Michigan State Preview 2009

Michigan enters this game as the favorite, and the Wolverines have won the last three meetings in Spartan Stadium. The last five games in Spartan Stadium have been decided by 19 points so this one promises to be a nailbiter, too. Michigan is 4-0 and Michigan State is 1-3; needless to say, a victory in this game would make the Spartans season. The Spartans have not defeated the Wolverines two years in a row in 42 years since the Bubba Smith era.

On offense, the Spartans are led by Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins; the Spartan offense is ranked #21 nationally in total offense and #8 in passing offense, they lead the Big Ten in both categories as well as first downs. Our defensive backs will be challenged all day by receivers Junior Mark Dell, Sophomores Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham, and Senior Blair White. Don't forget about Junior Tight End Charlie Gantt; he caught a TD pass against the Wolverines last year. Their running game hasn't been nearly as solid as last year, but they do have capable backs in Caulton Ray and Frosh Larry Caper with "bad boy" Glenn Winston and Freshman Edwin Baker as backups. Their rushing offense is ranked #10 in the Big Ten. Last year, Brandon Graham guaranteed victory. He had 3 sacks, but the Spartans rolled up 473 yards in total offense and were 10 fo 19 on 3rd and 4th down conversions. To win, Michigan's defense must do a better job in limiting the Spartan offense in 3rd and 4th down conversions. We must stop their passing game, and we really need to pressure Cousins. Their offensive line in anchored by 5th Year Seniors Rocco Cironi and Brendon Moss, Juniors John Stipek and D.J. Young and Sophomore Joel Foreman. Most of their offensive line starters from last year have left including Javon Ringer who nearly gained 200 yards last year so if the Spartans are to defeat Michigan, it will come through an aerial attack.

On defense, the Spartans are led by MIKE inside linebacker Greg Jones; he is one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten averaging 13 tackles per game. He was a former Michigan recruit that we "slow-played" for a scholarship so he signed with the Spartans; one can assume he'll be ready to show Michigan that he was deserving of a scholarship. At WILL inside linebacker, Eric Gordon is solid. One can expect to see a blitz package from Gordon and Jones to take Forcier out of rhythm. Detroit Freshman Chris Norman and Junior Jon Misch have been rotating at SAM outside linebacker, and we will try to exploit the outside with screens and quick tosses to Odoms, Grady, Brown and Minor. 5th year defensive end Trevor Anderson anchors the defensive line, Juniors Oren Wilson, Colin Neely and Jerel Worthy are the other starters. Ortmann on Anderson is a key matchup especially in passing situations. An experienced Michigan offensive line should be able to handle them on the ground, and withstand their pressure; however, in a rivalry, we can expect a real dogfight up front. The Spartan backfield is led by Sophomore Free Safety Trenton Robinson and Junior Strong Safety Roderick Jenrette. Their cornerbacks rotate with 5th year players Jeremy Ware, Ross Weaver, Kendall Davis-Clark and Junior Chris Rucker. Marcus Hyde will also see action at safety. The Spartan pass defense is ranked 96th nationally and 105th in pass efficiency defense. Let's hope Forcier, Mathews, Hemingway, Odoms, Koger and our passing attack are able to be successful in the passing game. The must have a balanced attack, and this means 200 yards on the ground and another 200 in the air. The Spartan defense is ranked 71st nationally while our defense is ranked 89th in total defense; one could see this and conclude that this will be an offensive game; however, the history of this game doesn't predict a shoot out. The Spartans are last in the Big Ten in red zone defense.

The Spartan Special Teams have a solid excellent punting game; they are ranked 8th nationally while we are ranked #6 in net punting. Junior Aaron Bates is their punter; he has a 45.7 yard average with half of his punts downed inside the 20. Brett Swenson has developed into a capable, steady placekicker; he is 6 of 7 on field goals this year, and his only miss was a 50+ yarder. Glenn Winston is their kickoff returner and Keshawn Martin runs back punts. The Spartan kickoff coverage ranks #10 in the Big Ten. Field position will be a critical element in this game, and hopefully we should maintain good field position with Mesko, Wright, Stonum and Mathews.

Last year, the two teams were tied at half, and at the end of the 3rd quarter; however, Michigan State pulled away the win with two 4th quarter red zone conversions. The Spartans also sacked Steven Threet 4 times and forced 3 interceptions. If Michigan is to prevail on Saturday, we must limit sacks and turnovers on Forcier, and establish a running game. In 35 of the last 38 meetings between the two teams, the team who gained the most yards in net rushing prevailed. If we are able to run the ball (and I think we will), and choke the MSU running game; this one will boil down to who is the most successful in the air. In a high scoring offensive battle, 4th quarter turnovers and stops usually decide the outcome. Turnovers and points off turnover are also huge in these rivalry games, and I like our two senior running backs to hold on to the ball in this one especially late in the game. Other intangibles include the weather, and a cold, windy, rainy day potentially signals running the football which give Michigan the advantage. Both teams have show the ability to score quickly, and this can certainly lead to momentum swings which is huge in this rivalry. I'm predicting a Wolverine victory!

Michigan 28 Michigan State 27