Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview the MSU-Purdue game. The Detroit News
File this past week as one of the nuttiest to cover with all the post-Michigan-Michigan State game fireworks that dragged on and on into a galaxy far, far away. Frankly, this is the stuff in-state rivalries are made of. No one was injured in the making of this pre-game altercation — using that word loosely — but the verbal fisticuffs between the fanbases have been at a fever pitch. Maybe that’s in part because Michigan is off this weekend. Or not. But with a little extra time, let’s check out the mail:
► Question. Going to make it tough — Who are the THREE most important players that Michigan needs to play well (at current level or better) in November to make it to Indy and what ONE player that is still somewhat under the radar will have the biggest November impact? — @UofMKirwin
► Answer. Matt, great question. The three are, in no order, Shea Patterson, Quinn Nordin and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Notice I didn’t mention one of the 11 on defense? I’ll get to that.
Patterson has learned to play within the system, doesn’t freelance too much — which can be dangerous in terms of turnovers, and you can’t have those in the final month with Penn State and Ohio State ahead — and is working at making the smartest decision each and every play.
For obvious reasons, having a confident kicker and, conversely, confidence in your kicker, is key, especially late in the season in tight games, right? We’ve all seen it — cold, late-November Saturday, or even in the cozy confines of a domed stadium for a championship and it comes down to a kick.
Patterson and Peoples-Jones connected in a big way to boost the scoring at Michigan State. Peoples-Jones has to be “that” receiver this next push who can be the gamebreaker because he has game-breaker moves and speed.
As far as someone under the radar, I’m going with Bryan Mone. I know he’s been starting at nose tackle, but who has really spent a lot of time talking about him? He has gone about his business and was particularly good at it against Michigan State. With the uncertainty of Rashan Gary’s status, Mone has to continue to anchor a line that is working to overcome Gary’s absence.
► Q. Who is the top dog on the interior of the DL and any chance Uche gets more involved before third down? Him and Carlo Kemp both impressive recently. — @bluebettingtips
► A. Just above I mentioned Bryan Mone and how he has quietly had a solid season and continues to improve at a position that isn’t for, really, the faint of heart. You mentioned Kemp, and wow, what a transition he has made from the outside. He gained weight and strength, practiced at both spots during the spring and convinced defensive line coach Greg Mattison he could make this move, and he has. You want to see more Uche? You’re going to. Book it.
► Q. If Michigan isn’t in the B1G Championship will this season be a disappointment considering PSU and Ohio are both flawed this year? — @jonathoncasalou
► A. It will be a disappointment because the players set Lucas Oil Stadium on their GPS. That has been the goal — the first goal, not the only goal — and if they don’t reach the Big Ten title game, that will be an enormous letdown, and not because of Penn State and Ohio State. Losing to Penn State would be a blow considering that’s at Michigan Stadium and the Wolverines will be coming off a bye.
► Q. Does Harbaugh change kickers? Does UM have a backup to do that? — @KrollRon
► Q. Are we being too harsh on Quinn Nordin for missing 4 field goals so far this year? He only missed 5 all last year! — @z77z777
► Q. What is more likely to happen this year, Michigan place kicker wins game or loses a game? — @bongiornomd
► A. Lots of questions about kicking. His performance is puzzling this season, particularly more recently, but they can’t give up on Quinn Nordin. He has too powerful a leg and has shown he can make important kicks. Jim Harbaugh calls this “improvement week” and there’s no doubt Nordin has been working to find what has been missing. Thinking back to Lloyd Carr and when he coached, he gave his kickers golf-focused books to read because the mental approach to golf is similar to that of kicking. “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” was a favorite of Carr’s that he had the kickers read. This might be a good time to hand that book to Nordin.
► Q. Is Patterson back next year or NFL bound in your opinion? Mom’s opinion? — @TheCincyBuckeye
► A. You know, Cincy, you seem to take a great interest in Michigan football. Are you a closet Michigan fan masquerading as a Buckeye? Tell the truth. And you want Mom’s opinion? Really? I’m not sure my mother has a mailbag that appears in The Detroit News! As far as Patterson, my gut feeling is he will move on after this season. I haven’t asked him about it, and no way would he say, but let’s see how the rest of the season plays out. IF Michigan does big things, I can’t imagine he stays. Perhaps this depends on what he hears from NFL scouts, since that always factors into players’ decisions, but I’m sticking to what my gut says.
► Q. Any chance Jim Harbaugh shows up in an X-Wing fighter outfit at his news press conference? — @bennietheblade
► A. Joe: Please please make that happen!
► Q. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? — @BenSzilagy
► A. Ben, you’re officially BLOCKED.