MSU v. UM: SCOUTING REPORT AND PREDICTION

Hondo S. Carpenter

Will we see a repeat of the 2009 Michigan State - Michigan game this year?
Will we see a repeat of the 2009 Michigan State - Michigan game this year?

Scouting Report and Prediction: MSU vs. UM

A look at this week’s opponent…

The Wolverines and Spartans come into this game on a roll. They are both undefeated; Michigan has the most talented offensive player since Reggie Bush in all of college football. Excitement has returned to Ann Arbor and although the two teams have switched roles (Michigan –spread, MSU-power-I), both are better than they were a year ago. This game is a rivalry again for UM; don’t let the Wolverine fans fool you with OSU talk.  The 5-0 records don’t matter; throw them out. This is a bitter and angry battle and I love it.

When MSU has the ball…

The UM defense is much maligned and rightfully so; they are not as pathetic as some have suggested. MSU will be able to move the ball and should do just that, but they aren’t horrendous. They have had some off field issues and injuries that have hampered them, but they will come to play and represent.

MSU has to give the Wolverines a case of full frontal rushing attack. They need to force the Wolverines to stack the box to stop the run. It is then that MSU can attack through the air. Both teams dispensed of a very talented Notre Dame albeit U-M did it with their starting QB out for a long stretch. The Wolverines have not encountered a team offensively with the Spartans talent and balance.

I have heard the time of possession stat thrown around a lot this week and in this contest I think it is being over stated. The Wolverines are a quick strike offense. They are three and out and essentially three and score. MSU will own the T.O.P. stat simply because of the scheme that both teams run.

MSU will not win this game with offense. Sure they have to score the most points. They will get more than enough to win. This game comes down to the MSU defense. MSU will run the ball. They will eat the clock. Cousins will be the Cousins that we all know and have some great stats. It is the other side of the ball that will determine this game.

When MSU is on defense…

The MSU defense will win this game or lose it. That is no offense to Cousins and company, but it is a fact. Denard Robinson is special. He has the ability to get away from defenders and is blessed with amazing speed. He is most underrated as a passer. He has the ability to throw the ball with touch; he is the perfect QB for M-Rod’s system.

He looks like superman on film, but I assure you there is no cape or red ‘s’ under his uniform. Even though I think he is most talented offensive player in college football, his team is beatable. The MSU defense must attack. They can’t wait for him to come to them. They have to pin their ears back and go after him. They have to force him to make quick decisions. If he gets to his third step he is at full speed. They have to get a hat on him before that third step or create pressure as to make him choose to hand off, run or pass before his third step.

I will tell you now that he will have some great plays on Saturday. He will do some amazing things. That is OK. One play doesn’t cost the Spartans this game. They have to be relentless. I DO NOT in anyway want to see him physically injured and the comments like that this week have been offensive to me and any other decent human being Spartan fan or not. I do however want to see MSU physically come after him. Make him guess and second-guess the beating he will take each time.

If you can rattle his confidence he will make mistakes. I expect MSU to use more 3-4 defense (3 DL’s, 4 LB’s) than at any time this season to shadow him and mix things up. They will show him things he has not seen defensively and will try to get in his head.

Each and every play he will get hit. This will be an epic battle of blunt force trauma. At the end of this game it will look like a street fight and both teams should have earned the others respect.

If the MSU defense can cause him to make mistakes they will get turnovers. If they get him second guessing his ability to run, he has talented weapons at the skill positions and frankly the most underrated offensive line in the Big Ten.

UM will get their points. MSU will get their points. Can the MSU defense get enough stops, punts, and turnovers to win this most important Big Ten clash? Robinson is great at breaking tackles when opponents try to take him down with Sportscenter hits. One of his great talents is balance. You could run into him with a Ford truck and he can bounce off and change direction absorbing the blow. MSU defenders need to wrap up instead of trying to create the ultimate collision.  MSU has worked all week on textbook tackles. You have to wrap him up and take him down.

The one biggest concern for the Spartan Nation is at the point of attack. Remember I said that he is at full speed with step number three. If the first Spartan to get to Robinson or his weapons makes the tackle MSU wins and wins big on Saturday. If you see Spartans on the ground holding a shoe, U-M wins BIG! If the Spartans are sloppy and don’t take them down at the point of attack, you will know it is going to be a very long day.

Watch very closely the first defender. If MSU waits for Robinson in the hole flat-footed, turn your TV off. These Michigan players can make the cut and leave defenders in their wake hugging air. The Spartans aggressively (but under control) must step up, attack and make the textbook tackle.

 

Intangibles…

The emotional impact last week on Mark Dantonio not being at the game was phenomenal. The players and staff were so fired up to play for him. If the game is close I fully expect to see Dantonio on the field for the fourth quarter. I know we have all been concerned and many have prayed for Coach and his family. His presence on Saturday could be the very intangible the MSU players need to rally them to a win. Many regard Coach Dantonio as a second father.

UM finally recognizes this game as a rivalry again. If Spartan fans don’t like that it was insignificant for many years, they need only look at the Spartan football program that let it fall by the wayside. That wasn’t U-M’s fault. Both sides are hungry. In high emotion situations it is the team that can control it the best that avoids mistakes. Which team will play emotion, but under control?

What about all of the dumb unforced penalties? The Spartans were superb against the Badgers last week. Can they do it again? They can’t afford to make stupid mistakes and be forced to overcome themselves as well as U-M.

Turnovers. We always mention turnovers, but in a game like this, they are more than critical, they are essential. The Spartans have to cause the Wolverines to make mistakes and stop drives with turnovers. Turnovers will be key and Kirk Cousins can’t continue his present turnover tendency in the red zone. Possessions in this game should be treated like gold. He had one last week and could have had two more. He is a great player and at times he presses too much. He just needs to be in command and take what the defense gives him.

Dan Conroy will be called upon on Saturday and he has shown me no reason to doubt him at all. At some point this season he will miss one. No one is perfect. When Dan finally misses one, can he recover emotionally? My bet is on the ‘Steady Dan’, but it is an intangible none the less.

Prediction…

I think the MSU defense is up to the task. I don’t think anyone can stop U-M. I do think they can be contained. 

U-M is very young and if the Spartans can get some early stops and frustrate them, then the game could get out of hand quickly. The same could be said for U-M. If they get some crowd pumping great plays and get an early two or three score lead can the Spartans respond or will they get frustrated and make mistakes?

That said, I think both teams score and that the better MSU defense gets enough stops to allow Dan Conroy to kick two field goals.  Paul Bunyan stays were he belongs, in a trophy case in East Lansing. Spartans 41 Wolverines 35.

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