of similarities.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

No. 9 BYU (-1) at TCU, Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, Versus

Thursday night belongs to the mid-majors, as this Mountain West battle on Versus is far more attractive than the Florida-N.C. State ACC tilt on ESPN. BYU is this year's mid-major darling, holder of the nation's longest winning streak. Already ensconced in the top 10, the Cougars are very likely six wins away from a BCS bid. Whether they are in the mix for a spot in the national title game is a question for a few weeks from now. To even be in the mix, BYU needs to rout TCU and Utah at the end of the year, and root for chaos in Big 12, the SEC, and the Big Ten. Oh, and another USC loss certainly wouldn't hurt.

TCU hasn't received nearly the publicity that BYU has gotten this season, but the Horned Frogs aren't far behind the Cougars in terms of talent. Las Vegas sure doesn't think so, as the one-point spread would attest. TCU leads the nation in total defense, and its only loss came against then-No. 1 Oklahoma. The defense will be key against Max Hall and the high-powered BYU offense -- as will the home crowd. This is a definite danger spot for BYU.


Mississippi (+14) at No. 2 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

So maybe Vanderbilt-Georgia is a better game. But Alabama has been out of the spotlight since laying a first-half ambush for Georgia a few weeks back. With the recent carnage in the polls, Alabama is now within shouting distance of Texas for the top spot but the Tide could use a big performance this week. That's because Texas (against Missouri) will be in a far bigger spotlight Saturday. Ole Miss carries the street cred it earned with a road win at Florida a few weeks ago, but the Rebels were largely beneficiaries of the Gators' self-immolation. Ole Miss's offensive and defensive lines could pose some problem for Alabama, but I don't expect this to be the game the Tide have to finally start playing from behind.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Mississippi | RUSSELL: Alabama

No. 23 Pittsburgh (-3) at Navy, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS CSTV

Well, well, well. Look who leads the Big East. Why, that would be Pitt, courtesy of its upset win at South Florida a couple of weeks ago. But a trip to Navy is never an easy one, and the Middies have already beaten Wake Forest this year. The option offense has flustered better defenses than Pitt's. Navy will get its yards and more than a few points, but can it stop Pitt from scoring? The temptation for Dave Wannstedt will be to pound LeSean McCoy at Navy's undersized front, but the Middies' vulnerability is against the pass. Can quarterback Bill Stull exploit it without turning the ball over? Stull is just 85th in pass efficiency, with three interceptions and three touchdowns on the year.


No. 12 Ohio State (-3.5) at No. 20 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Big Ten observers may be looking ahead to the Penn State-Ohio State game next week, but the Buckeyes first must survive a tricky test at Michigan State for that game to matter. Ohio State has been little heard from since its humiliation at the hands of USC, but the Buckeyes have been busy winning ugly while new starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor learns to play the position as a true freshman. Pryor is an athletic marvel within unlimited potential, but he's also a true freshman, and hasn't exactly set the college football world on fire since pushing incumbent starter Todd Boeckman to the bench. Ohio State is just 94th in the nation in total offense (320 yards/game) and is relying on its senior-laden defense (12th nationally) to keep it in every game while the offense takes its lumps. Michigan State is off to a surprising 6-1 start, with its one loss coming to Cal in the opener. The Spartans haven't won seven straight in 30 years, but are one game away from stamping themselves as conference contenders. How many carries will Javon Ringer get in this game? Michigan State would probably like that number to be about 45, meaning the Spartans are playing from ahead.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Michigan State | RUSSELL: Ohio State

Michigan (+23.5) at No. 3 Penn State, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


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What's that you say? There are better games on the schedule, so why am I picking this one? If you've read this column for more than a week or two, you should know the answer to that one. Sure there are better games, but none of them involve my alma mater getting better than three touchdowns against a team it hasn't lost to since 1996. Not that I'm quibbling with the line, mind you; if anything it probably shows a little respect for the Michigan name and probably should be higher. Michigan is coming off a 10-point offensive outburst in a loss to mighty Toledo, which isn't even a mediocre MAC team. Penn State, meanwhile, is crushing everything in its path. This may be Joe Paterno's finest team since his 1994 squad finished undefeated with a Rose Bowl win over Oregon, the Lions' last visit to Pasadena. How bad has it gotten for Michigan during a 2-4 start? Two indicators -- FireRRod.com went online this week, and on the entire board there are only three bigger underdogs: Hawaii (at Boise State), Syracuse (at USF), and Washington State (vs. USC).

First, a few words about Rodriguez. Sure, I'm frustrated this year hasn't gone better, but I'm not disappointed in the coach. There are too many holes on offense. The line is horrendous. It barely has five players who are even qualified to play at this level. Steven Threet has actually been OK at times at quarterback, but the offense can't get started half the time because Threet and the tailbacks are getting pummeled in the backfield.

Second, it's not the end of the world. So, Michigan is going to take its lumps this year. The nation's longest bowl streak is going to end. But Michigan is going to be fine in another year or two, once Rodriguez gets his players some more experience and beefs up the line. They're still going to be Michigan -- a name brand playing in the nation's largest stadium (which it will be once again after upgrades are complete). The facilities will finally be second to none after the stadium and practice building are finished. They're on TV more than Leave it to Beaver reruns. (OK, so that was Duke. It's still a great quote.) And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know -- Nebraska. I'm not worried.

Oh, and as for this game, against any and all rationale, I'm taking Michigan and the points. The Wolverines are backed into a corner and everyone is kicking them while they're down. I think they'll play with fire and emotion and at least make it competitive. I'm expecting their best game of the season.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Penn State | RUSSELL: Michigan

No. 11 Missouri (+6.5) at No. 1 Texas, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

It's a bad news-good news week for Missouri. The bad news? They have to rally from a tough home loss to Oklahoma State in time to face Texas on the road Saturday night. The good news? Win this game, and last week is all but forgotten. That includes quarterback Chase Daniel, who threw three interceptions against the Cowboys when he had a chance to grab hold of the Heisman race. If he outplays Colt McCoy on national TV, he'll be right back at the head of the line. Missouri may need him to, as one has to wonder if its defense can do much to slow McCoy and the Longhorns. These are two of the top offenses in the nation, but Texas has the edge on defense, which is where this game should be decided. If Texas gets to Daniel with the front four, it'll be game over. Mack Brown must guard against a letdown after Texas surged from No. 5 to No. 1 in the polls following its win over Oklahoma.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Missouri | RUSSELL: Texas

No. 17 Virginia Tech (+2.5) at Boston College, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Don't look know, but Virginia Tech, buried and forgotten after losing its opener to East Carolina, has won five straight to once again emerge as an ACC contender. This is a rematch of last season's ACC title game, but only Virginia Tech was expected to contend this year after Boston College lost Matt Ryan off last year's team. Instead, the Eagles' fifth-ranked defense has kept Boston College in every game. Expect a low-scoring affair as the defenses dominate, but Virginia Tech should have enough of an offensive edge with quarterback Tyrod Taylor to make the difference on the road.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Virginia Tech (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Virginia Tech

No. 25 California (Pick 'em) at Arizona, 10 p.m. ET, FSN

Cal would like you to know that there is more to the Pac-10 than USC, thank you. The Bears are 5-1, with the only loss coming at Maryland in an early-starting game in which Cal looked like it hit the snooze button one too many times. Arizona would also like to announce that its more than a pushover, but the Wildcats are coming off a loss to Stanford in which the Cardinal ran all over their defense (286 rushing yards allowed). That has to be music to the ears of Cal, which can run the ball even if Jahvid Best isn't yet at full health. His backup, Shane Vereen, is more than capable of gashing Arizona's smallish defense as Cal plays ball control. Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama can move the ball against the Cal defense -- when he has it. Time of possession will be key as Cal grinds out a win.

THE PICKS -- FEI: California | RUSSELL: California (Edelstein Lock)

Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
Mississippi +14 Alabama Mississippi Alabama
Pittsburgh -3 Navy Navy Navy*
Ohio State -3.5 Michigan State Michigan State Ohio State
Michigan +23.5 Penn State Penn State Michigan
Missouri +6.5 Texas Missouri Texas
Virginia Tech +2.5 Boston College Virginia Tech* Virginia Tech
California Pick 'em Arizona California California
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 4-3-1 (1-0-0) 22-31-2 (3-3-1)
Russell: 1-6-1 (0-1-0) 25-28-2 (2-5-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 18 Oct 2008

36 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2008, 11:28am by Yinka Double Dare


by Tom Gower :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 4:39pm

3-4-1 last week... a little bit of a comedown from my own 7-1 the previous week, and I went 2-7 in another no-stakes contest with UGA -11.5 for a win instead of a push. Boomer Sooner let me down, giving me my first Edelstein loss off the year, so I'm now 17-13-2 (3-1) since I started picking along.

This week's not particularly attractive to me, but I've alternated good and bad weeks so far so I guess I'm due: BYU (Edelstein), Alabama, Pitt, Michigan State, Penn State, Texas, Virginia Tech, and Cal. Picking with both Wannstache and Sparty scares the heck out of me, but I have little respect for Navy or the Buckeyes' generally putrid offense.

by Tom Gower :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 9:30am

Wonderful start to the week. When first typing up that post, I wrote "TCU" instead of "BYU", and of course I had to go and correct that. Oh well.

by DP99 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 4:54pm

Yeah, it's been weird to see the sheer ingratitude and short-sightedness of a sizeable contingent of the Michigan fan base over the past month. Wait, did I say "weird"? I meant "AWESOME!!!!!!"

I'm happy to see that after 40 years of consecutive success, intra-conference dominance, choice recruits growing up wanting to play there, several winning streaks against every other conference foe, bowl games galore, that a strong contingent of the fans show themselves to be just as fickle ("Grmph! Let's boo the team and call for coach's head after six games -- the same coach who's been very to extremely successful at every stop! Yeah! We have a large enough base to finance only $200million in stadium and facilities renovations -- THE SKY IS FALLING!!!"), crappy, underappreciative, plain-old dum just like the strong contingent of just about every other fan base. This, above all, is the victory that every other fan base should enjoy right now: no more having to hear from Michigan fans from a 38ft horse. Do the results of the actual game matter when you can feel good and comfortable simply saying "Suck it, @$$face" any time you see a Michigan fan even begin to open his mouth? Ok, probably.

Warring bloggers, fans booing, blogger throwing stuff at senir citizens. All it took was one really bad season in 40, really?

by DMP (not verified) :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 4:57pm

Yeah, it's been weird to see the sheer ingratitude and short-sightedness of a sizeable contingent of the Michigan fan base over the past month. Wait, did I say "weird"? I meant "AWESOME!!!!!!"

I'm happy to see that after 40 years of consecutive success, intra-conference dominance, choice recruits growing up wanting to play there, several winning streaks against every other conference foe, bowl games galore, that a strong contingent of the fans show themselves to be just as fickle ("Grmph! Let's boo the team and call for coach's head after six games -- the same coach who's been very to extremely successful at every stop! Yeah! We have a large enough base to finance only $200million in stadium and facilities renovations -- THE SKY IS FALLING!!!"), crappy, underappreciative, plain-ol' dum' just like the strong contingent of just about every other fan base. This, above all, is the victory that every other fan base should enjoy right now: no more having to hear from Michigan fans from a 38ft horse. Do the results of the actual game matter when you can feel good and comfortable simply saying "Suck it, @$$face" any time you see a Michigan fan even begin to open his mouth? Ok, probably.

Warring bloggers, fans booing, blogger throwing stuff at senior citizens. All it took was one really bad season in 40, really?

by DMP (not verified) :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 4:58pm

Oops, sorry about the double.

by Trogdor :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 5:17pm

Why? Did anyone really mind reading it twice?

by Trogdor :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 4:58pm

How bad is it for Michigan this year? Let me put it this way. Two weeks ago I was back in Toledo, watching my alma mater get absolutely destroyed by Ball State, 31-0. They were bringing up 8 or 9 guys on every play, and still couldn't stop the run. They had exactly one play that worked on offense, the bubble screen - and that only worked about four times before Ball State dropped the hammer on it, too. It was one of those rare 31-0 games where the score is deceiving, it wasn't anywhere near that close.

The next week, Toledo goes to the big house and beats Michigan. And I couldn't even be bothered to take the time to come here and gloat about it. I mean, wow, it hardly even seems worth it. It's sort of sad, if you think about it. Or else it would be if it was pretty much any other team.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 4:58pm

I'm expecting their best game of the season.

I can't believe more isn't being made of the fact that this is Michigan's second road game of the season. Second! And the first was the Notre Dame debacle that led to the Yakity Sax remixes of what was labelled "Cripple Fight '08" on mgoblog.

And Notre Dame's home crowd doesn't even really compare to this weekend - given that Beaver Stadium holds nearly 30,000 more people, and oh yeah, it's Homecoming.

I think it's really been lost in the whole "Michigan decline" thing that the Toledo game was that all but 2 of the remaining 6 games are on the road, whereas only 1 of the first 6 were on the road. The remaining schedule really has "soul-crushing despair" written on it for the players. They're going to struggle, because they're not that good a team - but worse, they're going to have absolutely no fan support. And that's something they haven't really seen yet.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 6:05pm

They haven't been getting a ton of fan support at home, in case you haven't noticed, though the fans do get behind them pretty quickly when the start moving the ball. The Notre Dame thing had nothing to do with being on the road either -- they did the exact same thing at home the next game in front of the home fans in turning it over 5 times in the first half. Actually, that half at home was far worse than the Notre Dame game - the offense actually had its best game of moving the ball of any so far in that one road game, whereas they didn't do a damn thing right in the first half against Wisconsin AND turned it over all those times.

The blogger who threw a water bottle at someone was throwing it at one of the booing morons. I can't blame him. We have some really stupid fans who don't understand that losing 10 starters from the 68th best offense in the NCAA last year just might result in a bad offense even if we didn't change systems, let alone with the scheme change. Especially when most of the new starters are either freshmen or may as well be in that they never played previously and were just as new to the system as anyone.

If Threet isn't healthy enough to play effectively this Saturday though Michigan will get killed. Sheridan just isn't effective enough as a passer, and Michigan HAS to have the threat of downfield passing to even have a chance of making the running game work with any semblance of regularity -- their line is terrible even with 6 or 7 in the box, they have no shot of gaining yards with 8 in the box.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 6:34pm

They haven't been getting a ton of fan support at home, in case you haven't noticed

There's a huge difference between a relatively quiet stadium and 110,000 fans screaming at you when you're on offense. A couple of boos are one thing, but they don't prevent you from hearing the snap count, which is what the 110,000 fans are trying to do.

I really don't get why people aren't mentioning this. Michigan is absolutely loaded with sophomores and freshmen starters. These guys have never played in an environment like this. This is just a recipe for 'complete implosion,' which, given their current state, could be beyond ugly. Like, Illinois 2005 (which led to a second half where JoePa didn't let the offense throw a single pass) ugly.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 2:35pm

Maybe they're bad this week (though honestly, there are no audibles called at the line as far as I know, so they're probably going to be affected less than most by the noise). Two of their four road games though are at Purdue, which isn't loud even when Purdue is good (and they are not good) and at a half-full Metrodome. Hardly the most intimidating. Ohio Stadium obviously will be insane no matter what.

And honestly, the players might welcome being away from the home fans right now. I know I'd rather have opposing fans making a ton of noice than be booed by the home fans.

In any event, I don't think the crowd noise will screw up their execution all that much -- the combo of the PSU defense and the Michigan offense do that all on their own. The offensive line and receivers constantly whiffing on blocks happens no matter where they are.

by DMP (not verified) :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 3:25pm

"The blogger who threw a water bottle at someone was throwing it at one of the booing morons."

Ah, well, of course, behaviour completely excused then, of course, yes, of course. Totally normal adult-to-adult interaction, yes, of course, excuse me, yes, of course, of course.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 6:52pm

So far I'm 7 - 9. Bleech.

1. South Carolina +2 1/2 over LSU
2. Vanderbilt +15 over Georgia

by Rocco :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 9:19pm

Whoo Hoo! ESPN has the Lou Holtz Pep Talk segment again! I loved this last year. It was way better than Dr. Lou.

by lionsbob :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 9:39pm

Nice to see BYU getting destroyed right now, the team is good but not BCS bowl good.

by footballprofessor :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 11:00pm

Question for Brian.

In this article you say that the FEI pick is TCU. On your website, bcftoys.blogspot.com, your pick is BYU 24-23, with a 50.4% PWE. Which is it?

by Eddo :: Thu, 10/16/2008 - 11:23pm

His pick here is against the spread, where BYU is favored by one point. My guess is that FEI actually favors BYU by less than one point, so he picks them to win, but not to cover.

by Brian Fremeau :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 12:43am


by CuseFanInSoCal (not verified) :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 10:28am

In retrospect, TCU won pretty handily, but if the spread's 1 point, shouldn't you just pick who you think is going to win the game? The odds of someone actually winning by one point are pretty slim.

by Wait, what? (not verified) :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 12:18pm

The odds of someone actually winning by one point are pretty slim.

Do you really believe that? 1 point is the difference between a touchdown and two field goals. Or a blocked XP attempt. One-point games might not occur in college as much as the NFL due to the disparity of talent levels (ie, one team is often a good bit better than the other team, which is where you get four-touchdown spreads and suchlike), but between two teams of similar talent, a one-point spread makes sense.

Sure, I would never bet on a team winning by exactly one point (or any other point value, for that matter), but that's not how spreads work.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 1:42pm

Yeah, but if a team's favored by 1 point, betting against the team means you think the other team is going to win. You can't win by less than one point, and even if they do win by 1 point, it's a push, not a cover.

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 10/17/2008 - 9:02pm

This doesn't have to be hard...just imagine if the numbers are:
TCU wins by any margin:49% chance
BYU wins by exactly 1 point: 3% chance
BYU wins by more than 1 point:48% chance

TCU has a bigger chance of beating the spread, but BYU has a better chance of winning.

by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 12:15pm

Be sure to join a star-studded cast of your favorite FO posters for IRC football chat! cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo

Brief tutorial for the IRC-shy:

- Download mIRC from mIRC.com
- type /server cognet.catch22.org into the status window
- type /join #fo

Down with FEI

by Trogdor :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 4:41pm

Finally, this is the OSU we've been waiting for all year.


Finally, this is the MSU we all know and love.

by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 10/19/2008 - 1:49am

Trog... why you got to do me like that, yo?

Yeah, well, bad games happen. I mean, really bad. Shake it off, at the end of the day you are still only one game down in the conference. Keep it together, what you do after the bad game is what makes a difference.

by Crosseyed and Painless (not verified) :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 5:08pm

And you may ask yourself
What made me think the Spartans were different?
And you may ask yourself
Why didn't I expect this?
And you may ask yourself
Are they cooked?...Has the spiral begun?
And you may tell yourself

Same as it ever was.

by witless chum :: Mon, 10/20/2008 - 11:06am

This is silly. So we're not ready to contend for the Big 10 yet? Not really a big surprise, but we'll be favored in 3 of the last 4 and Dantonio finished strong last year after some disappointments in the middle of the schedule. Even if we go 2-2, that's 8-4 and a decent bowl for the second year in a row. That's progress, which is what we want to be seeing in the second year of the new regime.

If we actually do go collapsish and freakily lose to U of M and maybe go 1-3, we're still 7-5 for the second year in a row and against a tougher schedule. That's not as much progress, but it's a lot better than 4-8.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 6:10pm

"Remain in Light" is still my favorite album cover.

The trend among sports fans has been to, at all costs, not get "caught in the hype". If take on this mindset, you're going to miss out on a lot of fun watching Terrelle Pryor. This guy is the bomb.

A lot is being made of Ohio State likely being rated the top one-loss team tomorrow. Problem is, USC won't have a single big game between now and the bowls. The computers will move up the SEC and Big-12 teams. It might not be enough...but it might be.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 8:27pm

Why didn't I be more specific about what my "worst fears" would be from the Penn State defense? Why? I would've looked like a freakin' prophet in the first half. Linebackers selling out, getting out of their gaps going after the wrong guy, and Michigan running up and down the field. Coupled with stupid fumbles by the offense, that was definitely my "worst case scenario."

I didn't think it was sustainable, though, and it wasn't. I'm guessing that Bradley told them at halftime "stay in your gaps, don't be dumb, and they can't move the ball," because all the stupidity went away in the second half, and lo and behold, they couldn't move the ball. Sheridan helped, but linebackers not falling on their butts when they realize they're out of position was the real difference.

Still doesn't change the fact that the linebackers are a serious liability for Penn State. If they play well, they're average - if they play bad, they're really bad. They also need to learn to hold onto the freaking ball.

Also WTF was up with the offensive game plan? "I know! Let's run another screen!" "Look, it's a screen to a WR this time!" "I've got it! Bootleg!" They ran an absolute ton of plays designed to attack an aggressive defensive line, but Michigan wasn't being aggressive. Although it says something when you've got a terrible game plan and still score 46 points.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Mon, 10/20/2008 - 11:28am

Threet being hurt was probably more than just "helped". Sheridan is pretty much useless -- he's allegedly a better runner (I'd say more mobile, but Threet has run the ball at least as well in the offense) but his reads are worse, he can't throw worth crap, his awareness isn't good, and Threet sells the fakes better too. They never come close to losing the Toledo game if Threet plays the whole game. Right now if Threet goes out the offense completely falls apart. Hell, it bogs down with him in sometimes too, but at least he's shown he can run the offense pretty well at times. Michigan couldn't move the ball against Toledo with Sheridan in the game, so even with bad linebacker play PSU would be able to shut down Michigan's offense with Sheridan in the game. And they did.

Michigan still moved the ball 30-some yards on the first drive in the 2nd half when Threet was still in, so whatever adjustments at the half for the linebackers probably weren't the real difference, it was mostly the QB injury. That drive was stopped by a sack, not by stuffing the other plays, and I think Threet aggravated the elbow on the sack, he tried to throw and it looked like he pulled it back down because his lineman was getting shoved right into his throwing motion (hooray, crappy line!) and he whacked his elbow on a helmet or shoulder pad.

Michigan's defense just isn't very good though, particularly against a team that can move the QB well. They have a pretty good line overall, and Graham is awesome, but their linebackers are not very good no matter how much the announcers love Ezeh (who is the best of a bad bunch), and their secondary play is wildly inconsistent. Warren is good but wasn't 100%, Trent can be beaten and their safeties have been a problem all year. If they're not getting pressure on the QB they get shredded, and they are especially vulnerable to dinks and dunks, which their poor tackling turn into longer gains.

If Threet plays at close to 100% I think Michigan should have a good chance of beating MSU as it's the kind of offense Michigan's D can defend reasonably. If Threet is out, the D might need to pitch a shutout for Michigan to win though, and that ain't happening.

by War Eagle (not verified) :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 10:36pm

It says something about how bad Michigan is.

by Solomon (not verified) :: Sat, 10/18/2008 - 11:55pm

Not much analysis to add, other than to say "Yeah, Buckeyes!" The defense has played well this year, and I figured the offense had to improve eventually. The offense played well last year with mostly the same cast (obviously, Pryor plays now instead of Boeckman). Hopefully, the lackluster offensive efforts against the likes of Ohio and Purdue are behind them.

I hope OSU runs the table the rest of way and plays in the Rose Bowl (maybe a rematch with USC) rather than the BCS title game. Ohio State has won 7 Big Ten titles since 1993 and played in only one Rose Bowl (they got screwed by the Big Ten's stupid tiebraker rules twice to Wisconsin, despite not losing to Wisconsin either year). Besides, the Buckeyes do not deserve a title shot after their lousy showing against USC.

OSU wins next week something like 27-17 and captures another conference crown.

BTW -- is this mostly the same Penn State team (personnel-wise) as last seaon, where OSU blew them out at Penn State? I know Morelli is gone, and the offense is a little different, but I did not think PSU would be this good. Then again, I only watch PSU once a year.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/19/2008 - 3:10pm

BTW -- is this mostly the same Penn State team (personnel-wise) as last seaon, where OSU blew them out at Penn State?

Uh, except for an actual QB instead of a QB who only looks good in practice, plus a year of experience everywhere? Plus Evan Royster instead of Rodney Kinlaw and Aaron Maybin on the DL. The biggest downsides are that the linebackers, without Lee, aren't that great.

but I did not think PSU would be this good.

Never, ever doubt a team with a senior offensive line with talent. There are several future NFL starters on the Penn State offensive line.

by ddb4 (not verified) :: Sun, 10/19/2008 - 8:33am

Is going to break the Lewin Forecaster thing. He'd already started two full seasons and put up a completion percentage of 66.6% coming into this year.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 10/19/2008 - 9:52am

1. Texas- Texas jumps to #1 after an impressive win against Missouri.
2. Alabama- I think they should be ranked ahead of Penn State, but why do I suspect this team might finish 9 - 3?
3. Penn State- they play Ohio State next week, and OSU is firing on all cylinders.
4. Oklahoma State- has a legitimate shot next week at Texas.
5. Oklahoma- if Texas wins out, they're screwed.
6. Utah- this team is for real. The winner of Utah vs TCU deserves a BCS bowl, even if it is one-loss TCU.
7. Southern Cal
8. Georgia
9. Ohio State- in a month they could be back in the championship picture.
10. Florida
11. Texas Tech- here's another unbeated team that could easily finish 9 - 3, or maybe even 8 - 4.
12. TCU
13. LSU
14. Missouri- despite having lost two in a row, I'm convinced they're better than every teamI have ranked below them.
15. Pittsburgh
16. Boston College- the big win against Virginia Tech pushes this one-loss team way up.
17. Boise State- #17 feels a bit high, as the Oregon win looks less impressive now. But no one below them has a strong enough case.
18. Ball State- they beat Navy, and Navy beat Georgia Tech...
19. Virginia Tech- and Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech...
20. Georgia Tech- so those teams have to be ranked ahead of Georgia Tech.
21. BYU
22. USF
23. Florida State
24. Minnesota
25. Vanderbilt

by War Eagle (not verified) :: Sun, 10/19/2008 - 3:30pm

I'm totally unsold on Missouri. They've lost to both good teams they've played. They're defense is pretty terrible. Anyone that can play ball control against them has a good chance of beating them.