Michigan State Week
Preview: As the Wolverines head into tomorrow’s big game against in-state rival Michigan State, thoughts abound. For starters, the Wolverines are about where I thought they’d be at this point. At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Wolverines would finish 7-5 for the year. Currently standing at 5-0, the Wolverines should get to 7 wins by mid November. Unfortunately, the schedule gets pretty tough as we head into the Big Ten Schedule. I felt (as did most others) that the offense would carry the team and that the defense would struggle. What I did not foresee is how dominant Denard Robinson would be as the quarterback. So for that, I’m pumped to have a game-breaker on offense. On the other hand, I’m not that surprised at the state of the defense. I figured they would be pretty bad, and they’ve lived up to expectations. For that reason, I can’t see the Wolverines pulling off a victory tomorrow in Ann Arbor.
Offense: Both teams are experienced. The Wolverines showcase a spread attack centered around their fleet-footed quarterback Denard Robinson. With experience upfront and in the wide receiver corps, the Wolverines’ offense is a juggernaut. The Spartans offer a more traditional attack centered around the tailback duo of Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell, and then using play-action passes to keep opposing defenses on their heels. What’s more, junior quarterback Kirk Cousins is one of the 2-3 best signal callers in the conference and is capable of hurting the Wolverines with either his arm or his legs.
Defense: The Wolverines are abysmal. Though DT Mike Martin may be one of the best at his position in the country, the rest of the defense is pretty weak. The strength of the defense is up front where hybrid LB/DT Craig Roh and DE Ryan Van Bergen complement Martin quite well. WLB Jonas Mouton has been solid in spots and FS Cam Gordon is improving. However, none of that is enough to compensate for weak play at MLB and in the secondary and that will be the Wolverines undoing. The Spartans are led by All-American LB Greg Jones and have performed pretty well against the run. However, they’re subject to mistakes in the passing game and could be vulnerable to deep throws, should they focus on stopping Denard.
Special Teams: The Spartans have the advantage in special teams, considering Keyshawn Martin’s ability in the return game. If that wasn’t enough, the Wolverines kicking game is a hot mess
Coaching: Although I applaud Michigan State head Mark Dantonio for righting the ship in the wake of the mess that was left by his predecessor John L. Smith, I’m still not sold on his skills as a big game coach. Especially considering the fact that he’s really only beat up on rivals like Notre Dame and Michigan; teams that have been noticeably down in recent years. Further, his status for the game may be either a plus or a minus considering his recent health issues. On the other hand, Rodriguez has been one of the game’s best and he finally has critical pieces in place offensively. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to have grave doubts about Greg Robinson’s abilities as a defensive coordinator, so I’m going to push here.
Intangibles: Were the Spartans to win tomorrow it would be the first time since before the days of Bo Schembechler, that the Spartans won three of these games in a row. What’s more, Rodriguez is coaching for his job this season and is playing at home. With Denard Robinson on his side, Coach Rod has the best player in the game at his disposal which gives the Wolverines an edge in this category.
Prediction: This should be one for the ages, with both offenses scoring at will. However, I believe the Wolverines have been living on borrowed time by edging past weak teams, solely on the backs of their offense and that can only take you so far. Since I think 40 is the magic number for the Wolverines and I don’t see the Spartans giving up that many points, I give the edge to Sparty: Michigan State 38 – Michigan 35