Michigan State Preview 2011

The Wolverines and Spartans come into the 2011 game undefeated and ranked in the Top 20 (#10/#19). Although the Spartans are ranked lower, the oddsmakers have placed Michigan State as a 3 point favorite. The Spartans will be going for four wins in a row over Michigan, and the last time they accomplished that was 1959-62. Michigan leads the rivarly 67-31-5. In the previous six meetings in East Lansing from 1999 to 2009 the teams are 3-3, and no game has been decided by more than 7 points; in fact, the average score differential has been 4 points with two of those contests decided in overtime. One of the big differences in this rivalry has always been that we are the Spartan's biggest rival, and they are simply one of our rivals with Ohio State being our biggest rival.

Offensively, the Spartans are led by Holland Senior Quarterback Kirk Cousins. Last year, he hit 18 of 25 against the Wolverines for 285 yards and a TD. In 2011, he has completed 67.8% of his throws with 6 TDs in 5 games. Their three running backs, Oak Park Junior Edwin Baker, Sophomore Le'Veon Bell and Battle Creek Junior Larry Caper will be aiming to put up another 200+ yard rushing game as they did in 2009 and 2010. Bell is their leading scorer with 6 TDs. Their fullback is Napoleon Senior Todd Anderson; he bench presses over 515 lbs. The Spartans are only averaging 129 yards per game on the ground in 2011 and rank #12 in red zone offense, but lead the conference in time of possession averaging 34 minutes per game. At wide receiver, the Spartans have Senior B.J. Cunningham and Westland Senior Keyshawn Martin and as primary receivers with Ex-Quarterback and Lowell Senior Keith Nichol, Saginaw Senior Brad Stonntag and Detroit Redshirt Freshman Tony Lippett in reserve. One may expect to see Keyshawn Martin run reverses and misdirections. Cunningham has been their leading receiver, averaging over 9 catches and 116 yards per game with 2 for TDs in 5 games. At Tight End, the Spartans have a Senior Brian Linthicum and Detroit Sophomore Dion Sims. Michigan State's offensive line has been revamped due to injuries. Two starters return from 2010, Milford Senior Left Guard Joel Foreman and Sterling Heights Junior Right Guard Chris McDonald. Sophomore Dan France is the Left Tackle, Redshirt Freshman Travis Jackson is at Center, and Right Tackle is manned by Junior College Transfer Fou Fonoti. In 2010, Joel Foreman sent Mike Martin out of the game limping, and Martin was not able to be effective the rest of the way. Our defensive line must come up big against this group on Saturday to stop the Spartan running attack and put pressure on Cousins, and force some turnovers.

On Defense, the Spartans are led by Traverse City Sophomore MIKE Linebacker, Max Bullough; he has 33 tackles including a sack and an interception. He is flanked at the two other Linebacker positions by Detroit Junior Chris Norman and Sophomore Denicos Allen at STAR and SAM. Allen has 7.5 tackles for loss including 3 sacks. Norman had 7 tackles against the Wolverines in 2010. Detroit Sophomore Chris Norman will also see action at linebacker. Their defensive line is anchored by Junior Jerel Worthy at 3 Technique Defensive Tackle; he has 4 tackles for loss including 2 sacks. Marshall Senior Kevin Pickelman is the Nose Tackle, Redshirt Freshman Marcus Rush is the Rush Defensive End and the Anchor Defensive End is Detroit Sophomore William Gholston. Rush has 6 quarterback hits in 5 games. Oak Park Senior Jonathan Strayhorn and Battle Creek Junior Anthony Rashad Wright are the top DL reserves. The defensive backfield is led by Bay City Senior Free Safety Trenton Robinson; the Strong Safety is Sophomore Isaiah Lewis. Redshirt Freshman Kurtis Drummond may also see action at safety. Junior Johnny Adams is their leading corner with 3 pass break ups, and the other corner is Sophomore Darqueeze Denard. Adams had 6 tackles in the 2010 game and an interception. Michigan State is currently ranked as the #1 team in NCAA Football in Total Defense, #2 in Pass Defense and Pass Efficiency Defense and #3 in Rushing and Scoring Defense. They are averaging 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks per game, and put 9 sacks on the Buckeyes. The Spartans are only allowing opponents 12 first downs per game, 29% on 3rd down conversions and an average of 173 yards per game of total offense, 64 on the ground and 109 in the air. They are stout and will be tough to move against. Notre Dame put up 31 points in 58 plays with only 275 yards of total offense at home, and came out quick putting up a 21-10 halftime lead. We'll also need to come out quick on offense.

Inkster Senior Keshawn Martin is one the most dangerous returners in college football; he is averaging 7.2 yards per return in 9 attempts, but is capable of breaking one on any return. Chelsea Redshirt Freshman Nick Hill and Larry Caper are their Kickoff Return Specialists; they are averaging 26.9 yards per return which ranks them 10th nationally. Grand Rapids Redshirt Freshman Mike Sadler is their punter; he is averaging 40 yards per punt, but the Spartan net punting ranks 110th nationally. He has booted 6 inside the 20 with 2 over 50 yards and 7 fair caught in 18 attempts with one blocked. Troy Sophomore Kevin Muma handles kickoffs, and their kickoff coverage is ranked #11 in the Big Ten even below our kickoff team. Junior Dan Conroy is their field goal placekicker, and he is 6 of 9 this year with a 50 yarder. In 2010, Conroy was 20 of 23 in field goals. If we contain Martin on punts, we have a chance to gain special teams advantage with our kickoff team improving, the capable Gallon punt returns and the punting of Hagerup who punted four times in 2010 averaging 47 yards; however, let's hope this game doesn't come down to a field goal either way.

The Spartans have a big advantage coming off a Bye Week with two weeks to prepare for the Wolverines. They realize a win against the Wolverines puts them in the "driver's seat" to win the Legends Division. We haven't scored 30 points on a Spartan defense since 2006 prior to Dantonio's arrival. In 2010, Michigan failed in the red zone, coming away with only 17 points in 5 red zones. The Spartans were able to capitalize on 3 big play TDs of 40+ yards rolling up 536 yards of total offense including 236 on the ground. I don't see the 2011 version resembling the 2010 game at all. I don't see us giving us big plays on Greg Mattison's defense nor do I see the Spartans rolling up over 200 yards on the ground. I also see Denard Robinson as ready for this year's Spartan challenge.

Michigan Wolverines 24 Michigan State Spartans 16

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Brady Hoke Press Conference on October 10 (Mark Dantonio Press Conference on October 11)

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