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MnB Roundtable Searches for Caffeine

All of the lights!

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Michigan broke yet another football-related streak last Saturday, losing their first two conference games for the first time in over 40 years. Try your best to break down Penn State coming in for a night game. Beyond the obvious, what have they got to do to climb outta this freefall?

Peter: Last week I said that I just wanted to see Michigan compete, and they did that, regardless of whether the defense failed to arrive in the passing game or not; the offense did its best to get the win. This week needs to be similar to last week. I just want to see the team compete in the running game and on the defensive side of the ball. They can't allow Hack to throw for Nova-type numbers, but they also need to get some yards on the ground. I know that's a tall order given that Penn State is second in the country in rush defense. It's scary to think that the PSU rush defense could turn Michigan into a one dimensional passing team. Just how many INTs will be thrown if that's the case?

John: I'd like to see Hackenberg not throw for Washington State (700 yards in a loss!) numbers. Aside from that I actually think this could finally be Smith's chance to shine. I've thought Smith has been the better runner all season and with Green's injury Smith will get his chance against a stout Penn State defense. If Smith can run through that defense it should spark the Michigan team and take a lot of pressure of Devin Gardner.

Zooby Q: I am a little excited to see Deveon Smith get his shot as the featured RB1. Smith looks like he's been the best RB on the team for over a year now, and to quote Jason Whitlock, "it's not close." It'll be a tough task to face Penn State's rush D but if Michigan has any shot at winning, it needs the ground game to be somewhat productive, in order to take some pressure off of Gardner. To be honest, I was surprised that Michigan kept things as close as they did last weekend. If they can be competitive, that's all I can ask for, at this point, in 2014.

Nick: Everyone's already mentioned the running game being key to Michigan's success against Penn State. I agree, but I think it's going to be tough for Smith to be the sole provider of that production. I think Gardner needs to be a bigger factor on the ground for Michigan to have any chance on Saturday. All of our offensive scoring comes down to Gardner, and I'd like to see him tuck it and run a little bit more.

Kevin: The offensive scheme seems to be good, but Gardner is just so darn erratic. At this point Michigan should just be trying anything they can to score points. I wouldn't care if Gardner threw six interceptions as long as it was apparent they were trying to win the game instead of committing stupid mistakes that give them no chance to win. Sounds like an oxymoron, but the season is already a bust in large part, why not take some risks.

Drew: Everyone is talking about the offense, but the key to a Michigan victory lies on the defensive side of the football. This may be hard to believe, but Penn State's offensive line likely is worse than the one Michigan had last season. Seriously. Accordingly, Penn State's running backs have been stuck in neutral all season, and Christian Hackenberg has been under siege every time he drops back. This may finally be the game that Michigan's front four can generate pressure without the assistance of blitzes. If the defensive line can do this and the secondary does not implode like it did against Gary Nova, the Wolverines should shut down Penn State's offense and hold on for a win.

X's and O's time: Depending on who you ask, Christian Hackenberg is either the best quarterback in Penn State history or one of the most under performing given his recruiting hype two years ago. Does success against this Penn State team begin and end with shutting him down?

Peter: Can the answer be that he's both? Given what he walked into, and how he's performed, he has to be one of the best. However, he's also clearly had some issues with sort of flaking out during games, too. With DaeSean Hamilton grabbing 100 yards worth of receptions each game, but the run game averaging about 100 yards, I'd say that Hack has to be the key. Michigan's rush defense is quite good and I have *gulp* confidence in their ability to stop the run. If they can get some pressure on Hack, then they could force him into making some mistakes...and that turnover margin could start going in a positive direction.

John: If I was an NFL team and I had to take a Big Ten QB I'd start with Hackenberg. That being said I'd say you have to start with knocking him down. Like Peter said, putting pressure on Hackenberg should knock him off his game and give a less than spectacular Michigan secondary some much needed relief. With luck Frank Clark will be hungry come Saturday night.

Zooby Q: Hackenberg was highly recruited and he might be a little polarizing, but at the end of the day, against this under-performing Michigan D, he can look like Joe Montana. If he carves up this D, Michigan's offense will have no shot at putting up major points.

Nick: Yes. Hackenberg has more talent than Nova, and we all know what happened a week ago. If the secondary isn't better this week, Michigan is screwed.

Kevin: I cannot figure out why Frank Clark has been largely a non factor so far this season. The defensive front four was the most stable unit coming into the season, but opposing QBs are seeing right through their plans. Hackenberg is a bit more scrappy than Nova was, and he will get away from the linebackers if there isn't an initial push from up at the line.

Michigan cannot pick up the pieces if they don't start by shutting Hackenberg down with constant pressure by the front seven. Oh how I miss the days where a strong safety or cornerback could come from the edge and contain the QB, but Michigan has a makeshift secondary yet again, and that's where they'll win or lose on Saturday.

Drew: Let's start with the obvious: Christian Hackenberg is a very talented quarterback. There's a reason so many scouts project him to be a first-round selection in the NFL Draft in the not-so-distant future. He has underperformed relative to expectations this season, but it really has been no fault of his own. He has been handed one of the nation's worst offensive lines one season after losing Allen Robinson, who was the Big Ten's best receiver last year. So Hackenberg has been forced to carry the entire offensive by himself, which is why shutting him down is Michigan's key to victory.

Once again, instead of a straight win/loss and score prediction, something different: What's it going to be like around Ann Arbor and in the stadium? Does the streak of *announced* 100k attendance come crashing down (Hint: probably not because the tickets were sold months ago)? Give your suggestions for clever chants/signs!

Peter: Well, I had asked a similar question to some of you via email and I think I threw out three options--1) the students protest and boycott the entire game, 2) everyone shows up and is super pissed, or 3) not a damn thing happens. I believe the results were more in the frame of mind that apathy would be the prevailing sentiment. I'm looking forward to being there to see what happens. If I had to guess, I'd say it's going to be a combination of 1 and 2. There will be fewer students than usual, but those who do show up are going to be very pissed off. The rest of us probably won't give too much leeway when it comes to performance, and you'll probably hear the rest of the stadium start to chant within the first five minutes of kick-off.

Kevin: I too will be there, Peter. And for a lot of the same reasons. I'm just curious how angry everyone is going to be, how many students show, and whether the entire fanbase is going to take a stand against this athletic department. If anything, I'd hope people don't boycott the game, but refuse to buy anything while attending.

People booed the attendance announcement against Minnesota, because everyone knew it was inflated. This time, it will be harder to stand behind a high number if it's obvious that large chunks of empty seats are illuminated by the stadium lights.

John: Well I think I can speak for the majority of the students and say we are not boycotting the Penn State game, we are boycotting the Maryland game. The fact is every student who bought a set of tickets this year did it to either go to or sell tickets for this game. Early on in the season these tickets were going for big money on the secondary market so I doubt a lot of students will eat their tickets. We students are suckers for Night Games and we wont miss the only game "good team" to come to Ann Arbor this year.

Zooby Q: I don't know how I feel about the whole "boycott" of this game, or any Michigan football game. This isn't the Detroit Lions where you are trying to force an owner to get rid of Matt Millen. What have these college football players on Team 135 done to deserve that lack of support? That's the kind of stuff I couldn't disagree with more. I want Dave Brandon gone as A.D. as much as anyone, but I don't think not showing up, for a game at the end of November, close to Thanksgiving, is going to do anything other than reflect poorly on the Michigan fanbase. Why don't the students protest Dave Brandon, every week, until the end of the season? It's easy to not show up to a game, but putting in effort seems like too much to ask. I hope, for the players' sake, that they don't get left out to dry. They're trying, results aren't showing.

Nick: I agree with Zooby. I'm not a supporter of the boycott movement. #1-99 work hard and deserve the support of fans. Don't take out anger with Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke and anyone else on the players. An empty stadium against Maryland will only send off the seniors - who have battled for this team - with a whimper, and I don't think that's fair at all.

As for chants, the students better not chant "You Suck" unless it's somehow known that they're directing it at Dave Brandon. I hate that chant, and I hope it's been shelved for the foreseeable future.

Drew: There will be over 100,000 spectators in attendance. Legitimately. This is the one and only marquee game on Michigan's home slate, and I cannot see fans actually opting not to attend despite the Wolverines' 2-4 start. Nonetheless, I do not expect the atmosphere to be anything like it was for Under the Lights I and Under the Lights II. It may become a bit electric if the game goes down to the wire. Otherwise, I expect the atmosphere to be rather dull because fans will be there out of duty, not desire.

Another good batch of ranked versus ranked games and some sleeper games around college football. What game will act as the warm-up for our game?

Peter: I won't be able to watch any of the early games, but my affinity for the Golden Gophers means that I'll be trying to keep tabs on Minnesota and Northwestern. If Indiana can get rid of Iowa and Minny beats the Wildcats, the Gophers will be in first place in the West. Given how they played against Michigan, it's quite possible that all three of their trophies could be in Minneapolis (The Jug, Floyd, and Paul Bunyan's Axe).

Kevin: Late-night Pac-12 football has become the ultimate stage show, and there's another good one at 10:30pm Saturday. I'm pumped for USC-Arizona, not just because Rich freakin' Rodriguez has an undefeated team, but both teams have had hail mary games already this season. Perhaps USC worked on proper prevent defense this week because they're a visiting favorite to a very balanced team.

Drew: Despite being unranked, USC is a 2.5-point road favorite over #10 Arizona, which is everything you need to know about how the absurdity that is the AP Poll.

John: So I am 1-6 in my non-Michigan predictions after my sure thing Oregon pick backfired miserably. In my family we have two schools, Michigan and Kentucky. Blue and Big Blue. My school and my Dad's school. So we've been pretty happy with the 4-1 football team in Lexington, especially given the product in Ann Arbor. So this week I'll be watching Kentucky pound Louisiana Monroe and move within 1 game of being bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

Is it low hanging fruit? Yes. Do I care at 4-9 on the year? No. Kentucky 35 ULM 13

Zooby Q: Mississippi State vs Auburn, with ‘College Gameday' in town, is the must-see game for me this week. Whoever wins that game will be in the driver's seat to be #1 and hold some strong control in the SEC. Other great games I'll tune into are Georgia vs. Missouri at noon, Ole Miss at Texas A&M and, as crazy as it sounds, LSU at Florida. Will Muschamp and Les Miles are so entertaining on the sidelines that the actual game is secondary. Also, for Michigan fans, if LSU loses their 3rd game of the season, it might be easier for Michigan to go after Les Miles after the season.

Nick: I agree with Kevin. Pac-12 football has been bananas this year, and I've loved every second of it. USC-Arizona is must-see television for me. Beyond the obvious big time games Zooby listed, I'll be keeping an eye on Alabama-Arkansas. I think Arkansas has a legitimate chance of upsetting Saban and seeing him pissed off always brings me joy.

Drew: I will be flipping between #2 Auburn at #3 Mississippi State and #12 Oregon at #18 UCLA, which I believe are the two marquee games kicking off at 3:30 p.m. ET. (Sorry, #9 TCU at #5 Baylor). But I recommend that you try to watch at least one of these three games because you will want to ensure you get your fill of high-octane offenses before Michigan and Penn State trip over themselves. Oh, Auburn and Oregon win on the road, while Baylor routs TCU.

OK, how about at least a score guess for Penn State-Michigan, since they may rip our hearts out again and blow it late.

Peter: 21-17 Penn State.

John: Michigan is actually favored by 2 in this game, but I'll take PSU with points

Penn State 28 Michigan 14

Kevin: Wow, the line in Vegas must've moved, because Michigan was a 1.5 point home underdog. I don't think we'll see much scoring out of these two offenses. 17-14 Penn State.

Zooby Q: Penn State 31 Michigan 10

Nick: 45-27 Michigan. I have no interest in reality.

Drew: Penn State 27, Michigan 20. What is interesting, though, is that there are bunches of Penn State fans over at Black Shoe Diaries, the Penn State site at SB Nation, that think Michigan's defense will wreck Christian Hackenberg and the offensive line. It seems like neither fan base trusts its team to actually win this game. Weird times, man.

Bonus Q this week: Behind closed doors, who do you think Michigan has been looking at for either AD/Coach or both? RAMPANT SPECULATION, ENGAGE

Peter: you're really asking for trouble with this one, aren't you? For the coach, I think the obvious answer is Harbaugh. Jim, then John. With all of the rumblings coming out of the Bay Area, you just never know what will happen with Jim. That being said, I don't believe for one second that Jim will be heading back to Ann Arbor. If I'm wrong I will buy everyone on this staff something incredibly cheap that will also be totally useless.

I'll speculate the hell out of names that are not Harbaugh--Dabo Swinney, David Cutcliffe, Kevin Sumlin, Kyle Whittingham, Dan Mullen, and Hugh Freeze. They may not/probably won't get any of these guys, but make the damn effort if you're going to make another change.

The bottom line is that the university needs to show that they're willing to throw a shit-ton of money at someone, even if he's already established himself elsewhere. If I hear a MAC coach's name or Lane Kiffin, though, I'll puke.

John: I'm going with the Mother of All Coaches: Jackie Harbaugh! Let's go out and get the first woman coach in the NCAA. Any woman who can handle Jack (yes the couple is Jack and Jackie), Jim and John (holy J's Batman!) can surely handle the Big Ten. Plus her coaching tree would basically be training more Harbaughs! HARBAUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joking aside I think the most likely option is Les Miles. LSU is in free fall and it would be a great time for Les to leave while the death of the 49ers has been greatly exaggerated.

As for my AD picks:

Chris Webber (irony)
Derek Jeter
Coach Red
Jordan Kovacs
Desmond Howard
Jordan Morgan
Dave Brandon clone with all football DNA swapped with parts of Jim Harbaugh's Khakis
Whoever is AD at Duke (and I hate Duke)
Whoever is AD at Stanford
The guy who gave the speech at the Michigan Rally
The Wacky Wavy Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man from the football games
Non Dave Brandon Person

Peter: I didn't know we could nominate ourselves! I'm in the running, then. If I lose to the inflatable arm guy, though, I'll be very disappointed. It could be a tight race.

Kevin: Just think of the crazy politicking if the AD choice was between Inflatable Flailing Arm Guy and Hot Dog Man (assuming they let him into the stadium again by then).

Zooby Q: For coach, I don't want to hear about any Harbaugh's. I just think it's meaningless because I don't see either coach leaving the NFL. The issues with Jim in San Fran are a bit overblown, but also, if he did leave the 49ers, Mr. Michigan, Stephen Ross, will open up the bank to have him coach the Miami Dolphins. I like the UConn/BC AD rumors I heard a couple of weeks ago, but really, I'll trust the new President to hire whomever he wants as the AD, as long as it's someone new. For coach, I wanted Les Miles after Lloyd Carr retired, and I think this is the the last and final chance. I like Brady Hoke but I don't think that Miles would show any less love for Michigan. Miles and his wife love Michigan just as much as anyone. Let the man have his shot, come on, this is Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeechigan.

Nick: 100% rooting against LSU for the rest of the year. Like Michigan, there's a decent chance they could lose out to finish the season. I wanted Miles as well after Carr, and I have zero faith in any Harbaugh (including Jackie) coming here. Give Miles the team until he retires. Just make sure whoever is AD or President or Supreme Ruler isn't on a boat during negotiations. Outside of all the names listed above, Arizona's head coach seems to be doing pretty well (Undefeated! Top-ten ranking!). We should give him a call...

Kevin: DAN MULLEN DAN MULLEN DAN MULLEN SERIOUSLY JUST HIRE DAN MULLEN ALREADY. Will Muschamp is probably going to get canned at the end of the season because Florida still has to do the tough part of their schedule, and I do not want Michigan to miss out on the slam dunk hire again because they sat on their hands.

Backup plan: 1984 John Gruden!

Nothing will transpire, however, without a change of athletic director first. John's suggestions are the starting point, because pretty much anyone would be better than what we've had. Take a look at Bob De Carolis, because his name was mentioned the last time around but we all knew it was going to be Brandon anyhow. Warde Manuel is the other logical choice this time, but Michigan has to stipulate in the interview process that no longer are the fans going to tolerate bad music, giant noodles, flyovers, and terrible, overpriced food.

And hey, visit Every Day Should Be Saturday after the game because Spencer Hall made the trip to Ann Arbor this week.