I’m not sure when the past two seasons fell apart, but the Michigan State game seemed like a big part of each collapse, maybe even the start of it. This year seems different, but I don’t think we’ll really know until Saturday. It was nice to beat up on Minnesota and steal a “road” game at Northwestern, but the test of whether this team is different than the past two years is Saturday.
I’ll save the suspense, I’ve bought in. I think this team is different and they’re for real this year. Is Michigan a national championship contender? No, probably not, but thanks to a favorable schedule they could actually play in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, which is just the way it should be. Even if they’re not one of the best teams in the country, they’re better than this Michigan State team, and I’m not sure it’s even that close.
State lost their best defensive player and seemingly their entire offensive line. They return Kirk Cousins, BJ Cunningham, Edwin Baker, and some other RB who crushed us last year. That’s no joke, but if Michigan gives them no space to run the ball and no time to throw it, those skill players shouldn’t matter too much. The “strength” of the State line is the guards who are sandwiched by a redshirt freshman center — Mike Martin should have ample opportunity to wreak havoc if Mark Dantonio doesn’t order a hit on him like he did last year. And the tackles on the State line might as well be named Gingor and Ghomas (as in, helpless kitties). Michigan should crush this line with a mix of Greg Mattison blitzes and just pure power.
Denard is obviously the key on offense. If he throws 3 interceptions again Michigan could be in trouble, but that’s not going to happen since Al Borges is going to focus the offense on short underneath throws with huge holes in the zone coverage (RIGHT, AL BORGES?). If Vincent Smith or Fitzgerald Toussaint or Michael Shaw can gain any yards on the ground that would be nice too, but Denard should have ample opportunity to run against a primarily Cover 2 defense. I’m sure State is prepared for the Denard/Devin combos that we’ve debuted the past couple weeks, and hopefully they spent quite a bit of time preparing for them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see those formations at all. We aren’t going to need them.
The past few years State has run a number of new packages, both offensively and defensively, to seemingly surprise Michigan. It wouldn’t shock me if they did the same thing this year, hell they’ll probably come out and throw 7 straight bubble screens, and switch to a stack defense just to fuck with us, but Michigan has shown an ability to adjust this year. I think we’ll adjust to the new stuff, and be familiar enough with the base packages to be able to keep them in check. And then I hope Brady Hoke has a couple F-U touchdowns in store for the past few years. And I also hope he punches Mark Dantonio in the face.
Michigan 45 Michigan State 17.
Update after getting crushed 28-14: I don’t have the heart to write a full recap, so I’ll just write a few notes.
- Michigan State was clearly better on both sides of the ball. On defense, they stacked the box and brought pressure on seemingly every down. On offense, they knocked the Michigan defensive line backwards on most of their runs. While Michigan struggled to find any running room, State ran it for 4 yards a pop on first down.
- The game was probably decided in the 2nd quarter when Michigan spent the entire quarter in State territory and came away with no points. On six occasions they punted from State territory, including a Lloyd Carr-esque punt on 4th and 4 from the State 36 yard line. Some of those punts can be blamed on the fact that Michigan was faced with 4th and very long, but Michigan’s inability to score in State territory brought back haunting memories of the past couple seasons.
- The wind obviously hurt both teams, but Denard was atrocious throwing the ball. Tough to say whether State’s strategy would have worked as well as it did if Denard had been able to throw it a little better, but the conditions clearly hampered his effectiveness.
- Michigan State was undisciplined (William Gholston was dirty) and sloppy for most of the game, but Michigan was unable to make them pay for any of those mistakes. It was nice that we remained composed in the face of numerous late hits and cheap shots, but our inability to do make them pay for any of those penalties was a huge factor in the loss.
- Glad Michigan didn’t stick around to shake hands. I hope Brady Hoke told them to leave the field.
- William Gholston had better be suspended for the Wisconsin game next week. It should be interesting to see whether that suspension comes from the Big Ten or whether Dantonio does it himself. Since it looked like Dantonio gave Gholston a butt slap after the punch, the former seems more likely.
- I’m not sure this game means we’re going to collapse like we did the past two years. Should be interesting to see how they respond in two weeks.