Thursday, October 13, 2011

Game Preview: Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines need little introduction. They are our hated rivals, the single team us and Ohio State could mutually agree to both smear out of the big 10 race every year. They would tell you this isn't a rivalry, but would reluctantly admit that Michigan State is the team they hate losing to most. As usual, Heck does an immaculate job summing up the hate from the Michigan State side. So, it's the Michigan game, on Saturday root for Greg Mattison to blitz his way off the field and maybe a drunken phone call to John Harbaugh seeing if maybe they could meet up for a cup of coffee sometime, you know, just to give back the stuff they still have of each other's?

This marks the third year in a row we're going to be playing Michigan's September Heisman Winner. This is the third year in a row we're playing an undefeated Michigan team that's going to beat us until we can't stand. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 Michigan's combined record coming into this game has been 15-0. We have been the Lloyd Carr to the JLS Wolverines the past couple of years and I'm good if we can pull this off a third year in a row.

Michigan's Passing Attack vs MSU's Pass Defense

Last year UM moved the ball on MSU until it got into the redzone and then D-Rob was more likely to complete a pass to us than he was to his own guys. This will be true again. D-Rob was such a good QB last year because Magee got D-Rob's receivers FILTHY open.

Denard is the best running back playing QB since Michael Vick. I seem to recall reading that MSU's defense has given up nine plays over 20 yards this season. Further, Denard has a real propensity for throwing moonballs, not manballs. So you have a strength of MSU's juxtaposed with a strong weakness of UM's. Denard is going to throw some picks, provided he throws at all.

Advantage: MSU

Michigan's Rushing Attack vs MSU's Rush Defense

Denard is the rushing attack too. Frankly, Denard's the whole damned offense. MSU has shown itself prepared to stop a rushing QB in Braxton Miller, but honestly, he's like Diet Caffeine Free Denard. The YPC is up across the board for their running backs, but at the end of the day stop Denard, stop the Wolverines.

MSU has been stingy against the run this year allowing an average of 64 yards per game and 74.5 against OSU and ND. I do not realistically expect us to surrender only 64 rushing yards against Michigan, but I do think we could keep them under 150. We only gave up 35 rushing yards to OSU and I think we're adequately prepared to stop a rushing QB.

Advantage: MSU

MSU's Passing Attack vs Michigan's Pass Defense

Michigan has the 39th ranked pass defense and has been real solid in the red zone. We've been moving the ball effectively, but kinda crappy in the redzone, 100th in the nation or worse. Mattison seems to run a high risk, high reward type defense with lots and lots of blitzing. So that makes this call a bit difficult. If Michigan can get the blitz home, MSU is in some trouble. If MSU can stop the blitz, Cousins could have a field day. Further complicating matters is that Cousins still has a brain fart when he's pressing. So, the key for MSU will be short, safe throws for 5-7 yards.

Advantage: Push. I think there are too many unknowns for me to call this with any confidence. Either side could massively outperform the other.

MSU's Rushing Attack vs Michigan's Rush Defense

The BBC backfield has struggled this year behind our woeful Offensive Line of Sorrow. I think the Woeful Offensive Line of Sorrow is turning into a Woeful Offensive Line of Patchworked Occasional Success. However, I don't see the OLine coming together enough over the bye week to turn the rushing attack into a scary juggernaut for this week's game.

Michigan's rush defense is ranked 58th, giving up 141.6 yards per game. Our Rushing Offense is ranked 79th. They're good in defending the red zone and we're not good at scoring in it so it'll be important if we're going to be good at rushing that it happens in their redzone. Bell will be a critical piece of this.

Advantage: UM. I think we have too many holes in our rushing game to be improved with a bye week.


So we had a bye week before this, which means we had time to drop some wrinkles in the playbook. With a bye week the week before we might come out a bit rusty. MSU has been outscored 49-20 in the first half of the two post bye week games under Dantonio. Still, we have saved some of our best for Michigan the past few years and with an extra week to cook things up, I expect some very interesting stunts and blitzes. Maybe a Keshawn package?

Michigan on the other hand, is playing with house money at this point. I don't think anyone expected Michigan to be 6-0 and in such resounding fashion at this point. So winning this game would be icing on the cake for them I think. State needs to jump out to a quick lead and keep it because UM is a second half team.

Advantage: UM, but slightly.

Overall: Earlier this week, I was a bit bearish on our chances this weekend, but it goes without saying that UM has not played a defense like ours yet. Further, they struggled in the early goings against every team they've played except Minnesota and SDSU. If MSU is going to win, it needs to come out early, get up big, and not get soft in the third and fourth quarters. If this were an away game, I'd worry about that a bit, but I think we'll be properly prepared and the rust will come off quick.I think the rushing game will surprise this week despite UM's perceived advantage in this arena. MSU's weaknesses seem slightly more likely to be overcome to me with the extra practice than UM's weaknesses.

Predicition: MSU 31 UM 28.

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