Observations on the win over the Spartans, 27-20!

1-The defense played excellent. We held MSU to 13 first downs and only two field goals in two red zone opportunities. We have forced 5 punts, held the Spartans to only converted in four of fifteen in 3rd and 4th down opportunities. No Spartan rushing threat=victory for Michigan. MSU had 36 net rushing yards in 16 attempts. On the negative side, we had no sacks.

2-Kudos to the offensive line! Navarre was only sacked once, and Perry had a record 51 carries for 219 yards plus one TD. We were 13 of 18 in 3rd down conversions for a 19 minute time of possession advantage. We had 29 first downs and have converted two red zone opportunities in three attempts for 14 points. We had 86 plays, 29 more than the Spartans as a result of our rushing advantage. Overall, we had 439 net yards; 216 on the ground and 223 in the air.

3-Our special teams continued to struggle. Rivas misses an extra point, and Finley averaged only 34.4 yards on 5 punts. The last punt went into the end zone for a touchback when we needed it downed inside the twenty, and our net punting continued to "suck" with Kavanaught running one back for 31 yards; it almost went all the way. Cobb also ran back a 56 yarder, and had 144 yards in 5 opportunities.

4-Navarre started slow, but finished 17 of 31 for 223 yards, 3 TDs and one pick. Edwards had 7 catches for 103 yards and 2 TDs. Avant had 3 for 51, and Perry has two grabs for 17 yards. Mingery made up for his earlier drop with a 26 yard TD. Brian Thompson chipped in with 3 catches for 15 yards, and Breaston caught one for 11 yards. The Spartans did a great job on Breaston holding him to one catch and 2 yards for 2 punt returns.

5-We almost gave in to the Spartan turnover advantage. We had one pick, but it didn't result in MSU point. We had one fumble, but Perry recovered his own miscue. Navarre was sacked, fumbled and Dukes motored in to make the game a nailbiter.

6-Pierre Woods led the defense with 5 tackles including one for loss and the fake punt stop. Reid, Hall, Curry, Diggs and Shazor had 4 tackles each. Hall may have been burned by a much taller Trannon a few times, but he didn't allow anything in the 2nd half. Barringer was doing a nice job replacing an injured Jackson until he let Shabaj go 76 yards for a TD. Our defensive backs have only allowed 3 touchdown passes now in 10 games. We are the #2 pass defense in the nation thanks to the players and coach Ron English.

7-I hate all the "trash talk" leading up to the game as well as during the game; it is disrespectful, immature and unprofessional. The Spartans showed they were a worthy opponent, and easily could have put this game into overtime and won. Seth Mitchell had 17 tackles and Jason Harmon had 10 including one pick for the Spartan defense. Smoker was 22 of 42 for 254 yards, 1 TD and one pick by McClintock on the last play of the game.

Observations on the first half with the Spartans, 13-3!

1-The defense has just played excellent. We held MSU to 7 first downs and only a field goal in one red zone opportunity. Smoker is 10 of 20 for 107 yards, no picks and no TDs. We have forced 4 punts. The Spartans have only converted in one of six 3rd down opportunities, and as a result we are holding an 8 minute time of possession advantage and a two score lead. No Spartan rushing threat=victory for Michigan.

2-Kudos to the offensive line! Navarre has not been sacked, and Perry has 110 yards on 25 attempts plus one TD. We are 6 of 9 in 3rd down conversions. We have 14 first downs and have converted one red zone opportunity for 7 points.

3-Our special teams continue to struggle. Rivas misses an extra point, and Finley is averaging only 30.5 yards on 3 punts.

4-Navarre started slow, but is starting to click. He was 7 of 17 with one pick and one TD to Edwards. Edwards has 4 catches for 65 yards. Avant has 2 for 29, and Perry has one grab for 11 yards.

5-Even though we had one turnover on a pick, Smoker & company weren't able to convert it into points. Perry did fumble once, but recovered. So far, no turnover advantage for the Spartans.

6-Pierre Woods leads the defense with 4 tackles including one for loss. Hall and Shazor have 3 tackles each. Hall may have been burned by a much taller Trannon a few times, but don't give up on him. Barringer is doing a nice job replacing an injured Jackson; hopefully, he can keep it up.

7-It will be interesting to see what adjustments will be made at half by both coaching staffs. We need to get more pressure on Smoker, and I'm sure Smith will be preaching the same to his defense for stopping the run and hurrying Navarre. I still predict a "nailbiter." Ironically, my halftime prediction was 14-3 (damn Rivas).

MSU Preview: John L. Smith will be coaching in his first football game between the two rivals; he has had a week off the prepare and this will certainly be helpful as will home field advantage. This game pits the two top teams in the Big Ten in scoring and passing offense. Jeff Smoker will be throwing to Agim Shabaj and Jaren Hayes; he is completing over 70% of his throws. Hayes is averaging over 106 yards per game in all purpose yards gained. The Spartan offense has been perfect in the red zone with 16 of 16 in Big Ten games with 14 TDs. MSU is only ranked #10 in the Big Ten in rushing offense; however, they lead the Big Ten in turnover margin and sacks. Their defense is led by linebacker Mike Labinjo and defensive tackles/ends Greg Taplin, Matthias Askew and Clifford Dukes.

Brandon Fields is the top punter in the Big Ten averaging over 47 yards per punt, and Dave Rayner is perfect on all 6 field goal and 18 extra point attempts so far. Rivas is now 5 of 5 in Big Ten games in field goals and also perfect on PATs with 24 of 24. MSU is #6 in the nation in net punting while Michigan is #112 although Michigan has the #4 punt returner in the nation in Steve Breaston. MSU is the most penalized team in the Big Ten averaging 87 yards taken away per game.

The keys for both teams will be how their defenses are able to create havoc for the opposing quarterback: sacks, turnovers, picks, etc. Neither team should be able to move the ball on the ground although Michigan has a better chance in the second half if they are able to wear down the Spartan defensive line; however, Michigan State has great defensive line depth. The kicking game, turnover margin and home field advantage favor the Spartans although Steve Breaston may swing the advantage to Michigan with one big return. I'm sticking the a hard fought Maize and Blue win, 24-22.

Reasons why I believe Michigan will beat Michigan State on Saturday, November 1, 2003:

1)Michigan State will not be able to run on our defense; they should net less than 100 yards. I'm confident our defensive line will control the line of scrimmage against their offensive line.

2)Smoker will not be able to set up his short passing game to Hayes as Michigan's linebackers and corners are preparing for this. LeSueur, Hall, Jackson, Shazor and Curry should be able to handle Shabaj, Brown, Alexander, Trannon and company.

3)Michigan may not be able to rush for 200 yards, but they should get at least 100. The team that wins the rushing battle usually wins this game.

4)Navarre has too many threats with Edwards, Avant, Breaston and others and completes enough for a first down and time of possession advantage. I'm confident are receivers will get open with Maples, Harmon , Barnett and others covering.

5)Breaston will equalize the booming punts by Fields with great returns, and give us field position advantage.

What worries me:

1)Turnovers and Points off turnovers-The Spartan defense has the best turnover margin in the Big Ten and lead in sacks. This could give them red zone opportunities and an advantage; Smoker is an excellent red zone quarterback and will be ready to convert in turnover situations.

2)The possibility of injury to Navarre, and Gutierrez placed in the position of winning the game. Labinjo, Taplin, Askew, Dukes and company will be coming after Navarre to create turnovers and hits that will take us out of our game plan.

3)The possibility that our blitz package will leave their tight end free, and both Eric Knott and Jason Randall are dangerous.

4)I'm not sure we'll be able to blitz Smoker effectively; he can scramble and run. He is smart and resourceful. I doubt we'll get 7 sacks on him like we did on Orton, and I don't think his receivers will have the drops that Orton's did either.

5)The week off to heal up and prepare should come with some surprises, and if they are successful early in the game, it'll get the crowd and momentum in favor of the Spartans. Then, we may be playing catch up as we did against Oregon, Iowa and Minnesota.

Michigan lead the series 62-28-5; however, Michigan has lost 4 of their last 5 games played at Spartan Stadium. Michigan's record at Spartan Stadium is 14-10-1.

Here is a history of recent games played in East Lansing at Spartan Stadium:

Year Score Notes
2003 27-20 Navarre vs. Smoker; John L. Smith coaches MSU; Chris Perry runs for 219 yards in a record 51 carries
2001 24-26 T.J. Duckett runs for 211 yards; timekeeper gives MSU one final play
1999 31-34 Bill Burke connecting for 400 yards, 255 to Plaxico Burress, MSU defense forces 8 punts and results in nearly a 4 minute time of possession advantage; Bobby Williams coaching the Spartans
1997 23-7 Michigan is Big Ten and National Champion-Charles Woodson win Heisman; Chris Howard gains 110 yards vs. MSU; Todd Schultz throws 6 interceptions and we hold a 7 minute time of possession advantage. Both teams have double digits in penalties; Michigan has zero turnovers.
1995 25-28 game moved to November; Nick Saban coaches MSU; Lloyd Carr coaches Michigan; Derrick Mason scrambles for 105 return yards
1993 7-17
1991 45-28 Gary Moeller coaches Michigan 1990-94; Elvis Grbac throw 3 TD passes (2 to Desmond Howard)vs. MSU; Michigan is Big Ten Champs in 1990 and 1991 and goes to Rose Bowl two years in a row, splitting games with Washington
1989 10-7 Michigan goes to Rose Bowl in 1988 and 1989 splitting games with USC; Tony Boles gains 100 yards vs. MSU
1987 11-17 MSU is Big Ten Conference Champs; beats USC in Rose Bowl 20-17; Demetrius Brown throws 7 interceptions, 4 to John Miller vs. MSU; Lorenzo White runs for 185 yards for the Spartans
1985 31-0 Michigan beats Nebraska Fiesta Bowl in 1985 and loses to Arizona State in Rose Bowl in 1986
1983 42-0 George Perles coaches MSU
1981 38-20 Muddy Waters coaches MSU; Michigan goes to Rose Bowl in 1980 and 1982 beating Washington and losing to UCLA; Butch Woolfolk gains 253 yards vs. the Spartans
1979 21-7 Stanley Edwards gains 139 yards vs. MSU
1977 24-14 Daryl Rogers coaches MSU; Harlan Huckleby gains 146 yards vs. MSU
1975 16-6 Michigan goes to Rose Bowl three years in a row in 1976-77-78 losing each game; Rob Lytle and Gordy Bell each gain over 100 yards against the Spartans
1973 31-0 Denny Stolz coaches MSU; Gil Chapman gains 117 yards, David Brown returns a 53 yard punt for TD vs. MSU
1971 24-13 Michigan goes to Rose Bowl losing to Stanford; Billy Taylor gains 117 yards vs. MSU
1969 12-23 Bo's first year; Michigan goes to Rose Bowl losing to USC; Michigan has two home games in a row in series in 1967 and 1968
1966 7-20 MSU is Big Ten Conference Champs in 1965-66; 1966 National Champs with Notre Dame 9-0-1; loses Rose Bowl to UCLA 12-14
1964 17-10 Michigan beats Oregon State in 1964 Rose Bowl 34-7
1962 0-28 Sherman Lewis scores 20 points for MSU
1960 17-24 Duffy Daugherty coaches MSU from 1954-1972; Bump Elliott coaches Michigan 1959-1968

My first game observing this rivalry was in October, 1959 when I was 7 years old. I entered the game in the 3rd or 4th quarter with the score 0-34 in favor of the Spartans; the game ended 8-34. The "men" from East Lansing were HUGE in comparison the the team dressed in Maize and Blue.