NCAA football: Unbeaten Michigan ready for Nebraska. Michigan State's bowl hopes still alive.
There’s been a lot of talk about polling and results this week in the state of Michigan and across the country. But now, with the University of Michigan football team undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the nation, it’s time to talk about some college football polls and results with Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon.
Bacon joined Morning Edition host Doug Tribou.
Saturday's games: Rutgers at Michigan State - Noon; Nebraska at No. 3 Michigan - 3:30 p.m.
Doug Tribou: The Michigan Wolverines are now 9-0 on the season. Three regular season games left. Saturday, they’ll host Nebraska. Game time is 3:30pm in Ann Arbor. Nebraska is on a three-game losing streak and Michigan is rolling. But what do the Wolverines need to improve on in the home stretch?
John U. Bacon: Two things. They've got to make sure they don't stumble over an opponent they've got no business losing to. Second thing, all Michigan fans seem to be grumbling about is what's called the red zone offense. That is [from] inside the 20-yard line to the goal line — that's known as the red zone — can they punch it in in that area? They've had mixed success there, often settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.
DT: And last weekend they did have a little bit more success in the red zone, but a couple of touchdowns barely, and I mean barely, got in.
JUB: Yeah, that's right. Blake Corum, the tailback, has been world class. He might be a Heisman Trophy finalist, as one of the best players in the country. J.J. McCarthy has got very good numbers as the quarterback, but it's just getting the playing calling and the synchronicity inside, the 20-yard line that has been on and off all season.
DT: I want to run a couple of numbers by you. Michigan is scoring 42.2 points per game and allowing just 12.1 points on average. That difference — 30.1 points — is the best in the nation. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh lost a lot of players from last year’s roster and is still having similar success. What’s driving that beyond the talent on the field?
JUB: Well, you and I have talked about this before, but it's worth underscoring because everyone else seems to forget it. A year and a half ago, Harbaugh was given basically a do-or-die contract by [Michigan] athletic director Warde Manuel. So [Harbaugh] swapped out six of his 10 assistant coaches, went with a much younger, less-experienced staff, and it has worked amazingly well.
DT: Michigan now has symmetry in the Associated Press College Football Poll and the College Football Playoff rankings. The Wolverines are No. 3 in both. Clemson and Alabama dropped out of the top four in the CFP after losses last weekend. So now it’s Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, and TCU. Michigan and Ohio State still have to face each other later this month, but do you still see a scenario where both teams could end up in the playoff?
"It's not fair to everybody involved, including the Spartans players who have been suspended. Get the investigation rolling."John U. Bacon on the pace of the investigations into the altercations after the UM-MSU game on Oct. 29
JUB: Absolutely. They have to win the next two games each. They've got to be 11-0, undefeated, going into the Michigan-Ohio State game. If it's well played and close, and whoever wins goes on to crush whatever team the Big Ten West provides for the Big Ten title game, if that all happens, then one of the teams will be No. 1 or 2 in the nation.
The other one should be, I think, No. 4. And if that's the case, for the first time, you would have two Big Ten teams in the final four, which the SEC, the Southeastern Conference, has done many times.
I think it's plausible and I think college football would probably hate it. They're not asking me, but I think it's how logic dictates, honestly. And, by the way, what did I just say? [laughs] Logic dictates anything in college athletics? I'm a rookie. Dumb mistake. My bad.
DT: Let's turn to Michigan State. The investigations are still ongoing into the altercations after the Michigan-Michigan State game a couple of weeks ago. Michigan State suspended eight players after the incidents. But the Spartans still managed a big win over highly ranked Illinois last weekend. MSU hosts Rutgers Saturday at noon in East Lansing. How do you like the Spartans' chances?
JUB: Well, a week ago I would have said not much chance with eight players out, of course, including a starter or two in that batch. But they played probably their best game of the season against a good Illinois team that was ranked No.16 in the country at the time at Illinois.
As far as the investigation goes, though, it's been almost two weeks. This has to be a simple process. Any good journalists could do this in two weeks. It's not fair to everybody involved, including the Spartans players who have been suspended. Get the investigation rolling. The Big Ten, I don't see them doing anything on this one right now. Maybe they are, but I don't see any evidence of it. So it's unfair to everybody. Get it done.
DT: And meanwhile, MSU needs to win two of their last three games to be eligible for a bowl game this season. John, thanks.
JUB: Thank you, Doug.
Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.