Week 7: #23 Michigan St. (4-1, 1-0 Big 10) vs. #11 Michigan (6-0, 2-0 Big 10)
It was November 3, 2007, when former Michigan RB Mike Hart dropped this gem during a postgame press conference after Michigan had overcome a 10-point deficit with a little under 8 minutes to play to defeat the Spartans on the road: “”Sometimes, you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball — let them get the lead. And then you come back.” At the time, I was an incredibly drunk, pissed third-year student at MSU who had gotten sick of being insulted all day by douchey Michigan fans. The Hart comment left me incensed and seeking my own form of revenge, which I didn’t get. That night. However, let’s just say a certain fraternity house on the Michigan campus was “re-decorated”, courtesy of yours truly.
MSU hasn’t lost to Michigan since, winning the last 3 tilts by a combined score of 95-58. This includes last year’s 34-17 win in Ann Arbor, which I attended…inebriated. Chalk the last 3 years up to Hart’s dumb comments, West Virginia transplant Rich Rodriguez and his hilarious bag of fail, or the fact that Sparty has simply been better. Whatever the case, nothing brings a MSU fan more joy than beating Michigan in anything.
For Michigan, Rich Rodriguez is gone, and former San Diego St. head coach Brady Hoke is in. Anyone who has seen Michigan play this season can tell there is definitely a difference in the style of play. Gone is the team solely relying on All-Everything QB Denard Robinson to carry them to win after win on his 6’1″, 193 lb. frame. Former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has this Michigan squad playing defense, something it clearly felt it didn’t have to do after 2007. An elite passing offense, Michigan does not have, but offensive coordinator Al Borges has seemingly finally found the right mix of run and pass on offense. It even looks like Robinson might make it through the entire season without getting decapitated.
Last year’s win was an emotional win for the Spartans. It was head coach Mark Dantonio’s first game back after suffering a heart attack after their thrilling (literally) last-second win over Notre Dame. Embattled Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez desperately wanted a win over his in-state rival to stave off the many who were calling for his head. Both teams were 5-0 and looking to garner some national respect with a victory.
Michigan is coming off of a somewhat come-from-behind 42-24 road victory over Northwestern last Saturday. Robinson piled up 454 total yards of offense and accounted for 4 touchdowns, overcoming a terrible first half in which he threw 3 interceptions.
Michigan St. had a bye last week, and the week before, beat Ohio St. 10-7 in arguably one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen. The Spartans should consider themselves lucky that the Fuckeyes have a QB duo that is the epitome of clownshoes, namely 12th-year senior Joe Bauserman.
Both teams have one mutual opponent thus far, Notre Dame. Michigan beat Notre Dame 35-31 in Ann Arbor, which made any supposedly exciting NFL game look like a snorefest. Sparty, however, was blown out in South Bend, 31-13. The two programs have had fairly easy schedules to date, and this will be each other’s first true test against a consistently good team.
If the Spartans want to win, they’re going to have to contain Robinson like they did last year when he threw 3 interceptions and accounted for “only” 299 yards of total offense, 86 of which came on the ground on 21 carries. Whatever Northwestern did in the first half last Saturday, the Spartans must replicate. Or, they can be beastly on the defensive side of the football as they’ve been all year, save the crappy Notre Lame performance. QB Kirk Cousins will have to play much better than he did last week, when he missed several easy throws that could have sealed the game for the Spartans late. Also, the running game is going to have to make a comeback.
Michigan will go only as far as Robinson can carry them. Regardless of how well their defense plays, their offense won’t do a damn thing unless Robinson is successful doing what he is best at: making plays. This is an efficient offense, with leading receiver Junior Hemingway averaging a little over 26 yards a catch and leading non-QB rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint averaging almost 5.5 yards per carry. The Wolverines are all about the big play, and the Spartans talented secondary will have to do everything in its power to not get beat over the top, as well as help in run support. MSU defensive tackle Jerel Worthy will lead a front 7 that will also have to make stopping Robinson their top priority. Robinson is arguably the country’s most dangerous offensive weapon and if he goes unaccounted for, he will make Sparty pay.
For the nerd birds (national ranking in parentheses):
MSU: 398 ypg (61) / UM: 491.4 ypg (14)
MSU: 128.8 ypg (79)/ UM: 270.4 ypg (7)
MSU: 269.2 ypg (34) / UM: 200.5 ypg (89)
MSU: 28 ppg (62) / UM: 38.8 ppg (19)
MSU: 173.4 ypg (1) / UM: 348 ypg (39)
MSU: 64 ypg (3) / UM: 141.6 ypg (58)
MSU: 109.4 ypg (2) / UM: 206.4 ypg (39)
MSU: 10.2 ppg (3) / UM: 12.8 ypg (8)
Michigan State’s top-ranked defense against a top-15 Michigan offense. A respectable Michigan State offense against a respectable Michigan defense. Honestly, this game could go either way, even though it’s being played in East Lansing. This appears to be the best Michigan team the program has fielded since the 2007 season, which ended with a bowl win over Jesus Tebow and the Florida Gators. It’s safe to assume that Michigan will be looking for some revenge and do everything in their power to end a 3-game losing streak to their so-called “little brother”. It’s been reported that Dantonio will have recruits visit today, and you’d better believe he wants his team to come out with a strong win over their in-state rival. In addition, this game is huge because the winner will have an advantage in winning the Big 10’s God-awful (name, not quality) Leaders Division.
When all is said and done, I think the Spartans will have made one more play than the Wolverines. Whether it comes on offense, defense, or special teams, it will decide the game.
Sparty wins, 28-21.