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Michigan Gets Its First Test; Penn State Is Not Missing Hackenberg

Hawaii v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa all look good in the West. Northwestern looks terrible. Michigan is back in Nike uniforms, and they’re winning games. Ohio State and U-M lead the East, if the good ol’ eye test is to be believed. Penn State is playing Pitt.

Everything makes sense again.

Mr. Harbaugh, Who Is Freddy P. Soft?

I’ll just leave this here:

Harbaugh has to be one of the most quotable coaches of all time - even up there with the late, great Vince Lombardi.

Three Things To Worry About Against Colorado

I know what you’re thinking. Colorado is #74 in S&P+. Their head coach, Mike MacIntyre, has a 12-27 record in Boulder. Their top two running backs average 5’7”, 183 pounds, and 4.36 yards a carry. My first response to you is ... well done on knowing those things off the top of your head.

But my second response is this: the Buffs are about to present Michigan with its stiffest test yet, and there are a few reasons to think this will not be a walk in the park. Let’s go through them, Impressive Memory Man.

#1. Sefo Liufau is pretty good.

Quarterback Sefo Liufau (pronounced Loo-fow) presents Michigan with a similar challenge as UCF’s Justin Holman did last week, and Holman ultimately went just 3/11 with 7 carries for 46 yards before leaving the game with an injury.

Like Holman (6’4”, 225), Liufau (6’4”, 230) is not automatic when the ball is in the air, but he can get in a rhythm and he’s fast and strong when he tucks it and runs. In the season-opener against Colorado State, he threw for 318 yards with 66 on the ground; against Idaho State last weekend, he played only one half and put up 200 and 50.

#2. Colorado will challenge Michigan with tempo.

To exacerbate any potential concerns over losing contain against a mobile quarterback, Colorado will try to wear Michigan down with a quick, aggressive attack.

Comically, Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo had this to say before the Colorado game - "We'll be ready to adjust. We go no-huddle in practice against our guys" - and then this to say afterward: "We could not settle down defensively. They were going extremely fast and we weren't getting lined up. … We weren't getting adjusted."

Tempo has been a slight concern for Michigan fans. The Buffs will try to use that to probe for weaknesses.

#3. Colorado has “Big Ten size” at the line of scrimmage.

The offensive line’s athleticism is not exactly concerning, so I don’t think Michigan’s defense will have a lot of problems there. But the defensive linemen are good enough that I think a young Michigan O-line might struggle to get a push at the line of scrimmage. This would make it a long day for Michigan’s tailbacks, who had to break more than their share of tackles behind the line last weekend. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Hitting The Links | Highlights For Days

Indiana: Nick Westbrook Grab | Another Interception

Indiana led Ball State 30-0 before allowing 20 straight points in the second half (17 of them in the fourth). Richard Lagow is settling in at quarterback; he had 266 pass yards and 3 touchdowns.

Iowa: C.J. Beathard To Matt VandeBerg

Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska are your early leaders in the West. Two of those have veteran quarterbacks, and as optimistic as I might be about Nebraska’s offense and Tommy Armstrong, Iowa has to be viewed as the front-runner thanks to throws like this. These are NFL throws right here, by a team leader who’s willing to take a back seat to the ground game until you can prove you can stop it.

Getting Familiar With OSU’s Malik Hooker: #1 | #2 | #3

Ohio State has a superstar safety on their hands. These highlights date back to last week, when Malik Hooker got a pair of interceptions against Bowling Green including a nominee for top ten plays of the year. Keep an eye on how quickly he runs to where the ball is thrown immediately after the snap.

Even more frustrating for a Michigan fan, Malik seems like a level-headed, bright, mature team player in addition to being such a good athlete. Ohio State has had a number of guys like that over the last few years: guys like Michael Bennett, Joshua Perry, and Zeke Elliott, terrific football players who buy in to the teamwork aspect and lead by example. You win a lot of games with these guys because they’re exactly who you need to do it.

Anyway, say hello to your Big Ten interceptions leader after two weeks of play.

Rutgers: The Janarion Grant Show

Rutgers did eventually manage to blow out Howard last week, but it was a tied game, versus a low-level FCS team, going into halftime. Rutgers has leaned heavily on Janarion to be the savior of this team, from running the ball (134 yards, 3 TD’s) to catching it (80 yards) and doing kickoff return duty (195 yards, 1 TD). He’s kind of been the Big Ten’s version of Christian McCaffrey.

Wisconsin Finds Its Passing Game

Wisconsin is full of surprises this year. Their receiving corps has looked very solid, with Robert Wheelwright and Jazzy Peavy leading the way.

Minnesota: Kobe McCrary Gets In A Groove

McCrary is a new addition for the Gophers, a JUCO running back from Butler Community College. After two carries for 4 yards against Oregon State in Week 1, he exploded for 17 carries and 176 yards against Indiana State. He’s not as good a tailback as Rodney Smith, in my opinion, but he gives Tracy Claeys a great 1-2 punch.

The Gophers will be getting Shannon Brooks back from injury soon, too, so there will be plenty of options to run the ball.

Let’s Check In On Purdue

I don’t expect I’ll be talking about Purdue very much in these spaces; the Boilermakers seemed particularly uninspiring after a 38-20 loss to Cincinnati this weekend that featured five Boilermaker turnovers. (Five!)

Still, there were a couple cool things I’ll point out briefly - for one, quarterback David Blough managed this sweet connection with DeAngelo Yancey on a post route, which pulled the Boilermakers to within 11 in the fourth. Secondly, the ‘Makers have been rocking some sweet uniforms of late, courtesy of an off-season makeover:

Cincinnati v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

That pass fell incomplete, but I suppose it’s not relevant.

Penn State Falls To Pitt In Instant Classic

I don’t care who you are or who you root for - this was a great game. Pitt led 28-7, then watched as Penn State marched back into contention and almost snatch victory away from the Panthers. A late interception by Trace McSorley sealed the Nittany Lions’ fate, but not before he threw for 332 yards and one score to keep the team in it until the end.

There were certainly a lot of growing pains in this game for James Franklin’s squad - the offensive line is still a major concern, and has been for years - but it’s encouraging to see this team fight back when they’re down. In the three seasons under Christian Hackenberg, the Nittany Lions went 1-11 when down by at least 14 points, and never came back from a deficit greater than 14. Also, they were 4-10 when the opposing team scored first.

This game proved to be another loss, sure, but it was close to becoming a statement win for a program in desperate need of positive momentum. Plus, it was encouraging to see a younger, more agile quarterback at the helm who might conceivably take some early-season failures and build on them. The fact that McSorley threw for 332 yards in his second career start, and is on pace for 3,000 yards on the season, is also a good sign. We’ll see what momentum this team can take from a roller-coaster loss against a rival non-conference opponent.