Big Ten Game Of The Week: Sparty Prevails 34-31!
Look For Michigan State to Upset Michigan: 34-31!
Michigan RB Mike Hart set the tone for Saturday’s contest several years ago when he referred to Sparty as his little brother—staking the youngster to an early lead only to come from behind and thwart him with ease—rubbing it in all the while.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio calmly stated “Pride will be their downfall in the end.”
Oh how things have gone sour for Michigan football since that Autumn afternoon a few years back.
The youngster Sparty has been on the move in this series, winning the last two ball games with ironic late game heroics. Michigan has struggled to recapture its identity as the first two years under Rich Rodriguez were colossal failures compared to the glory days of Michigan Football.
But that was then…this is now and the now includes a resurgence as coach Rodriguez finally has the quarterback in place to create the spark that makes the spread offense go.
And boy has Denard Robinson flourished, already amassing over 1,000 yards passing and nearly as much rushing.
But the game of football is the ultimate team game and if the Spartans gang up on Robinson by packing eight in the box, do the Wolverines have an additional player who will step up and carry Robinson's load?
11-on-one is not an option for Michigan in Saturday's Big-Ten tilt with in-state rival Michigan State.
Tale Of The Tape: Michigan State To Torch Wolverine Secondary
Sparty has a QB of its own Kirk Cousins who, like his teammates, has been fueled by the ongoing health issues surrounding Dantonio, who has suffered from a mild heart attack and a subsequent blood clot in his leg.
The Michigan State players would like nothing better than to give Dantonio another emotional victory in 2010, their third in a row over a quality opponent, something the program has struggled to do in recent seasons.
Robinson is ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency (180) behind Cameron Newton of Auburn (191.4) and Dan Persa of Northwestern (184.6), throwing seven touchdown passes with just one interception and a completion percentage of 69.8 on the year.
Cousins is ranked 12th in the same department (164.8) throwing for 1,132 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. The completion percentage is nearly equal to his Michigan counterpart at 67.5 percent.
But offense hasn’t been the issue with either team as the statistics in the table below will show.
|125 ||307||41 ||41 |
|25 ||.8 |
|Michigan St |
|26 ||80 ||164.8 |
|220 ||240||37 ||101 |
|36 ||18 |
Rodriguez Looking For His First Win Over Sparty.
Michigan State matches up against the run with the Wolverines better than Michigan matches up against the pass with Sparty. But, the Wolverines have played a stronger schedule to date and rank higher in the KSI Index Rating between the two programs winning 7/11 statistical tables which measure the key compartments to a championship football program.
Although Michigan rushes for more yards than the Spartans at 324 yards per game compared to 220, both teams are a wash in the passing department, throwing for 240 yards a game apiece.
So something has to give on Saturday, but where do we look for the degree of separation between the two?
Look for third down proficiency, turnovers and which team gets the most out of the Trickeration Department as the keys to victory. Jumping out to an early lead is something few teams have been able to do against Michigan and the one team that did (UMASS) gave the folks who reside in Ford Country a run for their money.
Hart Comments Still Loom Large In East Lansing!
The schedule maker was very kind to Sparty this season as Michigan State does not face Ohio State in 2010, although they are in the midst of their third game versus college football stalwarts Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan.
With a victory on Saturday, Sparty suddenly can make major inroads in the recruiting wars often dominated by the big name programs within the region.
Michigan on the other hand is in the first leg of a trio of games that will define their season, facing a murderous gauntlet of Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State in successive weeks, and will need some other teammates to help Denard Robinson out as he carries the load for Michigan.
If Robinson goes down, which he has shown a tendency to do thus far in 2010, Michigan State could win in a rout.
Here is where the season will begin to unravel for Michigan and if Michigan State can manage to jump out to a sizeable lead early in the game to take Michigan out of its comfort zone, Sparty could begin to make plans for a run to Pasadena.
But Iowa, perhaps the best team in the Big-Ten this season, looms increasingly large down the road on October 30th.
The Spartans could be 8-0 if they can pack the box to defend the run and make Robinson beat them over the top.
Pride Comes Before The Fall!
This game is vitally important for the recruiting wars in the State of Michigan and the upper Midwest. Michigan State has already beaten Notre Dame and Wisconsin and with a victory on Saturday over its bitter rival—recruits may flood into East Lansing.
Prediction: Those comments by former running back Mike Hart still sting in the land of Sparty and may just be the final ingredient that lifts the scales of balance out of Michigan’s favor in this series, which has been dominated by the Wolverines.
But that was then...this is now!
Spartans win their third in a row in the series... in a thriller…34-31!