Michigan Football: Michigan State at Michigan — What May Happen — Final Preview
Well, well, well, so goes the common exclaimer preceding a profound statement. The exclaimer in this case centers on predicting what will happen when the Michigan offense and defense saddle up against the archrivals from East Lansing.
To attempt an accurate and adequate answer of course means delving into the cerebral world of the primary game architects. Plan, counter-plan, look at strengths and go with strengths; look at weaknesses, then plan in a manner that cashes in on a clear advantage. And always in a big, important rivalry game, have some wrinkles ready that qualify for super genius status.
One can guarantee that the coaching staffs involved in this game have spent more than three or four days devising a game plan. Sitting around in the spring and summer provides such activities, ten minutes at a time. The file from last year was reviewed, similarities noted and differences identified as the game draws near. There are more similarities about what both Michigan teams do than new differences, albeit the similarities involve aspects of team play that may be worse off than last year.
Michigan State’s coaching staff is very good at previewing game film and coming up with tiny little nuances that can be used to Spartan advantage at the perfect time. This hard work can pay dividends. Mattison and Borges seem to create their tricks based on what they like to do, more so than the opposition’s make-up.Michigan State presents little mystery, but some serious preparation from the defensive side is needed to stop what some call a basic, brutal, physical offense. Michigan State likes to feature what works and then throw in the wrinkles and change ups as needed.
LeVeon Bell is a big time load at running back. The MSU offensive staff may well check the oil of Michigan’s defensive tackles right off the game’s beginning. The defensive tackles of Michigan have played better, but have vulnerability. This offensive staple of Michigan State must be stopped, or else it will be a very long day for the Michigan defense.
Regardless of the success of the middle series, Michigan State will run iso and stretch along the line. To counter, Michigan needs to maintain the line of scrimmage and get to the ball in numbers.
Michigan State runs a quick toss sweep and pulls a big load of offensive linemen. The toss sweep seems to go better on the right side. Michigan cannot be late to the edge or the result will be easy gains of five to ten yards.
Michigan State runs several counters off of the above base plays and so Michigan must stay at home and close off the backside, either for a planned counter or a Bell cutback.
The Spartans have a nice screen package if defenses get too aggressive at attacking the quarterback en masse. Whether it is a delayed middle screen or a screen to the flat, look for this play on third down situations or any down after Michigan gets after the quarterback.
The passing game of Michigan State depends on big physical receivers and a strong armed- quarterback with game management skills and accuracy. That equation is partially satisfied by Dion Sims, a monster tight end, and Andrew Maxwell has a mega-wing. The young wideouts have had some drops and the pass protection has been by a kind standard sufficient. Michigan State will seek to minimize the chance of mistakes and take what the passing game can achieve without big risks. Sims can do it all, anything from simple sit in space patterns, to outs, to going deep. Maxwell does a nice job of throwing slants and quick posts in the ten to twenty yard range, but many good passes have been dropped this year. Michigan State has hurt the Wolverines the last few years with the deep flag pass between the corner and the safety.
Michigan State still has the ability to create a good mix and a defensive coordinator must be cautious when choosing how to attack Maxwell. But getting him on the run and going backwards will benefit Michigan’s chances.It is a little more of a mystery as to what alchemist Al Borges will have in mind for a very stout Michigan State defense led by William Gholston, Max Bullough, and Marcus Rush. Regardless of game plan, Michigan must not allow the Spartans to achieve control of the Michigan offense by gap gaming and blitzes. It has worked for several years for Michigan State and the Spartans will blitz early and often. Michigan will also need to not allow Michigan State’s defense to time up the snap by the behavior, mannerisms, and timing of the center. Michigan will probably try to draw some offside penalties by inviting the Spartans to jump a count. It will be important for Michigan to get to the line and not snap the ball with only one or two seconds left on the play clock.
Michigan’s offense worked more under center last week and that effort may continue. Denard’s passing game will probably be selective like in the last two games. Michigan needs to find a counter to the Spartan pressure against the running game, and screens and quick outs are typical remedies. Going wide is another method to combat blitzes up the middle, but in the past the MSU defensive ends have held contain very well. There simply needs to be a better job done by Michigan at the edge.
Every point will be at a premium, as a big score is unlikely. Both teams have dependable field goal kickers, but MSU has about an eight-yard distance advantage. Hagerup is getting the job done in the punting department and both teams can knock the kickoff well into the end zone.
This may be one of those rare games where poise under pressure may yield a win. Take the penalty yardage and resist turning dumb into double dumb. A tip, a fumble, or a missed kick could cost either team the game.
This game has been long awaited and the time for action is at hand. Go Blue.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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