photo AnnArborGIFHeader_zps02670880.gif

Archive for the ‘Preview/Prediction’ Category

Michigan-Indiana game preview

Friday, October 31st, 2014


Game Preview_Indiana_banner

Michigan got embarrassed by rival Michigan State last Saturday, dropping to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. Michigan now must win its next three to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. All three should be winnable, but with every other record and streak that has fallen this season — shutout streak, largest margin of defeat to Michigan State, and possibly attendance streak — and the past few seasons — first loss to a MAC team, first (and second) losing season in over 40 years — Indiana could be primed to end another one. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers since Bo Schembechler roamed the sidelines, a 14-10 defeat in Bloomington in 1987. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers at home since Bo was at Miami (Ohio), a 27-20 defeat in 1967.

UM-Indiana-small-final
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – Big Ten Network
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (4th season)
Coaching Record: 13-30 (all at Indiana)
Offensive Coordinators: Greg Frey (4th season)
Kevin Johns (4th season)
Defensive Coordinators: William Inge (2nd season)
Brian Knorr (1st season)
Returning Starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 63 – IU 47 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 53-9
Record at Michigan Stadium: Michigan leads 30-5
Current Streak: Michigan 18
Last 10 Meetings:  Michigan 10-0
Last Indiana Win: 1987 (14-10)
Last Indiana Road Win: 1967 (27-20)

But it’s not as if Indiana is a world-bater or anything. Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers on the right trajectory heading into the season, going 1-11 in 2011, 4-8 in 2012, and 5-7 a year ago. But the two-quarterback platoon that he used to great offensive success last season dissolved when one of them, Tre Roberson, transferred to Illinois State in June. That left the other, Nate Sudfeld, to assume the quarterback role by himself. He provided a better arm, but not the dual-threat ability that Roberson brought to the table, and while Indiana’s offense started the season pretty good, it was clear that it was a step behind last season’s.

After beating Indiana State in Week 1, IU lost at Bowling Green, 45-42. But they responded the following week with a 31-27 upset of 18th-ranked Missouri on the road, giving Wilson more road wins over top 25 teams than Brady Hoke. The euphoria would be short-lived as Indiana returned home to get throttled by Maryland, 37-15. They rebounded with a 49-24 win over North Texas, but dropped back-to-back conference games to Iowa (45-29) and Michigan State (56-17).

All but the last one were with Sudfeld behind center, but Wilson’s hopes for a winning season became extremely difficult when Sudfeld went down against Iowa with a separated shoulder. Suddenly, a position that was considered a strength three months ago was left with a true freshman with no college experience.

Does Indiana have the ability to come to Ann Arbor and steal a victory the same way it did in Columbia, Mo.? Or will Michigan’s defense prove too much for the unseasoned signal caller? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Indiana offense: When Indiana has the ball

Indiana’s offense ranks 32nd nationally in total offense (460.3 yards per game), 64th in scoring (30.1 points per game), eighth in rushing (289.9 yards per game), and 112th in passing (170.4 yards per game). It also ranks 103rd in third-down conversions (36 percent) and 98th in red zone offense (78 percent).

The main reason for the success Indiana has had is running back Tevin Coleman, who leads the nation with 170.3 rushing yards per game. He has rushed for at least 122 yards in every game this season with a high of 247 against Indiana State. He also rushed for 219, averaging 14.9 yards per carry, against Iowa’s stout run defense and 132, averaging 8.8 yards per carry, against Michigan State.

The passing game is a different story, however. The Hoosiers average 170.4 yards per game through the air. In fact, Coleman has rushed for more yards (1,204) by himself than the Hoosiers have passed for (1,193). Sudfeld completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions before his injury. His replacement, true freshman Zander Diamont, completed just 5-of-15 for 11 yards in his first game action against Michigan State two weeks ago.

Shane Wynn is the leading receiver with 27 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns. He caught two touchdowns against Michigan last season. Senior Nick Stoner has 18 catches for 177 yards and one score, while Coleman is the team’s third-leading pass catcher with 17 for 140 yards. Freshman J-Shun Harris II is the only other Hoosier with double-digit receptions with 14 for 139 and two scores.

Michigan offense vs Indiana defense: When Michigan has the ball

Defense has never been a specialty of Wilson’s in Bloomington. A year ago, Indiana’s scoring offense ranked 16th nationally, but its scoring defense ranked 115th. Only nine teams in the nation allowed more points per game. But this offseason Wilson brought in Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr to change from a 4-3 to the 3-4 that he ran at Wake. Knorr elevated Wake’s defense from 91st in 2012 to 31st in 2013, but that kind of success at Indiana is a much tougher task.

The line consists of sophomore tackle Darius Latham — a former four-star recruit –, redshirt junior nose tackle Adarius Rayner, and senior end Bobby Richardson. Richardson has 4.5 tackles for loss, while Latham and Rayner each have two. Richardson leads the team with four sacks. Redshirt sophomore tackle Ralph Green III ranks second on the team with four tackles for loss.

Converted defensive end Nick Mangieri plays the bandit linebacker spot and has 25 tackles, two for loss, and two sacks. SAM linebacker Forisse Hardin has 32 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a sack. Middle linebacker T.J. Simmons leads the team with 43 tackles to go along with 2.5 for loss and one sack, while fifth-year senior David Cooper has 35 tackles and one for loss.

The secondary has been picked on all season, allowing 283.3 yards per game through the air, which ranks 111th nationally. The corners are senior Tim Bennett and redshirt junior Michael Hunter. Bennett ranks second on the team in tackles with 38 and leads the team with eight pass breakups. The safeties are sophomore Antonio Allen and senior Mark Murphy. Allen is the team’s third-leading tackler.

Special Teams: The other third

Redshirt freshman kicker Aaron Del Grosso has made just 1-of-4 field goals, but fellow redshirt freshman Griffin Oakes has supplanted him by converting 4-of-5 with a long of 58. Redshirt junior punter Erich Toth ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 41.3 yards per punt. Wynn is the main returner, averaging 22 yards per kick return, which ranks eighth in the conference, and 5.8 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Michigan’s offense has scored just 14.4 points per game in the last five, but it shouldn’t have any troubles against Indiana’s defense that has allowed just one team all season to score fewer than 24 points — FCS Indiana State in Week 1. The Hoosiers’ defense was the cure for Michigan’s struggling offense last season and that should follow suit on Saturday. It certainly won’t be the record-setting performance that we witnessed a year ago, but it should look a little bit more like a normal offense.

Defensively, Michigan will look to pressure the inexperienced Diamont into mistakes. Coleman will get his yards like he does every game and like Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford did to the Wolverines. But as long as Michigan’s defense can prevent him from breaking long touchdown runs, it should be able to hold IU low enough to outscore them.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Friday, October 31st, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

Two-thirds of the way into the 2014 season, Michigan players, coaches, and fans are relegated to simply hoping to play their way into the postseason and avoid a third losing season in seven years. To do so, Michigan must win three of its last four games and tomorrow presents a great chance to pick up one of those wins. Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Indiana
Justin 34 20
Sam 22 16
Derick 38 31
Josh 17 14
Joe 35 21
M&GB Average 29 20

Justin: Stay tuned for my full game preview later this afternoon, but here’s my brief perdition. Michigan hasn’t lost to Indiana since 1987 and hasn’t lost to Indiana at home since 1967. That’s precisely why this game worries me. It seems that every other streak has fallen over the past few years, so why wouldn’t this one?

If Indiana was at full-speed offensively, I’d say the Hoosiers had a very good chance of outscoring Michigan. But with true freshman Zander Diamont making his first career road start — and second game appearance of his career — Indiana will have trouble making enough big plays to score. Tevin Coleman is the nation’s leading rusher, so head coach Kevin Wilson will make sure he feeds Coleman often and hope for results like Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford against Michigan.

Indiana’s defense is basically the same old Hoosiers, but the way Michigan’s offense has played this season, don’t expect Michigan to come anywhere close to its record-breaking against IU last season. Indiana gives up 35 points per game and ranks 111th nationally against the pass. Look for Devin Gardner to have his best passing game of the season and Michigan to score just enough to make it a comfortable win.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

Sam: I find myself with less and less to say with each passing week. I still do care deeply about this football team, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that when knowing so clearly that the players deserve much better than what they are getting. There is no more room for debate over the level of ineptitude of the coaching staff; they are simply and utterly inept.

It seems at this point, however, that the staff will be in place for the remainder of the season, leaving the players, the fans, and Michigan to suffer for a few more weeks.

This Saturday, it actually seems like there’s a chance to win (every time I write something like this I am simply astounded at how bad this has gotten) over an Indiana team that is about as lost defensively as Michigan is offensively. Over the past two weeks, the Hoosiers have given up more than 100 combined points to Michigan State and Iowa while Michigan continues to languish with the ball, having managed only seven offensive touchdowns while coughing it up 15 times over the course of six games against real competition. And you thought the Penn State game was ugly….

Which units fail worse will decide this game. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 22- Indiana 16

Derick:  Michigan still has a bowl game to play for, but a loss to Indiana would all but eliminate that with the season finale in Columbus looking largely unwinnable for the Wolverines. Michigan and Indiana put on an offensive show in the Big House last season, and the Hoosiers have played with the same pace through seven games this season.

The defense is much stronger for Michigan this season, and should be able to hold Indiana below the 47 points it scored in the matchup last season. The Wolverines will score just enough to keep the bowl hopes alive, winning 38-31.

Michigan 38 – Indiana 31

Josh: I want so badly to predict Michigan to beat IU in a blowout but we all know that isn’t happening. IU is bad on defense, really bad, they start their third string quarterback but have one of the best running backs in the conference behind him. Yes, they are bad, and yet they still managed to put up 17 points against Sparty, which is more than Michigan could muster. That leaves me wondering if Michigan can actually win this one.

Yes, Michigan’s defense in terms of yardage is good on paper but that is meaningless to me, all that matters is they give up more points than they can score. This team remains severely handicapped by their lack of offense. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Tevin Coleman gets darn near close to 200 all-purpose yards, with at least one huge (read: 50-plus yards) touchdown play. I don’t think IU will pass much, or well, but Michigan’s secondary is very beatable. Blake Countess isn’t who we thought he was and while Jourdan Lewis has the makings of a really good cornerback he is still too aggressive in coverage and garners too many pass interference calls which lead to very good field position and easy scores given up.

IU’s defense is bad, like Appalachian State bad, but I don’t think Michigan will move the ball on the Hoosiers the way they did in the opener. These kids may love Brady Hoke but they’ve lost the fire in their guts to win football games for him. Either that or these kids aren’t talented enough to wear the winged helmet, which is quite possible. I can rattle off several names who should never have received Michigan offers yet see playing time nonetheless. Regardless, this team might have one more win in them and IU is their best shot.

I expect this one to be close throughout with the deciding factor being whoever turns it over least will win, but not in the normal ‘win the turnover battle’ sort of way. My over/under on total turnovers is 6.5 and it’s very likely this one comes down to a big mistake like turning the ball over inside your own 20 (I’m looking at you Mr. Gardner) and the other team being gifted a score they likely would not have earned otherwise. Still, I think Michigan should pull this one out and notch their final win of the season. How many days until basketball?

Michigan 17 – Indiana 14

Joe: Finally, a game that does not scare me. And that in itself, really scares me! Indiana has lost their starting quarterback and will leave things up to a true freshman that looked very unprepared against Sparty a few weeks ago. I think we will see a lot handoffs and screens to their star running back Tevin Coleman. They run the spread and will try to move things fast. As long as the Michigan defense keeps Coleman under wraps, we will be fine. If he gets loose, look out. He is that good.

Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball and control the clock. Look for Gardner to run the ball a little more than normal. This will help open up the passing game a little and allow for some big plays. As long as we win the turnover battle, which is a HUGE if, we will be fine. I look for a decent effort from our guys and a nice 35-21 victory. Go Blue.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 21

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Michigan 35-11 This Week: Bye (Nov. 11 vs #16 Ohio State)

Michigan State played a below-average game against their in-state rival Wolverines this weekend, but a late score helped the conference favorite cover the spread and stay undefeated in the league.

2. Ohio State (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 31-24 (2OT) This Week: Sat vs Illinois (4-4, 1-3), 8pm, ABC

In a near disaster, the Buckeyes let Penn State force overtime after leading by 17 points for much of the game. But a defensive stand in double overtime gave new life to what could be a top-10 matchup for the division crown in East Lansing on Nov. 8.

3. Maryland (5-3, 2-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 7-52 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-3, 1-3), 12pm, ESPN2

It says a lot about the strength of the East Division after MSU and OSU that Maryland, who got waxed in Madison 52-7 Saturday, falls in at No. 3. The Terrapins didn’t carry any momentum from upsetting Iowa into Wisconsin as they got pounded from the start.

4. Penn State (4-3, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #13 Ohio State 24-31 (2OT) This Week: Sat vs Maryland (5-3, 2-2), 12pm, ESPN2

October has turned into a total disaster for Penn State, as an upset bid fell just short Saturday night during Happy Valley’s signature white out game. Three straight losses have eliminated the Nittany Lions from any hope of staying relevant.

5. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #16 Nebraska 24-42 This Week: Sat vs Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, ESPN

Rutgers got another taste of the Big Ten’s heavy hitters Saturday as Nebraska welcomed the Scarlett Knights to Lincoln and crushed them by 18. They’ve allowed 98 points in their past two games.

6. Michigan (3-5, 1-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #8 Michigan State 11-35 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-4, 0-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Nobody expected Michigan to come out of East Lansing with a win, but it was shocking how easily the Spartans handled the Devin Gardner-led offense. Now the Wolverines can only hope to salvage three wins in the final four weeks to earn a bowl invitation.

7. Indiana (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Michigan (3-5, 1-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Indiana took a bye week to prepare for Michigan in the Big House this weekend, but Illinois’ upset win over Minnesota left the Hoosiers as the only winless team in the Big Ten.

B1G East Week 9

West Division
1. Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 42-24 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (3-5, 1-3), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Nebraska has silently put together a nice 7-1 record in the shadow of Michigan State, the Big Ten’s most talented team. The Cornhuskers are more than capable of winning the rest of their games and setting up a potential rematch in Indianapolis.

2. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland 52-7 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (5-3, 1-3), 12pm, ESPN

It took three weeks for Wisconsin to put together a complete performance in the Big Ten, but a 52-7 win over Maryland has the Badgers in great position with two winnable road games coming up. If Melvin Gordon can lead his team over Nebraska on Nov. 15, the Badgers will become the West Division favorites again.

3. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 24-28 This Week: Bye (Nov. 8 vs Iowa)

It was only a matter of time before Minnesota surrendered a slim lead in the West Division, but few thought it would come at the hands of the winless Fighting Illini. Iowa comes to town after the bye.

4. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Northwestern (3-4, 2-2), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Iowa had a bye week this weekend after a tough loss to Maryland ended a modest winning streak. The next three games are winnable for the Hawkeyes before Wisconsin and Nebraksa round out the season.

5. Illinois (4-4, 1-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 28-24 This Week: Sat at #16 Ohio State (6-1, 3-0), 8pm, ABC

Illinois finally got its first Big Ten win Saturday, knocking off the first-place Gophers 28-24. The last four games will be difficult for Tim Beckman.

6. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at Iowa (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The Wildcats got a much-needed week off after losing two straight conference games. Now a tough road matchup in Iowa City is looming.

7. Purdue (3-4, 0-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #15 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Purdue is tied for last place in the West Division, and upcoming games against Nebraska and Wisconsin should keep the Boilermakers near the bottom in the future.

B1G West Week 9

First Look: Indiana

Monday, October 27th, 2014


FirstLook-Indiana

Michigan had two weeks to prepare for Michigan State, but it didn’t matter one bit as the offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense couldn’t hold up. Now Michigan is in must-win mode if it wants to play in a bowl game and avoid a third losing season in seven years. What better remedy could there be than to play Indiana, who allowed Michigan its best offensive performance of the season a year ago? Could that happen again? Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.

Indiana Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Indiana | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 30.1 | 20.4 64 | 110
34.9 | 23.1 105 | 44
Rushing Yards 2,029| 1,210 1,181 | 874
Rush Avg. Per Game 289.9 | 151.2 8 | 74 168.7 | 109.2 73 | 16
Avg. Per Rush 6.4 | 4.4
4.5 | 3.1
Passing Yards 1,193 | 1,356 1,983 | 1,679
Pass Avg. Per Game 170.4 | 169.5 112 | 114 283.3 | 209.9 111 | 41
Total Offense 3,222 | 2,566 3,164 | 2,553
Total Off Avg. Per Game 460.3 | 320.8 32 | 115 452.0 | 319.1 100 | 14
Kick Return Average 18.2 | 19.1 116 | 96 19.1 | 19.9 33 | 51
Punt Return Average 6.6 | 6.2 82 | 89 5.2 | 11.8 T36 | 109
Avg. Time of Possession 28:21 | 30:05 95 | 62
31:39 | 29:55
3rd Down Conversion Pct 36.0% | 41.0% 103 | 60
37.0% | 38.0% 43 | 50
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 13-73 | 17-109
51 | T76
14-93 | 19-158
T68 | T48
Touchdowns Scored 28 | 19
30 | 21
Field Goals-Attempts 5-9 | 9-13
12-14 | 13-15
Red Zone Scores (18-23)78%|(17-19)89% T98 | 22
(25-25)100%|(23-26)88% T123 | 101
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-23)65%|(14-19)74% (17-25)68%|(14-26)54%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .181 | -.126
42 | 74 .615 | -.207 119 | 44

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers trending upward heading into this season. But quarterback transfers and injuries have decimated the once powerful offense leaving true freshman Zander Diamont to be thrown to the wolves midseason. Diamont went 5-of-15 for 11 yards in his first collegiate action in a 56-17 loss to Michigan State two weeks ago. When he starts at Michigan this Saturday, it will be his first time playing in an opponent’s stadium.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 Indiana State W 28-10
Sept. 13 at Bowling Green L 42-45
Sept. 20 at #18 Missouri W 31-27
Sept. 27 Maryland L 15-37
Oct. 4 North Texas W 49-24
Oct. 11 at Iowa L 29-45
Oct. 18 #8 Michigan State L 17-56
Nov. 1 at Michigan
Nov. 8 Penn State
Nov. 15 at Rutgers
Nov. 22 at #13 Ohio State
Nov. 29 Purdue

The Hoosiers offense has certainly taken a step back from a year ago, but is still much better than Michigan’s thanks to a run game that ranks eighth nationally, averaging 289.9 yards per game. Running back Tevin Coleman is currently the nation’s leading rusher, averaging 170.3 yards per game. As a team, Indiana has rushed for at least 200 yards in every game this season, over 300 yards three times, and over 400 yards once.

The passing game, however, is right on par with Michigan’s. The Hoosiers average 170.4 yards per game through the air, which ranks 112th nationally. Comparatively, Michigan averages 169.5 and ranks 114th. In four of seven games, IU has thrown for fewer than 130 yards, including the 11 yards against Michigan State two weeks ago. Michigan won’t hold Diamont to 11 passing yards this weekend, but with Sudfeld out the Hoosiers will stick to the ground game.

Defensively, Indiana is one of the nation’s worst like it usually has been under Wilson. The 34.9 points allowed per game ranks 105th. The only opponent Indiana has held below 24 points was FCS foe Indiana State, which scored 10. Three of seven opponents have scored at least 40 points.

Indiana is allowing 133 more total yards per game than Michigan (59.5 more rushing yards and 73.4 more passing yards). After holding Indiana State to 30 yards on 24 carries in Week 1, IU’s rush defense had been holding up pretty well until allowing Michigan State to rush for 330 yards and five touchdowns two weeks ago. The pass defense, however, has given up over 300 yards in four of seven games, including 395 to Bowling Green and 361 to Maryland.

The Hoosiers are also pretty solid with special teams defense, ranking 33rd on kickoff returns and 36th on punt returns compared to Michigan’s 51st and 109th. They aren’t as good the other way, however, ranking 116th in kick return yardage and 82nd on punt returns.

Indiana presents a great opportunity for Michigan to get back on the winning track, especially offensively. But as we saw last year, a record-breaking performance against Indiana doesn’t ensure continued success. This year it will just be one more step toward bowl eligibility.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Nate Sudfeld (out) 101-167 1,151 6 3 191.8
Zander Diamont 5-15 11 0 0 11.0
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Tevin Coleman 135 1,192 11 83 8.8
D’Angelo Roberts 83 416 5 47 5.0
Devine Redding 25 115 1 16 4.6
Nate Sudfeld (QB – out) 36 98 2 17 2.7
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Shane Wynn 27 424 2 76 60.6
Nick Stoner 18 177 1 47 25.3
Tevin Coleman (RB) 17 140 0 44 20.0
J-Shun Harris II 14 139 2 33 19.9
Simmie Cobbs 5 99 0 34 14.1
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
T.J. Simmons (LB) 24 19 43 2.5-6 1.0-4
David Cooper (LB) 17 18 35 1.0-3 0-0
Forisse Hardin (LB) 18 14 32 3.5-15 1.0-6
Nate Hoff (DT) 10 9 19 5.0-20 2.0-12
Bobby Richardson (DT) 14 3 17 4.5-35 4.0-33
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Aaron Del Grosso 1 4 23 12 12
Griffin Oakes 4 5 58 14 14
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Erich Toth 40 1,652 41.3 11 4
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Indiana in the coming days.

Michigan-Michigan State game preview

Saturday, October 25th, 2014


Game Preview_Michigan State_banner

Ten years ago current Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was a part of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, but wearing the other colors. He felt the sting of one of the best Michigan wins in the history of the rivalry, on the losing end of what Michigan fans affectionately refer to as ‘Braylonfest’. Now he hopes to help Michigan recapture that magic.

But Michigan will need to reverse a disturbing trend that started on the day of that epic comeback. In each of the past 10 years, Michigan has scored fewer points against Michigan State than the previous year. From 45 in 2004 to 34 to 31 to 28 to 21 to 20 to 17 to 14 to 12 to six. The first four of those resulted in wins, as did the 12 points scored two years ago. But if that trend continues Michigan will lose for the sixth time in the last seven years.

UM-PennState-small-final
Quick Facts
Spartan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – ABC
MSU Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (8th season)
Coaching Record: 88-47 (70-30 at MSU)
Offensive Coordinators: Jim Bollman (2nd season)
Dave Warner (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi (8th season)
Returning Starters: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense)
Last Season: 13-1 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: MSU 29 – UM 6 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 63-33-5
Record at Spartan Stadium: Michigan leads 17-13-1
Current Streak: Michigan State 1
Last 10 Meetings:  Tied 5-5
Last Michigan Win: 2012 (12-10)
Last Michigan Road Win: 2007 (28-24)

Michigan State has taken advantage of the instability of Michigan’s program since Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season. Since then, the Spartans have been the Big Ten’s most stable program, winning two of their eight all-time conference titles and three straight bowl games, including last year’s Rose Bowl.

This season has been no different as Michigan State leads the Big Ten East division with a 6-1 record overall and 3-0 record in conference play. The only blemish was a 46-27 defeat at third-ranked Oregon in Week 2. But aside from the Ducks, Michigan State’s schedule has been pretty light thus far with non-conference wins over Jacksonville State (FCS), Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming, and conference wins over #19 Nebraska, Purdue, and Indiana.

The Nebraska win was certainly a quality one as it stands as the Cornhusker’s only defeat to date. In that game, Michigan State held a commanding 27-3 lead at the end of the third quarter before allowing Nebraska to pull within five points after three straight fourth quarter touchdowns. Nebraska actually had the ball at the Michigan State 37 in the final minute, but Tommy Armstrong Jr was picked off to end the game.

Since then, the Spartans have struggled against two of the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders. Purdue scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to pull within seven points with six minutes remaining, and like Nebraska, had the ball in the closing minutes with a chance to tie it up. But Michigan State intercepted quarterback Austin Appleby and returned it for a touchdown to inflate the final score. Last week against an Indiana squad starting a true freshman quarterback in his very first collegiate action, Michigan State allowed the Hoosiers to hang around for the first half thanks to running back Tevin Coleman’s 132 yards on 15 carries. MSU pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win, but Indiana exposed some gaps in the Spartan defense.

So what does that all mean? For one, Michigan State isn’t as invincible as it seems. But can Michigan actually go into East Lansing and pull out a victory? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Michigan State offense: When Michigan State has the ball

The most surprising aspect of Michigan State this season has been its offense. Even MSU writers can’t believe how much progress has been made since the first half of last season when the Spartans offense looked much like Michigan’s has looked at times this season. Through the first seven games this season, Michigan State ranks third nationally in scoring (47 points per game), 12th in total offense (525.1 yards per game), 15th in rushing (260 yards per game), and 42nd in passing (265.1 yards per game). It also ranks first nationally in time of possession (36:22), first in sacks allowed (four), and 17th in third-down conversions (47 percent).

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

The main reason for the success of the MSU offense is the development of junior quarterback Connor Cook. While his completion percentage is down 2.7 percent from last season, Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and fourth in passing yards per game with 234.4.  He has thrown for at least 230 yards in five of seven games, and the only two he didn’t — against Eastern Michigan and Wyoming — he attempted fewer than 10 passes and backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry each saw extended action.

It certainly helps that Cook has a talented receiving corps to throw to, led by 6’3″, 185-pound senior Tony Lippett, who has caught 39 passes for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s the only receiver in the Big Ten averaging over 100 yards per game (112.3) and he leads the conference in touchdown receptions and yards per catch (20.2). He has scored in every game except last week and he also had a 32-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. Sophomore tight end Josiah Price is the second-leading receiver with 15 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns, while five other receivers have over 100 yards and at least one touchdown: Junior Aaron Burbridge (158 yards and one touchdown), junior Macgarrett Kings Jr (142 and one), senior Keith Mumphery (123 and one), sophomore R.J. Shelton (102 and one), and junior A.J. Troup (100 and two).

The backfield is led by talented senior running back Jeremy Langford who ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 94.9 rushing yards per game, though he’s a far cry from the top four. But Langford has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the last four games and scored three touchdowns last week. Unlike the four ahead of him, he shares the backfield, and while it’s not a complete share, his backfield mate, senior Nick Hill, has 76 carries for 465 yards and six touchdowns. Last week he recorded the first 100-yard performance of his career with 178 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Sophomore Delton Williams also plays a role as a home run threat, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and five touchdowns on just 33 carries.

The offensive line had to replace three starters from last season, but the unit has done a great job of protecting Cook. The Spartans lead the nation in sacks allowed with just four in seven games. The only lineman to start every game at the same position this season is sophomore left tackle Jack Conklin. Fifth-year senior Travis Jackson has started six games at left guard and one at center, while regular center Jack Allen has started five and should return from an ankle injury this week. Junior Donovan Clark has started every game, six at right guard and one at right tackle, and sophomore Kodi Kieler has started six at right tackle.

Michigan offense vs Michigan State defense: When Michigan has the ball

Defense is how Mark Dantonio built Michigan State into a power over the past few years, and while this year’s version is good, it’s not quite at the elite level it has been recently. Pat Narduzzi’s defense ranks 34th nationally in scoring (21.6 points per game), ninth in total defense (292.7 yards per game), eighth in rush defense (100.3 yards per game), and 19th in pass defense (192.4 yards per game). Statistically, it’s very comparable to Michigan’s defense which most Michigan fans have been down on. The two areas that are considerably better than Michigan’s are third-down defense (25 percent compared to 36) and sacks (26 compared to 18).

Narduzzi had to replace seven full-time starters, but returned a solid core including junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, senior end Marcus Rush, and senior linebacker Taiwan Jones. Calhoun and Rush have combined for 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. The interior of the line is new this season, but juniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas have held up well, but have given up some big runs up the middle the past few weeks.

Jones leads the linebacking corps with 30 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and three sacks, but junior SAM linebacker Ed Davis leads the team with six sacks and eight tackles for loss. Junior Darrien Harris rounds out the group at the STAR spot with 25 tackles, 1.5 for loss, half a sack, and an interception.

The secondary is led by senior safety Kurtis Drummond, whose 33 tackles, six passes defended, and two interceptions lead the team. The strong safety, freshman Montae Nicholson, is young and prone to mistakes, while junior safety R.J. Williamson, ranks second with 30 tackles to go along with five passes defended and a pick. Junior cornerback Trae Waynes is a star and definitely one of the top corners in the Big Ten. He has 23 tackles, two for loss, one sack, six passes defended, and two interceptions. The field corner is sophomore Darian Hicks and he’s much more vulnerable than Waynes.

Special Teams: The other third

Sophomore kicker Michael Geiger is solid, having converted 7-of-11 this season with a long of 42, although he’s just 2-of-5 from 40-plus. Senior punter Mike Sadler has been around forever and ranks 10th in the Big Ten with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. He has downed 11 of 31 inside the 20 while only two have gone into the end zone.

The return game is pretty lackluster, ranking 60th nationally on kicks and 89th on punts. Shelton ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 22.2 yards per kick return, while Kings Jr ranks fifth with an average of 6.9 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Of course the most vulnerable Michigan State defense in several years gets to face the worse Michigan offense in several years. On Thursday, Spartan Tailgate writer Chris Vannini told us that he thinks Michigan will be able to make some big plays as teams have done on MSU this season. Apparently he hasn’t watched Michigan much as the Wolverines have struggled to make big plays against anyone other than Appalachian State.

Michigan’s defense will be one of the best Michigan State has faced this season, similar to Nebraska’s which held MSU to just 27 points, their fewest of the season. But unlike last week when Michigan was able to pressure Christian Hackenberg all day, the Spartan offensive line will protect Cook. That will allow him to pick apart the secondary just like Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Rutgers’ Gary Nova did.

Expect Michigan to hang around through the first half, but with the inability to make big plays Doug Nussmeier’s offense will have a hard time stringing together enough scoring drives. Michigan State will pull away in the second half with efficient, time consuming drives and keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy in East Lansing for the sixth time in seven years.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Friday, October 24th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

Beating up on Michigan State used to be a yearly occurrence that we looked forward to, but over the past few years we have come to dread Michigan State week as Michigan’s offense continues to score fewer and fewer points against the Spartans than they did the previous year. Tomorrow, Michigan State is the heavy favorite and no one gives Michigan a chance, but there’s a reason they play the games. Can Michigan reverse the trend and roll into East Lansing with a big upset? Or will MSU win for the sixth time in the last seven years? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Michigan State
Justin 13 33
Sam 16 33
Derick 14 35
Josh 0 49
Joe 14 42
M&GB Average 11 38

Justin: Stay tuned for my full game preview later this afternoon, but essentially I think Michigan will stay within striking distance into the second half, but just won’t be able to make enough big plays to take advantage of a Michigan State defense that has been giving them up in droves this season.

Defensively, Michigan will stuff the run and force Connor Cook to beat them with his arm, which he will. Michigan State’s offensive line is great at protecting Cook, so his performance will be more like Gary Nova’s than Christian Hackenberg’s. Michigan State pulls away for a comfortable win.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

Sam: The Paul Bunyan trophy is one of the ugliest rivalry trophies out there, and came about in a very inorganic way – an attempt by Michigan’s governor at the time to try to make Michigan consider Michigan State as more of a rival than a, let’s face it, little brother – but it still belongs in Ann Arbor.

Unfortunately, the lumberjack has had to endure a longer-than-expected stay of late in the town just east of the state’s capital. And it appears that he will have to survive one more year with the younger sibling in this series.

Michigan comes into this weekend’s game with Michigan State off what I suppose you would call a win over Penn State and then a bye last Saturday, but things don’t look pretty. The majority of the fan base has been left to speculate over new head coaching candidates rather than enjoy this season and the team on the field just looks bad.

The Spartans, on the other hand, don’t appear quite as dominant defensively as last season, but still will be licking their chops at a matchup with a Wolverine offense that struggles immense to move the ball. Offensively they will look to assert their run game early and then take to the air against a shaky Michigan secondary.

I don’t anticipate the nightmare that was last year, but I still have no idea why I’m going to this game.

Michigan State 33- Michigan 16

Derick: This rivalry matchup has never looked more one-sided than it does in 2014. Michigan is coming off a tough win to break a losing streak, and the No. 8 Spartans have won five in a row.

Michigan’s trip to East Lansing didn’t go well last season as MSU waxed the Wolverines 29-6. This year Michigan has played much worse, and the Spartan offense is the third best in the country in terms of points per game.

Anything can happen in rivalry games, but Michigan is simply outmatched this weekend. Michigan State will pull away early and cruise to a 35-14 win.

Michigan State 35 – Michigan 14

Josh: Coming into the season I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to beat Sparty. After the first seven games I am convinced that this might be one of the worst beat downs in Michigan’s long history. Considering Sparty took it to Michigan 29-6 and held us to -48 rushing yards last year, and Notre Dame and Utah (of all teams) both kept Michigan out of the red zone earlier this year and I have come up with a predicted score of 732-0. Just kidding, but only slightly.

Sparty’s defense, while still impressive, isn’t quite what they’ve been the past few years. Sadly, as we all know, Michigan’s offense is beyond horrendous and now without its starting running back, Derrick Green. I don’t think MSU will hold Michigan to negative rushing yards but I don’t think we’ll hear “The Victors” much, if at all, during the game. On the other side of the ball, Sparty has somehow managed to be one of the highest scoring teams in the nation. Yes, the NATION. The silver lining here, if there is one, is that Michigan’s defense (at least on paper) hasn’t allowed many yards. However, Blake Countess is still a major fixture on the back end and it’s pretty much a guaranteed touchdown when you throw at him these days.

I don’t think Michigan has a snowball’s chance in hell to win this game. I do, however, think they ‘could’ get hyped up for this one and play well for a while. If they can eliminate turnovers then they can keep it within three touchdowns, but I don’t think that’ll happen so this one is going to get ugly.

Michigan turns it over early and often and Connor Cook has a field day throwing at Blake Countess who has gone from All-Big Ten performer to All-Big Ten…well, whatever the opposite of that is. Sparty wins big and continues their reign of dominance over Big Brother.

Michigan State 49 – Michigan 0

Joe:  No matter how disappointing this season has been and is likely to continue to be, we can usually count on big rivalry games like this one to be competitive. For a half at least. Our guys will be fired up and playing on emotion and will stick with Sparty for the first few series. Devin Funchess should get the gang going early but I think that emotion will start to fade as the green and white running game starts to roll. The Spartans are very impressive up front and will wear our defensive line down over time. Connor Cook will take advantage of this in the second half and open things up, tossing two touchdown passes and running for another. After two close games in their last three, “Little Brother” wants to post some big numbers to sway some voters. I’m not sure we can do anything to stop em from accomplishing this goal. Sparty wins going away.

Michigan State 42 – Michigan 14

Michigan State Q&A with Chris Vannini of SpartanTailgate.com

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014


MSU Q-A_banner

Each Thursday throughout the season we collaborate with that week’s opponent blog to get some questions answered by the guys who know more about their team than we do. This week, we partnered with Chris Vannini, writer for SpartanTailgate.com, part of the 247 Sports Network. He was kind enough to answer questions about the way Michigan State fans view Michigan at the moment, how the MSU offense got so good, what — if anything — Michigan’s offense can exploit on Saturday, and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVannini.

1. Michigan State has five wins in the past six years, and is big favorites again this week. It’s got to be getting old, right?

It’s certainly something no one saw coming, having only happened once before, when MSU went 6-0-2 from 1956-63. Yet even in the build-up to this week, it’s clear more intensity is coming from one side, and that’s the MSU side. Now, part of that is certainly because of U-M’s struggles and a developing apathy amongst U-M fans, but this won’t last forever, so MSU fans are making sure they enjoy as much as they can.

2. But seriously, how do Michigan State fans view the current state of the Michigan program and Coach Hoke? With glee, with pity, or what?

More than anything, I think it’s a feeling of, “I told you so.” When Hoke came in and started cleaning up in recruiting, many stories were written about the second coming of a 10-Year War between U-M and OSU, especially after MSU’s 2012 struggles. But it turned out that was an anomaly, and a program that had developed players for five years continued to do so. No one is wondering if MSU can sustain under Mark Dantonio anymore. Years of top recruiting classes and fast starts followed by players not developing and seasons falling apart have taken away any benefit of the doubt U-M receives, while MSU is getting that benefit for the first time, as shown by their high ranking despite the Oregon loss.

3. Since Mark Dantonio took over, the Spartans have had great defenses and average offenses. What’s different about this season? How did the offense get so good, especially after how bad it was the first half of last season?

I’ve never seen a unit improve as much as MSU’s offense did throughout last season, and I don’t think I ever will again. Even MSU’s offensice coaches were surprised, because the offseason is typically when that development happens. With where things ended last year, and with all the skill players coming back (other than Bennie Fowler), we figured the offense could have to carry the team early in the season. But we didn’t see this coming, an offense that is on pace to be the most prolific in school history.

The passing game and Connor Cook continued where they left off, and Cook has played himself into NFL first-round pick consideration. Replacing holes on the offensive line was the question mark. They’ve dealt with some injuries, and aren’t as deep as a year ago, but the results have been promising. MSU is still a solid, not great, running team, and MSU has allowed the fewest sacks per game in the country. Cook has time, and he can find his bevy of receivers, especially Tony Lippett, who has gone from being benched early last season to being one of the best receivers in the country this year, catching everything.

4. By now, we’re used to a vaunted MSU defense, but it seems that MSU has taken a minor step back defensively so far this season. Michigan is actually allowing 0.2 fewer points per game and fewer rushing yards per game. Is there anything that Michigan’s offense has any hope of exploiting this week?

The biggest issue for this defense has been big plays, and it’s because the safeties have struggled. Kurtis Drummond has been inconsistent, and RJ Williamson and true freshman Montae Nicholson have been sharing time at the other safety spot. MSU has allowed 19 plays of at least 30 yards, which is No. 103 nationally. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they’ve been really bad at getting explosive plays on offense. But it’s something most teams have been able to do to MSU this season. The defense as a unit has gone from “elite” to “good,” and the big plays are the biggest problem.

5. Where do you see Michigan State having the biggest advantage this week, and why?

I think it has to come down to MSU’s defensive line against U-M’s offensive line, as it did a year ago. Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush are both playing great on the outside, and Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath and Malik McDowell have the tackles more disruptive than a year ago. I don’t expect minus-48 rushing yards, but I think Michigan will have trouble getting anything going on the ground, especially with Derrick Green out.

6. Finally, what’s your prediction and how will it happen?

I’m going to go with a 38-24 MSU victory. With the weather looking nice, I think both teams will be able to move the ball (yes, including U-M). MSU will be able to move up and down with the pass, and I think U-M will be able to hit some big plays. Everyone has done it to MSU this year. I don’t see why U-M won’t. But I think it’ll be MSU’s offense that’s the difference in this one, unlike years past.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 8

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 56-17 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (3-4, 1-2), 3:30pm, ABC

Indiana stuck around for most of the first half against MSU, but the Spartans’ high-powered offense eventually took over and gave them another conference win. Michigan State will welcome Michigan to town before another bye week.

2. Ohio State (5-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 56-17 This Week: Sat at Penn State (4-2, 1-2), 8pm, ABC

Rutgers was the best surprise of the Big Ten through six games, but Ohio State gave them a rude awakening on Saturday with a 56-17 blowout win.

3. Maryland (5-2, 2-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Iowa 38-31 This Week: Sat at Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland got back on track Saturday, bouncing back from a big loss to Ohio State to beat Iowa 38-31. Fourteen fourth quarter points helped the Terrapins pick up their biggest conference win so far.

4. Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #13 Ohio State 17-56 This Week: Sat at #16 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Rutgers’ winning streak came to a screeching halt in Columbus on Saturday as the Scarlett Knights lost by 39 points. A grueling schedule looms in the second half, and could erase the strong start of the season.

5. Michigan (3-4, 1-2) – Down 2
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #8 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0), 3:30pm, ABC

Michigan’s first bye week came in Week 8 after a big home win over Penn State. The Wolverines got two weeks to prepare for the heavily favored Spartans in East Lansing this Saturday.

6. Penn State (4-2, 1-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #13 Ohio State (5-1, 2-0), 8pm, ABC

Penn State didn’t play in Week 8, getting some much needed rest after losses to Michigan and Northwestern. It won’t get any easier for the Nittany Lions as Ohio State comes to town this weekend.

7. Indiana (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #8 Michigan State 17-56 This Week: Bye (11/1 at Michigan)

Without starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld, upsetting Michigan State was merely a pipe dream for Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers took a late first half lead in the game, but collapsed in the following minutes.

BIG East Week 8

West Division
1. Minnesota (6-1, 3-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 39-38 This Week: Sat at Illinois (3-4, 0-3), 12pm, ESPNU

Minnesota just kept rolling on Saturday against Purdue, grinding out a close game to stay unbeaten in Big Ten play. With matchups against Illinois and Iowa coming up, the Gophers could be atop the division for a few more weeks.

2. Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 38-17 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (5-2, 1-2), 12pm, ESPN2

Though Minnesota is in first place, Nebraska is clearly the class of the Big Ten West. A close loss to MSU is the only blemish on the Cornhuskers’ resume, and a Nov. 22 meeting in Lincoln could decide if Minnesota is really good enough to play in Indianapolis.

3. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (5-2, 2-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

It was a good week to be idle in the West Division, as Wisconsin sat at home and watched both Iowa and Northwestern fall in the standings. The Badgers will be back in action against Maryland this weekend.

4. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 31-38 This Week: Bye (11/1 vs Northwestern))

Iowa suffered a disappointing loss to Maryland on Saturday as it continued to play with fire and finally got burned in conference. Maryland dropped 38 points on the Hawkeye defense and knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten.

5. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to #19 Nebraska 17-38 This Week: Bye (11/1 at Iowa)

Northwestern couldn’t pull of a second straight Evanston upset on Saturday, falling to Nebraska 38-17. The Wildcats have overachieved with their 2-2 Big Ten record, but they’re far from contenders.

6. Purdue (3-5, 1-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 38-39 This Week: Bye (11/1 at #16 Nebraska)

Purdue had a real chance to pull even in conference play against Minnesota, but fell a point short on Saturday in a 39-38 loss. The loss dropped the Boilermakers to 1-3 with Nebraska and Wisconsin on the horizon.

7. Illinois (3-4, 0-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Minnesota (6-1, 3-0), 12pm, ESPNU

Illinois took a bye week in the midst of a losing streak during Week 8. The Fighting Illini are the only winless team left in the West.

BIG West Week 8

First Look: Michigan State

Monday, October 20th, 2014


FirstLook-MichiganState

Two weeks ago Michigan stopped the bleeding with a 18-13 win over Penn State, allowing the Wolverines to head into a bye week with momentum. But now the toughest game of the season so far awaits, a trip up I-96 to face rival Michigan State, which enters 6-1 and 3-0 in the Big Ten. It’s no secret that the rivalry has turned in the last six years. Does Michigan have a chance to win back Paul Bunyan? Or will Michigan State continue its recent domination? Let’s take a look at how the teams compare through the first seven games of the season.

Michigan State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Michigan StateMichigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 47.0 | 21.7 3 | 105
21.6 | 21.4 T34T30
Rushing Yards 1,820 | 1,149 702 | 655
Rush Avg. Per Game 260.0 | 164.1 15 | 64 100.3 | 93.6 8 | 4
Avg. Per Rush 5.4 | 4.7
3.4 | 2.7
Passing Yards 1,856 | 1,231 1,347 | 1,452
Pass Avg. Per Game 265.1 | 175.9 42 | 108 192.4 | 207.4 19 | 36
Total Offense 3,676 | 2,380 2,049 | 2,107
Total Off Avg. Per Game 525.1 | 340.0 12 | 110 292.7 | 301.0 9 | 10
Kick Return Average 21.1 | 19.1 60 | 97 20.9 | 19.5 70 | 44
Punt Return Average 6.9 | 7.8 89 | 68 13.7 | 14.4 115 | 117
Avg. Time of Possession 36:22 | 30:38 1 | 45
23:38 | 29:22
3rd Down Conversion Pct 47.0% | 41.0% 17 | 62
25.0% | 36.0% 3 | 44
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 4-15 | 15-96
T1 | T82
26-186 | 18-150
T4 | T41
Touchdowns Scored 44 | 18
20 | 16
Field Goals-Attempts 7-11 | 8-12
4-5 | 13-14
Red Zone Scores (33-38) 87% | (16-17) 94% 41 | 8
(15-17) 88%(20-22) 91% T94 | T105
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-38) 74% | (13-17) 76% (11-17) 65% | (11-22) 50%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .246 | -.015
36 | 67 -.269 | -.163 39 | 50

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a power in recent years through a punishing and aggressive defense, but this year’s team is getting it done with its offense which ranks third nationally in scoring (47 points per game), behind only Baylor (49) and Marshall (47.4). The Spartans have scored 56 or more points in three of seven games and 45 in two of the other four. The other two were both 27-point outputs in a loss to Oregon in Week 2 and a win over Nebraska in Week 5. UCLA, Arizona, and Washington State each scored more than 27 against Oregon, while the 27 MSU scored on Nebraska are the second-most the Cornhuskers have allowed this season.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 29 Jacksonville State W 45-7
Sept. 6 at #3 Oregon L 27-46
Sept. 20 Eastern Michigan W 73-14
Sept. 27 Wyoming W 56-14
Oct. 4 #19 Nebraska W 27-22
Oct. 11 at Purdue W 45-31
Oct. 18 at Indiana W 56-17
Oct. 25 Michigan
Nov. 8 #13 Ohio State
Nov. 15 at Maryland
Nov. 22 Rutgers
Nov. 29 at Penn State

What’s more is that the Spartans are equally effective on the ground and through the air as opposed to recent years when the running game carried the offense. The running game ranks 15th nationally, averaging 260 yards per game, while the passing game ranks 42nd, averaging 265.1 yards per game. Michigan State has been held below 200 yards rushing just twice — 123 yards against Oregon and 188 against Nebraska. But while the running game didn’t work against Oregon, the Spartans racked up 343 yards through the air, their second-best passing performance of the season. Likewise, the two biggest rushing games — 336 yards against Eastern Michigan and 338 against Wyoming — were the two lowest passing performances — 160 and 195.

While the offense is balanced, it has the ability to control the ball, as evidenced by the fact that Michigan State ranks first nationally in time of possession, averaging 36:22 per game. In addition, the Spartans have allowed only four sacks all season, tied with Duke and Wisconsin for the fewest in the nation. So the Michigan State offense is dangerous on the ground and through the air, doesn’t let opposing defenses get to the quarterback, and possess the ball better than anyone in the country. Doesn’t sound like Michigan State does it?

It’s a good thing for Dantonio that the offense took such a big leap forward this season because his defense isn’t nearly as stout as it has been the past couple years. It’s allowing virtually the exact number of points per game as Michigan (21.6 versus 21.4), has a slightly better pass defense and a slightly worse rush defense. Aside from giving up 46 points to Oregon, State’s defense allowed 31 to Purdue two weeks ago and let Indiana to run all over them last week. Granted, the latter two both resulted in wins, but not thanks to the defense.

Michigan State held four of the first five opponents under 100 yards rushing — Oregon’s 173 yards was the exception — but Purdue and Indiana have both had success the past two weeks. Purdue averaged 5.2 yards per carry and Indiana averaged 6.4. Perhaps they have found something they can exploit. Of course, neither Purdue nor Indiana possessed a defense capable of holding Michigan State’s offense in check, so they both lost. Last season, only four of 14 opponents eclipsed 100 yards and they were four of the final five games of the season.

Four of seven opponents have passed for over 200 yards against the Spartans, but MSU’s pass defense numbers look much better after holding Indiana to just 11 passing yards last week on 5-of-16 passing. That shouldn’t be a surprise, however, as Indiana was starting a true freshman quarterback for the first time — the first playing time of his career — after losing starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld for the season. Oregon threw for 318 yards, Nebraska for 282, Jacksonville State for 222, and Purdue for 211.

While Michigan State’s offense and defense are both very good, the special teams leave something to be desired. MSU ranks 60th in kick return average, 89th in punt return average, 70th in kick return defense, and 115th in punt return defense.

Unlike Indiana and Purdue, Michigan has a defense that can allow it to remain in the game if its offense can find a way to put up points. But it will take a flawless performance in order to do so.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Connor Cook 108-176 1,641 16 5 234.4
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Jeremy Langford 125 664 7 36 5.3
Nick Hill 76 465 6 76 6.1
Delton Williams 33 239 5 80 7.2
R.J. Shelton 15 127 1 30 8.5
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Tony Lippett 39 786 8 71 112.3
Josiah Price 15 244 4 67 34.9
Aaron Burbridge 13 158 1 22 22.6
Macgarrett Kings Jr. 14 142 1 29 20.3
Keith Mumphery 9 123 1 43 17.6
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Kurtis Drummond (S) 29 4 33 2.0-6 0-0 (2 INT, 6PD)
Taiwan Jones (LB) 15 15 30 7.5-20 3.0-11
Ed Davis (LB) 14 14 28 8.0-31 6.0-25
Marcus Rush (DE) 17 8 25 6.5-40 3.5-34
Shilique Calhoun (DE) 16 6 22 7.5-81 5.0-70
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Michael Geiger 7 11 42 43 43
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Mike Sadler 31 1,259 40.6 11 2
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Michigan State in the coming days.

Michigan fifth in preseason Big Ten basketball media poll

Thursday, October 16th, 2014


Beilein(Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Michigan has become one of the most consistent basketball schools in the Big Ten conference under head coach John Beilein. Over the past four seasons the Wolverines have racked up a 104-41 record en route to four NCAA Tournament appearances, two Elite Eights and a national championship game.

Michigan has been equally dominant within the Big Ten during that span, winning the conference by three games last season for its second title in three years. Beilein’s group is averaging over 12 wins in the Big Ten per season since 2010-11, never finishing below fourth place.

But an exodus of talent to the NBA and graduation has raised questions about the upcoming Michigan season. Sixty percent of the starting lineup is gone, including the team’s leading scorer and passer (Nik Stauskas) and top three rebounders (Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III).

The uncertainty is reflected in the Big Ten preseason media poll, released on Wednesday as the conference descends upon Chicago for Big Ten Media Day, which pinned Michigan at No. 5 in the league. Above Michigan are Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska.

You can see the full rankings, along with the point totals, below:

Preseason media poll
Rank Team Points
1 Wisconsin 378
2 Ohio State 322
3 Michigan State 305
4 Nebraska 299
5 Michigan 286
6 Minnesota 226
7 Iowa 214
8 Illinois 196
9 Indiana 163
10 Maryland 162
11 Purdue 95
12 Penn State 84
13 Northwestern 78
14 Rutgers 27

Wisconsin, the unanimous No. 1 team, returns nearly every major contributor from last season’s Final Four team. Ohio State struggled in 2014 and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to 11th-seeded Dayton, but brought in one of the top freshmen classes in the country. Michigan State, like Michigan, lost in the Elite Eight in March and waved goodbye to three of its starters: Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. Nebraska was knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Baylor, but returns most of the team that finished the regular season 8-1.

Michigan fans can reasonably argue that the team should rank just behind Wisconsin, as Beilein has proven this team to be a mainstay among the top teams in the Big Ten. But it looks like the country wants emerging stars like Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. to prove themselves this season before investing in this team.

Perhaps the skepticism stems from the lack of size on Michigan’s roster. Freshmen Rocky Doyle and Mark Donnal check in at 6-foot-9, the tallest listings on the team. If they can hold their own next to a slew of talented guards, Michigan should finish much higher than fifth in the Big Ten standings.