Michigan (2-4) football is in total collapse following three straight losses on the gridiron and embroiled in the swirling controversy of quarterback Shane Morris’ delayed concussion diagnosis. Two games into its conference slate, Michigan is dead last in the Big Ten East Division and is desperate for a win.
The team’s struggles on and off the field have both coach Brady Hoke and athletic director David Brandon fighting for their jobs. But the team is not giving up, vowing to “win the week” for their embattled coach. The Wolverines rallied against Rutgers, falling short after a potential game-winning field goal was blocked in the closing minutes.
Next up is a game under the lights at venerable Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines have been able to muster some magical moments during previous home night games and will need some to beat Penn State.
The game has no impact on the national rankings—neither team is ranked—but Michigan will be under the microscope for its performance on the field and at the gate. Hoke is trying to spark his team back to life in an attempt to salvage the season while hoping for a boost from the home crowd. The crowd’s size will also be a factor—Michigan’s streak of consecutive 100,000 crowds is on the line, with rumors of protest against Michigan’s increasingly unpopular athletic director.
Date: Saturday, October 11, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Place: Michigan Stadium (109,901), Ann Arbor, Mich.
Series vs. Penn State: Michigan leads 10-7
Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)
Spread: Penn State by 2 via Odds Shark
Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker
Last Meeting vs. Penn State
Last year’s 4OT 43-40 loss marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the Wolverines that has carried over to this season. Michigan is 4-9 since that loss at Happy Valley. The Wolverines lead the all-time series (10-7) but have lost the last four games versus the Nittany Lions.
*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.
The Super 16 poll is one of the truly great theoretical situations going. It's as fun as wondering who would win in a fight between Batman and Wolverine, or one bear versus 300 organized Yorkies (the organization is a very key caveat in such a fight).
It's just fun to imagine which 16 teams would deserve to be in a College Football Playoff if the sport ever undertook such a format. Thankfully, a group of voters does just that each week in the Super 16 poll.
Let's take a look at how they voted this week.
Well, anything you might have thought you knew about a theoretical 16-team playoff and how it might have shaped up by the end of the year changed this week.
Just consider this, from SportsCenter on Twitter:
Or this, from Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press:
That's the AP poll, though, and of course, we're more concerned here with the Super 16 Poll and what a 16-team playoff might look like. The above tweets provided a nice context for the historical number of upsets we saw this weekend, sure, but in truth, the weekend that was wouldn't have completely altered the state of a larger playoff format.
Yes, there has been some moving and shaking around on the rankings. After this weekend, there was always bound to be. Oregon was always going to drop down the rankings after losing to Arizona. Alabama was going to take a hit losing to Ole Miss. Ditto for Texas A&M and UCLA.
Of course, the beauty of a 16-team playoff is that one loss wouldn't really hurt the top teams in the nation and would instead give them the chance to prove themselves on the field against the other top 15 teams at the end of the year. This might negate the impact of certain victories on the national level, but it would add a whole new level of drama to the final tournament.
Obviously, the story of the week is Ole Miss after its stunning victory over Alabama on a Saturday that saw the SEC West truly shaken and stirred and turned on its head.
“It’s one of the greatest victories in the history of our school," Hugh Freeze said on his postgame radio show, per Rusty Hampton of The New York Times.
It sure was. And it sure opened up things in the SEC West, where Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all looking to earn the top billing, while Alabama and Texas A&M are left wondering if they can fight their way back into a place in the SEC Championship.
It's basically a given that at least one team from the SEC West is going to be represented in this year's College Football Playoff. And that's a shame, because in a 16-team playoff, it currently looks as though five teams from the toughest conference and division in college football would have the chance to prove on the field against other conferences that they were the best team in the country.
It's fun to dream.
More than a few schools in the Big Ten and Pac-12 would be left dreaming in this format, as it appears each conference lacks a truly elite team, and quite a few squads would be left fighting it out for one of the last spots. That, of course, is where the Super 16 Poll would become truly intriguing—for the teams around 12-21 on the polls and rankings looking to prove they deserved a shot in the big dance.
Alas, for now it's only a top four, and one that looks as though it will include Florida State, two SEC teams and either Notre Dame, the top Big 12 team or perhaps Michigan State.
It's a better format than we had before. It's just not as compelling as it could be.
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The Pac-12 took a lovely stroll through the park in the month of September before quickly strapping on a parachute and jumping out the nearest airplane on Saturday. All five home teams lost thanks to some memorable performances, several of which will be featured here.
But outstanding individual efforts have highlighted every week of the season thus far, and we're here to rank the Top 10. Keep in mind that two factors are considered in the creation of this list: quality of opponent and statistics put up. In other words, having a good game against a great team could mean more than having a great game against a bad opponent.
Then again, some players like, er, the one shown above, are putting up numbers so mind-boggling that it doesn't matter who they've come against.
Take a look at the Top 10 single-game performances in the Pac-12 thus far, and as always, be sure to point out the glaring omissions in the comments!
All stats via cfbstats.com
The halfway point of season is here, and the Georgia Bulldogs are closer to achieving the goals that they set at the beginning of the year, including winning the SEC East.
And while the Bulldogs have the talent to win the SEC East, they will go only as far as Todd Gurley will take them. Gurley is statistically the best running back in the SEC.
Gurley leads in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry and yards per game, which is not a surprise to anyone. But he also leads in one category that is almost unreal.
Here are four startling statistics though the first five weeks of the season.
Could anyone have predicted a Pac-12 football weekend in which Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and USC all lost?
Was there a crazy dream in which the highest-ranked Pac-12 football program in October's first week would be Arizona?
Words like chaos and havoc float freely after this unlikely scenario unfolded.
I would add one more word: parity.
That was the word uttered in a discussion with some Colorado coaches Friday in Boulder, in the aftermath of Oregon's loss. The point was made, and echoed, that the chasm between Pac-12 top and bottom has narrowed.
The size of the divide could be argued, but Utah and Arizona State supported the contention Saturday.
To try to make sense of the chaos, havoc and parity, let's analyze a few snapshots from the upsets:
Terris Jones-Grigsby runs over Oregon's best defensive back for a second-half touchdown.
Is Oregon soft? It's a word no football team wants to hear, but the Ducks must confront this.
In August, it was the top question we posed about this team's championship hopes. In September, a win over Michigan State calmed fears. But on October 2, Arizona exposed Oregon for the second consecutive season.
Jones-Grigsby played the role of Ka'deem Carey for this year's Wildcats. After catching a pass on a wheel route down the left sideline, one obstacle blocked the goal line, Oregon's top-rated DB Ife Ekpre-Olumu. Jones-Grigsby ran right through and over Ekpre-Olumu to score. Blunt force overcame a defender. Win for Arizona.
The play's symbolism may last throughout the rest of this season.
In Oregon, they like to refer to "Chip Kelly's offense." The truth is that Rich Rodriguez was a pioneer of the up-tempo spread offenses that have mushroomed through the game. He knows how to attack those with his 3-3-5 "stack" defense, and his own offense is thriving with its third quarterback in the last three years. First-year starter Anu Solomon held his own against Marcus Mariota. Arizona had 13 third-quarter first downs and won the second half.
Utah runs for 242 yards and sacks Brett Hundley 10 times.
Utah's offense was subpar against Washington State. Coach Kyle Whittingham was emphatic in pinpointing that shortcoming. So when Utah stalled on its first three drives at the Rose Bowl, Travis Wilson was out and Kendal Thompson became the Utes quarterback.
Thompson is not a strong passer, but Wilson was unable to generate a consistent pass attack. So Utah turned to the ground and won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Highlights focused on UCLA's missed field goal on the final play, overlooking the drive engineered by Utah to win the game. The Utes ran the ball on nine consecutive plays. UCLA knew the run was coming but could not stop it.
The Bruins also knew Utah was going to rush strong at Hundley but could not prevent 10 sacks. UCLA's offensive line has been unsettled early in the season. Between different pass-protection schemes and Hundley adopting a determination to save sacks by throwing incompletions, UCLA has to correct that problem by Saturday's visit from Oregon.
Stanford fails to cover Notre Dame's Ben Koyack on the game's biggest play.
When Stanford doesn't run, it loses its offensive identity.
Blessed with blocking tight ends and fullbacks, the Cardinal have been the welcome antidote to today's 100-plus-play spread offenses, with an abundance of sideways passing. But no running back has emerged in a lead role, thus Kevin Hogan has been asked to create more offense. With more experience and a strong receiver combo in Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste, the Cardinal should have a stronger pass attack. Yet, in key moments, Hogan still does more damage with his legs than his arms.
Ben Gardner, closest to Koyack in the slot at the fourth-down snap, ran toward the wide receiver on that side in a double-cover. As Koyack ran by Gardner, there was no Stanford defender deep. Such a glaring defensive mistake, coupled with the miniscule 47 rushing yards, spoiled an otherwise brilliant day by the Cardinal.
USC stands and watches Jaelen Strong catch the game-winning pass.
Who were the impostors wearing Trojan uniforms Saturday? Late in the game, needing one first down to clinch a win, USC lined up in the pistol formation.
The pistol? This is USC! Student-body left, student-body right with five vending machines dressed as offensive linemen leading the way. It was a jaw-dropping series of plays. Three Buck Allen runs gaining a handful of yards. USC couldn't move the ASU defensive front.
Now a punt and Cody Kessler attempts a pooch punt. It was not good. Not his fault. USC doesn't have a long snapper and punter that can execute in the fourth quarter?
Finally, the Hail Mary. What was Hayes Pullard doing standing on the goal line, looking as if he was going to fair catch a high-hanging punt? Again, not his fault.
USC looked as if they had never seen a Hail Mary attempt before (they did throw one themselves against Oregon State last week.) A nightmare ending that must make this week interminable for the Trojans coaches.
Washington State passes for 734 yards and asks a kicker to win the game.
To this observer, the most bizarre finish in recent memory occurred after four hours in Pullman.
In an arena football-style game played with 11 to a side on a full field, Washington State had the last possession, drove the field, failed to run for a score from second down inside the 2-yard line, and then sent out a kicker.
Seven-hundred and thirty-four passing yards. Cal hasn't stopped anyone from doing anything they want in the last three seasons.
And you send out a kicker!
With a down and a timeout to use. You could run a pass play, trusting the QB (Connor Halliday) who has positioned you to win. You could run to center the ball and use the timeout to give the kicker a straight-on attempt. You had those things under your control.
The Cougars did none of those. And the kicker missed. It was a kick he should make. But the Cougars inaction in the final seconds will haunt them.
How do you pass for 734 yards and lose?
Ted Robinson has been around the Pac-10 and Pac-12 for 30 years as the voice of Stanford football and now the Pac-12 Networks. He also is the San Francisco 49ers' radio play-by-play man, as part of his wide-ranging broadcast work on national and international sports.
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