A Look at Michigan Football's 2011 Big Ten Conference Slate - Week 1

A quick look at Michigan's Big Ten Schedule going forward:

Oct. 1, The Minnesota Golden Gophers- Wow. Whether its on the message boards or on the Mothership or even here, there are a lot of people starting to wonder if this program is cursed in some way. Minnesota, in the span of five years, has gone from a perennial top 25 team to, well.... this. Minnesota currently sits at 1-3 with losses to USC, one of the worst programs in the history of Division One football in New Mexico State and some directional, Division I-AA Dakota school. The program seems like it's in free fall right now. Sadly, that makes them incredibly dangerous this weekend.

Oct. 8, The Northwestern Wildcats- Northwestern has been incredibly unimpressive over the first three weeks of the season. Their offense is anemic. The defense can't stop a pop warnerteam from scoring on them. Yet, there they are at 2-1 heading into the conference season. If this was, as our friends at Black Heart Gold Pants like to say, just Northwestern, you probably wouldn't care that they're on the schedule. Here's the issue. They get back All-Big Ten quarterback Dan Persa this week, comingoff his season ending injury last year win he tore his Achilles beating Iowa on the play he got hurt. It straight out of a Disney movie. Well, if the movie had ended there. Instead the 'Cats went on to lose their next three games convincingly. Persa makes this squad an entirely different team. While he can't make up for the Cat's lack of a run defense, he can help to cover for it by scoring touchdowns. While I don't think this is a very good team in Evanston, I think Persa makes them very, very dangerous. And he's got a game to get warmed up before he faces Michigan.

Oct. 15, The Michigan St. Spartans - At 3-1 Michigan State is about where everyone projected them to be. They've housed three bad teams and lost to Notre Dame in convincing fashion. The big question here is Michigan State's offensive line, which is currently being held together by packing tape, FlexAll451, and prayers. On top of graduating their best offensive linemen, the Spartans have been decimated by injuries. They're starting a pile of first year players and even playing guys who just switched over from the defensive line. That's really not good if you're a team that bases its passing game on establishing the run. State get'sThat School Down South this weekend and I'm really, really curious to see how this one plays out. If there's one thing TSDS does well, it's hammer teams with bad offensive lines. If Michigan State can stand up to TSDS'sfour man front and run the ball, my fear level for the October showdown goes way, way up. If they can't, I think Michigan probably goes into east Lansing a favorite.

Oct. 29, The Purdue Boilermakers - Hey! Purdue's 2-1! Great news! They scored 56 points in their last game! Woo! the only problem was it was a body bag game against a hapless by FCS standards FCS school. Purdue needed a last second field goal to beat Middle Tennessee State in week one, and then promptly dropped another nail biter to Sam McGuffie's Rice Owls. Purdue is a Big Ten team. Nail biters against Conference USA teams aren't supposed to happen. Especially not against bad CUSA teams. Well, now they get to go up against a pissed off Notre Dame squad with seven times the talent than Purdue has. Lookingat Purdue's schedule, barring a major turn around, this squad could potentially only win two more games this season. That schedule is murder.

Nov. 5, The Iowa Hawkeyes - About a week and change ago I ran into my Iowa friend Katy. We talked some football and I could tell she was visibly upset about the Iowa State game, and when asked her about it she responded in a pissed off, mad at life voice:

Yeah, now we'll run the ----ing table and win the Big Ten anyway.

Iowa fans have a strange sense of fatalism about them. The sky has fallen, it will rise again and be prettier than it's ever been but that doesn't matter because it fell the first time. All is ruined. Strange, indeed. But it's a sense of pessimistic optimism that has proven so true over the years. Whenever Iowa gacks up a loss to Iowa State they invariably have a good season anyway and their fans look back at the Iowa State loss and curse Ferentz' disdain for the game and say "we could've gone to a BCS bowl!" C'estla vie. Iowa will be Penn State this weekend in Happy Valley before losing to justNorthwestern the followingweek making us all believe that the season is going down the drain. At that point they will start eeking out skin of their teeth wins, end up in the Citrus Bowl and stop an SEC team on New Year's Day, which everyone outside the Big Ten will conveniently forget ever happened when they discuss Big Ten v. SEC this winter. Because we don't have a clue what kind of team this is right now, I'm terrified of them.

Nov. 12, The Illinois Fighting Illini - Hell if I know. Is this Zook's masterpiece? Will this team actually compete for a Big Ten division crown? Probably not, but I've been saying since the off season to look out for them. Nathan Scheelchausinthesubbrubse is going through the typical sophomore slump associated with the whole playbook now being jammed one binder ring at a time through his ear hole. As a result, he's over thinking and making bad throws. This will dissipate as the season goes on. Here's what we know. Illinois will play good, not great defense. Illinois is insanely athletic and capable of making plays that no other team in the Big Ten (including TSDS) are capable of making. The offense will be able to run the ball. Finally, their coaching staff with coast them at least three games this season. It is Ron Zook afterall. I've got this game penciled down as a loss. There's something creepy about it that I just don't like. And I think it's the uncertainty of all that athleticism in the hands of a mad scientist like Zook. Most of the time his creations lie on the ground whispering "kill..... mheeeeee....." But every now and then he creates something capable of ripping the walls off your house and eating your family. I've got a bad feeling that this year is one of the latter.

Nov. 19, The Nebraska Cornhuskers- Am I the only person who has been thoroughly unimpressed with Nebraska so far this season? Any team that gives up a combined 67 points to Fresno State and Washington (evenly distributed too), doesn't impress me defensively. Plus, if Washington hadn't gacked the game away with really stupid unforced turnovers, who knows how it would've turned out. Nebraska reminds me a lot of Michigan last season. An offense totally based on its quarterback and a suspect defense. If they beat Wisconsin this weekend, I'll change my tune. But we won't have a good read on this squad until they get through the next two games against Wisconsin and That School Down South.

Nov. 26, That School Down South- Another school in the "who the hell knows?" category. Luke Fickell will not be State's head coach next year. It ain't going to happen. And his team is playing like it. The loss to Miami showed a lot of weaknesses in TSDS's offense and defense. I honestly don't think Miami was more talented or faster that TSDS, they were just better coached. Joe Bauserman v Jacory Harrisis a wash, in spite of Harris' athleticism. Sure they pounded Colorado, but Braxton Millerwas not impressive under center. He's like a slower, inaccurate Denard. The one thing that stands out is that this is a very good, very athletic defense that will keep TSDS in ball games and probably win them a few that the offense tries to give away. But right now, we just don't have a read on how good this team is overall and just how bad a head coach Fickell is. Well... maybe we do. And that's good news for Michigan.

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