BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When Shea Patterson arrived at Michigan from Ole Miss, he was supposed to be the missing piece that Jim Harbaugh lacked in tracking down Ohio State in the Big Ten.
It's been a bit of a struggle, though, Last year was supposed to be the breakthrough year, but Ohio State made him look silly in a 62-39 blowout loss. He struggled to start this season and even heard a lot of boo-birds at the Big House, but in the past month, he's been on a roll.
Michigan is 9-2 now and has beaten Notre Dame, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana — all teams that have been ranked at one point this season — by a combined 166-45 score. That's basically a 42-11 score every week, with Patterson lighting everyone up. He had 366 yards and five touchdowns at Indiana on Saturday.
"He's just really talented, and we're riding him. His play has just been outstanding,'' Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's really seeing the field well, and is taking care of the ball at all times. It's rare that it's even close to a turnover. He's doing a great job in that regard, and playing really good, disciplined football. We hit some big plays into the teeth of the blitz today, and had some big conversions, and the receivers have been outstanding."
Michigan has looked so good in the past month, that there's going to be some controversy in the power poll today after 13 weeks of football.
Here are my rankings after the games of Nov. 23, with last week’s ranking and this week’s opponent included:
1. Ohio State (11-0) *** Last week: 1
Last week: Beat Penn State 28-17
This week: Ohio State at Michigan (9-2), Noon ET (TV: FOX)
The skinny: Ohio State has been perfect all year, but got a little scare last week with Penn State when the Buckeyes turned the ball over three times in the third quarter, letting the Nittany Lions back in the game. Now it’s on to the annual showdown with Michigan, this time in Ann Arbor. Ohio State has owned this series for so long that it’s hard to expect anything different. The Buckeyes are a 9-point favorite, which seems about right.
2. Michigan (9-2) *** Last week's ranking: 3
Last week: Beat Indiana 39-14
This week: Ohio State (11-0) at Michigan, Noon ET (FOX)
The skinny: Michigan has really looked good the past month or so in winning four straight and outscoring its opponents — Notre Dame, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana, all who were ranked at one point this season — 166-45 in the process. Can they finally beat Ohio State, though? I’ve been saying Ohio State is the best team in the country for two months now, so I would lean toward no, but this is the best Michigan has played in a long time. Just cover some crossing routes, please!
3. Penn State (9-2) *** Last week: 2
Last week: Lost to Ohio State 28-17
This week: Rutgers (2-9) at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)
The skinny: Penn State was the first team to give Ohio State a game all year, so there’s no shame in losing by 11 to the best team in the country. Penn State is a 50-point favorite against the Scarlet Knights, the largest PSU point spread every in a Big Ten game. A win against Rutgers is about as close to a guarantee as you can have, so does 10 wins put Penn State in the Rose Bowl?
4. Minnesota (10-1) *** Last week: 3
Last week: Beat Northwestern 38-22
This week: Wisconsin (9-2) at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ABC)
The skinny: Yeah, I know, still no respect for the 10-1 Gophers but even the win against Northwestern wasn’t all that impressive. Now the Big Ten West is on the line Saturday afternoon against Wisconsin, with the winner earning the trip to Indianapolis to play Ohio State. Wisconsin is a 2-point favorite, so don’t give me any disrespect grief.
5. Wisconsin (9-2) *** Last week: 5
Last week: Beat Purdue 45-24
This week: Wisconsin at Minnesota (10-1), 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ABC)
The skinny: Wisconsin kept its Big Ten West title hopes alive by beating Purdue, with Jonathan Taylor having another 200-yard rushing game. It’s great to have the division race come down to the finaly week of the season. This line opened with Wisconsin favored by 4 points, but it was down to 2 on Monday morning. It might very well be a pick ‘em game by Saturday, and you can’t ask for anything more than that in Week 14.
6. Iowa (8-3) *** Last week 6
Last week: Beat Illinois 19-10
This week: Iowa at Nebraska (5-6), Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)
The skinny: That was a good win for Iowa against an Illinois team that had been on a role. The Hawkeyes’ defense continues to carry this team, and they’ll get a chance to add to Nebraska’s misery on Friday in Lincoln. Iowa’s offense hasn’t traveled all that well this season, so they will have to pick it up a notch against the Cornhuskers
7. Indiana (7-4) *** Last week: 7
Last week: Lost to Michigan 39-14
This week: Indiana at Purdue (4-7), Noon ET (TV: ESPN2)
The skinny: Indiana is 7-4 now after back-to-back losses to No. 9 Penn State and then No. 12 Michigan. They wanted a signature win and didn’t get it, but this has still been a fantastic season and winning back the Old Oaken Bucket and getting to eight wins would be huge for Tom Allen and his staff, who’ve been working hard to change the cutler in Bloomington. Indiana is a 7-point favorite as of Monday morning, jumping from the opening line of 4.5. Records are out the window in rivalry games, though.
8. Illinois (6-5) *** Last week: 8
Last week: Lost to Iowa 19-10
This week: Northwestern (2-9) at Illinois, Noon ET (TV: FoxSports1)
The skinny: The Illini’s four-game winning streak came to an end against Iowa and it was a bit surprising that the offense struggled so much. The season-ender with Northwestern in big though, because it’s a chance for Illinois to get to seven wins, something no one expected at the beginning of the year. Illinois is a 10-point favorite.
9. Michigan State (5-6) *** Last week: 10
Last week: Beat Rutgers 27-0
This week: Maryland (3-8) at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
The skinny: Michigan State’s five-game losing streak finally came to an end in a dominating performance against Rutgers. It’s hard to put much into the that since Rutgers has struggled so bad, but now here comes Maryland, who’s been horrible for the last month, too. It’s the easiest finish in college football for the Spartans, who can become bowl eligibile with the win.
10. Purdue (4-7) *** Last week: 9
Last week: Lost to Wisconsin 45-24
This week: Indiana (7-4) at Purdue, Noon ET (TV: ESPN2)
The skinny: The Boilermakers simply couldn’t stop the run against Wisconsin, and that’s been an issue all year. The seventh loss means they can’t go to a bowl game this season, so the Bucket game becomes their bowl game. Indiana has struggled to defend the pass lately, so the Boilers know what to do in the game plan, basically throw it on every down. I’m really surprised the line jumped from 4.5 to 7 so quickly. I’ve got a feeling this one goes right down to the wire.
11. Nebraska (5-6) *** Last week: 11
Last week: Beat Maryland 54-7
This week: Iowa (8-3) at Nebraska, Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)
The skinny: Nebraska’s offense finally kicked into gear against Maryland in the 54-7 rout that the Cornhuskers really needed. Now they get Iowa at home in the traditional Friday after Thanksgiving slot, and the visiting Hawkeyes are favored by a field goal. Nebraska has to win to get bowl eligible, so this one is big.
12. Maryland (3-8) *** Last week: 12
Last week: Lost to Nebraska 54-7
This week: Maryland at Michigan State (5-6), 3:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
The skinny: Maryland failed to show up again and got routed by Nebraska 54-7. Frankly, being ranked 12th is a bonus, and it’s only because Northwestern and Rutgers are so bad that I can’t drop the Terps any lower. They are 21-point underdogs this week against Michigan State. It’s been a disappointing first year for coach Mike Locksley.
13. Northwestern (2-9) *** Last week: 13
Last week: Lost to Minnesota 38-22
This week: Northwestern at Illinois (6-5), Noon ET (TV: FoxSports1)
The skinny: Northwestern played better and finally scored some points against Minnesota, but it still wasn’t enough. It still amazes me that Northwestern won its last seven straight Big Ten games a year ago, and has lost eight straight this season. What a turnaround. Can they save their season with a win at Illinois? It was sure help the offseason mental aspects.
14. Rutgers (2-9) *** Last week 14
Last week: Lost to Michigan State 27-0
This week: Rutgers at Penn State (9-2), 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)
The skinny: It’s almost over, Scarlet Knight fans. The 27-0 loss to Michigan State was more of the same, and this week at Penn State should get pretty ugly, too. Then it’s on to an offseason of change with a new coach coming on board. Will it make any difference?
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