Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Michigan State at Michigan — Preview
Prelude to an Afternoon War.
French impressionism! Yeck, give me a cheeseburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger. I speak of Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun by the early 20th Century French impressionist Claude Debussy and refuse any request to cite the work in French.
The work is supposedly innovative, calming, demonstrating peace, and sensual. Well forget those adjectives next Saturday at the Big House when MSU and UM match up.
Impressionism is supposed to conjure up images that turn into nuances. Nuances in music can be subtle. There will be no subtlety on Saturday, no peace mission, and no hidden emotions to be interpreted by the observer. There is no peace and there will be brutal, hard fought football. There may be gimmicks and trickery, but these plays will be the exception, albeit, any such play may be the difference maker.
Yes, the game will be personal, and that is that. Now, we go on to other subject matter.
Michigan State has been very successful with a handful of base plays over the last few years. The Spartans have a new quarterback, Andrew Maxwell; another big, strong-armed pocket passer. Michigan State’s mission for Maxwell is to be a game manager and hit the key passes to move the chains. His success has been mixed for that goal, but Maxwell has the arm. At times he has ben victim to dropped passes and at other times he has been inaccurate when getting moved in the pocket.
LeVeon Bell is every coach’s dream; a big-time combination of power, size, and good speed. He is athletic and capable of carrying a team. Bell can hit the middle post haste and get to the edge on the quick toss sweep. A defense had better be ready for Bell on the middle and flank screens as well. Both screens show up in crucial third down situations; Michigan needs to be ready and avoid giving up the big play at critical times.
The Spartans have played tough defense all season long, and that will continue Saturday. The flip side is the point production has not been pinball style scoring. Close games have been the mode for most of Michigan State’s games. Indiana had good success against the Spartans with a passing offense that is causing Big Ten defenses trouble.
On defense Michigan starts with the middle rotation. The group has not been dominant, but the last two games have demonstrated enough progress to hold the fort. Still, early on, Purdue and Illinois ran several times for four or five yard runs against Michigan. Michigan will need to do better Saturday. Michigan State cannot be allowed to run at a rate of 4-6 yards per carry if Michigan hopes to win. Demens will be critical, not only in run stuffing, but also at reading at reacting to Michigan State’s excellent play action packages. Michigan State uses play action very well, due in large part to the success of Bell, but also that is just what the Spartans do, year after year. The Spartans can play action pass in the pocket and also run counters, and naked bootlegs to the backside if the defense bites too hard. While simple, this package is effective. And so, the linebacker play of Michigan becomes a second key to a Michigan victory. Superior preparation is a must this week and the pressure will be on the Michigan front seven to hold the fort and turn the ball over to the offense.Dion Sims is another offensive player any coach would drool to have on a roster. He is huge and a warrior. Sims is tough to disrupt, but Michigan certainly is working with that goal in mind this week. As the wideouts have failed to produce big this year, Sims has needed to become a one size fits all receiver. He can run the short sit down, a staple of the Michigan State offense, run the out, and go deep on third and long if needed.
Sims and Bell are truly a dangerous duo, and do not discount their ability to score due to the low point totals so far for the Spartans.
What Michigan State will do on defense is blitz and blitz some more. Certainly Michigan must remedy the damage of the past few years from the double A gap blitz. This in part was helped by good drop back assignments of players dropping into coverage slots. And Michigan State has done a better than average job of holding contain on the edge. Throw all of that together and it is easy to see why Michigan has had difficulty moving the ball against the Spartans.Notre Dame ran with some success on Michigan State and controlled the ball late in the game. Michigan may just try that strategy on for size. But to counter, Michigan State will run blitz and come after Denard. The inside blitzers were not accounted for in the first half of the Notre Dame game; that error cannot be repeated. The UM offense versus the MSU defense chess game may be the critical factor in determining the course of the game.
There will be emotion, but there is a factor called controlled emotion. In close games, key penalties, turnovers, or special team play can easily turn the tide. Michigan State will want to play physical football and it appears Michigan has accepted the invitation.
There will be more coverage later on, but for now so much for nuances. Those of you partial to French Impressionism can listen to La Mer or Pavane for a Dead Princess. Cry your eyes out now, because come Saturday tears will not be welcomed. No deer in its right mind will venture near the Big House on Saturday. It will not hold the peaceful nuance that Debussy envisioned.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
Go Blue — Wear Maize!