As you all know, this week brings us to everyone from Michigan's favorite day: Michigan vs. Michigan State.
If you're not from the area, you may not know that schools across Michigan, K-12, hold spirit week this week, and it has nothing to do with the Owosso Trojans or the Greenville Yellow Jackets or the Perry Ramblers, but everything to do with the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans.
Children will be sporting their Maize and Blue or their Green and White, there will be assemblies, and fight songs will be blasted across the loudspeakers. Teachers will try to coerce their students into rooting for the alma maters. Kids will talk trash all week, even those that know nothing of football but just prefer the way green and white look vs. maize and blue.
We may not be from the south or have many football factory high schools, but we take our college football seriously. This is a week-long dedication to the perfection and glorification of football rivalry.
[UPDATE: In case you thought I was merely being proud about our football tradition, check this out.
Michigan State shocked the Big Ten last week by manhandling favorite Wisconsin at home in a game that wasn't really as close as the score would tell, dominating the Badgers in almost every statistical category that matters.
Michigan demonstrated that "time of possession" isn't really one of those statistical categories that matter when they squeaked by Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday.
MSU showed that they are for real this year and, if they don't find a way to Sparty* themselves, should be in the mix for the Big Ten title.
Michigan showed that they have the ability to be a contender in every game, even if their defense is terrible.
This week I'll be sporting my Maize and Blue every chance I get. I'll be blasting "The Victors" in my cubicle through my iPod speakers. I'll be coercing my coworkers from out of state to root for the Wolverines. And yes, I'll be talking trash ALL WEEK.
But first, let's take a look at the matchups, shall we?
*Sparty (Spar-tee) v. To look good on paper at the beginning of the season and yet, somehow, lose to an opponent you never should, sending your season into a dismal spiral of despair while just barely making it to a bowl game.
Michigan State Offense vs. Michigan Defense
Fear Factor: 9 (We needz helps!!)
The only way this matchup could be worse for Michigan is if Mike Martin and Craig Roh were to get injured during the week. Michigan has proved that Greg Robinson's defense is too complicated for the young secondary and just does not work right now.
At the beginning of the season I was thinking that the 3-3-5 would be able to provide some interesting looks and blitz packages, different from what most teams have seen/will see. Instead, Robinson has stubbornly stayed with a three-man front and only used Roh in the three-point stance about 40 percent of the time while belligerently sticking to a zone defense that is easily gashed by slants, hooks, and curls.
It's hard to tell if the secondary's ineptitude at maintaining good coverage and reading their lanes is the problem or if it's the coaching staff's fault for sticking to the same plan that doesn't work. I'm going to guess it's a little of both.
To make matters worse for Michigan, the Michigan State offense is actually as good as we thought they were going to be, in the top 40 at running and passing. MSU has, and I may be a little off on the numbers, pretty close to a billion talented players at the skill positions.
Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell are averaging 7.1 and 7.4 YPC respectively. Kirk Cousins is throwing at an accurate 67 percent and spreading the ball around like warm butter on toast, having three receivers with over 200 yards.
Michigan State has the clear advantage here, and it's not a question of if the Spartans can score, but it's a question of when and how much?
Michigan Offense vs. Michigan State Defense
Fear Factor: 5 (In Denard We Trust, or Tate, or Maybe Gardner)
So far nobody in the country has been able to stop Denard Robinson. He's had his shoes stolen, been banged up, and has been benched for preservation reasons, and he's still managed to rack up 1,000 passing yards and 900 rushing yards in five games. At this pace, if he stays healthy, he'll break the 2k/2k barrier.
Statistically, nobody else in the Heisman race has come close to putting up those kind of numbers, and Denard is an early favorite to win the trophy. Barring injury, the only thing that may hold him back is his team's record if the Wolverines don't continue their current winning trend.
Michigan is featuring a healthy and talented offensive line that has only allowed one (official) sack this season, but these boys are going to have their work cut out for them this week against a skilled MSU front seven. Greg Jones and Co. are going to do their best to limit Robinson in any way they possibly can. With the exception of the running backs, Michigan has too many talented players on the field to be able to limit in any one direction.
Don't be surprised if Michigan opens the game up by airing the ball out. It seems that every week the Michigan receivers pick a new guy to have a big game, and it doesn't really matter who it comes from. The key for Michigan will be getting the ball into the hands of whoever can make the play and get down the field.
Michigan has a slight advantage here, but I think the key will be ball distribution. If Michigan can spread the ball around, they should be able to get the ball down the field and get some points on the board. They had just better hope it's more points than the opposing offense.
Fear Factor: 7 (Guh...)
I'll try to keep this brief because it kind of feels like beating a dead horse, and there's not much exciting here on either side. MSU has brought one back to the house this year, and Michigan can barely field a punt, let alone kick a field goal from farther back than the two. Dear God, just hang on to the ball.
The advantage obviously belongs to MSU here.
Fear Factor: 7
Michigan State is not Ohio State good, but they're getting there. I was afraid of this game before MSU handed it to Wisconsin, although Michigan is coming in as a 4.5-point favorite—I'm sure playing at the Big House has something to do with that.
This is one of those games that could come down to who has the ball last, as so many games in this series have been. This will be the best defense Michigan has played against thus far and, arguably, the best offense Michigan State has had to defend against.
Since the gods of sports compel me to make some sort of an attempt at making a prediction (although my only two bad predictions come from MSU upsetting Wisconsin and Ohio State not blowing out Illinois), I'd have to say this game favors Michigan State. I think this is one of a couple games where Michigan will be chasing the whole way, and their inability to force a three-and-out will be their downfall.
Okay, a little part of me just died.
And in other news...
Ooo! Ooo! Pick ME!!!
For those of you that follow the recruiting game, FL RB Demetrius Hart will be making his official announcement this Friday. His front runners are Michigan and Alabama, and it's apparently been a close race.
I know I can hardly handle the suspense since he's one of the most highly-touted RBs in the country and will be enrolling early, not to mention the Wolverines could really use a playmaker like him in the backfield to take some of the pressure off Denard.
Dropping Like Thighs
Ohio State's QB Terrelle Pryor injured his thigh against Illinois Saturday and, while he did return, was pretty limited in what he could do. He handed off 26 times, was 3-of-4 passing for 28 yards, and gained two yards on a sneak. Officially Pryor has a "strained quad," which can be more serious than what it sounds and can linger around for a while. He should be okay to play most of this season, but he may not be as much of a threat on the run.
Other new injuries around the Big Ten include, but are not limited to, Justin Siller (Purdue WR, foot sprain), Garry Gilliam (Penn State TE, ACL), Richard Council (Indiana CB, Knee), and Tyler Moeller (Ohio State S, Torn Pectoral).
Because it's my job and all
Air Force is ranked after giving Oklahoma a scare and ending an eight-year drought against Navy. Suck it, Midshipmen!!
We're tiny, we're Toony...
Wisconsin WR Nick Toon pulled a T.O. and whined after Saturday's loss against Michigan State that he wasn't getting targeted enough. Toon was, in fact, targeted six times and recorded one catch (although, to be fair, a couple of those weren't very catchable). This was his first appearance after suffering turf toe in Week 1.
There's a concessions worker's union. No, seriously, there is.
Apparently there could be a walkout among concessions workers in Columbus, which would include workers at The Horseshoe. Aside from this being borderline hilarious and despite assurances from Sodexo, the company managing the concessions, food services may be affected during Saturday's game against the Hoosiers.
The Most Hated Undefeated Coach in College Football
I know it's not really Big Ten news, although Les Miles is technically a Michigan man, but people are still fired up over the time-management debauchery that happened in Baton Rouge against Tennessee.
I find it amusing that the guy has a winning record and a national championship not too far back in the rear-view mirror but can't seem to cool his coaching seat at LSU by so much as a degree. I guess not spiking the ball with 28 seconds left, down four points, no timeouts, at your opponent's 1-yard line, and having to rely on an illegal substitution call (13 men on the field—really, Tennessee??) to win the game probably doesn't help.
In case you don't feel like following the link, I'll close with a little snippet from SB Nation:
"The clock runs. You do two things when you might want to stop the clock on the goal line down 14-10 with a running clock. You may spike it—wait, that's not happening. There's a thing about spiking the ball at LSU, if you'll recall. They could call timeout, but they have no timeouts because Les Miles is pretty sure the federal government demands those back at the end of the year if you don't spend them all. Though they've been on the two-yard line ever since the pass interference penalty, the LSU offensive staff suddenly remembers OH MY GOD WE HAVE A GOAL LINE PACKAGE and sets off a fire drill the People's Republic of China would call 'disgracefully hurried and chaotic.'"