Pictured: Will Gholston; Not pictured: Will Gholston making a play
I'm apparently a blogger of the self-hating variety, as yesterday I re-watched last weekend's Michigan State-Iowa opposite-of-a-barnburner and even sat through both overtimes. The things I do for you people.
You probably know the story from this one; MSU couldn't hold on to two different ten-point leads or muster much of anything on offense, improbably losing to a Hawkeye team that averaged 3.7 yards per play after Andrew Maxwell tossed an interception in the second overtime. While this contest was fun for rivalry purposes, it was absolutely terrible for the game of football.
Let's move on to the breakdown while I still have the will to live.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Largely pro-style. State operates from under center on almost all standard downs, only going to the shotgun when they need to put the ball in the air.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? MSU runs a largely zone-heavy rushing attack, though they'll mix in a heavy dose of POWER and a few isos.
Hurry it up or grind it out? State managed a 42.8% adj. pace last year when they featured an actual passing offense. My guess is that figure will be even lower after this year, becausezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*criesinsleep*zzzzzzzzzzz.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Andrew Maxwell does not attempt to scramble or really move outside of the pocket. There's a reason for this. Here's a possibly-generous 3.
Dangerman: I was going to save this for the play breakdown, but whateva I do what I want:
That's LeVeon Bell, obviously, who's rushed for 916 yards and eight touchdowns on 200(!) carries this season. No other player on the Spartans has more than 16 carries. I think they call those "bellhorses" or "workcows" but it's early in the morning so I may be wrong here.
Anyway, the above is a prime example of why Bell is so dangerous. He's very adept at seeing the hole in a zone run and cutting to the backside, as he does above, and his combination of power and athleticism often allows him to make State's rather ineffective blocking irrelevant. Watch the center and right guard on that play; they pull off an effective double of the nose guard, but RG #62—Chris McDonald, reputedly their best lineman—fails to get off the block and chip anyone at the second level—you can see him make a desperation dive for MLB James Morris (#44) far after he has any chance to make a block.
But LeVeon Bell is very, very good, and simply adjusts by juking two linebackers out of their shoes and carrying two defensive backs into the end zone. He will make something out of nothing, and that something will be the majority of the MSU offense.
Zook John L. Factor: Mark Dantonio called for a punt on 4th-and-1 from the Iowa 48 while up 10-3 in the third quarter. That one could actually go either way; yes, LeVeon Bell exists, but the game was played in a steady rain and the Spartan defense wasn't ceding much of anything. I say go for it, but Mark Dantonio is the type of guy who drives at five below the speed limit.
Why is this category temporarily named the John L. Factor, then? Because THE KIDS ARE PLAYING THEIR TAILS OFF AND THE COACHES ARE SCREWING IT UP, that's why:
It's worth noting that video was uploaded by ESPN. Well played, WorldWide Leader, and I don't say that often these days.
HenneChart: Andrew Maxwell completed just 12-of-31 passes for 179 yards and an interception, but those numbers were largely the fault of a receiving corps that couldn't find green grass and dropped several catchable balls. While his HenneChart isn't great, it's not terrible, either:
There is a caveat: a rather low percentage of these passes actually went beyond the first-down marker. Maxwell usually had to check down to his safety outlet even on third-and-long—unsurprisingly, MSU converted 6-of-18 third downs—and his longest completion of the day was a two-yard crossing route that Aaron Burbridge YAC'd for 36 more. I only marked one bad read due to Maxwell dumping it off when he had an open receiver downfield, though ESPN's zoom-happy camera work made it difficult to tell if there should have been more. The overtime interception came on a throw to Tacopants, FWIW.
Regardless, expect a lot of passes to go into the flat after Maxwell looks downfield, lets out a deep sigh, and wonders if anyone will ever know that he's actually not a bad quarterback at all.
Dan Roushar plays Rock Paper Scissors while wearing a shirt that reads "I'M THROWING ROCK" in block print, then proceeds to throw... rock, of course. He wins when incredulous opponents overthink it, or when he lets LeVeon Bell play RPS for him. LeVeon Bell plays RPS by throwing rock and then punching his opponent in the face, which is rather effective.
I agree, I'm not sure if we can predict anything MSU will do this game. I think they'll break their tendancies and have lot of new stuff for this game. Let's not forget they were in pretty close games in their last few weeks. I would not be surprised that any new plays were saved as they try to out-execute Ohio and Iowa.
Also, I would not be in the least bit surprised if Sims starts.
It's possible, Jivas, but he didn't exactly do a good job of that, either. Also, it was pretty clear that Weisman was breaking free and needed to be tackled. Even if he's tasked with hitting that blocker it wasn't the most instinctial [EDIT: INSTINCTUAL; I need more coffee, apparently] play in the world.
I feel like it almost doesn't even matter what they've done previously for this game. They've been game planning this for the past 3 weeks and will show things they've never done before. They will play their best game of the year against us.
Their defense is very good, and I'm still worries that they will be able to shutdown our initial offensive attacks and Borges does not have the knowledge of the read-option to effectively counter-punch back. Thus he'll revert to his pro-style ways and we'll be fucked. The last four years have scarred me indeed.
I hope really HOPE UM can just keep running like they have been against Purdue and ILL and get consistent 5-6YPC but I don't think that is likely.
MSU has no respect for Denard and his passing (they probably shouldn't). So they WILL sell out on the run and really they have the fron 7 talent that means they don't really need to but they will anyways. This means "run blitzes" up the middle and CB blitzes from the edge to contain and stuff the run.
I think UM will get stuffed repeatedly and then it will be up to Denard to make some 3rd downs. If Denard makes these 3rd downs they we will eventually wear down MSU and win a slug fest.
If Denard throws or fumbles his way to 2+ TOs then UM is in trouble. I guarantee Denard will have one TO so its probably 50/50 shot that he gets 2. UM can overcome 2 TOs b/c MSU's offense is horrible but I'd rather UM didn't have too. Esp if one give MSU a real short field and they are able to turn it into a TD.
right where he wants you. You'll be thinking like dag we know he threw rocks all day so that he could gull us into practicing for rocks only so we practiced for paper and scissors! And Roushar will be like hurhur I know they practiced papers and scissors thinking I was gonna tomfool their wolvy asses--here comes some more gotdamnt rocks, punx!
Thanks for the detailed breakdown. Until I went to the comments I didn't even realize you had written this, it sounded so much like Brian's voice. Very funny and entertaining.
My hopes for the game:
1) Screens like against IL go for huge yards, do it on every 1st down to counter the double-a gap blitz, until they stop blitzing on first down. Then, once they stop blitzing on 1st down, go right up the gut on them.
2) Denard can hold on to the ball
3) Monster punt return yardage by Gallon and/or Norfleet - our D should be able to stop MSU. If we can shut down ND we can shut down MSU easy.
4) Lewan kicks Gholston's ass all day long, resulting in Gholston getting pissed, committing a stupid penalty, and getting ejected and suspended.
Were we running as much inverted veer against MSU as we were by the end of the year last year? If not, how well does that play work against the double A gap blitz. It seems like if the give is quick and the tackles seal the end, suddenly Fitz could be on the edge with much of the inside out support gone. I guess it also has the chance to blow up spectacularly if the blitz is timed well, though.
I expect to see that edge blitz that resulted in a fumble against Purdue.
I believe that the broken record this year will be repeated during the Michigan game. MSU's defense will play well for three quarters but wear down because the offense can't sustain drives, giving up the bulk of yards and scores in the 4th quarter. MSU's O-line has a weakness- blocking. Sadly, that's their main job and if they can't do it the playcall really doesn't matter. If I were the OC I'd run 80 screens a game because the O-line only has to run out and hit someone. Meanwhile, in Competent Coordinator Land, MSU's defense seems to be, encourage Denard to throw the ball and pounce to create turnovers, but once they get too gassed they won't be able to pounce and the plays will be there.
My only keys to the game: a) Can Michigan's D-line contain the run, and b) Can MSU's O-line block well enough to sustain some drives. If the former is true, Michigan will win. If the latter is true, MSU will win. Let's see how it turns out.
I am worried that this game will turn into the Notre Dame game. Don't hate me for bringing this up, but there are some similarities. Our defense shut down ND, but they were able to shut down our running game and put the pressure on Denard. This of course resulted in 5 turnovers by Shoelace alone, and contributed in a loss to a team which I honestly felt we could/should have beat (Slightly biased). Although there offense sucks and our defense could very well shut them down, if their defense produces the same results as ND it could be a LONG day. It doesn't help that it has been raining in Michigan for the last week and the conditions could be nasty tomorrow. If State wins, they will win ugly by forcing Michigan into many mistakes on offense. The scenerio is not completely ludacris as it already happened once this year. I hope I'm wrong and we roll them by 45, maybe the past 4 years have me nervous.