Michigan State Preview

Saturday, October 25th  •  Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI (75,005)

Time TV Announcers Weather Line Series Last Meeting
Sean McDonough
Chris Spielman
Todd McShay 
Partly Cloudy
Wind 10-20 MPH 
UM +17 
UM Leads
MSU 29 UM 6

Michigan State by the Numbers
     6-1 (3-0)
Head coach: Mark Dantonio
     Career: 88-47
     at MSU: 70-30, 8th year
     vs UM: 5-2
     Rush: Jeremy Langford (125-664 yards, 7 TDs)
     Pass: Connor Cook (108-176, 1,641 yards, 16 TDs)
     Rec.: Tony Lippett (39-786 yards, 8 TDs)
     Tackles: Kurtis Drummond (33 tackles)
     Sacks: Ed Davis (6.0-25 yards)

Reason to be Concerned
Well, Michigan is 3-4 and a 17-point underdog in a rivalry game. If thats not reason enough to be concerned, then you're not going to like what else I have to say here.

Mark Dantonio is the Michigan State equivalent of Jim Tressell. He has owned Michigan since 2008. He's made no mystery his disdain for Michigan…which, admittedly contained much more vitriol when Michigan was playing well and Michigan State was still just a middle-of-the-pack B1G team.

But everything's changed. Michigan is struggling to field a decent football program while Michigan State is the class of the league – defending B1G title game and Rose Bowl champions. Dantonio's stock could not possibly be any higher…reaching 2004 Kirk Ferentz levels.

Michigan is going to have their hands full tomorrow, no question about it. Michigan State's defense, while not quite as imposing as last year, is still quite good. But they do have an Achilles heal
FO also reveals their major problem: big plays. MSU ranks 97th in percentage of opponent drives that average at least ten yards per play. They finished ninth in that category last year.

It showed against Purdue. The Boilermakers offense either hit the MSU wall and exited with alacrity or busted a couple chunk gains on their way to scores. That ended up working out to the tune of 340 yards on 5.5 yards per play—not spectacular, but not bad, either—and 31 points, with three of the four touchdown drives covering at least 60 yards.
So what does that mean? It means get the ball to your playmakers in space. It means let's not try and stuff the ball between the tackles every other play. It means, throw it up for Funchess more than once. It means a healthy dose of Dennis Norfleet. Basically, you're probably not going to tempo Michigan State with a power running game. Michigan is going to have to gamble and hope for positive outcomes.

Offensively for State, they're not a flashy group, but what they lack in flash they more than make up for in effectiveness. Contrary to what most people think of State's offense, they're not just a ground and pound, they mix in plenty of spread and shotgun. But it all starts with Connor Cook. He's a good passer, an adequate scrambler, but aside from the random head-scratcher…he makes solid decisions.

And then there's this guy.

Tony Lippett strikes me as the kind of receiver Michigan has an abundance of, but you just don't know it because Gardner is so broken he doesn't remember how to throw those kinds of passes. To have a QB/WR be in such sync is a dangerous thing for any opposing defense.

Jeremy Langford is a solid runner, but the real strength of the offense is the offensive line. Center Jack Allen, their star lineman, hurt his ankle in the Purdue game and did not play last week against Indiana. That said, this is still a deep group that has only allowed just 4 sacks all year and isn't easily pushed around.

Oh, and yes, Michigan is traveling to East Lansing for the 2nd year in a row in a rather cruel scheduling snafu that probably couldn't have come along at a worse time for a Michigan program on the brink of complete collapse.

Reason to be Confident
Well, crap.

For Michigan to win tomorrow, a whole bunch of things have to go right for Michigan and equally go wrong for Sparty. To date, Brady Hoke has no road wins against any of Michigan's rivals. He has no road wins against any team one would consider good. Hoke and Michigan need to roll the dice tomorrow and get lucky, like, a lot.

I'll admit, rivalries can produce odd outcomes. No one can honestly predict how 18-23 year-olds are going to react to situations like this. If you just look at these two teams on paper, they're worlds apart. But you could also have said that about Michigan and Ohio State last year, and we did, and look how that turned out.

Michigan, honestly, must play with nothing to lose…because frankly, there isn't anything left.

But ultimately, there are no reasons to be confident about tomorrow. All you can do is hope for the best and expect the worst. That's the current state of Michigan football right now.

If Michigan loses
We'll all be justified in our current state of anguish. In terms of how a loss impacts the program, it doesn't. What damage has been done to Hoke and Michigan has already been done. Another loss just adds another log to the inferno.

If Michigan wins
Well, I don't need to tell you how to enjoy a heaping truckload of Sparty schadenfreude, that's built into every one of our cotton-pickin' Maize & Blue hearts. Needless to say, a win tomorrow would have to be one of the biggest upsets of my Michigan football life…maybe since the epic upsets of Ohio State in 95 and 96.

Unfortunately for Hoke, a win tomorrow only buys him time. Like we've said many times, how Michigan performs in all 3 major road games will decide his fate. But he could win back a lot of support with a one of Michigan's biggest upsets of all time under his belt.

5 Predictions
• More downfield passes by Gardner with mixed results.
• The defense will keep this thing together for as long as they can, but the lack of offensive production will start to show in the 2nd half as Sparty pulls away.
• Turnovers, man.
• Michigan will unsuccessfully fake a punt at some point.
• Michigan State 28, Michigan 13

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