I'm glad they didn't suspend anyone yet. Karma's a bitch. Plus, it gives me something to mention to Sparties I know.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Michigan State|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:30 EST, October 25th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Michigan State by 4.5*|
|TELEVISION||ABC Regional, mirrored on ESPN2|
While it lasted, Michigan's performance against Penn State was a thing to behold, but how much of that was the unexpected debut of a north-south MINOR RAGE offense and how much is replicable week-to-week? I don't presume to tell you.
State's defense, meanwhile, uh…
This is probably worse than it looks, as I haven't excised sacks in these numbers and a big chunk of Ohio State's carries were part of the effort to keep OSU's winning margin under 70. This an awful rush defense unless it's playing Notre Dame. I dunno about that, you figure it out.
Maybe Michigan's ground game has turned the corner? If so, we should expect at least 5 YPC given the numbers above. If not—if that was our one trick and once it's scouted that's all folks—and we descend back into the depths from whence we came, we lose. Michigan has to put up numbers like those above to be in this game. End of story.
I suppose I should venture some sort of guess about this, yes? Well… I don't think we'll touch the 6 YPC Cal and Indiana did but this is not something that happens to you by accident, and Michigan's rushing offense has been erratic but seems to have found something. I think they'll put up something like 200 yards, although that's a low confidence prediction.
Key Matchup: Brandon Minor's RAGE versus Michigan State linebackers. For the first time all year Michigan had a north-south running game and Minor repeatedly made yards after contact; Michigan lifted itself off the ground.
As per usual, if Steven Threet doesn't play please mentally replace this section with "HEAD FOR THE HILLS! ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE!"
Threet, bad elbows and all, was 9 of 13 for 84 yards against Penn State in about a half of action. While this is not exactly Tom Brady we're talking about, he was again pretty good in a tough situation on the road. Nick Sheridan is going to be a legend in ten years, but the kind you tell at night with a flashlight under your chin.
As far as State goes, it's hard to find a reasonable comparable in the opponents. State currently stands at #27 in passer efficiency but has faced off with the heroic likes of Ricky Stanzi, whoever Indiana's backup quarterback is, and a freshman Terrelle Pryor. Actually, those guys suck, so maybe they are reasonable comparables. Pryor is left off because that game got so out of hand so quickly that his stats are meaningless.
State opponents of potential relevancy:
These numbers are actually pretty good outside of the Cal game, which Michigan is not going to replicate, though the interceptions may or may not be a fluke. One negative to State's numbers is a relative dearth of sacks. They're just 73rd.
At this point we know what to expect: short throws to the outside guys, wheel routes to Odoms when he finds himself singled up with safeties or linebackers, the occasional unsuccessful screen.
Key Matchup: Threet versus anything that takes him off the field. So: Ortmann versus stuff.
You know Javon Ringer, also known as "the entire Michigan State offense." He's out there killing his NFL career three yards at a time. It's kind of amazing then, that Ringer is second nationally in rushing yards and Michigan State is… 52nd?
Yeah, 52nd, and #51 (Maryland) has 100 fewer carries! In fact, if you order teams by YPC instead of raw yardage State falls to 78th at 3.86. One spot behind them? Michigan at 3.85. One rushing attack has seen local media fall all over it in a rush to praise it. I leave you to guess which one.
I have a ton of respect for Ringer, but wow… this is not a good rushing offense. Michigan's gotten shredded by a couple opponents this year, but Penn State is #6 in YPC and Illinois #32. Hell, Michigan held Illinois 0.7 YPC under their average. Wisconsin, which basically runs the same scheme and is currently flailing around at 0-4 in the Big Ten and basically handled by Michigan, is at #46.
Sometimes I come to a conclusion and think to myself "oh, hell, do I really have to think this?" and then it turns out I do. Here's one: one week after giving up like eight YPC to Penn State, I expect Michigan will hold Ringer's average down under 4. Ringer will still get like 30 carries and will have one of those Mike Hart-versus-Penn State days, but unless Dantonio throws some sort of curve this should be the best day from the Michigan defense since the last time they played a team of cavemen.
Key Matchup: Ezeh and Thompson reading pulling linemen and getting to the f*#$ing ball.
Q: How do you acquire the nation's #72 pass efficiency rating when you run 60% of the time?
A: You suck.
Q: But not nearly as a bad as Michigan.
Right, Brian Hoyer was banged up and left the Michigan State-Ohio State game and there was a desultory cheer from those still in attendance. He is not particularly good. He is completing under 50% of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns to four interceptions.
Mark Dell is MSU's leading receiver with 24 catches, but not by much; freshman BJ Cunningham has 21 and Blair White 19. State goes to the pass as a play-action complement to Ringer and when they have to; long yardage situations are probably good.
Meanwhile, Michigan's secondary has been pretty much awful all year. The corners are making no plays; the obvious zone alignment has been incapable of covering guys; the linebackers are YAC machines. This is a battle of weaknesses, with one potential item that could swing it M's way: Graham and Jamison.
Key Matchup: Safeties reading play action probably. State's heavy focus on the run means they don't get a whole lot of pressure when they go play action—they've given up just seven sacks in eight games—and do get a lot of safeties sucking up into the play. Michigan safeties, meanwhile, have been… rough.
I definitely shouldn't have gone "eh" about special teams last week, as their implosion was a major factor in Michigan's implosion: kicks out of bounds, a blocked punt, horrible returns, etc. You know how dire the situation is.
The good news is that Michigan State's returns are nearly as dire. State is:
The punt returns should be irrelevant; Zoltan has had under 25% of his punts returned and those have gone for 3.4 yards each as there are gunners on the opponent in a snap. So all that looks like a slight advantage Michigan assuming there are some punt exchanges.
One advantage for State: Brett Swenson is 15 of 16 on the year. Don't expect a lot of misses from him.
Key Matchup: Michigan return units versus their general awfulness. State's return units have given up some nice returns; Michigan has to field the ball and not, like, fumble the hell out of it.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for They Have Two Losses We Have Two Wins, –1 for Slight Possibility The Hockey Team Replaces Their Pads With Anthrax, -1 for Their Castle Appears Built On Sand, About Which More Later, –1 for We Shut Wisconsin Down, Basically, +1 for Did I Mention The Two Wins?, +1 for Distinct Possibility We See SHERIDAN=DEATH.
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for A Win Would Direct The Criticism Thataway; +1 for Big Recruiting Weekend, Too, +1 for The Implosion On The Spartan Internets Would Be A Joy Forever, –1 for General Whatever When You're 2-5.)
Loss will cause me to... avoid a lot of links to stupid columns in the local papers.
Win will cause me to... laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
If you accept the premise that turnovers are really random, Michigan State isn't as good as their record and Michigan isn't as bad as theirs. Turnovers have been a bitch to Michigan and a god to State.
Check it: State is +5 in turnover margin a week after being –5 against Ohio State. In State's two games against tomato cans they were –1, leaving them +11 against the five teams on the schedule that were tossups to start the year. Or, in chart form:
This is how MSU is 3-1 in the Big Ten despite being outgained on a per-play basis in every game. Michigan, meanwhile, is 111th in turnover margin.
Of course, it's been hard to watch Michigan this year and conclude that turnovers are actually random. Michigan's turnovers are part bad luck and part epic suck; if you made me guess what the margin would be in this game I'd peg it at –1.
So, do I think a Michigan team with a –1 turnover margin and a 50 yard deficit in special teams can beat Michigan State? Well… I think so a lot more than I did before I started this preview. Honestly, if you compare the ground games Michigan State has been getting by on boring repetition and Michigan has been erratic but not flat awful. State's run defense, on the other hand… flat awful. And Michigan, again, has been erratic.
The passing games seem like washes. Both are infrequently deployed, poor, and as likely to result in disaster for the offense as for the defense. It'll be close, and I think Michigan will seem like the better team down-to-down; I also think they'll be done in by a couple enormous errors.
AND ONE MORE THING: Rick Comley has suspended two members of the hockey team for their role in the enormous fight that got a sophomore defenseman sent to the hospital. Mark Dantonio has suspended nobody, even though by now he must know all the particulars.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
I'm glad they didn't suspend anyone yet. Karma's a bitch. Plus, it gives me something to mention to Sparties I know.
Easy money. We are undefeated this year playing teams that start with an "M", or an upside down "M" (i.e. W). It is a lock. count Minnesota as a W too, even tho they stopped Illini spread. Hopefully (M)tOSU will shock the world. I know, I know, dare to dream.
Kudos on the Sheridan legacy quip!
I see a big difference between MSU's rushing offense and Wisconsin's. Ringer does not go down on 1st contact often and frequently looks for cut back lanes. Wisconsin's bruisers try to plow everyone over. Our LBs are crappy tacklers and prone to take bad angles. That spells trouble against Ringer. Wisc's oline is better than MSU's, but I really believe that the only chance at winning this game is to have a 2 score lead into the 2nd half and put the game on Hoyer. If not, don't be surprised if Ringer breaks something big in the 4Q.
I disagree with your comments about the LBs being bad taklers.....I think they do a fairly good job. They are young and do take bad angles at times, but they do a good job at takling. It's your DBs that do a terrible job of takling....too much arm takling and diving at ankles. If Ringer can get past your DL and LBs then you will be in trouble. And like you said, Wisc has a better OL and MSU and Mich did a good job of containing Wisc OL.
I really see Mich having a good chance in this game. MSU plays into the strength of UM's defense. OSU was able to run against MSU and all things considered, UM with this scheme is a better running team than OSU. OSU has the advantage of a mobile QB, but they don't fully utilize him. You will see another 100yd rushing day for one of Mich's RBs
Nick Sheridan is going to be a legend in ten years, but the kind you tell at night with a flashlight under your chin.
Despite some evidence that may give us some hope, I can't see anything but a close loss. I also agree with tbliggins, Ringer loves to bounce it outside once the hole has been closed.
Go back and look how many times RBs have been able to bounce it outside on our defense. It's scary. Ringer is going to have a good day against us. I think MSU builds at least a 2-score lead and then holds on.
Either that, or Threet gets reinjured and then the death spiral ensues.
predict against trends. Rarely do teams that turn the ball over a lot just stop mid season and become a team that does not. Also, I think it is a reach to declare the passing games to be a wash. Granted Hoyer is not good, but he is much better than he was the first 2 or 3 games. I hope I am wrong on everything I just said and we pull one out on Saturday. If we rush 3 guys on 3rd and 9, I will break my remote. Again.
I agree. I'd be looking at MSU to run some stretch plays for Ringer on 2 or 3 and long. Via the play action fake that is. And some inside or what do you call it, the jailbreak screens to Ringer if they can't get him off early. Also off of the quick pass, I'd look for MSU to run counter trap's to combat Shafer's aggressive tactics. The trap play to Ringer, to me could be deadly if MSU blocks it correctly and Michigan's mentally suspect secondary gets caught loafing. I just think or feel this is no game to give up the home run plays unless they are literally home run plays. Meaning Hoyer goes for all the marbles on man coverage and completes a bomb. But to let J. Ringer beat you on a normal run, because Hoyer audibles to it out of some crazy ass blitz, then Michigan deserves to lose. They need to keep the Spartans in front of them and make it a field goal battle.
While MSU may use a jailbreak screen like this:
I meant just a slow conventional screen play.
I'm kinda sad, as I figured this was the last chance this year for "If you were looking for a brief summary of the last thirty years of Spartan football, 2007/2006/2005/2004 was your lucky year." I guess I'll just have to wait until next August.
So after that whole preview, you still picked MSU to win? But only by four, which means they wouldn't cover the spread. I'm putting money on the M&B baby!
Spread is 3.5. They would cover. You lose.
Brian above says 4.5. If I can get it at 4.5, should I take it? Actually, I think I'll just take Michigan on the money line.
winning this thing all year. But your preview gives me hope, despite your pick. A win here would be soooooooooo awesome and would give us a shot at a .500 record again. If I believed in god I would be praying for a win right now.
I do believe in God, and it hasn't helped so far.
Perhaps, she has been busy with other matters?
I don't see what could be more important than the health of Threet's elbow.
Actually I don't believe in Santa Claus, Unicorns, Supreme Beings or other mythical creatures.
Because of Threet's elbows, of course!
"A win here would be soooooooooo awesome and would give us a shot at a .500 record again."
A little like cheering $3.00 gasoline; it's exciting until you realized you're screwing the pooch coming and going.
I'm just sayin'...
Everything's relative, homey. Just because 3 dollar gasoline wasn't cheap 2 years ago, doesn't make it a rip off today. Sure, I'd love a win to push us to 8-0 as much as you, but we gotta play the cards we're dealt.
not to mention that in the broader view of things, $3 a gallon gas is dirt cheap
there's no way he could regress so much
It's ancient history now, but I saw him limping as he passed me in the tunnel prior to the Illinois game. It may be lingering.
Whatever we've been using this year, it obviously is not working.
So, EVERYONE must do something different for this game -- wear that M underwear inside out, go commando, wear a new hat, cut the brats down the center and stuff the bun inside the brat, sit in a different seat at the game, WHATEVER -- JUST DO IT!!!
We're undefeated with the Blue Block M. Need to bring that back.
The ONE year that MSU can come out and show the rest of the country that they are finally legit by taking it to big brother (in HIS house, no less!)...and we have to go and screw that up by sucking so bad that a win over us will pretty much produce yawns across the country.
Wow, we really ARE assholes.
Uh, they've had a few other occasion to prove they are legit. Did not end well for Sparty.
They played a great game against Michigan, holding off a late rally to win 34-31. At that point I was concerned that they were going to challenge for the national title, ushering in a Saban-led era of domination.
Nope. They go out and completely laid down for a mediocre Purdue tea (52-28) and a good Wisconsin team (40-10) in two of the worst losses I've ever seen by a team playing on New Year's Day. Saban escapes to LSU after the regular season, and MSU brilliantly hires Bobby Williams, settng the program back at least five years.
Looking at MSU's statistics, those YPC are skewed by at least one ridiculously long run in the Cal, Indiana, and NU games.
The bad side: their average run defense is better than those numbers.
The good side: they may give up the big play to Minor.
1. Stop the insanity- Defensively, Ohio State schemes were effective. No big runs up the gut for the LB corp. Secondly, the 15 yd. cross in and out patterns mustbe handled in the zone. A note to MI corners and safety's, know what yard-line you are on on the effing field. And if you can between now and game-time try and grow a few inches so you can see the QB a lil better.
2. Sheridans Revenge - If Threet or when Threet goes down, Mr. Sheridan please elevate your desire to have a different legacy at MI.
3. Coach Dantonio - Please keep your quotes funny. And please walk the sideline with that pensive scowl while holding the Charlton Heston pose.
4. Michigan State was over anxious defensively against OSU and sweatervest made em pay. Drag the TE in coverage, throw the 6 yard weakside comeback routes, take a shot on an ISO'ed corner(with threet), screen pass, and run minor on some draws. Beanie Wells ran on State for 140 yards. Between Minor and McGuffie they can get 170-200.
5. As much as I love the blitz, controlled aggression wins this game for MI's defense. Hoyer is an experienced QB at reading the blitz so no need to be overzealous. Constant pressure and SMART play from the back 5-6 and MI winds up with great field position and a W.
but gee, that's a true nugget of wisdom. So you're telling me that if Ringers gets past our DL AND our LBs (and gets into the secondary)...we could be in trouble?
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Also, I think Ezeh and Thompson kinda suck a tackling.
or does Dantonio's face always look like he has to take a grumpy?
The dude always appears as if someone has just done something terrible to his family. He's a walking grudge.
"Nick Sheridan is going to be a legend in ten years, but the kind you tell at night with a flashlight under your chin."
This quote made me laugh. The internets do not make me lawl. Brian, you sir, win.