Ok, so consider yourself warned, this is going to be a big one.
There are a number of reasons we lost to state. I'm going to list them here. Before you get pissed off by reading the bold bullet points as you relive this painful day, consider this the stuff that lets you remain classy in defeat and know inside that they will rue this day and remember the cost for the decision to go for it on 4th down with 1 minute remaining in a 3-score game in the future.
So, in order of importance, lets get started.
1. Michigan State played solid football and executed fairly well for 4 full quarters.
I hate to say this, but Sparty came out and played themselves a good game. Much better than their showing last week against Wisconsin. As much as I hate MSU with a firey passion, they earned this win from their side. On offense, they fought to establish the run, converted on some big passing plays enough to get them close enough to score, and were doing well running varous counter plays all day. Their backs didn't put the ball on the ground, and Kirk Cousins didn't cough the ball up either. In general, not many bad decisions across the board.
On Defense, they began to win upfront, especially against the run, and did a pretty good job of keeping 3 yard gains from turning into 6 yard gains or more. Not shutdown by any means, but they were good enough such that we needed to execute very well to get offensive progress. Which brings us to point two:
2. We turned the ball over three times.
We need to expect opposing teams to execute. Thus, if we fuck up and turn the ball over 3 times, twice in the red zone, we shouldn't expect to win. Had we not turned the ball over, and those drives go for scores, we win the game even if we assume they score anyways when they get the ball back.
This is a 21 point differential. That means that we'd be having to play good enough to blow them out by 21 points to overcome those kinds of mistakes. I'm sure the UFR may shed some light as to exactly what went on, but ultimately responsibility for this comes down on our dear Shoelace, who had probably the worst game of his career. I think these turnovers though are really though indicative of something else:
3. We didn't execute well passing the ball at all today.
No, seriously, recievers, STOP DROPPING THE DAMN BALL. *rage* etc. The drops killed our passing game and cost us at least a couple scores and key first downs. Every dropped pass is an important missed oppertunity and is the sort of stuff that changes games. We are talking probably over 100 yards of offense lost to dropped balls, not including what we've have had for continuing drives and likely contributed to point 4:
4. We never established the run
They had 6-7 guys in the box against 4wr shotgun sets, and most of the time, 5-6 against empty backfield sets. They caught onto the Zone Read after the first quarter or so and began shutting down a lot of the inside runs. Because we couldn't do much of anything to force their LBs to back off the line of scrimmage (and their deep safety for that matter - he was taking 4-5 steps towards the LOS on most plays even late in the game), they crushed us on the run.
I can't even say our run offense execution was particularly bad, they just played run-first defense and it's not particularly easy to get the run game going when that is their defense's first read. Your run game and pass game need to help each other out, and in this game, the execution through the air really killed our ability to execute on the ground. One thing that helped kill our execution through the air was the fact that:
5. The officiating was abysmal.
Tackling recievers before the catch aparrently isn't pass interference if the reciever wears maize and blue.
More irritating than that was the fact that their LT held blatantly on every fucking passing down, we had people practically sit on our pass rushers and not get flagged. MSU was also blocking our defenders in the back all day as well. Furthermore, it took an injury along our D-Line for them to call the same chop block Sparty was doing all game.
The UFR can confirm this as well, but I'm pretty sure 3 of their linemen were past the line of scrimmage on the trick play, but I was in the student section and couldn't tell for sure.
Not really blaming the loss on this, but it sure didn't help us out. Especially when it comes to the fact that:
6. Our defense sucks.
By all counts, for this years defense, we got a lot more stops and good plays from them than we are used to. They honestly got us enough stops that if our offense didn't keep turning the ball over, we'd have been able to win, and probably quite handily.
But holy shit, where are our standards? This is Michigan! Giving up 500 yards to fucking sparty? Are you nuts? Giving up two huge runs and ugly big pass plays on a reliable basis? Lamarr Woodley must be crying when he watched that defense play wearing the same jerseys he and the other World Destroyers of '06 wore. This defense will continue to do enough to win us games, but come on, at Michigan, we have to do better than this.
They have to bail out the offense every once in a while, since one half the team shouldn't have to make all the plays in a season.
Sparty executed on offense at least in part because we weren't enough of a challenge to make them force plays. Michigan won't win reliably until we can make other offenses feel uncomfortable doing their favorite things. Cases in point: they began to shut down the Zone Read runs while they were very rarely stopped in power runs (especially counters) all game.
Wow, that's really ugly, does this mean we fire Rich Rodriguez?
Cautiously, not yet. His starting QB had the worst game of his career. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, MSU could walk away with part of a Big Ten title. Hell, if Ohio State drops one (they do look a bit vulnerable), MSU may even play for a national title (especially if South Carolina and/or Oregon drop one too). This loss probably puts him on a very toasty seat, but its nothing a big win next week (or a 9-3 overall finish with a bowl win for #10) can't cure.
What about teh GERG? I hate seeing sparty run like champs.
So do I. Results for the rest of the season will determine this, but I tend to be a bit flexible due to the injuries across the board. I think our Defense would be legitimately scary with Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk playing, so I hesitate to call for the axe to drop on his head. His seat should be toastier than richrod's though.
***OUR KICKERS ARE FIRED THOUGH, GIVE ME A SCHOLARSHIP TO GET FIELD GOALS BLOCKED KTHX***
So, on to the future:
MSU is little more than a collection of classless, inbred sofa-pyromaniacs.
I totally agree. There are some exceptions, of course, but I nearly lost it when they ran on 4th down at the end of the game while up 3 scores. I will never in my life accept pulling starters against them the next time we blow them out. In fact, not just because of our shitty kicking, I honestly feel like we should go for 2 from now on against them. They may have earned the win today by executing well on the field, but they've also earned a lot of hell to pay. Their fans are worse than fucking chicago fans, and are a disgrace to our state. The ones nearest me cheered our injuries and lacked even a shred of dignity or class.
I pray for the day righteous wrath comes down on those inbred cocksuckers and they remember their place in the order of life, but that will wait at least another year.
Thanks, captain obvious. What about the rest of the season?
It's all going to depend on ball security. Fortunately, Penn St. looked terrible and Illinois still looks beatable. Purdue is also still a joke.
Here's the breakdown, if we get win x, it will come against teams as follows (in order of difficulty):
Win 6: Purdue
Indiana is precisely 98954554366756 times better than purdue. If we lose this game, RR doesn't deserve a job at Michigan
Win 7: Penn St
Penn St is bad this year. They forgot offense was important and their defense isn't exactly something to write home about either. They aren't doing well at anything. Dangerous if we are on a 2-game losing streak if we lose to Iowa perhaps, but we still have no business losing this game.
Win 8: Illinois
The key to this game is not self-imploding. Illinois can do ok when they are free to execute at will, but they should be very beatable, especially since we have them at home. The big house was really frigging loud before we started turning the ball over, so I think we definately have credible home-field advantage. If we beat Penn St and can run on them, we'll run on Illinois too.
Win 9: Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a hard game, no matter how you look at it. However, if we can beat Michigan State if we don't turn the ball over, then I expect a performance with no turnovers against a lower quality Wisconsin team will be enough for us to win.
Win 10: Iowa
This might be a better team than the buckeyes, but we have them at home, and Stanzi can choke away tough road games. Rebounding from MSU will be tough, but if we learn from mistakes this game and don't turn the ball over, we can win. Our offense is good enough that if we don't drop balls, we can put their LBs and safeties on a back-step and open up more on the ground than what we had against MSU. A lot needs to be corrected but this one is still in our grasp. Especially if we get 4 quarters of the kind of noise that was made in the big house that we had in the first quarter.
Win 11: Ohio State
OSU D? Scary. OSU Offense? Not that scary. Abilty for us to play 4 quarters without doing a lot of coughing the ball up in one of the hardest places to play in College Football? That's more than a bit of a challenge. It's a bit hard to predict this far ahead with so much more football to be played, but this is looking like a bit more of a longshot. We can still win this game, but we'll need to improve a lot before getting to them if we want to have a chance to be competitive.
Shoelace for heisman?
Only if you can stomach rooting for sparty down the stretch. Shoelace had a very bad day. Its recoverable, but he needs to get back to game 1-5 form and limit mistakes again for his heisman campaign to look credible. Michigan State doing well down the stretch will make heisman voters forgive this performance if he does well through the rest of the season. For his part, there were a lot of teachable moments today - in the long run, I see him coming out better for the hard lessons that came today.
Can you predict something so I can call you a dumbass later?
Absolutely. I'm going to call us cautiously at 10-2. Shoelace does very well when he's being doubted, so I'm hoping for a big rebound against Iowa. Iowa is very scary, especially up front on defense, but a good day passing will keep us driving and give us the win after a couple stanziballs give us a big leg up. Wisconsin will be a broken team with at least one other loss to Ohio State and maybe another along the line before they arrive in ann arbor. They tend to choke promising seasons away, and while they plastered minnesota, I'm still not a believer. PSU, Illinois, and Purdue end all predictably.
So, there you have it. laissez les bon temps roulez. Losing to sparty hurts but we still have a fairly promising looking season ahead of us.