is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
|WHAT||Michigan (15-7, 7-1 B10)
MSU (9-11-2, 3-3-2 B10)
|WHERE||Joe Louis Arena,
|WHEN||7:30 pm ET, Friday|
|TIX||the box office will have lots|
|TV||Fox Sports Detroit|
I haven't done a hockey preview for a while because I've never had much to say other than "this guy has a lot of points and this guy is drafted," but I guess it's better than nothing.
Michigan State is in their Nth consecutive year of mediocrity or worse, their fourth under former CCHA commissioner and non-hockey-coach Tom Anastos. After an opening year a few games above .500, Anastos's teams have lingered in a territory above terrible but below average; this year they are still that at 9-11-2. They're coming off a sweep of a drastically undermanned Ohio State team, so they've got that going for them.
Anastos teams tend to be defensively responsible and hopelessly dull, and this year is no exception. State is 45th of 59 in scoring and 25th in defense. They stay out of the box, kill penalties well, and struggle on the power play. They have a couple guys with a modicum of skill and a bottom six that tries to grunt their way towards goals. They have a couple of high draft picks on the defensive end and play a conservative system that tries to shut down space in the neutral zone, so at least that hasn't changed.
This is a Ron Mason team without an NHL top line or, you know, Ron Mason.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Matt Berry. The diminutive senior is State's most skilled player. He leads the team in points with 16 despite missing several games due to injury earlier this year and is the only MSU player on a PPG. He's in the little puck wizard mode.
Mackenzie MacEachern. MacEachern is a rare breed indeed, drafted in the third round out of Michigan high school hockey. Reminiscent of Justin Abdelkader minus the dumb penalties, MacEachern is the most physically imposing opposition forward.
Villiam Haag. Is named "Villiam Haag." (Try-hard Swede is also active defensively and has established a spot on the top line thanks to two-way play. Think Matt Rust.)
Junior Jake Hildebrand has seen every minute of MSU's season; his .918 save percentage is middling but significantly better than Michigan's platoon.
THE LAST TIME
Michigan won the GLI final 2-1 with Zach Hyman and Andrew Copp scoring; Michigan was actually outshot 29-32. MSU was missing Berry; Michigan was down their four WJC participants (Werenski, Larkin, Compher, Motte). They skated seven defensemen in that game, in fact.
Michigan has played itself into an at-large bid for the tournament and must keep winning to stay there. The Big Ten offers no favors to Michigan's schedule strength.
Michigan State has no hope of an at-large bid. At this point Anastos has to be on the verge of losing his job if anyone in East Lansing still realizes the hockey team exists. It's been four years of mediocrity with no light at the end of the tunnel and a retiring Red Berenson is kicking MSU's ass on the recruiting trail.
It's time for Michigan State to get a real coach and start winning some games—crappy MSU was fun for a while but I'm over it. If Anastos wants to keep his job winning against Michigan is the best way to do it.
THE GUY WHO HASN'T CHANGED
Kampfer-assaulter Andrew Conboy was just dropped by his ECHL team for cross-checking a dude in the teeth. Stop hiring this man, hockey teams.
Hockey predictions are dumb, but whatever: Michigan is still vulnerable to turnovers and WTF defensive play but if this was an even game last time they should have a major advantage now that they've got four of their six best players back in the lineup versus just Berry for MSU. Stay out of the box and get solid goaltending and this train should keep rolling.
When can we fire this apparel company?
What do you think will happen when the Adidas contract runs up? It's no secret around these parts the quality of garments that Adidas has put out have been sub-par to say the least. I know the majority of MGoBlog would prefer to go back to Nike, but there's a faction that would like Under Armour. Where do you see this going? Especially since I would anticipate the Nike contract not being nearly as lucrative as an Under Armour signing or a re-up with Adidas. Does Hackett (assuming he's still around) or a new AD listen to the fans or do you think they go for profit here?
I don't know. Nike isn't willing to spend bucks as huge as Adidas and Under Armor, which was a contributing factor in Miami's recent switch to the only incompetent Germans. Adidas has the four most expensive (FOIAable) contracts in college sports, with Michigan's whopping 8.2 million at the top of the list. That number is double what OSU gets from Nike.
Part of that premium is because Adidas isn't as cool to the whippersnappers and you have to weigh that, but this isn't a few hundred thousand a year Michigan is weighing. Switching to Nike would be a decision that costs Michigan a significant chunk of change.
The ideal situation may be Under Armour stepping in with an on-par offer. UA's done some wacky stuff with Maryland but they've been extremely reserved with Auburn's classic look. (An extensive Googling reveals no alternate uniform horrors.) I'm a huge fan of what they've done with Northwestern, incorporating a historical design element in a unique way.
Aside from the excessive logo frippery* that plagues everyone these days, that is a fantastic, distinctive look. Even the font is on point. I'd rather have UA take a swing at—or just, like, sit quietly by and not do anything weird with—Michigan's uniforms than Adidas.
But I don't wear the stuff so I don't know. It seems like the players are gung-ho about Nike and Hackett is listening; plus it seems like there is some real recruiting impact in basketball.
*[The best thing Dave Brandon did with Michigan's brand is render the mandatory Big Ten logo in Crisler as faintly as possible.]
Rate the get
How big of a get is Harbaugh compared to Ohio state landing Urban? Obviously OSU's down time was smaller than Michigan's, and Urban won national titles at Florida, but in terms of hires it has to be close to comparable, right? Recruits lining up and all that.
In terms of difficulty of acquisition it's a much, much bigger get. Meyer was momentarily retired and looking to get back into coaching, and his preferred style of offense makes him unattractive to NFL teams. It probably took the two sides about a half hour to come to an agreement after Tressel got axed. Michigan was in a much more difficult situation with Harbaugh, who could have coached at about 20 NFL teams if he wanted to.
In terms of impact and probable success, it's close. I would still go with Meyer, who had already won two national titles, over Harbaugh. Harbaugh's done kickass things in his tenure as a coach but he hasn't had the kind of sustained run on the mountaintop that Meyer did at Florida. That's splitting hairs in any case.
[After the JUMP: manball an aid? best coaching combos, NFL reporters, Milhouse.]
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH.
There. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s break down a mid-season tournament win that featured an impressive victory over Michigan Tech and about what you’d expect against Michigan State.
Michigan v. Michigan Tech 12/28/14
UM 1 MTU 0 EV 06:28 Martin (2) from Hyman (11) and De Jong (4)
Hyman has the puck along the boards, and that causes Sturos (#7) to come down and make a futile attempt to take away the passing lane. He’s far too late, and Hyman easily gets a cross-ice pass off to Martin. The pass gets Tech’s defense skating, as no one’s covering Martin. In fact, no one’s really in position to do so, either. You can see that they have a box-plus-one, and the one is the aforementioned Sturos, who’s now on the wrong side of the ice.
Martin’s shot is going to end up going over the blocker of Tech’s Jamie Phillips, and it’s something that can best be described as a seeing-eye shot. If you look at the black box in front of the goalie, there’s not even a Michigan player in front to screen. This is a shot that just beats the goaltender; I don’t think the Tech defenders acted as screeners either.
UM 1 MTU 1 EV 10:28 Gould from Petan and Kero
Tech moves the puck down the boards and into the corner. Michigan has Downing in front, and he’s smart to not jump in and help but instead stay in front of the net. As you can see, there’s a Tech skater who’s unaccounted for who’s going to play an important part in just a moment, one which will necessitate a defender in front.
Kero (#10) makes an incredible pass from the corner to the trailing man in the faceoff circle. Petan gets the puck and fakes a shot, which causes Downing to drop to a knee in an attempt to block. Petan’s shot fake is superb, and the pass to Gould is perfect. I really can’t blame Downing for trying to block here, because he had about a tenth of a second to decide whether it was a shot or a pass and Petan executed flawlessly.
Racine tries to push across the crease to square with Gould, and in doing so he opens up the five-hole. Gould’s shot is low and just barely clips Racine’s right leg pad, deflecting down and in.
[More after THE JUMP]
How did I miss this? Maize and Blue Nation has a shot of team goals taken from within the locker room onto which he's photoshopped success or failure thus far. As you might imagine, there's a lot of failure. I'm more put off by one of the criteria:
Time of possession? In 2014? Ugh. Slowness as a virtue.
Sounds familiar. We're going to have to be really nice to Orson for his fundraiser this year because the man followed up Michigan-Penn State by actually attending the Mizzou-Florida game. In person and everything. In the flesh. To watch his team lose 42-13 to a team that gained fewer than 120 yards of offense. The resulting hot take:
4. This was expected, and almost comforting. It's a custom, slow-drip/ slow-pour kind of disaster. At one point in every fan's life there is a team coached by a person who trademarks a specific variation of loss, and then serves it until the Health Department closes it forever for numerous violations of common standards. For Florida, Will Muschamp is the hardworking barista at the local coffee shop who takes your order, brews your coffee without putting the water through any caffeine of any sort, and then pours it into your cup insisting its coffee. When you point it out, he shakes his head, grimaces, and mutters: "We'll get that sorted out. We're trying, and we'll get that fixed." Then he brews and pours another cup of hot water for you wonder why you keep coming to this stupid fucking coffee shop every time.
Brady Hoke sends you none pizza left beef no matter what you order, and when you call to complain he says it's really all about the kids who are making 8.15, no thanks to you.
Fantastic. Devin Gardner's profiled by Angelique Chengelis and what could make everything worse than it already is?
"I've been called the N-word so many times this year," Gardner said. "One guy told me I was the N-word, and said I know N-words can't play quarterback. And I was like, are we not past this? Say what you want about my skill, but come on."
I'm not surprised, but I'm still surprised. If Dave Brandon wants to fire off "find another team" emails to these gentlemen we are all behind that. I can only hope this is the usual 14-year-old-on-mom's-computer thing and not, like, actual adults, but I am almost certain I heard Dennis Norfleet described thusly by the Cumong Man guys at the 2012 Northwestern game so they're out there, being repulsive.
When Gardner's graduated (again) I hope we all buy him sandwiches and apologize on everyone else's behalf. I want Gardner to have to start his own charity to distribute the sandwiches he cannot eat, and then become such a sandwich expert he gets an honorary PhD in Meat Betwixt Bread. It's the least we can do.
Also in that article. I mean, even beyond the people who get shot into the sun it hasn't been a nice ride:
"It's hard to play effectively when you're continuously getting hit," Gardner said. "But that's the situation we're in. And my guys are trying as hard as they can, so I can't ask for anything else. I've just got to find a way, which I'm trying to do each week, so the stats aren't going to be there sometimes. It's just finding ways to win, that's it."
That's life at the moment, though pass protection has actually been pretty good the last few weeks. Maybe they can protect long enough to get some guys open downfield? Or covered downfield? I'm just asking for some downfield.
Case in point. Big plays: we do not have them.
The standout individual effort by Funchess gave the Wolverines their longest completion of the year and the longest play of any kind since a season-opening drubbing of Appalachian State
We seem to have swung too far the other way from Borges here.
And the guy we're not really trying to throw bombs to is… moving up on the SI draft board to 13th. Very frustrating.
THANK YOU BIG DADDY MAY I HAVE ANOTHER.
The block ‘M’ on Michigan’s campus has been painted green. pic.twitter.com/lGFvnXeVbv
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) October 22, 2014
The race to be SI's most embarrassing employee narrows. The results have come back in the Oklahoma State investigation spurred by the eighty-part investigative piece by Thayer Evans and they are…
The NCAA and Oklahoma State announced Tuesday that allegations of widespread misconduct in the football program outlined in a Sports Illustrated expose last year were "fundamentally unfounded.''
…as per usual when a university maniacally checks for ticks, Oklahoma State turned up a few Level II violations. (The NCAA revamped its punishment structure into a four-tier thing a couple years back; levels I and II would have been the "major" violation level, although as Michigan learned your major violations can be not particularly major.) The projected punishment for Thayer's lurid descriptions of cash, grade-fixing and ladyfun distributed willy-nilly: a couple scholarships over a couple years.
The three violations named in the notice of allegations include a failure to follow institutional policy concerning player punishments for positive drug tests; the organization of the "Orange Pride" support program through the football program rather than the university, meaning all campus hosting duties performed for prospective football recruits ran "contrary to NCAA legislation"; and a failure to monitor charge related to the first two violations.
Details on the drug policy:
Finding: On four occasions, the applicable penalty for failed drug tests was not applied, but TCG concluded athletic ability was not the reason.
The NCAA's notice of allegations says the school failed to follow policies regarding athlete drug use. It said five athletes from January 2008 and October 2012 tested positive for banned substances and were allowed to play without the required corrective or disciplinary action. In one case, the notice says an athlete was not dismissed after a fourth failed test and allowed the athlete to compete during the first half of the season. This would be an infraction.
That doesn't move my "you can't hire THAT guy" needle since I've heard tell of schools closer to home doing similar things, and nothing else in the lurid story Evans published was substantiated. Evans went full Rosenberg here.
If you're wondering about Mike Gundy's viability: if he's leavin' he's viable.
So with that in mind. Evans combines with similarly dubious Pete Thamel—he of the dead Manti Te'o girlfriend story—to project what might happen at Michigan and Florida. While they get off a depressingly accurate zinger by describing the handling of the Shane Morris concussion as "straight out of the Julie Hermann p.r. playbook" they burn everything to the ground by swinging wildly at coaching candidates like
GREG SCHIANO, who is hated by the entire NFL and couldn't get a job last year; in his two years in Tampa he managed to make Tom Coughlin a hero for chewing him out after he instructed his players to go after the opposition QB as he kneeled to see the game out.
JERRY KILL, who would be coming off one good(?) season in the watered-down Big Ten in which he lost 30-7 to TCU and beat Purdue by a point. Plus the whole seizure thing makes him a risk.
BRET BIELEMA… which… no. Jeff Long has reportedly done a fantastic job of reining in Bielema's fratty tendencies, but this one fails on legit cultural grounds.
They also say Mississippi State has nicer facilities than Michigan, to which I say YES, they may be more stable and YES their athletic department is not run like a crappy Domino's franchise but dammit we have shiny buildings that will go toe to toe with anyone's.
It's coming down for the CHL, too. Actual law talkin' guy Chris Heisenberg writes on the recently-filed lawsuit against the CHL that seeks minimum wage for players. They currently receive 50 dollars a week plus the vague promise of a scholarship down the road that evaporates if you play pro hockey for any appreciable length of time (including the AHL and below); makes you wonder why anyone would pick the CHL over the NCAA… oh right large under the table payments to top players.
Heisenberg forsees the CHL losing this battle as they are no longer even vaguely credible as non-profit-ish enterprises. CHL franchises are now worth millions. If that in fact happens the trickle-down effects are going to be considerable, and hard to project. Some of them:
- There won't be any more crocodile tears from the CHL about how the big bad NCAA makes their players ineligible despite being amateurs.
- Mid-tier players with options in both leagues might be more inclined to go junior. Hard to see this being a large effect since a lot of these guys are overagers in the NCAA and that group doesn't have a lot of overlap with 16-year old CHL draftees.
- Top players might be more inclined to go NCAA. The Big Ten has implemented a bunch of scholarship improvements and if the CHL has to play everyone down to the fourth line that would drain resources currently used to woo big stars.
- US CHL teams might be under threat. Nobody cares about the Plymouth Whalers and they are probably relocating to Canada; increased expenses for dubiously profitable enterprises may force the CHL's US outposts relocate to various Canadian suburbs.
SALT. Any present cracks against Michigan State are inappropriate, so let's take the long view from a salty Henry Phillip Tappan:
“It is better to have one great institution than half a dozen abortions,” proclaimed U-M’s first president. “One institution must be located somewhere because we cannot locate everywhere; let us not split it into little pieces which shall have no strength and value anywhere.”
I think I saw that guy yelling that Christian Hackenberg was a bum a couple weeks ago.
As per usual with first UV of season, some of this is a bit dated because of preview week.
I HAVE HEARD THE PEOPLE. I acknowledge that the people demand I eat a lemon. I will eat a lemon, because I guess I'd rather be the guy who eats a lemon on a technicality than doesn't eat a lemon on a technicality. I request that you, the people, acknowledge that my call that Desmond Morgan would be pushed out of Michigan's starting lineup appears to be a good call after he was probably Michigan's best LB in game one and led the team in tackles despite not technically starting. I plead nolo contendre to this lemon, basically.
We'll do it this Sunday at the podcast taping as part of this kid's quest to awarenessize people about weird food allergies that people don't understand at all yet, something Ace has been dealing with for years.
A new challenger appears! Elliot Mealer's Hoke impression is solid gold:
I dream that we will get enough of these to have a Hoke Impression Bracket someday.
Also gold. The Gameday Mean Tweets segment may have been shamelessly lifted from Jimmy Fallon, but lift away, sirs:
[EDIT: apparently this is an autoplaying video, so no embed. Here is the link.
I formally request you steal the thing where Ron Swanson reads tweets from young female celebrities next.
The ND cheating thing: resolved? Well, first: the investigation's tentacles reached out and added safety Eilar Hardy to the Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell, Davaris Daniels, Ishaq Williams quartet. Message boards are naturally buzzing with rumors ranging from they're all done for the year to they're all back by Michigan. As of three days ago the investigation was "reportedly complete"—that's when Hardy got suspended.
Everyone involved here was supposed to be out the door when it happened. FWIW, I had a good source suggesting that was the case as well. I didn't mention it because when Bruce Feldman is reporting something piping up with a "me too" is some Darren Rovell business, but now that there's doubt about the final outcome here it seems pertinent.
If there are reinstatements that impact the Michigan game they're going to have to come quickly, what with most of these guys missing nearly a month of practice. As of today's ND presser there was no update. Could you insert these guys on one or two days of practice? (Friday is a walkthrough.) Getting late.
One guy who is out. Austin Collinsworth did something to a knee ligament, missed the Rice game, and is projected to miss the Michigan game. As of three days ago he was out two to four weeks and getting some of that horse placenta action:
“There's a chance we could have him for week three,” Kelly said. “He had a PRP [platelet-rich plasma] treatment on the weekend, so we'll see what happens."
Rice is a spread, so ND was in a nickel package most of that game. They brought in Elijah Shumate next to sophomore Max Redfield; Mattias Farley played nickel the whole way. Shumate busted on the Rice touchdown. Shumate was a touted recruit, as you might expect.
One guy who doesn't read MGoBlog. That would be Scott Satterfield, the Appalachian State coach:
“This game was not what (Michigan) had shown all last year,” said Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield. “Why they did that, I don’t know. … It was all game. Even the last drive, they were playing man.”
They did that because they had been doing it all offseason. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to read, like, one article about Michigan's defense this year.
Oh that makes more sense then. After Wisconsin finished gacking the game away to LSU, Badger head coach Gary Andersen said he "didn't know" why Melvin F-ing Gordon got three carries after a 63-yard romp in the second quarter. It turns out there is a reason for this other than Andersen being hypnotized by Les Miles's scary voodoo eyes:
Badgers coach Gary Andersen said on Monday that his junior running back suffered a hip flexor strain during the game. Gordon later told reporters that the injury occurred late in the second quarter. …
"I should have let them know, let Coach A know and stepped up and told them, 'Look I need to be in there," Gordon said, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin's Jesse Temple. "I put that on myself."
So that makes a little more sense. Also making more sense: Joel Stave's arm injury has caused Wisconsin to shut him down. He was not available to relieve the overwhelmed Tanner McEvoy. Cold comfort to Wisconsin fans today, though. Jamiemac has a breakdown of the game—Warren Herring going out was a huge problem.
At least the game spawned an LSUfreek all-timer?
Here's a breakdown of the Beilein offense. No doubt you will see this again as Ace goes over it in detail for you after his high school football responsibilities have been completed, but here's 15 minutes of John Beilein's offense categorized by play type:
Wildcats continue dropping like flies. Northwestern DT Sean McEvilly, he of the most disappointing name pronunciation in the league, is out for the year with a foot injury. This is a problem. You no doubt remember Michigan's offensive line looking functional against the Wildcats last year. Now take a starter off that line.
Also in personnel issues affecting distant games, Maryland loses receiver Levern Jacbos and some other guy. They are still set on receivers thank you.
McGary clarification. Many folks picked up on part of the McGary VICE interview in which he seems to say "so what, I committed a literally victimless non-crime" about his draconian NCAA suspension. This is a hot take even if it is a correct hot take. But he's really talking about people annoying him on social media:
"I still get people on Twitter and Instagram still commenting on stuff, saying, oh, you did drugs. Well, you know what, I did, whatever. So what? I learned from it. It was in college. They'll understand when they're in college."
He does say what he did was "the opposite of harming somebody" and "just don't get caught," which is a take hot enough for me.
More Pastujov hype. This one is for the older brother Nick.
Michigan commit Nick Pastujov plays a perfect mix of aggression and skill. Difference maker when breaking down the play, soft hands.
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) August 24, 2014
Solar car! Michigan wins again yo.
Blind recommendation. This just went up so I haven't had a chance to read it but Smart Football on the MSU defense is going to be worth your time.
Another nail in the already quite-nailed coffin. Patrick Omameh is probably going to be Tampa Bay's starting right guard this fall. So Michigan had a line with three NFL players on it in 2012 and Denard Robinson and couldn't run the ball except with Denard Robinson.
I can link this now. Jane and Ace talked about their experience of the Horror on EDSBS.
The second half is a haze of Michigan pushing their way back in miserably slow fashion. I spent much of it staring at the clock. I had no idea how many emotions were building until… Mike Hart gave Michigan a one-point lead with a remarkable, weaving touchdown run from around midfield with under five minutes left. One of my roommates, standing next to me, literally wept with a mixture of joy and relief.
(Jane: I had left the stadium by then. I couldn’t do it. I saw where this was going, and I strongly believed that if I went home and went to sleep, I would wake up and this would all be a horrific dream. As a small child, I used to have nightmares that a raptor dressed as a postal worker ate me while my parents stood and watched. I have significant experience in bad dreams. I watched the rest of the game on ESPN’s Gamecast.)
This is literally the only thing I have read about the 2007 game despite the entire universe breaking their longform budget to provide opportunities for me to do so.
Do you think you may be getting ahead of yourself, sir. AP:
Michigan power running game looks like glory days
Have we learned nothing from last year's "IT LOOKS LIKE ALABAMA!" quote from Gerry DiNardo?
One sign this may not be a very clued-in article: the repeated use of fictional house divided child "De'Veon Bell." Not that I wouldn't take De'Veon Bell on my team. That would be like trying to tackle a centaur.
Etc.: Saturday game replay. All explanations of why the Appalachian State rematch was scheduled have far too few fantasies about scorpion pits for my taste. Will Leitch on being a part of the studio audience. Scouting Christian Hackenberg. Nussmeier gets an 11: nuts and gum.
Want an amateur NPSL soccer team in town? Here's an indiegogo for it.
We shall have to *press* our *quarters*. Ha ha! do you smoke the pun dear Maturin?
We've been talking about how Michigan State's defense worked and how Michigan's this year and in the future could be using that as a model. I've brought up how the 4-3 over works, but the genius of Dantonio's defense is really in how he does coverage. Since it seems this is what Michigan will be doing, I thought a lay understanding of it wouldn't go amiss just now.
Coaches, you can offer corrections or tune out because this is going to be a little more basic. Spartans, try not to be too offended at the butchery I make of your wonderful defense. You are truly our state's top program and in no way does continuing to whine about a statement a 21-year-old made in 2007 make you petty.
Now let's go to the alignment above. We're looking at a 4-3 over; the defensive line is shifted to the "strong" side (technically Michigan's offense is balanced but the side with the two TEs is strong. Also that's the field side). We're also looking at a defense that is really creeping up. The safeties are 7 and 8 yards off the line of scrimmage, the linebackers are 4 yards off, and the cornerback at the bottom of your screen is in press. The variant on the 4-3 over is the defensive ends spread out (the SDE is in a wide-9 tech, the WDE completely outside the RT's shoulder), and the linebackers group in closer to compensate.
This is "aggressive." The guys apparently in charge of the deep part of the field are further off the line of scrimmage than the running back. There's a mismatch on your right, where a cornerback is matched against a tight end (Butt), but that hardly matters since any run is going right into a pile of bodies.
Cover 2 and Cover 2 Man
Getting up and bothersome to any receivers near the line of scrimmage has big benefits. The receiver will have a hard time getting into his route, throwing off the timing of the play and ensuring the offense gets nothing cheap like a quick out or in. A good press corner will prevent his receiver from getting into an easy route like a slant (the old fashioned man-coverage beating route). The danger of this is the press doesn't work all the time and then you've got a receiver accelerating downfield past a cornerback who's facing the wrong way. For this reason press teams would leave the safeties back to help. It ends up functionally not that different from Cover 2.
Of course that has a downside as well. While each receiver has 1.5 guys occupied with him, you've got the safeties and outside linebackers chasing the passing game instead of manning the run gaps. Defensive rule numero uno is don't be easy to run on.
A very popular alternative these days is Quarters. The link will explain further but simply put, with quarters coverage the cornerbacks and safeties have option routes depending on what the receivers do. They watch the inside guy (in a stack it's the back guy). If he goes vertical the safety has him; if he goes into the flat, the cornerback does and the safety plays Cover 2.
Watch this gif from the above link until you get a feel; the left side is the #2 receiver going vertical and the right side is him going into the flat.
"Going vertical" as I learned it, is the receiver going 8 or more yards downfield before making a turn. This is a strong coverage technique to cover the outside and downfield stuff the receivers will do, and leaves the linebackers available to cover short Cov 2 routes and react to the run. It's very base; the best way to beat it is to have your running game outmatch their front seven. The safeties are able to stand back and read, so like Cov 2 they're available to cut down whatever made it through. That's good enough for Virginia Tech, who's been running Quarters and been solid against the run for a decade and a half. But it wasn't good enough for Dantonio.
Very Aggressive Quarters
You may have already smoked out the difference between Michigan State's alignment against Michigan and the Cover 4 look that quarters starts out in. You've got that cornerback pressing a guy, for one. And the other thing: if the coverage is waiting until the inside guy is 8 yards downfield to be sure of their decision, and the safeties are standing 7 yards off the line of scrimmage, aren't they setting themselves up for one of those "hey maybe I oughtta be chasing this guy who just ran by me." things?
State will pack their guys in the box so linebackers and safeties are right there to stop the run. The linebackers squeeze laterally into the box, so the coverage is strongest inside (knowing this, offenses don't typically expect to find open guys there, leaving those LBs free to run Narduzzi's favorite Double-A gaps blitz).
That makes them very stout against the run, but should have a weakness tradeoff against outside passes. If the #2 receiver goes vertical the safety has to turn and go with him, meaning there's zero help for the cornerback.
State's answer to that: "So what!" This is where stretching the boundaries of pass interference comes into play, because the cornerback's job is to grab anything, pay off anybody, or sacrifice however many livestock and virgins it takes to keep that receiver from getting downfield.
Here's where Dantonio's program development comes into play, because it takes a long time for cornerbacks to get to the point where their press will work often enough that the quarterback stops expecting that guy to be open. Also they have to be ready for what coaches will do to screw with them.
It's also where finding good players comes into play. You can't get away with this if you have crappy Indiana safeties. There's tremendous strain put on the defensive backs to play up and still cover deep; if they can't handle it (and the offense has any kind of downfield passing ability) the jig is up.
In the defense's favor: in the college game, especially the game today where Tom Brady wannabes are less common than Denard Robinson wannabes (i.e. guys who are running threats but hardly devastatingly accurate deep passers), an offense that can rip you over the top is a rare cove indeed. The talent-depleted Big Ten has been short on defense-stretching receivers; a good 40% of Big Ten wideouts who'd pose a major threat to this scheme play for Maryland. Braxton Miller has a lot going for him but he tends to sail such passes over his open guys' heads. Devin Gardner, especially a beat up Devin Gardner, has a tendency to underthrow, turning open receivers into a game of Five-Hundred. Hackenberg might have success but his best targets are tight ends; Sudfeld has a similar problem now that his slot dude is the last man standing. And omigod can you just imagine what happens when this thing meets Gary Nova? "Like a Wrecking Ball" don't enter into it!
Last year Borges tried to screw with the Quarters reads by making it unclear who's the #1 or #2 receiver to that side, either with stacks or putting 3 receivers to the same side or like this (watch the WRs at the top of the screen):
Michigan ran just a two-man route, motioning the outside receiver into the inside receiver. Ultimately Funchess leapt a million feet in the air to beat Drummond to the outside, but look how seamlessly the Spartan defensive backs executed this and made it hard.
A novice might have a hard time with who's 1 or 2, but not a 5th year senior. Dantonio built his program, like Wisconsin's, on retention. He'll hold onto guys for three or four years usually before they see the field (or else the kids have to beat out the upperclassmen). It also makes those elders kind of crucial because the depth chart carries a lot of pressmen in training.
So for the first few seconds of the play, it's kind of Cov 2 man with everybody so bunched near the line of scrimmage that the run game will be right there and obvious, and thus easy to stop. Then quarters rules take over. And it can't be cracked wide open because pass interference isn't likely to be called unless you're playing at Notre Dame.
Can Michigan do this? Actually it's probably the best thing for the defensive personnel the coaches have collected, since the one thing we seem to have a glut of is really good cornerbacks, and more in development.