we'll always have that game against IMG
DISRESPEKT is earned. Anyone can become a scrappy, well-coached, ball-control program that wins a few big games despite never showing much in the way of draft picks and fancystats. But the more you win, the more that disrespect erodes. It takes an extraordinary program to reach true DISRESPEKT, to both keep winning AND continue to prove, day in and day out, that you objectively shouldn't.
Sending a string of quarterbacks to the NFL, returning 10 starters, getting some Heisman chatter, having a top-10 class reach drinking age, blocking someone: these are all acts that will undermine the foundations of a good DISRESPEKT, catapulting your Bill C numbers into playoff contention, making pundits believe for reasons they don't quite understand, and convincing Vegas to put the dreaded minus sign after your name. DISRESPEKT requires a true commitment to playing hurt and underrecruited backups, taking behavioral penalties, pulling statistical improbabilities out of your ass, then going online to make fun of all the losers and their math.
This Michigan State offense has reached peak DISRESPEKT. The top-250 RB who "skipped the NFL" is voluntarily on the bench. Lewerke's Heisman campaign barely merits all-Big Ten honorable mention. All but one of their burly receivers are injured. The offensive lineman most expected to be good is the least likely to play. Their biggest gainers are trick plays, and their best actual play is throwing a too-short fade into perfect coverage.
They're #75 to Bill Connelly, brutal to watch, and perfectly formed for the narratives of people who hate smart. They just knocked off #6 Penn State on the road. My brain says Michigan's #1 S&P+ defense can go into that cold, wet slab of concrete and whup these guys. History is clear they'll find a way to get just enough. I'm terrified.
The film: MSU-PSU was a classic upset. State collected all four of their fumbles plus Penn State's, Penn State defenders dropped all four of Lewerke passes they jumped, and while they did intercept one of their 12(!) additional one-handed passes defensed, Spartan receivers caught four of them. MSU's longest play from scrimmage was a fake punt, and their four touchdowns were off an RB pass, a fake field goal, and two dead drives extended by unnecessary defensive penalties. The national takeaway was why didn't they save this game for Michigan. I also charted the offense vs. Indiana, whose defense is conceptually a lot more like ours. That game too featured a lot of luck, but also Cody White.
Personnel: My diagram:
Putting aside the offensive line situation, MSU's skill position personnel is dealing with a lot of their own injuries. RB L.J. Scott has a recurring ankle issue and Dantonio said last week that it'll be up to Scott, who's been dressing, when he plays again. I'm guessing that will be Michigan, but he's been a progressively paler shadow of the dynamo freshman we saw in 2015. In fact I think he's been fully passed by sophomore RB Connor Heyward, a thick north-south type, if not also by the slightly more agile but still tank-like RB La'Darious Jefferson. All three are under 4 YPC this season, but again, the OL is after the jump.
Talent at receiver this year was a deep pool until somebody went grenade fishing in it. Jumbo slot WR Darrell Stewart is expected back for the first time since an (ankle?) injury against IU, and WR Cody White, the Tarik Black to Felton's DPJ, broke his wrist against CMU and is probably still out for this one. Add to the list freshman WR Jalen Nailor, who hasn't dressed the last few weeks, last year's top backup WR Cam Chambers, who's got 137 yards this year on just 8 targets but has been playing with a cast on his hand, and a backup slot Andre Welch. By the the PSU game regular outside options had been whittled down to just star split end Felton Davis, a Braylonesque threat we'll get into at the Dangerman section, and flanker Brandon Sowards, a skinny 5th year senior who wasn't used until this year except as a backup punt returner. In Stewart's absence smurfy slot Laress Nelson was highly productive, gathering 5 receptions on as many targets for 12 YPT, most of those seams.
In hefty skill position guys, tight end is a rotation after they failed to get much of a senior year bump out of returning starter TE Matt Sokol, who's been less a part of the offense of late. Backup TE Matt Dotson, a true sophomore, is basically a flex receiver. He's big enough to get away with some big guy OPI and shrug off little guy OPI, but not much of a blocker yet at this stage. There's also "TE" Chase Gianacakos, an offensive tackle-sized big boy who moved from guard and is purely in there to road grade. Standard blocky FB Collin Lucas has been dealing with an injury as well but I'm sure they've got a play designed for him in this game.
And then there's QB Brian "I Like the Way" Lewerke, whose legs were the engine of last year's MSU's offense, and whose star is hanging on right now only out of respect for his prior season. He'll have his own section too, after…