Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Nick RoUMel
By now we know that Michigan is like that beautiful, smart, accomplished girlfriend who’s also unpredictable. One minute she can be flashing you a wicked smile, while discussing quantum physics with your friends. The next, she might throw up drunkenly at your parents’ house. Or simulate fellatio with your roommate.
What is Michigan State? They were pegged by Mikey Hart a few years back and there is no better description. They are the quintessential little brother with the chip on his shoulder. You want to shoot a few hoops; he goes after you one-on-one, with the same dirty viciousness the NFL hallucinates Ndamukong Suh to possess. Little brother burns with those noogies past. The undy-grundy you gave him in front of his friends. The time you blamed the broken window on him. If you bump him unintentionally, he tries to screw off your head like a bottlecap.
The perfect coach for this team Mark Dantonio. Yes, I made plenty of fun of Nick Satan, but ultimately he was not the right fit. Dantonio, on the other hand, is the Spartans’ soulmate. He coaches with righteous fury far disproportionate to the imagined offense. He’s the kind of guy, if your dog wandered into his yard, would chain him in your basement for three days and starve him before releasing him into the woods. No wait; that was last year. Now he would behead your dog, place the head in your child’s bed, and post a video of himself tossing your dog’s body on a bonfire - with his face blurred out like an amateur porn clip. Then he’d blame it all on your child for not controlling the dog.
In contrast, Brady Hoke usually does not betray much more than a look of mild concern, as if someone at the cookout took the last cheeseburger he secretly coveted. Whereas Dantonio will fire up his team with tales of exaggerated slights and disrespects, Hoke & crew will approach this game with business-like dispatch.
The question for Michigan is not which “girlfriend” shows up against the Spartans; we already know they both will. The question is whether she can tame herself just enough to come home victorious. Sure, we know she’ll fluff Sparty a couple of times just to keep him aroused; but at the end of the game, I predict she’ll be true. And as a happy bonus, she’ll bring along Sparty’s girlfriend to join in on the fun.
Just don’t tell Dantonio where the party is. He’ll torch the place and then sue for mental cruelty.
MICHIGAN 27, MICHIGAN STATE 19
By Heiko Yang
Wow. You really thought that through, huh. Remind me never to piss you off or let you near my dog.
Okay I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I’m scared. No, not about Nick’s sociopathic tendencies. I’m scared about this game because, well, you know … Double A-gap, Trash Tornado, 60 minutes of injuring the quarterback, etc. etc. Whatever it was that happened in Spartan Stadium two years ago left a lot of scars, and I’ve spent most of the week bracing myself for horrible PTSD because unfortunately I’m heading back up to East Lansing today. For three and a half hours this afternoon, I’m going to hang out in a happy place inside my head while I watch Michigan play like crap and lose. It will be great fun.
I hate being such a downer. I’ve actually been pretty optimistic about every game throughout the first half of the season despite all the issues the Wolverines have had since they sold their soul to beat Notre Dame. Today I’m just having a hard time finding anything to be positive about. All I’ve got is a long list of things that are decidedly not in favor of Michigan’s chances for victory. Let’s consider a few of them:
Team who rushes for more yards wins in this game. I hate, hate, hate when this gets mentioned, but I think the p-value on this statistic is too low to dismiss. Putting actual logic aside, let’s entertain this for a moment: Michigan State will probably rush 40 times for a little less than 150 yards. In what scenario could Michigan outgain that number? There’s no way Fitz and Derrick Green are combining for more than 100 against the Spartans defense; 50-70 is much more realistic. At least half of the rushing production will probably have to come from Gardner. Blergh, right? Don’t get me wrong. I think Gardner is perfectly capable of doing that with the right game plan and play calling, but in what universe do you see Michigan’s coaching staff willing to run their dual-threat QB against an elite defense on the road (see 2012 Alabama)?
Rain makes corn, and corn makes whiskey. Rain also makes it really hard to catch the ball, which will make me want to drink whiskey.
Michigan can’t handle defenses that aggressively key on Michigan’s tendencies. The next time Michigan executes a proper constraint against an opponent that over-defends a base play will be the first time. That may be an exaggeration, but I don’t think I’m too far off. And no, I’m not bringing this up because I’m mad about bubble screens.
Looking at Michigan’s offense over the past couple of seasons, it’s pretty evident Michigan doesn’t do much to make defenses pay for cheating, at least not within the framework of a single game. If the opponent figures out how to overplay the inverted veer, for instance, Michigan doesn’t have an answer other than to check into a completely different play, to which there will be something else the opponent can key on – like audibling into the pistol formation, which is something only Indiana’s defense would fail to recognize as a laughably obvious speed option.
Michigan’s preferred strategy is to add wrinkles on a week to week basis, adding new plays that build on what they did the previous week and that are designed to take advantage of how they think new opponents will prepare for what’s on film. Like if Michigan faked the bubble last week, they might actually throw it this week in anticipation that the defense will ignore the slot receiver (fingers crossed (like so hard)). Michigan wants opponents to play “guess what we’ll do next,” but it doesn’t work so well when the opposing defensive coordinator is a good guesser or is at least capable of making the right adjustments early in a game. By all accounts, Pat Narduzzi seems pretty good at both.
Michigan does not win MGoCovered road games. In the Brady Hoke era, the MGoCrew has covered six road games: 2011 MSU, 2012 Alabama, 2012 Notre Dame, 2012 Nebraska, 2012 OSU, 2013 Penn State. None of us know what it’s like to leave an opponent’s press box feeling like anything other than total shit. The long trip back to Ann Arbor with some variation of “wtf” as the only topic of conversation has become a bona fide MGoTradition. The tradeoff, I suppose: Michigan is undefeated at home. Woooo. Everyone feels unshitty about this, yes?
See you all in Evanston in a couple weeks!
Michigan 17, Michigan State 24