Michigan State vs. University of Michigan Scouting Report and Prediction

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Michigan State vs. University of Michigan Scouting Report and Prediction

Here it is boys and girls:Â The week that we all wait for each and every year and after the other 51 weeks of the year it is time to get it on.

In preparation for this week I have went back and watched each MSU and UM game from this season at least once again. Now remember that I have seen some of them (MSU) as many as 20 times! I watched them all over again because I have a few issues to talk about today and I wanted to make sure that my comments were A) Accurate and B) Germane.

First, let’s look at Brian Hoyer. There has been a lot of talk about Brian this season. I even graded him after game six as a C- for the season at that point. I believe (and it is the thought of many big time coaches) that 60% is the MINIMUM acceptable completion percentage. I have talked with Brian many times and he has been straightforward about his need to play better. I also believe that being a fifth year senior and playing at the most important position that there will always be higher expectations on his position.

I watched each and every pass Brian has thrown this season (both in person and on tape) and with a completion percentage considerably belove the 60% rate, I can certainly say that he hasn’t had much help from his receivers. If you add all the drops, Brian's completion percentage would rise to 56.8%. Much better, but still below the 60% line.

I can also say that week after week I have said that the Spartan Nation needs to accept what a player is. Hoyer is not an Elway or a Marino (How many are?) but he is a very good game manager. I have said that NO ONE I have ever seen at any level hides the ball as good on a play action pass. The offensive staff has not done a good job of throwing when they want to, rather than when the defense allows them.

The staff has put Brian in so many third and longs when the defense knows that he is going to throw. I have said for weeks that they can’t do that. They have to throw the ball on first downs. I am certainly not saying on all of them, I am saying that they have to mix it up. Why not take a shot when the defense isn’t loading the box?

I am sure that UM is well coached. I have never hidden my respect for M Rod. They will watch the film and if I was M Rod I would put 8 men in the box and force MSU to beat me. Sadly, Brian gets a lot of blame (from me also) and when he makes a bad throw or read he should, but the number of dropped balls is inexcusable. I am sure that the staff hasn’t taken as many shots down the field because of the dropped balls and at times Hoyer’s mistakes, but clearly the problem has been a lot more with the drops than Hoyer.

Last week against OSU there was an interception when the Spartan receiver stopped running a route and a future NFL DB did what you have to do and caught the ball using the entire field. I saw two TD’s that never happened when receivers stopped running routes, let alone TD’s that were dropped and multiple other mistakes by a young receivers group all when re-watching game film.

I am not an apologist.  I am a realist. At the end of the day these kids are given scholarships to play. I am always more deliberate with criticism (naming players) for players that are older and less likely to name younger (notice I name Hoyer, but not the WR that stopped running a route that was intercepted last week). I have taken a lot of heat for that, but I WILL NEVER change there.

I think, and Brian has agreed before, that he has to play better. I also can tell you that when you look (more like nit pick in my case this week), the number of dropped passes has been absurd and the play calling has not helped.Â

I want to reiterate that the play calling, however, has to take into account multiple dropped passes and balls not caught when assessing risk.

Many of the readers at Spartan Nation are aware each year before the NFL draft I have friends who are scouts or higher on multiple different NFL teams who help me analyze players. I asked one this week to look at Hoyer’s play from last week and give me an honest (and anonymous) analysis.Â

All I will tell you about him is that he has been in the NFL for many years and works for an AFC team. Here is what he sent me:


Brian Hoyer, QB MSU

A) Won’t kill you with dumb mistakes. “He made a poor choice against Cal and you can look at some other plays, but there are hundreds of plays and none of them are outside the realm of what would be considered normal.” B) Has good field presence. “You can tell when players trust their QB and it is clear by their actions that his teammates do trust him.” C) He has good arm strength. “He certainly has the arm to make the throws.”


A) Doesn’t have great touch sometimes. “I can tell he used to play baseball. Sometimes he fires balls that need more touch and that costs him some drops. If you watched the freshman (Cousins) he didn’t try so hard to rifle passes and you saw him start with like eight or nine completions in a row.” It was actually ten. B) You can tell who his primary receiver is almost all the time. He needs to look off more.Â

Overall Analysis:
I wouldn’t say that the QB (Hoyer) is a bad QB at all. He has the arm and he doesn’t take a lot of sacks and isn’t plagued by turnovers. I would say that with a game manager QB like him, you have to have receivers that catch the ball and a staff that calls plays more to his strengths. There is no excuse for the touch on balls and that is correctable.

So for once and for all let’s put this to a rest. The hate for Hoyer is silly. He has to play better and I do think that he will be on a short leash, but anyone that blames all of the problems on Hoyer is simply wrong.

Now moving on to the big game.


Special Teams

The Spartans have an advantage here. The Wolverines are struggling and this is a huge area that the Spartans have to keep the advantage. Aaron Bates needs to have a big day. One key way to stop a spread option team is to win the field position battles. The Spartans punt team is excellent because Alex Shackleton is a tremendous long snapper and Bates gets the ball away so fast. The line, however, has allowed too many people to get too close even with a punter and long snapper that are that good. Even with that said, the overall special teams advantage goes to the Spartans.Â


Spartan Offense/Michigan Defense

The Wolverines defense is their strength. With that said, teams have been able to run on them. They will make every effort to stop their lack of rushing D by daring MSU to beat them through the air. I look for the Wolverines to load the box and force the Spartans to pass. That is fine if the Spartans use some roll-outs and play action passes and make the Wolverines stay honest. Some Spartans will look at the D of the Wolverines and blow them off. Sorry guys, but even though they have struggled at times, they are very talented and if they load the box (which they will) they have the talent to make MSU pass.

If the Spartan receivers can hang on to the ball I don’t see this game being anything other than a Spartan victory. They have, however, had a less than stellar season as a unit (with all the drops) and this is the game to step it up. We all know what Ringer can do, but his body has taken a beating this year and he needs his teammates to step up and play better. He will get his carries, but if his teammates can throw and catch Javon could have a huge day with the Wolverines having to play a more honest coverage.

Don’t read into this any worries about Javon. I am respecting the UM D and if they put eight or even nine men in the box, that isn’t his fault if he can’t run. I am more concerned about the passing game because UM WILL attempt to force MSU to the air.

I don’t give an edge to either team here because MSU has struggled against teams that load the box. I will say this, if the MSU QB’s completion percentage is over 60% (and remember he has to have catches for that to happen) they win. Under and it could get interesting.


Wolverine Offense/Michigan State Defense

The Wolverines actually gain more yards rushing per game than the Spartans. Although Pat Narduzzi has been able to put his stamp early on the Spartan DB’s and LB’s, the DL leaves a lot of room for improvement. MSU has the ninth ranked rushing D in the Big Ten and Michigan is tenth. Look for the Wolverines who have the worst ranked offense in the Big Ten to try to run the ball. That’s right. So many people don’t understand that the M Rod spread is predicated on running the ball. The Spartans DL has been disappointing this season and look for the Wolverines to attack the Spartans.Â

I am confident in the Spartans ability to play pass coverage. I am not confident in the their ability to stop the Wolverines running attack. If the Spartans can stop the run without having to take guys out of coverage (stacking the box) the Spartans will be fine.

What has to have been the most frustrating thing for Wolverine fans this season is which offensive unit will show up for them? Will the team that can’t hold the ball, or the second half team that beat Wisconsin, or the first half team against PSU?

The Wolverines struggles with holding on to the ball should have any defense salivating. Not just fumbles, but all turnovers. If they want any chance they have to win the turnover battle with the Spartans.Â

There are a lot of ifs here, but for the Wolverines to win they can’t lose the turnover war and they have to run the ball. I have no doubt that they can run the ball, but I don’t think that they can win the turnover battle. I also question their ability to beat the MSU DB’s in a consistent manner. They will get yards, but this is a good DB unit for the Spartans. They, like MSU, will have to establish the run, but they must pass when they want to and not when the Spartans want it.

QB Steven Threet is the man at QB. If you see Sheridan, the Spartans are going to win the game. Threet is getting better each week with the nuances of the offense, but he gets rattled. The Spartans will use various blitz packages to not give him time to read. He is not fast with his reads and the Spartans will try to force him to make mistakes with pressure. If the Spartans get pressure it could be a long day for the home team.

Remember the rule of five. The Spartans have to get +5 in the sack/turnover stats and if they do, this won’t be close.

I am worried about the MSU DL and the Wolverine ability to run, but I am also confident that the Spartans will win the turnover battle and that they will get pressure on Sheridan. I give the edge here to the Spartans.


Both teams have very good coaches. The Spartan Nation likes to talk a lot about the UM arrogance and it is there, but look at how many have gone after M Rod and it is disappointing. I enjoy the rivalry, but I also give the Wolverines their due. They have won six in a row and we can laugh about App. State and Toledo, but if the Spartans don’t win what does that say about us?

Dantonio was rebuilding Cincinnati and never beat Rodriguez when he already had an established program at West Virginia. Now, M Rod will get a taste of playing a Dantonio that is more established. I like M Rod personally, and I think he is a good coach. I don’t think he has a team that is established like Dantonio. I give the edge to the Spartans.


I have never been a huge advocate for the atmosphere at the Big House. With that many people it should be much louder than it is. I will say this about them however. If it is close at the end of the game it can get loud. I also expect a lot of Spartans to be there. We know, by the way they have to keep Spartans out for basketball, that the Spartan Nation has no trouble traveling to Ann Arbor and I know of two people who separately called their ticket office and bought tickets on Thursday. That isn’t normal there.

I will say that the atmosphere will be neutral under those circumstances because there is going to be a lot of Spartans in the house this weekend.



The Spartans have five huge factors that figure into this game that benefit them.


  1. The loss to Ohio State. The players were embarrassed. They were angry at themselves for how quickly that game got out of hand. I sincerely believe that having the UM game the following week after that loss benefits the Spartans who are out to prove something.Â
  2. The off-field problem. The players are angry with a small number of their teammates that made them look bad with an off-field fight. They are not blaming anyone else, and they feel like the character of the team with a big loss and the off-field issue is being questioned. Unlike the past, I haven’t heard one of them angry with the fans or the media. They know that their play on the field against OSU and their conduct (well teammates) caused it and they are more fired up for this game then I remember any MSU team before this game.
  3. The UM fans aren’t happy with the losing, but the sense of pressure is not there. Maybe not with the elitist members of the Michigan family, but the rank and file fan likes M Rod and they will give him time.
  4. Whether or not you love or hate UM, one thing you could always count on was a tough team. I have watched every game so far for this team and I have yet to see them respond to a tough team. UM had more talent on the field than Toledo, but they looked almost sheepish when the Rockets didn’t roll over and play dead. The UM team is used to showing up and the hearing UM’s fight song and seeing the UM helmet intimidated their opponent. JLS used to try everything to minimize this game. Dantonio doesn’t and the Spartans want to play this game. The Spartans are tough and physical and they will be out to prove to the Wolverines that little brother has grown up. I am not disrespecting the Wolverines, but they haven’t manned up on a tough team all year, why would they start now?
  5. The weather will be nasty and the Spartans already played FAU and won. The Wolverines spent the day in South Bend playing hot potato with an overrated Notre Dame team.



I got ripped last week for picking the Buckeyes. I got ripped for picking the Cal Bears. Both times I was right. I was worried after the OSU game. Watching tape and being around the team and seeing how they have responded to the off-field issue and the loss has encouraged me.

The Spartans are focused, and they were ready to play this game Sunday night. I have a lot of respect for the Wolverines and they will try to fight, but I think that the Spartans have too much on their side and I say make it: MSU 31 and UM 17.

I have seen the Spartans emotional and lose. I have seen them up big and lose. These Spartans are mad and this time it is channeled. The Spartans will be cheering at the end of this game like OSU was two years ago in our house. Fire up the band, grab the barbecue, and head to Ann Arbor. Are you ready for some football?

The Spartans will end the drought and a new era in football in the State of Michigan will begin. I am certainly not so foolish as to call this the demise of the UM program. I am saying that the respect of the Spartan Nation will peer over the horizon like a long waited dawn. After Saturday we have a long way to go. After Saturday we certainly won’t be a finished product. After Saturday we will be victorious, and we will see dawns hope and a new day. Welcome back Spartan football.