Scouting Report and Prediction: Michigan State (7-1 4-0) vs. Michigan (6-1 2-1)
A look at this week’s opponent…
This is the 106th time MSU and UM have played. The Wolverines are a deceptive 6-1. They are still looking for answers while the Spartans are finding them. UM comes into this game hoping to win, while MSU is expecting to win. You never know what happens once the game starts, but prior to it the Wolverines are looking for answers.
When MSU has the ball…
Michigan State has a simple philosophy. They trust that their defense can contain the Wolverines. That is what they have done since Mark Dantonio arrived. They expect the turnover-prone Wolverines to continue that trend against the Nation’s best defense.
Connor Cook will be expected to continue his maturation coming off a near perfect performance on the road at Illinois. Michigan’s run defense is a respectable fourth in the Big Ten. Their passing defense is not good. The cornerbacks of Michigan are underrated. Where Michigan has been milked like a dairy cow is in the underneath and short yardage catches often covered by linebackers and they are killed by yards after the catch.
I look for MSU to come out with a typical dink and dunk passing approach as they attempt to run the ball against and under appreciated UM rushing defense. They won’t take risks. That doesn’t mean that they won’t go down the field. They will. What that means is they will do it when they want to and not when they have to.
For MSU they must take advantage of the field position that the defense acquires and make the Wolverines pay. When things are not there, don’t give the Wolverines a chance to make a play. Just use America’s #1 punter in Mike Sadler and live to play another day.
Connor Cook does not have to go win this game. That is a super position for a young quarterback. He has proven to be effective in that. Just like he doesn’t have to win it, he also needs to avoid losing it. An unwarranted pick six or a costly fumble like last year can give fuel in a rivalry game.
He is young, but he is talented. You never know how a young player will respond in a game like this. With that said, I am confident that Cook will be fine. He can make the big plays and I expect him to.
UM will sell out to stop the run. They have their doubts about Cook. They will be hoping that stacking the box and bringing heat will create the resurrection of the Cook vs. Purdue and NOT the Cook vs. Illinois.
I fully expect MSU to be able to run and use the short passing attack to open the game up for some big plays down the field. Last week MSU abandoned going down the field. Although they won’t be the Raiders of the eighties, they will reawaken that on this day.
When MSU is on defense…
Michigan State is going hunting. They will pressure the Wolverines from all angles and make Devin Gardner beat them. MSU will dare Gardner to throw. They want him to throw. They are praying extra hard hoping to God he does.
If MSU can do what PSU did, and they have a much better defense, this game is over before Michigan gets off the bus. Stop the run. UM has talent, but the straw that truly stirs the UM passing game is Devin Funchess, a terrific kid that MSU coveted badly in recruiting. When they use him to get Gardner confidence, they have success. MSU will go right at him.
All this week in practice they had Darqueze Dennard simulated against Jeremy Gallon. Gardner will make some throws no doubt, but the MSU defense will also. The Spartans will be relentless. They will not stop. They are bullies and they loved the title. UM will make some plays, but this game is about heart, and will the Wolverines be able to play at the emotional level that MSU will bring every single play? I do not expect it.
UM is talented. UM is young. The beating that I think MSU is going to bring will benefit these young Wolverines down the road, but not on this day.
Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus five ratio at least every game.
The Big Ten, and I have reason to believe no matter what they say, sent the same officiating crew to East Lansing for this game that they did the 2011 game at the discretion of the highest officials. Read into that what you want, they will NEVER admit it, but I trust my sources.
According to one Big Ten official, “They are basically giving MSU the finger.” That is the same source that helped me with this STORY that went viral after the 2011 game. MSU can’t let this game get to the place that an official can impact it. If they let it be that close, the officials will make a call. Period. That is the way it will work. MSU needs to dominate and get ahead so that can’t happen.
MSU defense will attack the youth on the line and Connor Cook will have the chance to start a legacy for the ages on this day, against this rival. MSU comes into this game as I stated before, expecting to win. Michigan is hoping to win.
For so long UM had the upper hand in this rivalry. It was MSU that was the home of the shenanigans that happened in Ann Arbor this week. I used to say when MSU was “hoping” to win that records don’t matter in this game. I still believe that.
Some, and I stress SOME MSU fans with the role reversal of expectations have shown the arrogance long hated by the Wolverine Nation. UM is talented. They are young. They are also well coached. This will not be easy. MSU will be thankful that THEY are the ones with a bye week to heal up after it.
MSU has not forgiven themselves for last year. UM won the game, but they had a lot of help from the Spartans. MSU has thought about this game every day. This is deep, it is personal, and they are hungry. They showed restraint. They didn’t talk this week. They didn’t run their mouths. Like one SIGNIFICANT person in the program told me after the “Little Brother” talk by Fitz Toussaint this week, “We will talk on Saturday, I promise you that.”
In the end the Spartans will dominate. This will be one of the most physical games in the history of this storied rivalry and MSU will punish the Wolverines. Make it 27-10 MSU and welcome back home Paul Bunyan who will be escorted back by Max Bullough and his Merry Band of Bullies.