Revenge Tour 2018 is turning into quite a show. That is the leading headline out of the Big Ten in this week's Big Ten Takeaways.
Revenge Tour Rolls On
The Michigan Wolverines have been using the hashtag on social media in recent weeks, alluding to the losses last year handed down by the likes of...*deep breath*....
- Michigan State: 14-10
- Penn State: 42-13
- Wisconsin: 24-10
- Ohio State: 31-20
The common denominator? Michigan's offense failed them. But the defense took the losses personally, particularly Defensive Coordinator and internet cult hero Don Brown.
Not this year. Not with the timely return of DL Rashan Gary from a lingering shoulder injury yesterday. Nor with the play of DE Chase Winovich up front. Not with the ball-hawking of CBs David Long and Lavert Hill. No. The Michigan Revenge Tour claimed its third victim in as many games.
Three weeks ago on Big Ten Takeaways I outlined the Wolverines' pathway to the College Football Playoff. Embarrass Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State, then beat the Buckeyes.
"As for Michigan’s resume? Embarrassing Wisconsin is a good start. Their next two games are home against Michigan State and then into Happy Valley to take on the Lions. They win both of those games convincingly? Then it’s going to be winner take all between the Buckeyes and Wolverines after Thanksgiving."
In Week 7, Michigan dismantled QB Alex Hornibrook and the Badgers, 38-13. Wisconsin mustered 7-20 passing for 100 yards and 2 interceptions.
Week 8? Michigan's defense was even better, locking down the Spartans for 94 total yards of offense. QB Brian Lewerke was 5-25 passing for 66 yards.
And now, after a bye, the Wolverines handed in perhaps their most complete performance of the year. Opposing QB Trace McSorley was 5 of 13 for 83 yards and an interception. Star RB Miles Sanders rushed seven times for 14 yards. Michigan forced a total of 3 turnovers and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
Let's revisit that Revenge Tour schedule again, shall we?
- Michigan State: Check
- Penn State: Check
- Wisconsin: Check
- Ohio State: ....
Maybe, if we're lucky, we can add a fifth date on the tour. Who else would love to see Michigan get another crack at #3 Notre Dame, who handed a very different looking Wolverines team their only loss on the year in South Bend Week 1?
There are two certainties in the Big Ten right now. Michigan is good. Rutgers is bad.
Teams that have a current win-loss streak of two games either way in the Big Ten include: Ohio State (W1), Michigan State (W2), Maryland (L1), Penn State (L1), Northwestern (L1), Purdue (W1), Wisconsin (W1), Iowa (L2), Illinois (W1), Minnesota (L1), Nebraska (L1).
That's pretty much everyone. But just as notable is the way the games are unfolding. Purdue smashed Ohio State thanks to a career night from QB David Blough, only to watch Blough cough up three interceptions against Michigan State. And this week? Blough was back to a star, leading Purdue to a last moment victory over Iowa.
Wisconsin suddenly remembered they have one of the most powerful offensive lines in the country after logging 165 rushing yards on 32 attempts against Northwestern. That 5.2 average isn't bad until you factor a 19-yard rush from WR Danny Davis and consider star RB Jonathan Taylor logged 46 yards on 11 carries. This week? 317 rushing yards on 46 carries. Taylor had 27 attempts for 208 yards.
Ohio State was unstoppable in the first half of the season. Then came the derailment against Purdue. And this week QB Dwayne Haskins looked mortal in the team's 36-31 win over lowly Nebraska. The most concerning piece of the puzzle? Nebraska logged 450 yards of offense. True freshman QB Adrian Martinez was 22 of 33 passing for 266 yards.
This marks the 6th time in 9 games an Ohio State opponent has scored more than 24 points. The only three to miss the mark? Rutgers (3), Tulane (6) and Minnesota (14). The 2017 Ohio State defense held opposition under that mark 11 times in 14 games. The only three to surpass 24 points were then #5 Oklahoma (31), then #2 Penn State (38) and Iowa (55).
Who doesn't love a good yard game? If you like Bocce Ball, might I recommend Bachie Ball...as in Michigan State LB Joe Bachie Jr. The junior linebacker is in his second season as the team's starting MIKE linebacker and he's playing lights out football.
Currently on pace for his second consecutive 100 tackle season, Bachie has a nose for the football that's a pretty rare find at the college level.
No, Bachie doesn't have the mobility or explosiveness of a Devin Bush. Nor does he have the prototypical length of a Paddy Fisher. He lacks some of the dynamic range of Alabama's Mack Wilson and he certainly doesn't command the kind of fear over the middle that LSU's Devin White does.
But Bachie plays a smart, disciplined brand of football. At a listed 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, he should have no issue meeting the thresholds NFL teams will require.
And all those smarts often times yield splash plays. Like an interception against Utah State (who is suddenly quite good) in a tight game. Or the forced fumble when Bachie arrived at the mesh point against Maryland on Saturday and had the awareness to rip out the football.
Bachie has five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and four tackles for loss in the last five weeks. He's coming on strong as a featured piece of a tough defense and should be a bit more on the 2019 NFL Draft radar entering the final weeks of the season.