Opponent Watch: Week 6

Because the laws of the internet compel me to...

#7/4 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0)
Last week: Beat Rutgers 31-24
This week: @ Michigan, 3:30 ESPN

I was able to catch most of the 2nd half against Rutgers last weekend and couldn't have been less surprised to see the Scarlet Knights ahead well into the 3rd quarter. You could argue, and some folks have, that Dantonio is sand-bagging leading up to the Michigan game...which seems like a real possibility because how can Michigan State go from what they've been the last 2 years to what they are now. I know injuries have been a factor, but this is 6 games in a row where the Spartans have failed to impress anyone.

Rutgers, like Purdue the week before, was driving late to at least tie or maybe win the game. But a huge game management error by Rutgers QB Chris Laviano who spiked the ball on 4th down as time was winding down bailed the Spartans out of another nail bitter.

Connor Cook, who is an impressive QB at times, had a yards per attempt of 9.3 against a pretty tame Rutgers defense. WR Aaron Burbridge, who had a season-high 9 grabs for 146 yards, is MSU's biggest threat...but that could play right into Michigan's biggest strength...their secondary. The banged up OL and running back corps will have a long day against the nations #2 rushing defense. There's no question if Michigan State wants to keep this next game close, Connor Cook is going to have to play the game of his life.

Regardless of point spreads and margins of victory, Michigan State is still undefeated and will be jacked up and ready to go this Saturday. A rivalry game has a way of bringing out unexpected performances, for both teams. Just ask Oklahoma.

Fear Factor: Unchanged

Minnesota (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: Beat Purdue 41-13
This week: vs Nebraska, 3:30 ESPN

Freshman RB Shannon Brooks, who finished the day with 176 yards on 17 carries, broke this game open with his 71-yard touchdown run in Minnesota's huge 28-point 3rd quarter. The Gophers were desperately looking for someone to step up on this offense and they got it against the Boilers. Head coach Jerry Kill has to be happy to get the kind of performance he was likely suspecting since week 1 for this team. The tough part now is to keep it going against Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in their next 4 games.

Fear Factor: Up

Rutgers (2-3, 0-2)
Last week: Lost to Michigan State 31-24
This week: @ Indiana, 3:30 BTN

Rutgers was one really bad QB decision and an improbable touchdown away from sending their primetime matchup with Michigan State into overtime. In a season where off-field issues have plagued Rutgers, this game could've been a much needed spark had it gone the other way. What might help is head coach Kyle Flood returning from his 3-game suspension to lead Rutgers down the stretch, which will be remarkably tougher than the first 5 games for the Scarlet Knights.

Fear Factor: Unchanged

Indiana (4-2, 0-2)
Last week: Lost to Penn State 29-7
This week: vs Rutgers, 3:30 BTN

For a while there against Ohio State, it looked like Indiana might be a legit threat to the upper crust of the league. But a narrow loss to the Buckeyes and some key injuries have really sent the Hoosiers season into a tailspin. It's unclear whether QB Nate Sudfeld or RB Jordan Howard will be available to go this week vs Rutgers. One thing is clear though...this IU offense really doesn't go without those playmakers in the backfield. If Indiana hopes to make a bowl game, they need to get the win this weekend.

Fear Factor: Down

Penn State (5-1, 2-0)
Last week: Beat Indiana 29-7
This week: @ Ohio State, 8:00 ABC

Penn State was the latest team to benefit from playing Indiana's 114th ranked defense. The Hoosiers passing defense ranks 125th out of 127 FBS teams allowing 325.5 ypg through the air, yet Christian Hackenberg, the NFL prodigy that he's been hyped to be, completed only about half of his 39 passes for 262 yards...a 6.7 yards per throw average. I haven't actually watched a Penn State game yet this year, but I can't tell from what I've heard and what I see on paper, that this team is damn lucky to be 5-1 and 2-0 in the conference.

Fear Factor: Unchanged

#1/1 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0)
Last week: Beat Maryland 49-28
This week: vs Penn State, 8:00 ABC

Final scores are deceiving sometimes. Take this 49-28 win over Maryland. The score was 21-21 deep into the 3rd quarter when Ohio State was finally able to connect on some deep balls to exploit Maryland's secondary. Cardale Jones actually had one of his best statistical performances of the year, leading to further speculation about Ohio State's nagging QB controversy. You do get the feeling that until they name JT Barrett the starter, this offense will just continue to spin its wheels. Watch out for Penn State this weekend...this is going to be an interesting game to watch.

Fear Factor: Unchanged

Handy chart...

Michigan's Opponent Records

UTAH W W W W - W - - - - - - - 5-0
ORST W L W L - L - - - - - - - 2-3
UNLV L L L W W L - - - - - - - 2-4
BYU W W L L W W - - - - - - - 4-2
UMD W L W L L L - - - - - - - 2-4
NW W W W W W L - - - - - - - 5-1
MSU W W W W W W - - - - - - - 6-0
MINN L W W W L W - - - - - - - 4-2
RUT W L L W - L - - - - - - - 2-3
IND W W W W L L - - - - - - - 4-2
PSU L W W W W W - - - - - - - 5-1
OSU W W W W W W - - - - - - - 6-0
TOT 9-3 8-4 9-3 9-3 6-3 6-6 - - - - - - - 47-22

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