Saturday, November 5, 2016

Signs of encouragement?

I'm waiting until the last second to publish my weekly Spartan dispatch. The Cubs' World Series championship and this train wreck of a presidential campaign have dominated my attention.

I did take time early this week to watch the BTN replay of the Michigan game. Count me as one of the "sunshine blowers" who was encouraged by how MSU played. I didn't expect the Spartans to rack up 217 rushing yards against one of the nation's best defense (or allegedly one of the best). For the second week in a row, MSU's offense, and in particular its running attack, looked fairly efficient.

The defense, on the other hand, still has issues. Though it limited Michigan to three points in the second half (the bizarre 2-point conversion return for a touchdown doesn't count against the defense), the Spartans couldn't stop Michigan in the first half. They got little pressure on Speith, but even when they did he came through with some great on-target throws. There's not much even the best defenses can do when a quarterback reacts well to pressure.

Like most other fans, I was disappointed in some incredibly vanilla playcalling in the red zone. I don't know why Dave Warner/Mark Dantonio didn't at least try some deception. Josiah Price is one of the conference's best tight ends who has delivered big plays time and time again since 2013 and he was never utilized.

But all-in-all, it was an encouraging performance. If the Spartans can bring just 75 percent of the focus they had against Michigan, they should beat Illinois today by two touchdowns.

So even though my predictions have been terrible this season, I'll call this game: MSU 31, Illinois 17.

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