This Season: 5-0 (1-0)
Brady Hoke's third season in charge has thus far been as good as it gets, record-wise. 5-0, with a win over a top-25 Notre Dame in the non-con and a 42-13 thrashing of Minnesota in the B1G opener is nothing to scoff at. The meat of their schedule sandwich, however, was less than awe-inspiring, as the Wolverines just managed to scrape by against lowly Akron at home, 28-24, and were nearly the final victim of Paul Pasqualoni in Storrs.
Being an inconsistent winner is hardly the worst thing you can be in college football. With a favorable schedule down the stretch (hosting Ohio State and Nebraska, visiting Northwestern, Michigan St. and Iowa), Michigan could play themselves into a BCS bowl if some corrections are made.
For a defensive lineman asked to play quarterback, Devin Gardner is having an incredible season. Sure, his 1:1 TD to INT ratio is below average by quarterback standards, but throw in his six rushing touchdowns and he's the best story in college football that no one is talking about.
Gardner's top target has been Jeremy Gallon (367 yds, 4 TDs) but the big development from this past weekend was the utilization of tight end Devin Funchess at wideout. Funchess is every bit of his listed 6'5" 225lbs and against Minnesota he used that size to great effect, catching seven passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Penn State's secondary issues are well documented and the Gallon/Funchess combo could wreak some serious havoc in Beaver Stadium if Gardner has the time to pick out this duo.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is having an Evan Royster-esque decline in his senior season, failing to find a ton of running room behind a struggling offensive line despite the presence of future first-round pick Taylor Lewan at tackle. His 4.1 yards per carry would be more concerning if Gardner weren't such a threat on the ground.
The Wolverine defense has been stout against the run, ranking ninth nationally at 90.4 ypg allowed. It can only get better with the return of Jake Ryan, the team's leading tackler in 2012, who may be making his season debut on Saturday. Hoke has stated Ryan, recovering from a torn ACL, could "potentially play," but it doesn't sound like the junior will be seeing a massive amount of game action.
Michigan is no slouch in defending the pass, either, coming in at 45th nationally against the throw. The matchup to watch here is CB Blake Countess against Allen Robinson. Countess has four interceptions on the season, two of which came while defending Notre Dame's top wideout T.J. Jones.
The Wolverines are solid, if nothing else, on special teams. Kicker Brendan Gibbons, who just needs to let his knees breathe, man, is 4-5 on the season. The return game has been pretty meh, with the longest return of 39 yards coming from Dennis Norfleet on a kickoff.
Last Game (42-13 W vs Minnesota)
As poor as the Gophers were (without Jerry Kill, it's worth mentioning), Michigan was just as impressive last Saturday. Gardner was a mistake-free 13-17 through the air and his team followed suit. Efficient, effective and ruthless, the Wolverines scored on five of their eight drives while limiting Minnesota to just 281 total yards.
Gambling Advice From a Degenerate
Before getting to this week's game against Michigan (hate Hate HATE), I think we should briefly discuss THE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO PENN STATE FOOTBALL!1!!!11!!! (aka the Indiana loss). Sure it was disappointing, but a loss to Indiana was going to happen at some point. The fact that THE STREAK (I just made that up) has lasted this long is a testament to, I dunno, Indiana being really bad most of the time? And luck. Lots of luck. Let's take a look at the historical lines and what the expected win percentage would have been for each game. Then we can put into perspective how unlikely 16 consecutive wins against IU really was.
Multiply all those win percentages together and you get about 3%. So yeah, that was a pretty unlikely streak. And it was only about 60% likely to extend to 17, based on last Saturday's spread.
For this week's pick, we turn it over to your one friend from home who inexplicably likes Michigan, Kevin. Somehow despite a normal upbringing in the Philly suburbs and attending, oh let's say Maryland, Kevin still claims Michigan as his favorite, usually citing the Fab Five as his justification. Your thoughts, Kevin? "I cannot BELIEVE that Michigan is only favored by 2.5 against Penn State! They just lost to Indiana! Indiana sucks and that is a fact. A MEDICAL FACT. The Fab Five, who are the best by the way, could cover 2.5 against this horrid PSU team. Have you seen Bill O'Brien's chin? IT LOOKS LIKE A BUTT. He should get that looked at."
Ugh, Kevin is the worst.
Michigan AD Dave Brandon, as I'm sure you know, is a pizza magnate of sorts. He is the former CEO of Domino's Pizza and according to wikipedia, has his own blog, artistically named "Dave's Blog," where he "talks about such topics as his personal unannounced visits to stores and the price of cheese." The site is only accessible to those with high-clearance levels in the Domino's organization apparently. I'm not sure why he would choose not to share his saucy insights with the world.
Blog You Should Also Be Reading This Week
Maize n' Brew , a consistently solid bl never mind, there's a goddamn Tr*y B*rk* career retrospective on the front page. Well played, buttheads.
More from Black Shoe Diaries:
- Bill O'Brien Press Conference: Michigan
- Confirmed: Army To Open Pegula Against Penn State Friday Night
- Former Foes: Week 6
- Canisius Could Take Place Of Army In Penn State Hockey Opener
- BSD Film Room: at Indiana
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