The Wolverine

November 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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a different head-to-head tiebreaker. Like U-M, Northwestern needs some help to now win the Legends. Actually, it needs a lot of help. The Wildcats need the Cornhuskers to lose twice more, finishing no better than 5-3, while they must go 3-0 with road wins at Michigan and Michigan State, and home against rival Illinois, which always gives Northwestern fits. The Wildcats do have a bye before tripping to Ann Arbor Nov. 10, so they should be rested and well pre- pared, and if they can win that, they could ride the momentum to two more victories. However, it's more plausible for Northwestern to lose at least one more, and for Purple and White fans to be longing for what almost was. Michigan State (2-3) Remaining schedule: vs. Nebraska, bye, vs. Northwestern, at Minnesota. Big Ten record of November foes: 7-6. Projected wins: Nebraska, Minne- its defense. That will be its winning formula against a Cornhusker team coming down off the high of beating Michigan, but expect Northwestern, which has averaged 27.3 points per game against MSU in six meetings under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, to crush the Spartans' remaining aspi- rations. Iowa (2-2) Purdue, at Michigan, vs. Nebraska. Big Ten record of November foes: 7-9. Projected win: Purdue. Projected losses: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska. Projected record: 3-5. Summary: While seemingly no one is giving the Hawkeyes a chance, the Black and Gold are the only other team in the Legends Division con- trolling their own destiny the rest Remaining schedule: at Indiana, vs. sota. Projected loss: Northwestern. Projected record: 4-4. Summary: Left for dead after drop- ping back-to-back games to Iowa and Michigan in mid-October, leaving the Spartans with three conference losses that essentially eliminated them from the conference title game conversa- tion, MSU was resurrected with a win at Wisconsin Oct. 27, and enters its final month perfectly capable of going 3-0. Game Prediction Revisited Championship Big Ten It would still take a great deal for a 5-3 Michigan State team to play for the Big Ten championship, though — to start, needing Iowa, Michi- gan and Nebraska to each finish 5-3 (even then a nightmare scenario of tiebreakers go into effect more dif- ficult to decipher than the succession plan of a president). The Spartans can only worry about what they can control, and that starts with a monumental showdown with Nebraska Nov. 3. While the Green and White need that one, U-M will also be keeping an eye on the out- come, knowing State is the biggest hurdle between NU and a 7-1 confer- ence finish that makes a Legends Di- vision title impossible for the Maize and Blue. In conference play, Michigan State has scored 20 or more points only once, and has relied extensively on news for Michigan fans is that go- ing into the final weekend, U-M will be able to punch a ticket to In- dianapolis with a win at Ohio State. The bad news is that the Maize and Blue will lose in Columbus, and Ne- braska, which will also finish 6-2, will go to the title game instead. The Cornhuskers' opponent will be a 3-5 Indiana team that makes a mockery of what the Big Ten Championship is supposed to be, thanks in part to both Ohio State and Penn State, which are ineli- gible for the postseason, stemming from NCAA sanctions, but will fin- ish with better records than IU and Wisconsin. The Hoosiers, which play good of- Nebraska vs. Indiana: The good of the way. If Iowa wins out, it will deal Nebraska a second loss while holding the important head-to-head tiebreaker, and deal Michigan a sec- ond loss, giving Iowa the edge over its top two competitors. Few are considering that possi- ble outcome realistic, though, after watching the Hawkeyes suffer back- to-back blowout losses to Penn State and Northwestern Oct. 20 and Oct. 27, losing by a collective score of 66- 31 while the defense surrendered 937 yards of total offense and the offense managed only 545 in the two defeats. Iowa is a bad team masquerad- ing as an average team this year, but thanks to strong play up front on both sides of the ball, the Gold and Black could still pull off an upset or two, putting both the Wolverines and Cornhuskers on notice. How- ever, they could lose to Indiana and Purdue — teams with identical 3-5 records — just as easily. In the contender/pretender cat- egory, Iowa is a pretender and over the next month will be exposed, los- ing to IU, U-M and NU. Minnesota (1-3) Remaining schedule: vs. Michigan, at Illinois, at Nebraska, vs. Michigan State. Big Ten record of November foes: 8-9. Projected win: Illinois. Projected losses: Michigan, Ne- braska, Michigan State. Projected record: 2-6. Summary: Minnesota last played in a bowl game in 2009, but the Golden Gophers are within one victory of qualifying for the postseason follow- ing a key win over Purdue Oct. 27 that lifted the Maroon and Gold to 5-3 overall. fense and no defense, will win two of their final four, including a head- to-head matchup with Wisconsin, who has lost starting quarterback Joel Stave for the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. The Bad- gers, meanwhile, will free fall with Stave out, losing to Indiana Nov. 10, Ohio State Nov. 17 and Penn State Nov. 24, allowing IU to slip into Indy with its under-.500 mark. — Michael Spath While Minnesota is no threat to Michigan or Nebraska for the Leg- ends Division crown, the Gophers will be a tough out the rest of the way for their final four foes, which include both the Wolverines and Cornhuskers. They should earn that sixth win at Illinois Nov. 10, and don't be sur- prised if they use that momentum to pull off an upset of either NU or MSU, but seven wins and a 3-5 con- ference mark represent the ceiling for the Maroon and Gold in 2012. In 2013, however, keep an eye on a program that could be next year's Northwestern. u NOVEMBER 2012 THE WOLVERINE 23

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