The Wolverine

November 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Biggest Disappointment Northwestern (Legends): Nobody figured the Wildcats to be a contender in the Legends Division, but most assumed Pat Fitzgerald���s team could at least make some noise. The Wildcats haven���t even done that, and its defense is the biggest reason why. Quarterback Dan Persa has played well following his return from an Achilles heel injury in week two of Big Ten play, and Northwestern is putting up points, but the Wildcats can���t stop anybody. They gave up 42 points to Michigan, 41 to Iowa, 34 to Penn State and even 38 to a bad Indiana team in a 59-38 victory. There���s only one more likely win on the Big Ten slate: Minnesota Nov. 19. Wisconsin (Leaders): Had the Badgers simply split their road games at Michigan State and Ohio State, they���d have been a near lock for the title game. Instead, special teams gaffes and a Hail Mary wasted a 14-0 lead in East Lansing ��� running back Monte Ball���s first half head injury had something to do with it, too ��� while a second blocked punt in two weeks cost Wisconsin in a 33-29 loss at Ohio State. A month ago, some were talking about the Badgers as a potential national title game contender. Now they need help just to get to the Big Ten championship game -- and a lot of it. Games To Watch These games will help determine who plays in the inaugural Big Ten championship game to be held Dec. 3 in Indianapolis: Michigan at Iowa, Nov. 5: It���s entirely possible the Leaders Division champion will have two losses, and this is an elimination game in that sense for the Hawkeyes. Iowa plays all three teams ahead of it in the standings, getting Michigan State at home (where the Hawkeyes always play the Spartans tough) and traveling to Nebraska for the season finale. Michigan State at Iowa, Nov. 12: The Spartans have had a difficult time in Iowa City over the years and were blown out last year after taking a perfect record into the game. This is MSU���s most likely loss left out of four games remaining. Should the Spartans win, it would take a significant upset to keep them from at least sharing the Legends Division title. Nebraska at Penn State, Nov. 12: The Cornhuskers should get by Northwestern at home Nov. 5, while the Nittany Lions enjoy a bye, setting up a battle of conference teams with one loss between them. Nebraska has to win to keep pace with Michigan State in the Legends Division, while a Penn State victory would clinch a share of the Leaders Division, though not necessarily a Big Ten Championship game berth. Nebraska at Michigan, Nov. 19: One or both of these teams will be in the hunt for the Legends Division title even if they drop a game in the weeks leading up to the inaugural Big Ten meeting between the two. This will be the second tough road test for the Cornhuskers, who will be coming off a physical game with Penn State in Happy Valley. U-M will be playing spoiler if it can���t win one of two road games at Iowa or Illinois in the weeks preceding this one. Penn State at Ohio State, Nov. 19: Penn State will control its destiny regardless of what happens against Nebraska Nov. 12, though road games at OSU and Wisconsin will both be difficult. Ohio State simply has to beat Indiana at home and Purdue on the road to remain in contention, and the Buckeyes will control their destiny with a win over PSU if they do. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 26: ���The Game��� will only be one of the more meaningful ones in the series should both teams take care of business in the weeks preceding it. The Wolverines have the tougher road, but if they win two out of three, they���re still at least in the hunt for a share of the Legends Division title heading into the rivalry game. OSU, meanwhile, could well be playing for a Leaders Division championship. Best Win Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31 (Legends): The Spartans overcame a 14-0 deficit, got a few breaks and then took advantage of the Badgers��� shoddy special teams play to steal one at home on a last-second Hail Mary. Most impressively, MSU was playing its third physical opponent in three weeks, having beaten Ohio State and Michigan in its two previous games. Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29 (Leaders): The Buckeyes trailed by three with 20 seconds to go before freshman Braxton Miller rallied them to a gamewinning touchdown Oct. 29, finding receiver Devin Smith alone in the end zone with only 20 seconds remaining. Miller rushed for 99 yards and two scores and threw for 89, emerging as one of the conference���s top young players to watch, and OSU proved it had life in its chase for a division title. ��� When Denard Robinson and U-M face Ohio State on Nov. 26, Big Ten division titles may be on the line, in addition to the traditional rivalry aspect of the game. photo by eric bronson/ Penn State at Wisconsin, Nov. 26: The Nittany Lions will have a shot at a share of the conference title no matter what they do in the two weeks leading up to this one, since both the Badgers and Ohio State had two losses as of Oct. 29. Wisconsin���s defense has struggled in recent weeks, while its offense hasn���t been nearly as dominant against the tougher defenses on the schedule. The Nittany Lions��� D certainly qualifies as tough. November 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 23

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