Purdue Wrap-Up

This team is different. 2011 is different. We're 7-1, and a legit conference/division contender heading into November. We heard from the players the last two weeks that this team was different. They were not going to let the MSU loss deter them. They were right.

They dismantled a Purdue team that just shutdown Illinois and their dangerous signal-caller Nathan Scheelhaase a week ago. Michigan played sound, fundamental football. They blocked well. Tackled well. Ran, passed and kicked well. Once Michigan answered Purdue's opening drive touchdown with one of their own, and then forced Purdue into 3-straight three and outs, was there any doubt about this game?

This is not 2010.


Relevant links from sites we trust
MVictors' Dr. Sap decals for Purdue. And also from Greg, a nice breakdown of the B1G tiebreaker scenarios...which are a little more complex than one would think. Big House Blog does a post-game analysis. MGoBlog brings us Purdue video of all varieties.

My analysis
There was a lot to like in this game. We ran the ball effectively with our running backs. Our defense played outstanding minus Jordan Kovacs who's out with a leg injury. Denard, for the most part, made the plays he was asked to make. A couple poor passes, one which was intercepted, and another which was under thrown off Denard's back foot which Gallon made another good adjustment to. But other than that, we were clicking on Saturday.

Any breakdown of this game would not be complete without commending the defense. They stepped up big time in this game. Up front, Mike Martin was a beast! He, Heininger, Roh, Big Will Campbell, all had nice games. I like Desmond Morgan getting the start over Brandin Hawthorne. It shows that Greg Mattison and his staff are seeing young guys continue to step up in practice to challenge starters for their spots well into the season.

How great is Jake Ryan playing? For a red-shirt freshman, maybe one of the best in a long time.

It was nice to hear from Hoke after the game commend Troy Woolfolk. Called him one of the best players on this team, even though he's been playing hurt. He stepped in for the injured Kovacs at safety, making the transition from corner very nicely. He, Gordon, Countess, JT, Avery all played very well.

But the player of the game, no question, was Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Michigan needed to have a breakout game from one of it's backs. And thankfully it was this game. Going into the final stretch of the season, we need a feature back who can be dependable. Fitz showed tremendous speed and agility on Saturday. Much of his success can be attributed to the offensive line, who also played well. I don't know the extent of Lewan's injury...if you could even call it that. Hoke was nondescript when asked about it in the post-game presser. But when Lewan came back into the game after badly limping off the field in the previous series, I can bet that was a huge lift to this offense.

I've said it a few times and I'll say it again – I just don't like seeing so much of Devin in the game. I get why they do it...to throw off the defense, run some misdirection, but I just don't think we need it so much. After Devin's very poor throw which was intercepted, Al Borges went back to the ground game (which greatly benefited Fitz). Don't get me wrong, I think Devin has great ability, but he lacks the ability to just be dropped into the game and perform immediately.

Going forward, we have 4 more tests that will be much tougher than this one. But from a confidence standpoint, mission accomplished. We washed the taste of Michigan State out of our mouths and got back to winning. Iowa on the road will be a much tougher test entirely...regardless of the fact that they just lost to Minnesota.

Michigan is right where they need to be going into the last month of the season. And when was the last time we've been able to say that?

Related coverage:

Purdue Photos

Purdue First Half Thoughts

Bullets and stats from the first half at Michigan Stadium.

1st Downs156
Rush Yards13836
Pass Yards15683
Total Off.294119
• Purdue's first drive, all 1 minute and 24 seconds of it was very well orchestrated. The bubble screen they scored on was run to perfection...including some missed tackles by Michigan.

• Michigan's first drive attacked Purdue in every way. Bubble screens, power running, downfield passes in which Denard looked sharp. It was a very nice drive to counter Purdue's opening drive. Of course, at the goal line, when in doubt, give it to Denard. This marks the 5th game in a row when Michigan has scored on it's first drive. If Borges scripts the first 15 or so plays like I think he does, he's on to something.

• Denard's INT on the second drive was just a bad read by Denard, trying to force it to Koger and never took his eyes off him. The Purdue linebacker Joe Holland made a great play.

• After giving up a TD on the opening drive, the Michigan defense forced two 3 and outs. The second one was following the Denard INT. The Devin Gardner INT was just ugly. Poor throw. I bet Devin knew it was the wrong read as soon as it left his hands.

• Mike Martin's bullrush and sack for a safety, Michigan's first since Houston in 03, changed the entire feeling in the stadium. He's a beast!

• RVB also had a nice blast through the line to rush Marve's pass while was bobbled and intercepted by Avery on Purdue's 4th drive...which was moving along nicely.

• I really like what I'm seeing out of Fitz so far. He's got nice speed and good toughness. Michigan needs this guy to step up...which I think he's doing so far in this game. Clearly the play-calling, especially at the end of the half was pass first, mostly due to time, but I'd like to see Fitz get some more looks down at the goal line.

• Denard has played well aside from the INT, and maybe a bad throw here or there. But as a few in the pressbox have noted, and you probably have as well, he seems to be missing a gear on his running when he gets into space. He also seem a little hesitant at times. Clearly he's not the free-wheeling Denard from last year.

Purdue Pregame Photos

Some shots from the field before the Purdue game. It's chilly, but no wind, so that's a big help. Great day for Michigan Football!

Preview: Purdue

Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
October 29, 2011, 12:00 PM

TV: ESPN2 (Beth Mowins, Mike Bellotit, Shelly Smith)
Radio: WWJ-950 AM, WTKA-1050 AM, Sirius/XM 85 (Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter, Doug Karsch)
Line: UM -15
Over/Under: 52.5
Series Record: UM leads 42-14
Last Meeting: 2010: MICH 27 - PURDUE 16
UM Record/Rank: 6-1 (2-1), #18 (BCS)
PU Record/Rank: 4-3 (2-1)
Gametime Forecast: Mostly Cloudy, 50º, Winds NW 5-10 MPH

Relevant links from sites we trust
Good preview posts from mgoblog, Big House Blog, BWS. The MZone does Know Your Foe. And Ace from mgo drops a film study on us. Purdue blog Boiled Sports previews this one from the Boiler side of the isle.

My preview-ish, kinda thing
So yeah, I've had low expectations all week leading up to this "preview", spare time has been something of a luxury lately, so...yeah. Basically, any of the links above can give you a much better preview of this game than what you're going to get here.

What I am looking for tomorrow is a Michigan team that does not do the fall into the whole "we lost to Michigan State so now we're not any good" mentality that we've had the last two years. It's a delicate thing really. And after reading John U. Bacon's Three and Out...I will have a whole new respect for this coaching staff if they can keep the "cockroaches" from coming back out.

In all honesty, I think Brady Hoke killed all of those cockroaches when he arrived.

Anyway, Hoke got a huge break by easing back into the schedule with Dan Hope's Purdue squad. Rich Rod had Iowa both years, and we all remember how that turned out.

So what I am looking for tomorrow is not necessarily guys looking pumped up during warm-ups, which is always the case. But what I really want to see is Michigan players really playing aggressive on defense, especially up front where it counts. I want Michigan players jumping around throughout the game – having fun and making Purdue realize that we're not just going to put our tails between our legs because we lost once.

Purdue is not exactly flashy on offense, so they are completely containable if we play good. They beat Illinois last week simply by being the other team on the field when Illinois imploded. If Michigan can come out and play as well as we did against Minnesota, or San Diego State, or Northwestern in the second half, then we should cruise through this game.

However, if Purdue comes out and plays like they should (which means they play like they have nothing to lose), and Michigan lets them off the hook, start to worry. If they can control the line of scrimmage, break tackles, start to worry.

Basically, if they play like Michigan State...start to worry.

Our biggest offensive weakness is not Denard's lack of competent passing ability, it's our complete lack of running game from our running backs.

I can not overstate that enough. Denard needs a running game. And not the one he creates with his own two legs. You win football games in the B1G by doing two things well – running the ball, and stopping the run...which is exactly how Michigan State beat us two weeks ago. Don't think for a second that every other B1G team that plays us won't seen the film from that game.

We might be able to beat Purdue with Denard's legs and arm alone, he's that good when he's on, but I'll be very nervous going into the home stretch of the season if our RBs don't produce tomorrow.

We'll have much more tomorrow for the game if you follow us on Twitter. And of course, the usual gameday fare on the blog (photos, 1st half post, post-game stuff).

Related content:

Purdue Week Video Roundup

Original content around here has been sparse lately, and will continue to be until real life slows down. But I wanted to bring you the YouTube roundup for Purdue week. I am efforting a Purdue preview that I will try to have posted tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy a good 45 minutes of "coach speak".

Brady Hoke Monday:

RVB Monday

Al Borges Tuesday:

Greg Mattison Tuesday:

Brady Hoke Wednesday:

Denard Wednesday

Talkin' Purdue with the Michigan Man Podcast

More talk radio to share with you guys, this time though, it's a podcast – The Michigan Man Podcast.

Mike Fitzpatrick hosts the show, and he had me on to talk about Michigan Football at the midway point of the season, as well as a preview of the Purdue game this weekend. This week's episode also features Mike Carmin from The Journal & Courier in Lafayette, who knows a whole lot more about the Boilers than I do.

You can listen to the show at Go Blue M Wolverine or directly on the Michigan Man Podcast page. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Thanks again to Mike for having me on.

B1G Breakdown: Week 9

Ed. Just a heads up, busier than normal lately, so it's tough to get as much content out there as I'd like to. Still planning on doing a Purdue preview, but it will be brief.

Week 8 was...interesting. Michigan State's hail mary was exciting. I still have yet to see conclusive video evidence that the receiver broke the plane with the ball...but I guess I'm just not seeing it.

Another letdown for my picks as I had Illinois and Wisconsin...as most did. Curse you Ron Zook! You do this to me every year!

Weeks 1-7: 51-11
Week 8: 3-2
Overall: 54-13  (.805)

All games are on Saturday 10/29. All times eastern. My picks in bold. (Rankings: BCS)

Legends Division
#11 Michigan State @ #14 Nebraska
12:00 - ESPN

Iowa @ Minnesota
3:30 - BTN

Leaders Division
Illinois @ #19 Penn State
3:30 - ABC/ESPN2

#15 Wisconsin @ Ohio State
8:00 - ESPN

Northwestern @ Indiana
12:00 - BTN

Purdue @ #18 Michigan
12:00 - ESPN2

Biggest "must-watch" games of the week:
Obviously, its gotta be Michigan State at Nebraska. Have to know that MSU's wins, at home against Michigan and Wisconsin, were not just a result of homefield advantage. I doubt that they were, at least for the Michigan game. For much of the game, their fans were rather tame. I can only guess the atmosphere last week was a bit more intense.

Either way, Sparty has to take this incredible momentum on the road to one of the most intimidating places in the B1G. Will be really interesting to see how this plays out. This is a huge game for Michigan fans. We would like Nebraska to win, btw.

Upset Alert!
I'm putting Wisconsin on upset alert. After another disheartening loss to MSU in as many years (this one in epic fashion), it's going to be really interesting to see how the Badgers respond in a tough environment. Ohio State is not good, but they did take out Illinois two weeks ago, and have had two weeks to prepare for this game. All of the sudden, Wisconsin is vulnerable.

If this game was in Madison, I'd be putting Michigan on upset alert. Purdue is playing their best football right now, and Michigan has had two weeks to lick their wounds after their first loss of the year to Michigan State...for the 3rd year in a row. The last two years, the MSU loss has created a collapse in Ann Arbor. Going to be very interesting to see how Michigan responds.

Snoozer of the week
Iowa at Minnesota. No question Minnesota is a team in rebuilding mode. But this rebuilding process is not going well. They will not win again this year, which makes this game completely unwatchable.

Bold predictions!
This week could be another week of upsets and close games. We're in the middle of the season, which means each B1G starts beating each other up. If you like good matchups, this week is a good one. Illinois at Penn State, Wisconsin at Ohio State and MSU at Nebraska. All of those should be good games. And not to mention, we host the resurgent Boilers for homecoming. 
All 12 B1G teams are in action, and it should mean that we will get at least a few really great games to watch.

Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football

This thing. It will be discussed.

One of the genuine perks about being a Michigan blogger, other than writing for all you fine folks, is sometimes we get...stuff. I must admit, when I first heard about John U. Bacon's book, Three and Out – which chronicles a blow-by-blow account of the three most tumultuous years in recent Michigan Football memory, I knew it would be a must-read for any Wolverine fan. How could it not? Bacon...Rodriguez...book. Do the math.

Luckily enough, I was able to get my hands on a pre-release copy. You can pre-order yours here. It lands on the 25th. Let me just say, it's long. 438 pages to be exact. But in those pages is a very detailed depiction of the three years Rich Rodriguez spent as Michigan's head coach. Bacon had unfettered access to Rodriguez. And he used it well.

Since it arrived on Tuesday, I haven't been able to put it down...and I'm not what you would call, a book guy. I'm not through it yet – this week has been a test in time management for me personally, but I'm close enough to be able to call this book a true achievement. John poured three years of his life into these pages, and boy, was it worth it.

Any Michigan fan worth their salt knows who John U. Bacon is. Maybe from his countless appearances in such Big Ten Network shows such as the recent "Icons" series, or his weekly radio show on WTKA. Or maybe you know him from his previous book, Bo's Lasting Lessons. Either way, the UofM alum and teacher, who won the 2009 Golden Apple Award given by the student's to Michigan's best teacher, will be a name any sports fan will recognize after this book hits.

Brian Cook from MGoBlog, who is mentioned frequently in the book, has posted a series of Q and A's done with the book's author. Check them out. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. UMGoBlue has some early thoughts. And Greg from MVictors also chimed in with his view from the clans – which makes a lot more sense now that I've digested most of the book.

My take?

Without going into too much depth, this book is going to be talked about. A lot. You're going to need to maybe schedule some extra time with your therapist when you're done. I'll just say that I blogged pretty heavily before, through and after the Rich Rod era at Michigan. I thought I had, at least a decent gauge on what was happening. But above the level of access I had to the program during this time, there was a ton of stuff going on (putting it nicely).

To put it simply, as Bacon would – Boy, I had no idea.

I'm really eager for this book release, so I can talk about it more. I need to talk about this. But I have a feeling there are a few people, people you all know quite well, who aren't as excited as I am. If you haven't already, pre-order your copy now. Right Now!

Gholston Suspension Ruling Is In

Michigan State DE, William Gholston will serve a one-game suspension for this:

Via B1G press release:
Park Ridge, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference office announced that it will impose a one-game suspension on Michigan State University football student-athlete William Gholston for violating the Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement during Michigan State’s game against Michigan on Oct. 15, 2011.

The Big Ten determined that Gholston’s actions at the end of the third quarter of the Michigan contest violated Big Ten Conference Agreement 10.01.1.A.1 - “Striking or attempting to strike or otherwise physically abusing an official, opposing coach, spectator or athlete.” The conference office also publicly reprimanded Gholston for his actions.

The Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement states that “It shall be the responsibility of each member university to ensure that all of its students and all individuals employed by or directly associated with it comport themselves in a sportslike manner when representing their university, especially at intercollegiate athletic contests.”

The Big Ten Conference considers this matter concluded and will have no further comment.
We told you how we felt about Gholston, and his antics, earlier this week. I have to admit, any suspension for Gholston is actually a surprise to me. I really felt like this issue would get swept under the rug.

I also assume the action in question is the hit on Lewan, and not the late hit and helmet twist on Denard which I believe occurred earlier in the game.

But a one-game suspension is the best-case scenario, if you think about it. MSU will miss him this week when Wisconsin comes to town. But not as much as next week when they travel to Nebraska.

Calling All Michigan Man-Cave Dwellers

Still on the lookout for reader-submitted photos, to be featured on our site, of Michigan themed man-caves. We first mentioned this idea a few weeks ago, and we've had a few submissions so far, but we're looking for more.

So if you have a Michigan themed man cave, or know someone who has one, send us some pictures and a maybe a brief description of what some of the signature pieces of your collection are, and what makes your man-cave so special.

Doesn't have to be a typical basement man-cave either. It could be a room that is a dedicated shrine, a bar, a converted garage. But the basic idea is that it's where you like to keep your Michigan swag, watch Michigan games, or just pray to the spirit of Fielding H. Yost in Victor's Valhalla.

Its the bye-week, so what else do you have to do that's so important? Email me your photos at brad@maizenbluenation.com.

B1G Breakdown: Week 8

How is it week 8 already?

Week 7 was a bit of a letdown for my picks. My worst week yet. Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern all let me down last week, and my season average took a hit.

Weeks 1-6: 49-8
Week 7: 2-3
Overall: 51-11  (.822)

All games are on Saturday 10/22. All times eastern. My picks in bold. (Rankings: BCS)

Legends Division
#13 Nebraska @ Minnesota
3:30 - ABC/ESPN2

Leaders Division
#23 Illinois @ Purdue
12:00 - ESPN2

Indiana @ Iowa
12:00 - BTN

#21 Penn State @ Northwestern
7:00 - BTN

#6 Wisconsin @ #16 Michigan State
8:00 - ESPN

Bye: #18 Michigan, Ohio State

Biggest "must-watch" games of the week:
Indiana at Iowa? Just kidding.

Yeah, Wisconsin at Michigan State. Michigan fans wanting to see how you handle Michigan State's defense will likely want to tune in. However, Sparty is coming off a very emotional victory against their biggest rival, so I expect them to have quite a letdown. Wisconsin is by far the best team in the league, and I still think Michigan State is vulnerable in many areas...most importantly on offense.

I expect Wisconsin rolls in this one. But I could be wrong.

Upset Alert!
Again, Penn State is on upset alert. They took care of business last week against Purdue, but it was closer than I though it would be. Evanston is tough at night, and Northwestern needs a big win to stop this tailspin (0-3 so far in league play).

Snoozer of the week
Nebraska get's the league's doormat this week. Oddly enough, at 3:30 on ABC.

Bold predictions!
Last week, my prognostications were way off. I didn't expect any upsets, and then there were 3. But this week, I really do feel like I am picking the better teams. But 4 of my picks are road teams, and we all know it's tough to win in this league on the road. But all of this week's home teams are very beatable, outside of probably Iowa. With no Michigan or Ohio State on the schedule, the national attention will be paid to Wisconsin and Michigan State...which probably won't be as good of a game as Sparty fans are building it up to be. 

But I'm probably way off.

Michigan State Wrap-Up


I'm going to keep this thing short and sweet. If you like long, confusing diatribes that you can read with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture playing quietly in the background, you're well covered.

It was a miserable sports weekend for me. In every possible capacity, it was miserable. So in the spirit of not reliving each hard handshake and helmet twist, I'm going to keep it brief.

What we did well:
• Creating turnovers.
• Pass coverage.
• Shock every Michigan fan with more uniform mischief. To which most UM fans agree that it's all good fun if you win. Lose, and you might as well leave those puppies in the MSU locker room.

What we did not so well:
• Match how physical MSU was playing.
• Passing the ball in any capacity with either quarterback.
• Blocking. Well, sorta. Tough to block a blitzing swarm when our QBs are dropping back to try downfield throws in a 40 MPH wind.
• Tackling. MSU got to, and around the edge all day on us. MSU rushed for 213 yards. Edwin Baker alone rushed for 6.4 yards per carry behind a hodge-podge offensive line.
• Play-calling. When Denard and Devin combine for an abysmal passing game, why oh why are we passing on 4th and inches on the MSU 9 yardline late in the game??? Play-calling was not great all day, but that play will haunt me for a while.
• Overall execution. From the coaches to the players. We got away from what I assume was the gameplan. We allowed Sparty to shake us.

I wanted to sleep on it for a night or two before I wrote anything, but I'm more irked by it now than I was when it happened. Let me just say that from this day forward, let's just all assume that when we play Michigan State, it's going to be a dirty, cheap-shot penalty-filled, shameful performance from the Spartans. Dantonio has made it his goal in life to beat Michigan – which is fine, I can live with that. But at what point does it go from wanting to win, to winning at any cost? I think we found out last week.

It cheapens the game, and the rivalry as a whole when crap like what we saw last week occurs.

Shame on Dantonio for seeing how far he can stretch the rules to win (although I'm expecting less and less out of Mark these days). And shame on the Big Ten, I will assume, for allowing it to happen – that's the frustration.

Now what?
For Michigan, we need to move on – which is tough because it's a bye week. But we need to move on. The last two years we allowed Sparty to derail us. I don't think that happens this year because we have a nice entry back into the schedule with Purdue at home, but still – we need to turn the page.

This is me moving on.

Dan Wheldon 1978-2011

This has nothing to do with Michigan Football, but it has everything to do with sport. Indy Car racing is one of the most fiercely competitive sports in the world. It's also one of the most dangerous.

In football, life is never really at risk when two teams get together to play a game. But in racing, these drivers put their life at risk every time they get behind the wheel. Is it foolish? Yes. But some people are just wired that way. Regardless, when a driver loses his life, it's tough to reason with the logic. Death and auto-racing are forever intertwined. It just comes with the job. But that doesn't make it any more bearable when it happens.

Fellow Michigan blog and bigger racing fan that I, The Blog That Yost Built put together a great post about Dan Wheldon. I've always been a modest racing fan, open-wheel racing to be more specific. But I wasn't able to watch the race yesterday, so I didn't hear about Dan's death until after the fact. I did catch the highlights of the race, including this clip below, where the 19 cars remaining in the race when it was cancelled did a 5-lap tribute to their fallen friend.

This is one of the most unique and touchings moments I've ever seen in all of sport. Kudos to the commentators for letting the moment go uninterrupted, and to ABC for taking their network bug off the screen.

Dan Wheldon is survived by his two sons Sebastian and Oliver, and his wife Susie.

For Your Consideration: William Gholston

Gholston had a full day of playing dirty, but here are the two plays in question.

Gholston post-game press conference. New phrase of the day: "Wreckless abandonment":

Mark Dantonio following the game – "I do think it was a cleanly played football game." [Link]

No question, a suspension is in order. One game at least. He should have been thrown out of the game following the helmet twist...which refs might not have even seen, given the late hit alone was worthy of the flag. How he was able to remain in the game after the punch to Lewan is beyond me. Refs saw it, flagged it, and then let it go.

Look, I'm not going to say these dirty plays decided the game. Michigan State beat us straight up. If anything these plays and the resulting penalties helped us out by extending drives in the second half when our offense was having a lot of trouble. But regardless of the outcome, dirty play is not acceptable. I like this rivalry. I like that its very physical. But I don't want to see it get out of control. Both Gholston and Lewan are sophomores, which means they'll likely see each other again at least once. I don't want to see it get ugly. That's not what this rivalry should be about.

Photos and Thoughts from Michigan State

First up, some photos.

Something we saw way too much of today.
Devin might be a good QB, but on 4th and 22, throw it up. Not going to scramble for 22 yards against this defense.
It's uglier up close. Both the MSU uniform and the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Paul heading to the tunnel.
Jordan Kovacs post-game.
Mike Martin post-game.
Brady Hoke on the loss going into the bye week: "We need to feel this one for a while. But we'll turn the page."
Not going to get into a full review here, but some bullet thoughts from the 28-14 loss in East Lansing today.

• MSU didn't do anything we didn't think they would. They're defense is as good as advertised. They blitzed, they threw off our timing and never allowed us to get into any kind of rhythm. Hoke said in the post-game presser that we were out-coached today – tough to argue that one. Michigan State cam to play, and we looked pretty flat much of the game.

• Playcalling obviously suffered due to MSU defense and the wind, which was whipping around all day. I have to think the wind played a factor. But regardless, when MSU is blitzing like crazy, some adjustments needs to be made to offset the blitz. Screen passes, bubble-screens, some slant passes maybe. Something. Anything to get the ball out of Denard's hands quicker.

• I think Borges would like to have that 4th and 1 call late in the game back.

• Devin coming into the game a lot, I think, impacted our rhythm offensively. I see why we like to have him in there to throw off the defense and to line Denard up elsewhere, but at a certain point it became too much. Devin showed on a few plays that his timing and field vision is just not where it should be if he wants to compete for more playing time.

• Hats off to Will Hargerup. He looked solid all day punting into the wind. Matt Wile's kickoff to start the 2nd half was not what he wanted. Poor kick in an otherwise pretty good kicking day.

• Our defense actually looked pretty good at times. We held MSU to 21 offensive points, which isn't too bad all things considered. They ran the ball well, but Cousins never killed us. I think our DBs had a good day coverage-wise, but that will probably get lost in the ether of the loss.

• This loss feels worse than it was because it's the 4th in a row to little brother. But when you look at how close it was at the end, and how we really had a shot only down 7 at the MSU 9-yardline with plenty of time to play – this one could have gone a different way for us. I think we have some good things to work on these next two weeks.

That's it for now. Tigers are on. Much more to come soon.

Michigan State - First Half Thoughts

1st Downs108
Rush Yards95100
Pass Yards4362
Total Off.138162
Some random first half impressions from the MSU pressbox.

• Michigan warmed-up in their usual away jerseys, but came out for the game in an away version of the same legacy uniform they wore for the Notre Dame game. No big block M on the front, though. I like the look. If MSU is going to do it, we should too.

• Penalties (by MSU) and wind playing a huge roll in this game so far. Oddly no turnovers. I don't see this game ending without a turnover or two.

• Michigan's first drive was a mix of read plays and short passes. Obviously scripted. But they moved the ball well. The fake FG looked like an option, which MSU defensed well, but Dileo made a good effort to get the first down.

• The touchdown run by Denard on the first drive was the result of an MSU blitz, which was picked up, but caused Denard to make some magic with his feet, which he did.

• MSU looked strong on their first drive. Stronger on the run than on the pass. They did what many teams have done to us, which is try to spread us out with a lot of off-tackle and pitches. Very little up the gut until the touchdown run from the 1 yardline. Interesting to see how this plays out as Michigan's adjusts.

• Hoke was willing to play the field-position game n 4th and 4 early in the second quarter. Did it pay off? Not really. We did stop them on their second 3rd down of the drive, but a nice punt by Sadler put Michigan at their own 30.

• Its safe to say that Michigan is still getting used to playing on the road. East Lansing being a hostile environment, probably the most hostile we'll see all year (away games coming up are at Iowa and at Illinois). A few times Michigan needed to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game. I believe Michigan had one delay call early in the game.

• Throwing the ball, obviously not Michigan's strong suit today, at least so far. A lot of poor throws to guys who are covered, especially when other receivers/running backs are wide open. One pass from Denard was so bad it was uninterceptable. MSU having a tough time with some passes hitting the hands of receivers and not being caught.

• It will be interesting to see what Michigan adjusts at halftime for the second half. I think we did a pretty good job adjusting to what MSU was showing us offensively. Clearly, a new gameplan needs to be thought up to move the ball more effectively and get Denard/Devin some completions.

Michigan Unveils Legacy Away Uniforms for MSU Game

Via UM media relations:
Michigan Unveils Legacy Road Uniform for MSU Game
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Prior to kickoff of the Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, the University of Michigan football team unveiled a legacy uniform designed by apparel provider adidas.

“Our players really enjoyed the uniforms from the night game with Notre Dame so we decided to surprise them and the country with a new-look design for the Michigan State game,” said head coach Brady Hoke. “This is such a great in-state rivalry that we decided to honor the former players that played in this game.”

The legacy jersey is a compilation of design elements from different eras of Michigan football. It features player numbers on the front and back of the jersey with a block M above the heart and repeating striped sleeves. The shirts under the uniform have “Victors” on the left bicep and “Valiant” on the right bicep.

The white pants are a throwback to the 1974 and 1975 seasons when the program wore all white on the road. In addition, the Wolverines wore two-tone socks with blue on top (calf) and white on the bottom.

Player numbers continued to appear on the famous winged helmet that first appeared in the late 1960s. After wearing them on the helmets for the Notre Dame game, head coach Brady Hoke decided to continue the tradition before the start of the conference season to pay homage to the former players that represented the program in the past.

Michigan warmed up in its traditional road uniforms but returned for the start of the game in the new legacy uniforms.

WCWP Interview (Audio)

Got the chance to talk some Michigan football with Jordan Lauterbach and Bryan Gallucci (who's a huge Michigan fan) from WCWP in New York for their Saturday morning radio show. We talked some Brady Hoke, the much improved defense, Denard Robinson, and expectations for the Michigan State game, as well as the rest of the season.

You can listen live on their website, my segment will air approx. 11:20AM today (Oct 15). Also you can hear my 20-minute segment below. Many thanks to Jordan and Bryan for having me on.

  WCWP Interview Segment 10-15-11 by MaizeBlueNation

Vincent Smith BANG BANG!

Posted without comment.

Preview: Michigan State

Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
October 15, 2011, 12:00 PM

TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman, Urban Meyer, Quint Kessenich)
Radio: WWJ-950 AM, WTKA-1050 AM, Sirius 135/XM 91 (Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter, Doug Karsch)
Line: UM +3
Over/Under: 49
Series Record: UM leads 67-31-5
Last Meeting: 2010: MICH 17 - MICH ST 34
UM Record/Rank: 6-0 (2-0), #11/10 (AP/Coaches)
MSU Record/Rank: 4-1 (1-0), #23/19 (AP/Coaches)
Gametime Forecast: Mostly Cloudy, 52º, Winds W 20-25 MPH

The 59th battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy – IMO one of the uglier trophies in college football (and that's saying something), will take place in East Lansing on Saturday. According to UM, the trophy will be making a return trip to Schembechler Hall this year, where it has not been since 2007.

In recent years, streaks have ruled this series with MSU winning the last three, and Michigan winning six-straight before that.

Relevant links from sites we trust
MZone's Know Your Foe. Previews from MGoBlog, TWB, BWS, and Big House Blog. MSU offense/defense breakdowns from Ace from MGoBlog. Newly-refurbished annoying billboard for Spartan fans via MVictors. Pro-combat uniform bashing from Midnight Maize.

A little did you know...a first-year Michigan coach hasn't beaten Michigan State since Benny Oosterbaan did it in 1948. 

Statistical Breakdown (based on stats through week 6)
Remember that Michigan's week 1 stats against WMU are not taken into account here.

MICHIGANValue (Nat. Rank)Value (Nat. Rank)MICHIGAN STADV.
Rushing Offense (ypg)270.40 (7)64.00 (3)Rushing Defense (ypg)PUSH
Passing Offense (ypg)221.00 (69)109.40 (2)Passing Defense (ypg)MSU++
Pass Efficiency155.51 (23)83.40 (2)Pass Efficiency DefenseMSU
Total Offense (ypg)491.40 (14)173.40 (1)Total Defense (ypg)PUSH
Scoring Offense (ppg)38.80 (19)10.20 (3)Scoring Defense (ppg)PUSH
Rushing Defense (ypg)141.60 (58)128.80 (79)Rushing Offense (ypg)MICH
Passing Defense (ypg)206.40 (39)269.20 (34)Passing Offense (ypg)PUSH
Pass Efficiency Defense117.43 (32)142.25 (43)Pass EfficiencyPUSH
Total Defense (ypg)348.00 (39)398.00 (61)Total Offense (ypg)MICH
Scoring Defense (ppg)13.00 (9)28.00 (62)Scoring Offense (ppg)MICH+
Net Punting Yards35.93 (82)5.86 (84)Punt Return YardsPUSH
Punt Return Yards8.43 (53)33.68 (110)Net Punting YardsMICH+
Kickoff Return Yards18.50 (110)25.16 (108)Kickoff Return DefensePUSH
Kickoff Return Defense21.28 (62)26.89 (10)Kickoff Return YardsMSU++
Turnover Margin0.60 (29)0.60 (29)Turnover MarginPUSH
Penalty Yds/Game36.30 (10)47.00 (37)Penalty Yds/GameMICH
Sacks1.80 (74)1.00 (24)Sacks AllowedMSU+
Sacks Allowed0.40 (1)2.80 (21)SacksMICH
Redzone Offense (%)92.86 (16)80.00 (46)Redzone Defense (%)MICH
Redzone Defense (%)57.89 (3)72.00 (104)Redzone Offense (%)MICH+++
Redzone TD %78.57 (8)60.00 (63)Redzone TD % DefenseMICH+
Redzone TD % Defense42.11 (7)56.00 (78)Redzone TD %MICH++
3rd Down Conv. %57.35 (3)29.23 (8)3rd Down Defense %PUSH
3rd Down Defense %38.96 (57)35.21 (95)3rd Down Conv. %MICH
1st Downs Per Game21.70 (51)11.80 (3)1st Downs Allowed Per/GmMSU+
1st Downs Allowed Per/Gm18.50 (40)21.60 (53)1st Downs Per GamePUSH

Difference less than 20 in national rank = Push
Difference more than 20 in national rank = Team
Difference more than 40 in national rank = Team+
Difference more than 60 in national rank = Team++
Difference more than 80 in national rank = Team+++

Common Opponents
W 35-31
Sept. 17
L 13-31

When Michigan has the ball
This game will be the toughest test all year for the Michigan offense. Michigan State's defense is very good in all aspects. Ranked in the top 3 nationally in rushing, passing, pass efficiency defense, scoring and total defense, no other defense comes close to being this talented on our schedule. But are those rankings skewed?

Sparty runs a traditional 4-3 set pretty much all the time unless they switch to a nickle when the offense loads up on WRs. MSU statistical leaders are: total tackles LB Max Bullough (33), sacks LB Denicos Allen (3 for 20 yards), and INTs SS Isaiah Lewis and FS Kurtis Drummond both with 2 each.

Those names are obviously not the ones everyone recognizes. But it illustrates that this defense is not only deep, but talented all-around. DT Jerel Worthy is the superstar – no question their best player on that side of the ball. Our interior line will probably not see a better DT in a game all year. Another huge threat is William Gholston at defensive end. Yes, William is the cousin of OSU's Vernon Gholston, who we all remember quite fondly.

But let's get back to the numbers real quick. Yes, MSU boasts the #1 overall defense in the nation. Howeva! Who have they played? Youngstown State (FCS), Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Central Michigan and Ohio State. The best offense they've seen all year was Notre Dame (#20 in total offense), and they hung 31 points on the Spartans. So yes, take that into account when you see those lofty rankings.

For Michigan to be successful, we need to do everything well. Holding onto the football, no poor passes, no stupid penalties. Basically, we just can't beat ourselves. Last week in Evanston in the first half, that's what we did. We need to start this game how we ended the last one. It's going to be imperative for the offense to come out relaxed. I think we got a little carried away last week, but once we settled down, out playmakers were finally able to make said plays.

I fully expect MSU to key on Denard much like NU did last week. They will blitz a lot to try and rattle his confidence early. MSU doesn't really run a ton of either man or zone, so they are pretty flexible that way.

Playing a defense with such a strong line, it's going to be important to keep them honest by using a ton of misdirection and mixing up the play-calling as much as possible. If Al Borges has a magic hat, this is the week to put it on. But I think he does, and I think he will.

Up front Michigan is relatively healthy. Left guard Ricky Barnum has been said to be involved in practice, but not to much extent. So I don't expect to see him back this week. The rest of the line is looking good though.

Devin Gardner showed us his scrambling ability last week, which can only help make our offense that much tougher to gameplan for should Denard get dinged up. Borges also introduced what he called the Heavy I formation. This basically involves two tight ends on the line, two fullbacks (the first one going in motion over the left guard) and a tailback in the I with the QB under center. This is a good goaline set, but Michigan debuted it on their own 47-yardline on a 3rd and 1 play when we were down 14-7 in the second quarter. The play was unsuccessful because NU had defended it perfectly, and Steve Watson didn't block well. The play was a pretty simple setup and it wasn't difficult to see where it was going.

We did go for it on 4th down the following play, but only after sending out the punting unit and calling a timeout, which we did against San Diego State earlier in the year.

But remember Gardner's scrambling ability I was talking about? Remember that one play on the 1-yardline when Gardner faked a handoff and ran a naked bootleg to the right? It was that same exact Heavy-I formation. Only this time, Steve Watson went in motion again, but pulled to the right and gave Gardner the option to either pass to him, or just run for the touchdown. Watson is the key here. He keeps the LB honest, and makes it possible for Gardner to get the edge.

Yes, it's just one play, but it shows the ingeniousness of Borges' playcalling in a game situation. BWS's takeaway:
In reality, knowing that the offense can almost always get one yard with a QB draw, Borges used this opportunity to show off this formation and pre-snap motion. The knowledge that Denard could convert the first down allowed Borges to reveal a play that was intentionally ineffective in order to set up an easy touchdown near the goal line.
We're going to need more moves like this to be successful this week.

When Michigan State has the ball
Well here's the good news. Michigan State is downright mediocre on offense. They can move the ball in spurts, but lack any overall consistency.

The strength of this offense is senior QB Kirk Cousins. He's done very well in East Lansing, and done very well against Michigan. The thing on Cousins is he's a very prototypical pocket passer. He has a strong arm and he's pretty smart, but will not hurt you with his legs. If you just look at his numbers, you don't see anything special. But a senior QB at home in a rivalry game is always dangerous.

Running the ball is the lesser of MSU's offensive strengths. La'Veon Bell is their leading rusher with 52 carries for 267 yards and 6 touchdowns. Edwin Baker has 62 carries for 252 yards and 1 touchdown. Neither back ranks in the top 10 of B1G leading rushers.

Catching the football, MSU has only two real threats – BJ Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. Cunningham is Cousins favorite target by far with 38 receptions for 582 yards and 2 touchdowns. I would put his right up there with Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and WMU's Jordan White as one of the best WR's we've seen so far this year.

For Michigan, it's all about controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing Cousins into bad throws. I really don't see the MSU rushing game causing any problems for us, so it will probably boil down to our secondary coverage and our pass rush.

The OL for MSU is not very strong. They're big dudes, but big doesn't always mean good. Last year MSU totally abandoned the running game halfway through the year and weren't very good at keeping the pressure off Cousins (see: Capital One Bowl).

For Michigan, the defense has been getting better and better each week. Guys up front like DT Ryan Van Bergen and DE Craig Roh have improved as the season goes on. And linebacker Jake Ryan and safety Jordan Kovacs have proven to be honest-to-goodness play makers wreaking havoc all over the field.

I've been really impressed as well by safeties Marvin Robinson and Thomas Gordon. And the depth at corner with JT Floyd, Troy Woolfolk, Courtney Avery and Blake Countess is a huge bonus. This group has been a delightful surprise this year. Actually not sure how to feel about a secondary that's, ya know, good.

Gut Feeling
I read a stat that said something like the team with more rushing yards in this game has won like 15 games in a row. I don't know how legit that is, but I believe it. Games like this are won and lost on the line of scrimmage.

I really don't have a gut feeling one way or the other as far as who will win this game. I know it's going to be extremely physical. And the winner of the game will be whoever makes the least amount of mistakes.

It's going to be very windy in EL on Saturday, so that could impact Michigan State more than it impacts Michigan, as the Spartans will need to rely on the pass more than we will. But make no mistake in thinking we won't need to throw the ball around. If MSU can key in on our running game and not worry about it throwing, it could be a long day for our backs. But we played in a pretty windy game against Minnesota a couple weeks ago and Denard looked as sharp as ever.

Last year's matchup of 5-0 teams in Ann Arbor was decided by turnovers. Michigan State forced Denard into making some pretty poor decisions. Part of that was a lack of confidence on our part once things started to fall apart. Clearly, this Michigan team has shown a resilience that past teams didn't have. That could come back to help us in a game like this. Second half adjustments are great when they work, but not needing to make them is better. But you can't underestimate a team that is playing with confidence. Right now, that's what we're doing.

If we can keep the mistakes to the minimum, not turn the ball over, no special teams breakdowns, and run the ball effectively...I don't see how Michigan State beats us. It will be a physical game, maybe the most physical game we play all year. Hostile environment, poor weather, tough defense – we're going to know exactly how good our offense is after this game is over. We're also going to know just how overrated Michigan State's defense is as well.

More MSU coverage:

State Week Press Conf. Videos

Monday Brady Hoke:

 Transcript via MGoBlog.

Also, RVB

Tuesday Al Borges:

Tuesday Greg Mattison:

Coordinator transcripts via MGoBlog.