Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indiana overview and the Michigan game (my, how the script has flipped)

I was one of those people who was at least mildly upset in the first half of MSU's 56-17 blowout of Indiana. One would think that, by now, I'd just learn to relax, take it easy and let the game play out to its conclusion, remembering that a football game is 60 minutes and not 25 minutes long.
So after looking somewhat disinterested and sloppy in the first half, allowing the soap opera star, his wife, and their quarterback kid to enjoy the Hoosiers brief 17-14 lead, the Spartans decided they'd had enough and realed off 42 straight points to blow Indiana out of Memorial Stadium and ruin the Hoosiers' homecoming. Granted, Indiana is not, outside of Tevin Coleman, a good team, but it was MSU's best second half of the season.
So now it's Michigan week and I feel like I'm in uncharted territory. For the first time I can remember, MSU is a double-digit favorite over the Wolverines.
I've tried to envision a scenario in which Michigan pulls a stunning upset this Saturday, but I just can't do it. I'm so confident in a Spartan victory, that I find it a little unnerving. Why? Because if you've read enough of this blog, you know that I NEVER feel excessively confident in MSU victories over Michigan in football. This is due, by and large, by approximately three decades of hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Eight years of Mark Dantonio is slowly but steadily eroding that meek, defeatist outlook.
I am finally (almost) completely believing in this new world (football) order under Dantonio. With a 70-30 over all record, two conference titles, a division title, and three bowl wins (including last year's Rose Bowl), how can any Spartan fan not have faith in this man?
I've also seen enough Michigan football this season to determine that they just are quite simply...a pretty bad team. Sorry, Michigan fans, I'm not saying anything you don't already know. Your 2014 team is probably the worst Michigan football team I've ever seen.
Now, I will stop short of cockiness. I will not allow myself to enter the realm of overconfidence or arrogance, because I firmly believe that particular attitude adds up to bad luck and bad karma. This is still a rivalry game, even if Michigan players insist on still pretending it isn't, and anything is possible. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Michigan could, out of sheer desperation, play the game of the season and win...but I just don't see that happening. To repeat the mantra, Michigan quite simply is not a good football team.
All one has to do is look at the statistics, along with what has happened on the field so far this season to grant a big advantage to Michigan State. After losing Derrick Green for the season, Michigan's running game has been reduce to almost nothing. If the Spartans' front seven plays to their capabilities--which I fully expect--I simply don't see the Wolverines being able to run the ball. Michigan's offense comes down to Devin Gardner's ability to throw the ball to Devin Funchess, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Dennis Norfleet, and tight end Jake Butt. Though MSU's defensive backs have had their struggles this season, so too has Michigan's passing game. In fact, Michigan's entire offense has been anemic this season. Though Michigan State's defense may not be what it was last year, it's still very good and I don't see Michigan being able to score much in this game. As other commentators have said, Michigan may need to try and spread the field more and at least try to emulate the Purdue offense that had success against MSU. The Wolverines may have a few big plays in them, but I don't see them being able to string enough of those plays together over the length of a 60 minute game to pull out a victory.

Then there's Michigan State's offense, averaging 47 points per game. Even if MSU scores only half of that average against Michigan, I don't see the Wolverines' offense being able to match that. For one thing, Michigan's defense--the undeniable strength of the Wolverines' team--will probably be on the field most of Saturday because their offense will most likely struggle. Eventually, all the offensive weapons MSU has at its disposal (Cook, Lippett, Hill, Langford, Mumphrey, Shelton, to name a few) will be too much for the Wolverines.
Basically, Michigan's only hope is that they catch some breaks, either through turnovers or other MSU mistakes. If Bobby Williams or John L. Smith were coach, I'd say this might be likely. With Coach D at the helm: highly improbable.
Some people have compared this to a reversal of the 2002 season when Bobby Williams was dead man walking. However, I don't know that this Michigan team is quite like that '02 Spartan team, a team that was not just bad but had completely quit caring. It feels more like the '06 MSU team, when John L. Smith was preparing to walk the gang plank. That particular year, Michigan beat a weak MSU team--but a team that still had a little fight left in it--by the score of 31-13. So let's call this year's score a reversal of 2006: MSU 31, UM 13.

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