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Topic: ELA September 4 Breakdown

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ELA

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ELA September 4 Breakdown
« on: August 31, 2021, 01:15:52 PM »
Temple Owls at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Thursday @ 6:30 - Piscataway, NJ - BTN
I wonder what I would have thought years ago about the Big Ten football season opening on a Thursday night in Piscataway, New Jersey, between a Big Ten member Rutgers...who was once again coached by Greg Schiano, and Temple, who was back in the Big East, sort of, but which was no longer the Big East, playing the first conference game in front of fans in 21 months?  I'm here for it though...at least until Ohio State and Minnesota kick off about an hour later.  It's a Temple program looking to get back on track, following their worst season since going 1-11 in Al Golden's first year, back in 2006.  Within three years, Golden had the Owls in a bowl, the third in program history, and one was coached by Pop Warner.  That started a run of 7 bowls in 11 seasons, so Rod Carey has a lot more program cache to work with than Golden did.  Carey made use of the transfer portal in bolstering his skill positions, after losing starting quarterback Anthony Russo.  He brought in former Iowa State commit, former Michigan State commit, former Ohio State commit, former Georgia starter D'Wan Mathis.  Mathis struggled in his three starts in Athens, but he has the pedigree, as evidenced by the schools who pursued him.  He also brought in running backs from Florida and Illinois, and a receiver from Purdue.  They have the privilege of having a line with a combined 120 starts, top ten most in the FBS, up front.  The problem is that their second string consists of a junior, two sophomores, and eight freshmen.  The Temple that Rutgers faces is not the same one that will be there as the season wears on.  What Rutgers offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson wants to see is his quarterback, Noah Vedral, attack a flimsy pass defense.  The Owls allowed 9.2 ypa last year, a 3 year regression from 2019.  Only LSU was worse.  The biggest difference from 2019 to 2020 in the Rutgers offense was how much more often they passed it.  Despite not playing from giant deficits all season, as they tended to in 2019, Rutgers passed the ball 23.7% more often than they did in 2019, the largest such jump in the conference.  The problem with that?  Their -0.179 projected yards per pass attempt was still worst in the Big Ten.  They stuck to their guns though, I guess.  Is Schiano improving Rutgers?  Clearly.  The recruiting is through the roof.  But some of their success last year was dependent on a lot of randomness.  They had the 16th best field position in the nation.  They were +5 in turnover margin, which is good, but the difference between their actual and expected turnover margin was even better, #14 in the country.  Their actual explosiveness and efficiency numbers on offense were still both bottom 10 in the FBS.  We won't learn a ton positive this week, but if the passing game STILL can't get it going, we might learn some troubling things.
RUTGERS 35, TEMPLE 20

#4 Ohio State Buckeyes at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Thursday @ 8:00 - Minneapolis, MN - FOX
In 2015, Minnesota opened their season by welcoming in #2 TCU on opening Thursday, fresh off what they thought should have been a playoff birth.  I thought the Gophers would pull the upset, and they nearly did, falling 23-17.  Granted it took a touchdown in the final minute to make the margin that close.  Holding a Horned Frogs team that would go on to score 50+ points in their next five games, and 40+ in their next seven, was quite impressive.  But it was a sign of things to come with the offense.  Minnesota scraped by with three straight three point wins over Colorado State, Kent State and Ohio.  Now the Gophers welcome in #4 Ohio State for another marquee Thursday night opener in the Brickhouse, for the latest chapter in a lopsided series.  Ohio State has won 10 in a row, with Minnesota only winning once since 1981, twice since 1966, and just three times since Woody Hayes was HIRED in Columbus.  The last time Minnesota fans saw the Gophers win at home was outdoors...two stadiums ago.  Ohio State has more talent than anyone in the conference.  That has been unquestionably true for nearly two decades.  So the Gophers do have the advantage of getting the Buckeyes early, before their new offense has time to gel.  Ohio State loses a lot of talent every year, but this seems high, even by their standards.  Only BYU and Northwestern lost more 2020 production nationally.  On the flip side, the Gophers return the 18th most, and 2nd most in the Big Ten, also ranking in the top 20 in terms of returning defensive production.  Now they just need that production to, well, produce, particularly up front, where Minnesota generated next to no pressure from their line.  They ranked dead last in tackles for loss last year, at only roughly 4% of defensive snaps; and were #124 in defensive line sack rate.  The saving grace there is hoped to be Clemson transfer Nyles Pinckney, who was a defensive captain for the Tigers last year, although not being a starter.  He should easily be the best interior lineman, after Micah Dew-Treadway regressed from his 2019.  The offense has returning talent everywhere, with some mild questions at receiver, behind Chris Autman-Bell.  Autman-Bell never fully figured out how to be the #1 guy, after Rashod Bateman opted out midseason while receiving 50% of the targets.  Some of that is on third year starting quarterback Tanner Morgan.  Or maybe they'll just keep handing the ball to the Big Ten's best running back, running behind a line that returns all five starters, one of whom may move into a backup role following the addition of All-MWC guard Karter Shaw from Utah State.  For Ohio State, this week, it's simple.  How good is C.J. Stroud.  The redshirt freshman has seen his profile skyrocket, from an under the radar west coast kid with some bottom tier Pac 12 and MWC offers, to the starting quarterback at Ohio State in 2 years.  If he's just fine, the group of receivers is the best in the nation, and the offensive line is rock solid.  They also need Master Teague III to be the guy they thought they had going into last year.  Aside from one big game against Indiana, Teague was mediocre, and as a result, the position as a whole suffered, until Trey Sermon took over down the stretch.  If it's not Teague, true freshman TreVeon Henderson, the #1 RB recruit in the 2021 class, is waiting in the wings.  I won't make the same mistake I made in 2015.
OHIO STATE 41, MINNESOTA 24

Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats
Friday @ 9:00 - Evanston, IL - ESPN
In a normal year, a loss to a bad Michigan State team being the only thing between Northwestern and an undefeated regular season would be a notable event.  In 2020, I'm not sure anyone noticed.  In fairness, while several Big Ten teams probably missed their three guaranteed wins in September, for Northwestern, given recent results, that may have helped catapult them.  In 2018, Northwestern started 1-3, including an inexplicable loss to Akron at home, before going 8-2 the rest of the way, appearing in their first conference championship game, with the two losses coming to Notre Dame and Ohio State, both CFP participants.  That turn was started by a 29-19 win at Michigan State.  In 2017, they started 2-3, which included a blowout 41-17 loss to Duke, before winning their final 8 games.  In 2016, it was a 1-3 starts, with 2 losses coming against Western Michigan and FCS Illinois State.  So given a 5-12 record over the previous 4 Septembers, maybe sitting that month out did them some good.  How can Northwestern avoid another slow start?  It would help if Hunter Johnson looks much more like the guy who was expected to be the next starting quarterback at Clemson until Trevor Lawrence arrived, and nothing like the disaster he was when getting tabbed as the starter for the Cats to begin the 2019 season.  Particularly with presumptive starting running back Cam Porter being lost for the season, and Northwestern graduating their top 4 receivers.  True freshman Jordan Mosley, a 4* recruit from Alabama, who is the highest rated WR recruit in 247 history for the school, has a chance to grab an immediate role.  The bigger question is how well Northwestern reloads a defense that led the conference, and finished fifth nationally, in scoring defense.  Particularly considering teams moved the ball decently between the 20s (they were 4th in the Big Ten in yards allowed), they just were the ultimate bend but don't break unit, limiting teams to just 2.7 points per trip inside the 40, best in the nation.  The Spartans figured out how to beat that last year, by going over the top for a 79 yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game.  It also didn't hurt that one of the worst teams at holding onto the football wound up +3 in turnover differential, with 22 of the Spartans' 29 points coming off a turnover or turnover on downs.  I expect the Michigan State offense to be improved, mainly from improved line play, but not enough to score enough points absent another large turnover differential.
NORTHWESTERN 28, MICHIGAN STATE 16

Western Michigan Broncos at Michigan Wolverines
NOON - Ann Arbor, MI - ESPN
The troubling rend of defense under Don Brown at Michigan finally reached it's breaking point in 2020.  The Wolverines had fallen from 2nd in the nation in total defense in Brown's first season of 2016, but then fell to 6th, 8th, 10th, and then 56th last year.  Only Illinois surrendered more points per game in the Big Ten than the Wolverines, and had Michigan not dodged the Ohio State game, it may have been them at the bottom.  To replace him, Harbaugh hired co-coordinators, but after one was poached to be the head coach at Buffalo, the job fell solely on 34 year old Mike Macdonald, who spent the last 4 years as a position coach for John Harbaugh in Baltimore.  He certainly has no shortage of talent to work with, primarily thanks to Aidan Hutchinson turning down the NFL to return to Ann Arbor.  It would be helpful if Daxton Hill could find his pre-pandemic form.  The 5* recruit lived up to every bit of the billing as a freshman in 2019, but last year, he was invisible.  He wasn't a liability, he just was rarely doing anything of note.  Considering how much Michigan's cornerbacks struggled, Macdonald has committed to using Hill as a weapon all over the formation.  They won't have the luxury of figuring things out, because, for their other woes, the Western Michigan offense will actually be one of the best the Wolverines face all season.  The Broncos are the rare MAC team that lost a 2nd round pick, and shouldn't miss a beat.  Kaleb Eleby might not be the pro prospect that Nevada's Carson Strong is, but I think Eleby might be the best Group of 5 college quarterback out there.  He had 18 touchdowns a year ago, with just 2 picks, and finished 2nd in the nation in ypa, behind only Mac Jones.  Jaylen Hall and Skyy Moore both averaged over 65 yards receiving, as the second and third options; they have three running backs to use.  Michigan State transfer La'Darius Jefferson is the workhorse, and led the team in rushing, but is probably the team's third best back.  The problem is the defense...which let up over 34 ppg last year...playing only MAC opponents.  Michigan's offense may lack the star power we've seen in Ann Arbor, but they were plenty efficient last year, particularly with Cade McNamera replacing Joe Milton midseason, and being unspectacular, but playing winning football.  McNamera held off incoming 5* freshman J.J. McCarthy to retain the starting job, and I think the Wolverines are in the best shape at quarterback that they've been since Jake Rudock.  The remaining skill position players worry me a little going forward, but not against this defense.  The Broncos will push Michigan's defense all afternoon, but Michigan should respond by scoring at will themselves.
MICHIGAN 41, WESTERN MICHIGAN 30
Fordham Rams at Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1, 0-1)
NOON - Lincoln, NE - BTN
NEBRASKA 42, FORDHAM 7

West Virginia Mountaineers at Maryland Terrapins
3:30 - College Park, MD - ESPN
This is one of the sneaky non-conference rivalries that has found a way to survive all of the realignment, even if it's the first meeting in six years.  The Mountaineers have dominated the series recently, winning 9 of 10, and the Terps haven't won an on campus game since 2003, losing 5 in a row in Morgantown, and 4 in a row in College Park; with a pair of neutral site wins sprinkled in.  Of all of the unreliable data we had last year, Maryland might be right at the top.  They looked absolutely inept in a season opening 43-3 loss to Northwestern; turned around and scored 80 points in upset wins over Minnesota and Penn State; then had three of their final 5 games shut down, and the two they played were losses to Indiana and Rutgers, where the offense again vanished.  That offense will get quite a test to open the season against a Mountaineer defense that left no doubt that they regime change had taken place, finishing #17 in the nation in Defensive SP+, after finishing outside the top 65 in each of the previous six years.  In terms of raw talent, the Maryland roster certainly has the weapons to challenge that West Virginia defense in the secondary, even though they finished last season tops in the nation in pass defense.  At times Taulia Tagovailoa looked like a star in the making, and at other times looked like a kid who only got an offer based on his name.  He has some dangerous receivers to throw to in Dontay Demus and Rakim Jarrett, who never fully had a chance to incorporate as a true freshman.  But the Signing Day LSU flip will show why he was Maryland's highest rated recruit since Stefon Diggs in 2012.  The problem is going to be finding balance to exploit a more average West Virginia front.  Jake Funk was a steady workhorse last year, and was a pleasant surprise as a senior.  With him off to the NFL, it'll be up to one of the more disappointing backups (who weren't expected to be) to live up to their potential.  The Mountaineers certainly are not loaded on offense, but they have experienced talent at all of the skill positions, led by tailback Leddie Brown, who helped the Mountaineers nearly double their run production from 2019.  The issue is going to be all of the turnover along the offensive line.  This one will come down to whether Maryland can find a running game.  They have the skill, but none of those guys produced last year.  If they do, the Terps can win this.
WEST VIRGINIA 31, MARYLAND 21

#17 Indiana Hoosiers at #18 Iowa Hawkeyes
3:30 - Iowa City, IA - BTN
So we've got a Week 1 conference game between two ranked teams, and it's not even the Game of the Week?  The schedule certainly is evolving.  The time to get the Hoosiers is late, after Michael Penix Jr. suffers his inevitable injury.  While Penix is "healthy", how healthy is he 10 months following an ACL tear.  These injuries seem to pile up.  Iowa may have a more balanced attack to deal with thanks to the addition of 5th year senior RB Stephen Carr, who comes in from USC, after always putting up effective numbers, but seemingly never able to secure the #1 job.  What Tom Allen has been able to do in Bloomington though is get the defense isn't in a place where they are entirely dependent on outscoring their opponents.  The anchor of that unit is senior linebacker Micah McFadden, who was the best all around defender in the conference a year ago.  He finished first in sacks, and second in both tackles and interceptions.  I have no idea what to do with Iowa.  They may have actually been decent last year?  Or not?  They started 0-2, with losses to Purdue and Northwestern by a combined 5 points.  Then they won their final 6 games, 5 by 14+ points.  But the best team they played during that stretch was 4-3 Wisconsin.  Then their bowl game got cancelled.  So it was a 6-2 season, where they only played 1 of the other 3 teams to finish conference play over .500...and they lost.  Had this game been played a year ago, it would have been very telling as to the true pecking order behind Ohio State.  Iowa needs to be able to pass the ball.  The team went as Tyler Goodson went last year.  When he ran well, the team won.  When he didn't, there was no legitimate Plan B.  Between two things I am not entirely confident in, I'll buy the Hawkeyes.
IOWA 28, INDIANA 18

***GAME OF THE WEEK***
#19 Penn State Nittany Lions at #12 Wisconsin Badgers
NOON - Madison, WI - FOX
Both of these teams entered 2020 with high expectations, and even though they had a COVID shutdown in between, a pair of dominating wins from Bucky, by a combined 94-18 over Illinois and Michigan, appeared to verify the expectations.  Then somehow the offense collapsed.  They lost 3 in a row, scoring a TOTAL of 20 points, and then pulled out an overtime win in the Axe game, but still only scored 17 points in regulation.  The Nittany Lions went in the opposite direction.  A controversial opening night loss to Indiana kick started an 0-5 beginning, for the first time in program history.  It was the school's longest losing streak since losing 6 consecutive games in 2004.  They were able to win their final four games...against Michigan, Rutgers, Illinois and Michigan State...the four worst teams in the Big Ten last year.  But at least that is something going into 2021.  Another positive is that Penn State, along with Rutgers, were the only two Big Ten teams to lose no games to COVID last year.  Getting back on track for both teams starts with the running game.  For Penn State the solution is simple, being healthy.  Penn State was absolutely crushed by injuries to the running back room, with a series of season ending injuries early in the campaign.  A healthy Noah Cain in the backfield, and a couple of impact freshman receivers, should help alleviate some pressure on an offense that last year was too dependent on Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson.  For Wisconsin, it's really not fair to Jalen Berger that we simply pencil in whoever the starting running back in Madison is to be a Heisman candidate, and anything less is a disappointment.  Berger was solid last year, but solid is not the standard.  Some help from the passing game is needed.  Graham Mertz lived up to every bit of the hype through two games, completing 74% of his passes, with 7 touchdowns and no interceptions.  After that, just 57% of his passes, with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.  I think this comes down to which line plays better.  Penn State has the pieces, but for some reason it doesn't always gel.  Wisconsin was sneaky bad there last year.  In most of Football Outsider's metrics, Bucky was not good.  They ranked in the bottom 30 in offensive line yards in standard downs, and were bottom 10 in passing downs.  If that line can even get back to average, which is below the standard, for Wisconsin, the offense should look a lot better.
WISCONSIN 31, PENN STATE 19

« Last Edit: September 04, 2021, 10:03:10 AM by ELA »

847badgerfan

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2021, 07:29:32 AM »
I really appreciate these threads.

Feels like normal.
U RAH RAH! WIS CON SIN!

ELA

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2021, 08:06:22 AM »
I really appreciate these threads.

Feels like normal.
Agreed

847badgerfan

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2021, 10:29:01 AM »
Pretty damn solid on the game last night.
U RAH RAH! WIS CON SIN!

ELA

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2021, 12:20:25 PM »
All noon picks except the GOTW in

FearlessF

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2021, 01:05:31 PM »
I appreciate the brevity regarding the Huskers

it's appropriate and less painful
"Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport."

ELA

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2021, 08:18:34 AM »
3:30 games in

FearlessF

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2021, 09:01:20 AM »
the Hawks are gonna score 28???

has the O-coordinator gone nutz?

no field goals?
"Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport."

ELA

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2021, 09:02:56 AM »
the Hawks are gonna score 28???

has the O-coordinator gone nutz?

no field goals?
8 FGs, two safeties

FearlessF

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2021, 09:16:21 AM »
scared me for a minute
"Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport."

ELA

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Re: ELA September 4 Breakdown
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2021, 10:04:05 AM »
Game of the Week in, may run out of time for the prime time games

 

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