Friday, September 30, 2016

Pick Six: Week 5 CFB Slate

                              Photo Credit: Andrew Mascharka


Welcome to another edition of Pick Six as CSO contributor DaVaughn Lucas, Sports Talk 313's Ryan Larimore and WJR 760 Detroit's Sean Baligian pick five of the top college football games of the weekend, with a sixth game as the wild card.

Baligian and Lucas went 5-1 last week, while Larimore went 2-4. 



Here are the season standings as we head into Friday and Saturday's games:


                             GB

Baligian     17-7    -
Lucas         15-9     2
Larimore   12-12    5

Week 5 Picks:

                                                        Baligian              Lucas         Larimore

Stanford at Washington                        Washington      Washington     Stanford

Tennessee at Georgia                               Georgia         Georgia         Tennessee

Wisconsin at Michigan                            Michigan        Michigan      Michigan

Louisville at Clemson                            Louisville         Louisville      Louisville

Western Michigan at Central Michigan    WMU               CMU          WMU 



Wildcard Game:

Navy at Air Force                                    Air Force          Navy           Navy




Social Media:


Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Projecting the New Year's Six for Sept. 29




Welcome to the fourth New Year's six projections of the 2016 college football season.

Like last season, the projections will be based off the CSO Mock CFP Committee rankings from that very week.



Here are the fourth set of projections for this season:






Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal):


1) Alabama vs 4) Michigan


Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal):


2) Ohio State vs 3) Louisville


Orange Bowl:


5) Clemson vs 11) Tennessee


Cotton Bowl:



6) Houston vs 8) Washington


Rose Bowl:



7) Stanford vs 9) Wisconsin



Sugar Bowl:


10) Texas A&M vs 12) Baylor



Social Media:


Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wisconsin and Michigan clash for the first time since the 2010 season


              Photo Credits: Geno Green/The Blueprint Michigan



A lot can change in six years.

For the Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan Wolverines, conference realignment in the Big Ten split the programs into different paths after the 2010 season.

After the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten and the formation of the Leaders (Wisconsin) and Legends (Michigan) divisions in 2011, both teams would not play each other on a regular basis anymore.

No one anticipated the next matchup would be until the 2016 season. The additions of Rutgers and Maryland in 2014, along with another set of divisional realignments further contributed to the schedule gap.

Fast forward to 2016 and the second full week of conference play on the horizon as No. 8 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten West) and No. 4 Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten East) reignite the fire at Michigan Stadium Saturday.

Michigan knows all to well about falling on the wrong end of the scoreboard in impact games, especially against Wisconsin.

The last meeting took place on Nov. 20, 2010 as the No. 7 Badgers plowed through the unranked Wolverines 48-28 in what turned out to be the beginning of the end of the Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor.

Michigan's rush defense had no answer for Wisconsin's Montee Ball and James White, as they combined for 354 yards and six touchdowns and signaled a need to return to a pound and ground attack as the 3-3-5 defense failed to fit in the Big Ten.

Despite its 11-game losing streak against top 10 opponents, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has injected a flavor of old-school, smash mouth football, but knows a signature win against Wisconsin could be a return to the national spotlight as a championship contender.

"We are treating this as a championship-type of game and that's the way we have approached things all season," Harbaugh said on Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference. "We will continue to do so and need to do so [against Wisconsin]."

With most of the roster in middle and high school when Badgers and the Wolverines last played, coach Paul Chryst believes the current stable grasps the importance of playing at the Big House with conference and playoff hopes at stake.

"This group gets the fact that all of the opportunities are huge and you want to maximize them the best you can," Chryst said. "The way this season has played out, there is a lot of attention to this game. They understand [the stakes] and appreciate the opportunity to play against a top program right now. I don't think the history matters as much as this being an opportunity against Michigan."

With wins this season against the likes of LSU and Michigan State, Chryst relishes in the poise of the Badgers embracing each challenge.

"They have done a nice job of being in the moment in each game because you appreciate that as a coach," Chryst said.

Saturday's Wisconsin/Michigan game could go a long way in shaping the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year's Eve.



Social Media:


Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.




Monday, September 26, 2016

CSO Mock College Football Playoff committee Top 25 for Sept. 26

                        Photo Credit: The Blueprint Michigan



Thanks to my mock selection committee for coming through and making the fifth edition of the rankings possible this season.



Biggest jump: Nebraska (+7) 13

Biggest fall: Georgia (-11) 24


Let the debate begin as the latest rankings are here:



        Team                      Points             Last Week


1) Alabama                           198                            1
2) Ohio State                        190                            2
3) Louisville                          185                             3 
4) Michigan                          171                             4
5) Clemson                          167                             5
6) Houston                           160                             6
7) Stanford                           157                             8 (+1)
8) Washington                     137                              9 (+1)
9) Wisconsin                        134                            13 (+4)
10) Texas A&M                    133                            10
11) Tennessee                     120                            12 (+1)
12) Baylor                            109                            14 (+2)
13) Nebraska                        93                             20 (+7)
14) Florida State                   90                             16 (+2)
15) Miami (FL)                      86                             15
16) Utah                                81                             22 (+6)
17) Michigan State                46                               7 (-10)
18) Boise State                     42                              24 (+6)
19) TCU                                37                              23 (+4)
20) Ole Miss                         35                              NR
21) San Diego State             32                              25 (+4)
22) Texas                              31                              21 (-1)
23) Florida                            29                              17 (-6) 
24) Georgia                          27                               11 (-13)
25) Arizona State                 21                               NR



Others receiving votes:


Arkansas 20, Western Michigan 18, North Carolina 17, West Virginia 13, Mississippi State 10, South Florida 6, Troy 3, Iowa 1, Minnesota 1



Social Media:



Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

No. 4 Michigan's efficiency on both sides leads to a statement win against Penn State


                         Photo Credit: The Blueprint Michigan


By: Jeremy Rosenberg



On a perfect day, under a cloudless sky, the Michigan Wolverines (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten East) methodically eviscerated the visiting Penn State Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten East) by a score of 49-10. 

A highly efficient Wilton Speight and a hard-running De’Veon Smith set the tone early for the offense, while a tenacious Michigan defense consistently harassed Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. 

Michigan’s offensive line opened up big holes for Smith and the other runners in what may have been the most impressive ground attack so far this season. Defensively, by halftime Michigan held Penn State to 2.1 yards per play – a completely anemic attack.

Michigan’s swarming defense made an early statement in Big Ten play, thoroughly stifling the Penn State offense. The Nittany Lion offense had been effective so far this season, averaging 36 points per game against Kent State, Pittsburgh, and Temple. In shutting down Penn State, the Michigan defense looked every bit the potential playoff caliber unit. Even more encouraging to Michigan fans, defensive back Jourdan Lewis was back and looked to be at full strength and capability.

Michigan’s near-perfect day began by forcing a Penn State punt on their opening drive. Penalties and sacks dropped Penn State to the .1 micron line. Penn State punter Blake Gillikin proceeded to blast a 61-yard punt, completely out kicking its own coverage, leaving Jabrill Peppers literally bumbling and stumbling to the ten yard line. A sideline interference call took 15 yards off the return, but Speight and Smith got Michigan to the doorstep, where, on fourth-and-one, Khalid Hill punched through for the opening touchdown.

After the touchdown, Penn State had its most promising drive of the half halted at midfield. Coach James Franklin made an inexplicable call to go for a fourth down conversion on fourth and five from the Michigan 42-yard line. Lewis sniffed out the pass play, and proceeded to drop DeAndre Thompkins for a four-yard loss.

The Michigan offense got down to business when it got the ball back. On a drive highlighted by some seriously tough running by Smith, the senior running back slammed home a two-yard run to put Michigan up 14-0. At that point, Penn State was on its heels and reeling from the early Michigan onslaught. By halftime, Michigan was up 28-0 and Penn State had 50 yards of total offense. It was a truly dominating half of football.

The second half started off promising for the Nittany Lions, as they forced a Michigan punt and aggressively stormed into the red zone for the first time. In a move sure to leave Penn State fans completely befuddled, Franklin chose to kick a field goal on 4th and Goal from the Michigan two-yard line. Keep in mind that Franklin, down 7-0, elected to go for it on 4th and 5 from the Michigan 42 in the first quarter. To review, Franklin went for it on fourth down early in the game down seven, and kicked from the two yard line down 28-0 in the third quarter.

After the field goal made it 28-3, the Michigan offensive line took over, gashing huge holes in the Penn State defense for Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans. The Michigan drive culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by Evans, the fourth rushing TD of the day for the Wolverines.

By the time Penn State managed a touchdown, it was with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter. Saquon Barkley proved that he is one of the best backs in the conference with some nifty runs, and Michigan aided the Lions offense with two pass interference penalties. Penn State had cut the Michigan lead to 35-10. Too little, too late, and Michigan added two more rushing touchdowns, for a grand total of six on the day. When the final whistle blew, Michigan secured a 49-10 victory.

Frustration in not-so-Happy Valley, as Penn State fans certainly hoped for a better showing. The offense was ineffective, especially the offensive line, which was consistently blown up by the Michigan front. Maurice Hurst was a disruptive force, and would be a deserving recipient of a game ball.

If today’s game was a gauge of where these programs stand, Michigan took a step forward in their pursuit of a conference title. For the Wolverines, a big time matchup with the upstart Wisconsin Badgers awaits next week. After the Badgers' impressive road victory at Spartan Stadium, next week’s game is setting up to be a heavyweight battle between two potential top 10 teams.

The Nittany Lions need to regroup for an inter-divisional game with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. There will be renewed grumblings on campus, but the season is still young, and PSU has time to fulfill its bowl aspirations.


Game Notes:

Early in the game, Penn State junior linebacker Brandon Smith was ejected for what could charitably be called a dubious targeting penalty. Smith appeared to be going for the ball, and showed no signs of targeting Michigan receiver Grant Perry. There have been calls to tweak the targeting rule. This was Smith’s first career start. A former walk-on, an exception should be made for players who are not intentionally trying to hurt or inure an opposing player.

Late in the game, fifth-year senior Jeremy Clark was injured during a kickoff return. At the postgame press conference, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was visibly upset, describing the locker room as “down” due to Clark’s injury, which Harbaugh described as a “season ender.” There will be further tests, but early prognosis is an ACL injury.


Jourdan Lewis was back on the field and healthy, playing at top form. This is great news for Michigan, but not if he gets injured on a meaningless play. On the same play Clark was hurt, Lewis returned a kickoff and was hammered by the Penn State coverage. 

The score at the time was 35-10. Harbaugh may want to reconsider using his star corner to return kicks when the outcome of the game is no longer in doubt.



Social Media:


Follow College Sports Overload on Twitter @CSportsOverload.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pick Six: Week 4 CFB Slate


                             Photo Credit: Damon Warren


Welcome to another edition of Pick Six as CSO contributor DaVaughn Lucas, Sports Talk 313's Ryan Larimore and WJR 760 Detroit's Sean Baligian pick five of the top college football games of the weekend, with a sixth game as the wild card.

Baligian and Larimore went 4-2 last week, while Lucas went 3-3. 



Here are the season standings as we head into Saturday's games:


                             GB

Baligian     12-6     -
Lucas         10-8     2
Larimore    10-8     2


Week 4 picks:

                                                        Baligian            Lucas          Larimore

Georgia at Ole Miss                       Ole Miss        Ole Miss          Georgia

Wisconsin at Michigan State       Michigan St.   Michigan St.   Michigan St.

Oklahoma State at Baylor              Baylor            Baylor          Oklahoma St.

Arkansas vs Texas A&M             Texas A&M     Texas A&M       Texas A&M

Florida at Tennessee                   Tennessee        Tennessee           Florida



Wild Card:


Pittsburgh at North Carolina   North Carolina  North Carolina  North Carolina

Penn State/Michigan represents one of the more underrated rivalries in the Big Ten







By: Jeremy Rosenberg


In the 1990's, Michigan and Penn State were the big bad dudes of the Big Ten. Michigan’s run peaked with the 1997 National Championship, along the way who could forget Daydrion Taylor absolutely blowing up Nittany Lion tight end Bob Stephenson in what may have been the most epic hit this writer has ever seen at a football game.





Penn State roared into the Big Ten in the 1993 season thanks to the arm of Kerry Collins and the legs of Ki-Jana Carter, and immediately set up a fantastic rivalry with the Big Blue. It seemed both teams always had a stud running back, my personal Michigan favorite was “Touchdown Tim” Tshimanga Biakabatuka. Penn State had an outstanding running back after Carter, Curtis Enis, who sadly went on to be the second biggest bust in National Football League Draft history (Tony Mandarich will always and forever be the number one bust in draft history.)

Things have fizzled out over the years, as both programs stalled in the 2000's. Michigan fell into a slump after the 2000 Orange Bowl win vs Alabama, which was highlighted by a stellar performance by the third biggest bust in NFL Draft history, David Terrell. Michigan petered along to many an 8-4 season under Lloyd Carr before the ignominious Rich Rod era.

Of course, no ignominy tops the Shakespearean fall of Joe “If I don’t see it, it isn’t happening” Paterno. For fans of college football, there was no joy in the downfall of Penn State. State College is a special place, an idyllic campus best enjoyed in the fall, especially a Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Bill O’Brien managed to prop the Lions back up before heading on to Houston and the NFL. From there, Penn State hired James Franklin, a man who somehow managed to win consistently at Vanderbilt. If he could win at Vandy, surely with PSU’s resources and fan base Franklin was destined to reenergize Penn State football.

The jury is still out on Franklin, and Nittany Lion fans are getting a little restless. Michigan, of course, has Jim Harbaugh, a man whose boisterous enthusiasm has inspired delusions of grandeur among Michigan fans starving for an immediate return to national relevance. Michigan is certainly closer than PSU, but given what we have seen so far this season, the Wolverines have a few areas to clean up before they can dethrone the Spartans and Buckeyes.


Michigan

Before I get to Michigan’s weaknesses, it is appropriate to point out this team’s many strengths. Their defense is outstanding. Yes, Colorado managed to expose Michigan’s blitz a couple times last week, but the eventual return of Jourdan Lewis should help correct that vulnerability. The truth is, Michigan fans have been clamoring for an aggressive pass rush for years, and given the scheme of Don Brown and the raw talent of Rashan Gary, an aggressive pass rush they shall have.

Michigan also has an outstanding receiving corps, led by tight end Jake Butt and wide receiver Jehu Chesson. This, however, leads us to our first area of concern— pass protection. Michigan's Wilton Speight has looked like two different quarterbacks. When he has time to throw, he is accurate and poised in the pocket. Under pressure, his passes look like ducks that have had one pint too many over at Ashley’s.

The real concern for Michigan is its inability to establish a between-the-tackles running game. De’Veon Smith may not be Touchdown Tim or Chris Perry, but he is a solid talent who can exploit a defense when he has a little room. He’s like a Ricky Powers that doesn’t fumble. Penn State is giving up 176 rushing yards a game, and Michigan needs to establish dominance in the trenches. If Michigan cannot get a credible between-the-tackles running game in gear by the time they play MSU or Ohio State, the Big Blue will likely see this season’s Big Ten Championship hopes disappear.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions are 2-1 with their only loss coming to long-time rivals, the Pittsburgh Panthers. Christian Hackenberg is gone, relegated to providing New York Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with beard grooming supplies. Sophomore QB Trace McSorley (no relation to Marty, Wayne Gretzky’s bodyguard from the Los Angeles Kings) may not have Hackenberg’s powerful arm, but he does have stronger escapability and sound instincts.

Offense hasn’t been Penn State’s problem this season, as the Lions have averaged 35 points per game. Sophomore RB Saquon Barkley provides the ground attack, and receivers Chris Godwin and DeAndre Thompkins are solid targets for McSorley.

No, what troubles Penn State fans is the defense. The pass defense has been tolerable, but the truth is when opposition is running for 176 yards a game they are likely to continue running the ball, and have no need to rely on the pass. Linebacker U could rename itself Safety U this year, in honor of junior Marcus Allen, a player whose football ability does justice to such a legendary name. Despite Allen’s talent, Michigan’s offense, if clicking, should be too much for Penn State to handle.


Prediction

Michigan has looked very strong, but against dubious competition. When Colorado had their starting quarterback in, the competition was not dubious and the results were alarming for Michigan fans. Good teams find ways to overcome adversity, and Michigan’s special teams play certainly helped propel them past its awful CU start.

Penn State has played one road game so far, a tough loss to Pitt. The Nittany Lions simply do not have the depth and firepower to come to the Big House and beat Michigan. They could put up a solid fight though, especially if they can keep pressure on Wilton Speight and keep Michigan’s running game in check. Even then, Jabrill Peppers can easily break a quick TD and change the complexion of any game.

My prediction: Michigan 45, Penn State 24.

Even if it is close in the second half, Harbaugh will keep his foot on the gas and Michigan will win and cover the spread.


Saturday’s game pits two programs loaded with history, fighting to reclaim greatness. At this point, Michigan is a couple steps ahead of Penn State. I expect Saturday’s outcome to reflect this reality.