The Mixed-Up Middle: #6-9

How well are Michigan and Penn State equipped for the rest of the season? - Justin K. Aller

In the most recent Power Poll, there was plenty of consternation among the voters over who went where after Wisconsin but before Minnesota. With so much uncertainty in the rankings, we decided to break down where everyone in the mediocre, uh, I mean, jumbled-up middle of the conference stands at the halfway point.

Yes, you know what that means: sorry, Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue. We don't see it happening. Sorry, Ohio State and Wisconsin, but you guys get happy things right now, and I'm not really in a happy place to deal with it. The rest of us cheer for teams where we can give Ohio State a game one week, then be worried about the Mighty Minnesota Rush coming to town the next week. In this two-part series, we're taking the results of our last Power Poll (seriously, go read Jesse Collins' amazing Street Fighter work) and taking a look at the teams ranked #3-9.

#9: Indiana (67 pts, ranked 6-10)

Strengths

babaoreally: Offense, remaining schedule.

Jesse: They’re really good at passing the ball. Like, really really good.

CfB: Ted Bolser, when the offense remembers he exists.

GA: They have enough weapons that it's nearly impossible to account for all of them every play, and enough of these guys are big-play threats that one play's really all it takes; they were the first team in I don't even know how long to have 2 50+ yard plays against MSU.

Weaknesses

babaoreally: Defense.

Jesse: Not so good at stopping people who are running the ball good.

CfB: Inconsistent defense, occasionally leaving points on the field on offense.

GA: Uh yeah. Defense. Also, the punter really wasn't very good against MSU in a game with near-ideal weather. But with their offense, that's a relatively small issue.

Outlook

babaoreally: 6-6.

Jesse: Bowl game!

MNW: Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue. These are the teams, Indiana. You have no room for error if you lose to Michigan. I think IU loses to Michigan but finds a way to get out of their own way, Play 13, and get into a good ol’ shootout with some fringe Big XII team.

CfB: Beat who you should beat, keep it close against everyone else, and end up in Dallas or Detroit. Fail to do that, and Kevin Wilson’s seat gets just a bit warmer.

GA: Pizza Pizza. Actually, probably better than that because I don't think we're getting 8 teams to bowl eligibility this year.

#8: Iowa (71, 6-9)

Strengths

Jesse: Pretty great LB corp. Good run defense. Better offense than in the past few years.

MNW: If this team gets running downhill, I don’t want to get in the way of them. Just have to keep Mark Weisman healthy.

GA: Jake Rudock has really impressed me in his first year starting, especially considering this offense is still awkwardly trying to blend Ferentz's and Davis' schemes; by the time his career's over, he could be looked at as Ferentz's best QB.

Weaknesses

Jesse: Still don’t have that big play guy on offense, not extremely deep, not so great in the secondary.

MNW: I don’t see them stopping the pass effectively enough to claim a scalp.

GA: Iowa, y u no use tight ends moar? I've been wondering for like 8 seasons now about their tendency to forget that C.J. Fiedorowicz is an uncoverable giant.

Outlook

Jesse: They’ll go bowling. Not sure if that’s two or four more wins, but I suppose anything is possible. I like their run game when healthy and the defense can be stout against the right matchup.

MNW: Bowling, and I would put the wins over Purdue and Michigan.

(Mike, you big jerk)

#7: Michigan (94, 5-7)

Strengths

Ted:  Devin Gardner’s legs, defense.

Jesse: Not the fiercest defense, what with MSU and such, but they have an ok schedule and are still not in as bad a hole as Northwestern is.

GA: With Gardner, Gallon, and Funchess, they have guys that can make miracles happen at any given moment. Seriously, who can cover Funchess one-on-one?

Weaknesses

Ted: Devin Gardner’s arm, offensive line.

Jesse: No offensive identity, no running game outside Gardner, and their coach realizes there aren’t easy fixes either which leaves this with very little potential for getting better.

Graham: Inability for the offensive playcallers to make in-game adjustments.

CfB: Adding onto Ted’s list, Devin Gardner’s decision making. Also, playing down to their competition.

GA: All the offensive problems do exist, but against PSU, the run defense was surprisingly weak once Belton got in the game, considering the head coach and DC both personally work with the defensive line.

Outlook

Ted: Michigan can’t run the ball, and Devin Gardner can’t carry the offense with his arm.  Their defense is good, but not elite, so a good offense can outscore the Michigan offense.  I think Al Borges will be overwhelmed against a great defense.

Jesse: Not winning the division, but probably grabbing a couple of scalps along the way because they have a lot of talent being developed as we speak. I’m also hoping they lose to Indiana.

Graham: If Michigan disregards the stretch run fails and adds some short passes, something anything different, then they can and will beat anyone. Until then, it’s just a mediocre, inconsistent team.

MNW: Ugh. This team could somehow still luck into the division. But they won’t. I’m excited for the Paul Bunyan Trophy game. Sparty could lack the smack on Devin Gardner.

GA: It would be a lot better if Borges' track record made me think he was at all capable of molding his game plan to his players. UM also has to pray to Bo's ghost that nothing happens to Gardner on the dozens of carries they're giving him, since their offense begins and ends with him.

#6: Penn State (105, 5-7)

Strengths

Jesse: In general, they are a solidly coached team and will play with good energy every week.

Green Akers: The top-end talent is as good as anyone’s- Allen Robinson, Donovan Smith, and DaQuan Jones can dominate games at really important positions.

Weaknesses

Jesse: While the energy thing is true, they’re also young and depth is going to show up soon. They also don’t have the best defense in the world. Oh, and Hack can be great, but he’s a Freshman. That will be a roller coaster this year.

CfB: When the offense starts bogging down/BO’B gets too pass happy, the defense keying on Allen Robinson shuts down most of the offense, and puts Hackenberg in a really tough spot.

GA: Penn State, your secondary...woof! This seems to be where the depth issues have started to surface already, and any sensible coach (snide glance at Al Borges) is going to scorch them with the pass until they show they can stop it.

Outlook

CfB: If Penn State can keep the offense moving, they have the talent to compete with anyone in the B1G this year. I’m glad Indiana doesn’t have to see them again until next year at the earliest.

MNW: I tabbed Penn State in the preseason to upset Nebraska at home on November 23. I’m not ready to back off that yet, because I see a team in Penn State who can give any team in the coference a game on a given day.

What's your outlook for these teams? Should Minnesota be considered in the hunt for a bowl game? What did we miss in the strengths and weaknesses? Tell us where we went wrong in the comments!

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