Friday, October 19, 2012

Preview: Michigan vs. Michigan State

Rush Offense vs. MSU Rush Defense

Michigan is #17 in rushing offense with 233 yards/game.  As you probably could have guess, Denard Robinson leads the team in rushing; he gets 134 yards/game himself and is the nation's fourth-best rusher.  Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (46 yards/game) is feeling a push from backup Thomas Rawls, who has gained 174 yards and score 2 touchdowns on just 25 carries, albeit mostly in mop-up duty.  Meanwhile, the Spartans are #8 in the country against the run and give up just 91 yards/game.  There's a bit of turmoil on their defense, though, because starting linebacker and captain Chris Norman was benched last week in favor of Taiwan Jones, and Kurtis Drummond was promoted to the starting role at safety, because of underperformance on their parts.  Linebacker Max Bullough leads the team with 58 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss.  Defensive ends Marcus Rush and William Gholston are both somewhat disruptive forces at defensive end, but the defensive tackles are mediocre.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. MSU Pass Defense
The Spartans have the #12 pass efficiency defense and the #17 pass defense, giving up just over 178 yards/game.  Clearly, this is not because teams are having so much success in the running game that they don't have to pass.  The Spartans are legitimately good.  In the last couple games, Michigan has really committed to its running game and essentially given up on hoping that Denard Robinson's passing can win games for them.  The Wolverines will use play action passes and get guys like Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess open that way.  The Spartans have a couple solid corners, and their front seven will get some pressure if Michigan is forced into obvious passing situations, so Michigan will have to stay on schedule by running the ball.  No MSU player has more than one interception, but Johnny Adams is considered by some to be the conference's best corner.
Advantage: Michigan State

Rush Defense vs. MSU Rush Offense
The Wolverines are #55 in rush defense and give up 148 yards/game, but a huge chunk of those yards were piled up by Alabama and Air Force in the first couple weeks.  In the last three games, Michigan has given up 94, 56, and 105 yards on the ground.  The linebackers are rounding into form, and nose tackle Quinton Washington has started to assert himself as a bit of a space eater up the middle.  The Spartans are surprisingly 84th in the nation running the ball as a team; they get 144 yards/game, but workhorse tailback Le'veon Bell gets 130 of those each week.  Michigan State's offensive line has been battered and wasn't great to begin with, and that's beginning to show.  Bell will gain some yards because he breaks tackles, but this likely won't be one of his better rushing days.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. MSU Pass Offense
The Spartans have thrown for 236 yards/game so far this season, but leading receiver Dion Sims might miss the game due to injury; he averages 4 receptions and 52 yards/game.  Keith Mumphery and Aaron Burbridge have both stepped up in recent weeks, and those are a couple guys who can run after the catch.  Michigan's performance last week against Illinois jumped them all the way up to #3 nationally in passing yards allowed per game (139), but the Wolverines are #95 in sacks and don't have great cover guys on the outside; however, they put pressure on quarterbacks by slanting linemen and sending guys from the back seven.  Quarterbacks can get rid of the ball, but they're often in a hurry to do so.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes
  • Michigan recruited WR De'Anthony Arnett, WR Aaron Burbridge, RB Larry Caper, LB Ed Davis, S Kurtis Drummond, DE William Gholston, DT Tyler Hoover, WR Monty Madaris, LB Chris Norman, DE Marcus Rush, TE Dion Sims, and DE Lawrence Thomas.
  • LS Taybor Pepper was once committed to Michigan as a preferred walk-on, but then signed with MSU after they offered a him a scholarship.
  • Michigan plays their most emotional game of the year.
  • Denard Robinson reverses his trend of playing poorly against Michigan State, but still throws a pick.
  • Aaron Burbridge burns Michigan once or twice for big plays.
  • Le'veon Bell has a forgettable game.
  • Michigan 24, Michigan State 17
A Look Back . . . 


  1. I hope you're right, man. We've got to beat these guys.

  2. Like you, I think Vegas is overstating things with the 10 point line, but I think it's even closer. MSU always brings its best for UM and, especially now, with 3 losses already, they're going to view this as their season-defining game.

    MSU's D is excellent and they've specialized in stopping Denard. Michigan couldn't run against Alabama or Notre Dame and MSU is at that same level. They'll key on the run and let the DBs cover one-on-one. Michigan will be forced to pass. Do you trust Denard to beat them with the pass? I do not. Funchess and Gardner are going to have to make enough plays to offset Denard's mistakes. Hopefully Borges dials up the right mix of screens, Max-protects, and roll-outs to keep the MSU D from teeing off on Denard.

    Will MSU be able to score? Probably not a lot, but they have 4 excellent talents in Bell, Burbridge, Thomas, and Sims. Michigan will focus on stopping Bell, and, just like MSU's D, force the other team to pass. Maxwell will have time to throw, because our pass rush isn't nearly as fierce as MSU's and is more blitz dependent. MSU is going to bring some new wrinkles out that could surprise Michigan's defense.

    In a contest where the score is likely to be determined by which QB can make plays without screwing up - I think MSU is better off.

    That said, this game can hinge on a single big play. We have Norfleet and we have homefield advantage. That might be enough to offset what is seems like a coin-flip game to me.

    I'm expecting a classic, hard-fought battle, that comes down to a big 4th quarter play.

    UM 17 MSU 16

    1. Michigan moved the ball very well against ND, especially in the 2nd half. I don't see 200 yard rushing from Denard, but I don't see 50 yard rushing from him either. He will probably go 70-120 yard rushing, which should be enough to keep Sparties in check. Given Sparties' weak OL and its depth, I am sure Mattison will dial up the pressure on Maxwell.
      While this game used to bring the best out of Sparties, I don't see a close game. Michigan certainly will covert the spread.

    2. Michigan averaged 3.9 ypc against ND. That's not terrible, but it's not great either, for a run-oriented offense.

      In the second half of that game Michigan only had 3 offensive series. Yeah, they 'moved the ball' but it took a lot of plays to do so and never ended very well. 1st series was a denard fumble, 2nd series took a bunch of 3rd or 4th down conversions before a FGA. The 3rd was a pass-dominated hurry-up that took 3 and a half minutes to get to another FGA. That's far from my definition of success...and MSU's D is better than ND's.

      I don't know that saying MSU 'used to' do anything is appropriate until they stop doing it against Michigan. I hope that happens tomorrow, but I'm not expecting it.

    3. I must be missing something. Excellent talent in Sims (may be held out) and Thomas (who? Not L. Thomas at FB, right?). Bell yes, Burbridge, maybe. Michigan has Robinson, Fitz, and the two Devins. More playmakers and better lineman on both sides. MSU does have some things going for them, but not in the offensive playmaker category.

      Also, if it's which QB can make plays without screwing up, I take Robinson. He may screw up but he certainly will make plays. MSU's QB does not make plays.

    4. I must be missing something. Excellent talent in Sims (may be held out) and Thomas (who? Not L. Thomas at FB, right?). Bell yes, Burbridge, maybe. Michigan has Robinson, Fitz, and the two Devins. More playmakers and better lineman on both sides. MSU does have some things going for them, but not in the offensive playmaker category.

      Also, if it's which QB can make plays without screwing up, I take Robinson. He may screw up but he certainly will make plays. MSU's QB does not make plays.

    5. MSU's defense is NOT better than ND's and their "fierce" pass rush has tallied just 6 sacks in 7 games.

    6. @Lanko
      Michigan completely changed its game plan in the 2nd half against ND. (And never looked back afterward.) I don't have the number with me, but I know we moved the ball much better in the 2nd half... much better than your number indicates. Who cares whether we converted bunch of 3rd or 4th downs? When rushing is your bread and butter play, you tend to have many 3rd down situations in your drive. As long as we move the ball, that's good enough for me. While the final score doesn't back it up, the game was certainly winnable at the very least. Well, if you think that we will give a way the ball as often as we did in the ND game, LOL

      I would not say MSU has a better D than ND. ND's LBs: better than MSU's, ND's DL: better than MSU's. MSU's D is good, but not as good in 2011 without Worthy. Besides, without any snap count issues we had last year, I am sure our O will perform better.

    7. Lank, if you think MSU's D is on the same level as Alabama's, you need to drink less.

      Also, WTF are you talking about with regards to Thomas and Sims? One is a fat fullback and the other is currently hobbled.

      Bell is dangerous, but David Wilson of VT last year was even scarier. Greg Mattison has the ability to point out a player and totally shut them down.

  3. Yeah I think, maybe too optimistically, that Michigan will win this handily. I personally haven't been too impressed with state from what I've seen this season

  4. No "advantage X"? Also, you said "could have guess", which lol.

  5. Ditto that JC! I felt Michigan ran the ball vs ND well too, and with a steady dose of Denard and Rawls, they should have success against Sparty. I don't think they'll have an answer for Funchess either. Sparty's confidence has been shaken, so if things start going Michigan's way early it'll take the wind out of their sails. Defensively, Michigan should be able to stop
    Bell, and again like JC mentioned will be bringing some heat against that shakey O-line and rattle Maxwell. I'm thinkin a score of 23-0...unless State pulls off some trick play I won't be surprised if this is another shutout.