The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is being taken to the next level today as the No. 23 Spartans (4-1) play host to their intrastate foes, the No. 11 Wolverines (6-0).
Coming off a 10-7 win at the Horseshoe against Ohio State, the Sparties and their third-best defense in the nation are playing the unbeaten Wolverines super tight.
After two quarters, here are five things Michigan State must do to stay in the game against the visiting Wolverines:
1. Keep Emotions in Check
The Spartans defense was drawn offside on the first play of the game.
Anthony Rashad White was whistled for a huge roughing-the-passer personal foul after throwing Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to the ground after he’d delivered the ball.
Yes, the crowd will be excited for this huge rivalry game.
Yes, everyone loves State’s cool new Nike Pro-Fit uniforms.
But keep it together, Spartans! Giving away free yardage is only going to get them in trouble against this potent Michigan offense.
2. Catch the Damn Ball!
Keshawn Martin dropped a sure touchdown on the first drive. B.J. Cunningham dropped another on a screen play on the next series with blockers in front of him.
This comes back a bit to the “emotions” issue, but Cousins is so accurate that his receivers need to be ready to “catch the damn ball” when he puts it in their hands. Their playmakers need to make plays, and that means holding on to the football.
3. Control the Michigan Rushing Game
The more the Spartans defensive line can penetrate and push back the Michigan offensive line, the more they can slow the potent Michigan rushing game. And not just the tailbacks…
4. Contain Denard Robinson
The Michigan quarterback was the seventh-leading rusher in the nation entering Saturday’s game. He’s been held to just 40 yards on the ground through the first 30 minutes.
That’s a win for the Sparties.
The more the fantastic Michigan State defense can keep Denard between the tackles and in their sights, the better off they’ll be at containing him and the Michigan offense.
5. Force Denard Robinson into Obvious Throwing Situations
Robinson had nine interceptions coming into Saturday’s game and has not looked particularly impressive through the air to this point at Spartan Stadium, overthrowing several open receivers and throwing up a ball into coverage that should have been intercepted.
The more they can force the Michigan offense into 3rd-and-long situations, when the secondary can drop back and wait for Denard to throw the ball up, the more successful they’ll continue to be at thwarting the Wolverines passing game.