Two weeks ago, I thought there was no way Texas would beat Oklahoma. Last week, I didn’t think FSU would take down Clemson. But, with certainty, I can say that Michigan will not win or lose this weekend. You can take that to the bank.
And since I’m on a roll with my assumptions and educated guesses. we should probably get a mailbag rolling.
We do this every Wednesday so send in your questions (jenningsESPN@gmail.com, @ChantelJennings).
Dave Conlon, Ann Arbor: Will anybody score a touchdown (offensively) at Spartan Stadium in two weeks?
A: Yes. The Spartans haven’t had to scheme against an offense this season that has two receivers who are as different and as effective as Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess. If those two guys can make plays, and the offensive line can be good enough -- not perfect, but good enough -- I think the Wolverines will reach the end zone.
The key will be working their way down field. The Spartans are giving up less than 60 rushing yards per game so this might not be Fitzgerald Toussaint’s night, but with Devin Gardner as a running threat, I think MSU will still have numbers in the box. So the passing game could be a solid option, but they just need to find a way to get into the red zone. In seven games, opponents have only reached the red zone 13 times. In those instances, opponents scored six passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and two field goals. So I think Michigan’s best option (best being an operative term) will be to attack the Spartans in the air by getting Funchess and Gallon involved and find that moment when the Spartans don’t have good coverage on both.
Sam, Minneapolis: I’m not liking the rest of the schedule. Is it possible Michigan goes 0-5?
A: First of all, anything is possible. The question is whether it’s probable or not. Michigan’s three toughest games the rest of this season will be at Michigan State and then against Nebraska and Ohio State at home. The Wolverines could go 0-3 in those three games. Michigan State has the nation’s best defense. Nebraska’s threat will depend on whether or not Taylor Martinez plays and which Michigan defense shows up. And Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country. The Wolverines will need to play their best football in those three games to get wins.
Iowa and Northwestern will be interesting because they are road games. Statistically, Michigan should win, but when the Wolverines travel away from Ann Arbor, things seem to go poorly. I’ve been told over and over again that Iowa is one of the toughest places to play because the fans are basically on top of the teams. And the Hawkeyes could likely be playing for bowl eligibility in that game. I’m not sure Iowa will knock of Wisconsin or Northwestern, but it seems likely that it will take down Purdue for its fifth win and follow that up with a game against Michigan. It could be the Hawkeyes’ best chance for that elusive sixth win, and that’s dangerous. Northwestern is another interesting team because I don’t think anyone expected the Wildcats to start the conference season 0-3. But, it’s another road game and if Venric Mark is actually healthy by then, it definitely changes their attack.
So, is it possible? I suppose. The wheels could fall off here. But it’s also possible the Wolverines run the table and close out 5-0 if they play their best football. That’s the best/worst part of the Big Ten. Each team’s highs are high and their lows are low, and we’ve seen the best and worst of each team already this season. So now, it’s just a matter of which versions show up for which games.
Matt DePoint, Minneapolis: Who will grow the most creative facial hair for Movember? Taylor Lewan is a good guess but who is a dark-horse candidate?
A: This is a fantastic question. First of all, for those who don’t know, Movember is a month-long (yes, November, clever) campaign to grow awareness for men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer. Men grow mustaches to raise money and awareness. It’s a fantastic cause and one that I’m a fan of, especially since there are important people in my life who’ve been affected by prostate cancer.
Now, as far as the players, I think it’s smart to go with an offensive lineman. Last spring they were considering growing facial hair as a unit, and while that didn’t amount to much, I think they’ll come back strong for Movember. Lewan is a good guess (I mean, he has the mustache tattoo all year long, which probably takes the cake), but I’m going to pick Joey Burzynski here. Yes, he just suffered a season-ending ACL tear, but I think his time rehabbing will give him extra motivation to inspire the team. Also, since he can’t play, he won’t have to hide that beautiful ‘stache under a helmet anymore.