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MnB staff roundtable wishes it was Chicago’s Big Ten team

Cats go meow, Wolverines go rawr.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I was going to make a remark about the officiating, but they called a personal foul in advance. The floor is Michigan getting better or just having fun or what? Things are bad when a fast food chain calls you out for poor performance. And, will Chicago’s true Big Ten team please stand up?

Jared: There is no doubt in my mind that Michigan is improving. Yes, I realize the level of competition has taken a nosedive since Notre Dame, but you can only play the schedule in front of you and Michigan has acquitted themselves well so far. Plenty of paralleles have been made to the 2016 team (best team under Harbaugh) that dominated lesser opponents, so I will let those results speak for themselves. What excites me most about this team, is that they were always going to need the duration of the season to improve and become the best version of themselves possible, especially on offense where you are breaking in a quarterback that has still only been there for a few months. The defense is starting to wake up, and possesses more speed and athleticism than any defense under Harbaugh to this point. It’s not where this team is at right now, but where their ceiling is at that excites me.

Dan P: Admittedly, I was too high on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I was a believer the Nebraska would make the game last week a close one for a variety of reasons. Specifically because of the play of Adrian Martinez and his comparative style to Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush, who we all know gave the Wolverines defense fits. But, they have drastically improved in containing an athletic and quick quarterback. Their pursuit tackles were extremely impressive, particularly Rashan Gary and Devin Bush, and I’m not just saying that because of their big names. Gary bull rushed through the line on back to back plays at one point to contain Martinez, and end up with a sack in one of those instances. Bush also played almost as a spy at some points and was impressive in pursuit of not just Martinez, but also screen plays and some outside runs. There has been obvious improvement in this defense since their week one match up.

This Northwestern team is much better than the 1-2 record would suggest. There will be a pretty big question mark as to who their running back will be after Jeremy Larkin tragically was forced to medically retire earlier this week. His play on the field was a big part of their offense. The fact that he is not playing will completely shift the offensive scheme… which could end up being a bad thing for the Wolverines. If a scheme change is imminent, there will be no game film of what Northwestern could run against the Wolverines. Nevertheless, I expect the Wolverines to pull away at some point and win by three touchdowns.

We should also be praying the Notre Dame spanks Stanford this weekend. A loss would mean very bad things for the Wolverines as the Big Ten continues to look weaker.

Yes but Penn State-Ohio State is here to save the conference this week, Dan! Two top ten teams beating each other up will outweigh the stench of the other eight or nine teams, right!?

Dan P: Well if this is a game for the ages where one team scrapes by the other in an impressive game by both teams, it could end up being good for the Wolverines. However I firmly believe Ohio is the better team and will end up beating Penn State handily. Penn State hasn’t put a complete game together at this point (terrible first halves of almost every game they have played). They can’t do that against one of the most physical rosters in the country or they will get left by the wayside.

Daniel A: Michigan has to continue running over teams this week. There can’t be a slip up. Northwestern is going to be desperate for a win and playing with emotion after losing Larkin for the year. I expect a hot start from the Cats. However, they don’t have near the firepower to hang with Michigan for the duration of 60 minutes. I want to see the same things this week that we ask for every week: offensive line growth, creativity and aggression from the passing game, and the special teams continue to range from solid to spectacular.

Wisconsin is two weeks away and the Spartans the following. The run game will be fslowed and the defense will be tested. Can Michigan get the “other things” right over the next two games to prepare for that? I hope we continue to see Shea gel with the receivers, and for guys like Nico Collins and Oliver Martin to show up more on the stat sheet.

Kevin: <ASDF> I think we knew Nico was going to be good...but he’s better than I thought he was capable of for barely playing last season. Donovan Peoples-Jones looks like a superhuman among boys out there most of the time, not necessarily physically overpowering, but he is just *better* than the people chasing him. The coaches may not have clued us in on Tarik Black’s return, but */fans self*. Anyone want to jump on the McElwain bandwagon with me or is it still too early?

Sam D: McElwain inherited four really talented receivers in DPJ, Collins, Martin and Black, as well as a veteran in Grant Perry. While I’m hesitant to credit him too much due to being giving a good hand, Zach Smith at Ohio State is proof that coaching can cripple talent. It’s worth mentioning that he had a hand in developing Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch when he played at Louisville, as well as the Michigan State receivers that gave the Wolverines fits from 2003 to 2005.

Michigan might be forced to air it out, as I expect Pat Fitzgerald to load the box and dare Michigan to beat some talented linebackers in Paddy Fisher and Nate Hall. Nebraska’s backers frequently got out of position last week, but Fitzgerald and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, a former player under Bo, will have their group better disciplined.

Fortunately for the pass game, Northwestern’s secondary lets up a lot of big passing plays -- seven over 25 yards in just three games. The Wildcats don’t really have the speedy edge rusher to give Runyan or Bushell-Beatty fits, so Patterson will have enough time to find receivers deep.

This game will be a poor man’s version of the Michigan State game. On the road, but a lot of maize and blue will be present. Quarterbacks with some NFL draft buzz will try to bolster an otherwise ineffective offense. Salty and smart defense. Use it as prep for Oct. 20.

Kevin: Prep for Oct 20th in a sense of preparing to have the John O’ Neil officiating crew, Sam? Because, yikes. I’m most bothered by that bizarre incomplete pass/safety interpretation, because it was wrong. It was ruled in Michigan’s favor but it was still wrong. Quite a liberal definition of possessing the ball when Martinez was making the smart play to bat the ball down. I shudder to think about what that crew will do in a close game...again. #B1GRefs

Fun drinking game idea: drink every time “Chicago” or “Medill” is heard. Try to make it through the rest of the day!