Michigan State vs. Michigan: Wolverines Win but Still Have a Ton of Work to Do

T.J. Mcaloon@@tjmcaloonContributorOctober 20, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 20: Royce Jenkins-Jones #52, Kenny Demens #25 and Dennis Norfeet #26 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate a win over the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 12-10.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Michigan’s 12-10 victory over in-state rival Michigan State was impressive. However, if UM fans are expecting this Wolverines team to win not only the Big Ten conference but also the Legends division, they have to be concerned of the up-and-down play of this squad. 

Today against Michigan State, the Wolverines were able to defeat the Spartans for the first time since 2007. 

That’s a good thing.

However, in the victory, the high-powered offense that has scored 40 or more points in three of its last four games could only score 12 today, all field goals.

That’s a bad thing.

After Michigan’s win, the Wolverines move into a comfortable spot at the top of the Legends division. With the lesser-talented Iowa Hawkeyes tied and the one-loss Nebraska Cornhuskers behind them, Michigan should go on to win the division. 

However, what should concern Michigan fans is that this team plays so inconsistently. 

When the Wolverines opened conference play, they throttled Purdue and Illinois to a combined score of 99-13. Quarterback Denard Robinson had a combined five touchdowns, zero interceptions and quarterback ratings of 125.8 against Purdue and 245.1 against Illinois. 

This should have led to Robinson being able to carry Michigan to a division and conference title with turnover-free play combined with a deadly ability to run and pass. 

Or as UM fans came to know last year, the good Denard that led Michigan to a BCS bowl game and a victory in the Sugar Bowl.

But what happened today against Michigan State? Robinson failed to lead a touchdown drive, threw an interception and finished with a QB rating of 88.6, which means that he could be trying to do to much. 

Or as UM saw in two games against ranked opponents to start 2012, the bad Denard that turns the ball over and causes Michigan to lose.

Today, Michigan’s defense was able to bail them out, holding Michigan State to 192 passing yards,112 rushing yards and one touchdown in the narrow victory.

In fact, over the last three games, Michigan’s defense has done a complete 180 from how they started the season. 

Before conference play, the Wolverines defense was giving up 21.2 points per game. After three Big Ten wins, the defense has turned in an impressive performance, allowing only 7.6 points per game.

With Nebraska coming up next, the Wolverines defense will have its hands full trying to stop Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. With a win, Michigan can put a stranglehold on the division and force Iowa to try to keep up. 

However, because of what we saw from the Michigan offense today and how the defense could very easily revert into the defense of the first four games, this team could easily drop a game against Nebraska or against Iowa—or both.

Michigan has the talent on both sides of the ball to run away with the Legends division. 

But because of the inability to know which team is going to show up, it means that they still have a ton of work to do before Indianapolis and the Big Ten championship game.