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Posts Tagged ‘Sparty’

New arrival: Michigan State game poster

Friday, October 28th, 2016


A man once paraphrased an old proverb, saying pride comes before the fall. That man is currently fighting for bowl eligibility while the new sheriff in town has his sights set on restoring order.

Download the high-res version here, good up to 18×24.

Previous: Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois

Our weekly game posters are designed by Christian Elden, a designer and illustrator who happens to be a Michigan fan. He lives in northwest Ohio where he runs his own design firm. He has illustrated a picture book for Warner Press and has been featured in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. Visit hispersonal site to view some of his other works.

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Friday, October 24th, 2014


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

Friend vs Foe: Michigan State

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

It’s Michigan State week, and for this week’s Friend vs Foe we asked Chris Vannini of the Michigan State SB Nation site The Only Colors to answer a few questions about the upcoming game. He was gracious enough to provide his thoughts on his confidence level, Michigan State’s advantages, what Michigan will have to do to move the ball, and more. He also provides his prediction. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVannini and the site’s main feed @TheOnlyColors.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you in this game, and why?

I’ll go with a 7. In a rivalry game with two good teams, you say a five. Add a point for home field and add a point for the fact I think MSU has more advantages than Michigan, and I get 7. That still means I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Michigan win.

2. Michigan State’s offense struggled through the first few games but has seemed to come alive recently. What has the difference been?

More than anything, it’s Connor Cook making throws. The offensive line has been the best in the Dantonio era and the receivers are getting open and making catches, which they couldn’t do a year ago. Now, it comes down to Cook. He made the throws against Iowa, Indiana and Illinois, but he didn’t against Purdue.

3. Following up on the previous question, what happened against Purdue? How were they able to hold the MSU offense to just seven points despite having a defense that allows 34.4 points per game?

MSU's offensive line has been great at pass protection, but Connor Cook's ability to make throws can make or break the offense (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

It was Cook’s throwing and Purdue’s punting (no, really). MSU’s yards-per-drive was among its highest in the past two years, but MSU’s average starting field position was its worst of the season. For a team that doesn’t get many big plays, requiring long drives to score, the longer they had to go, the more difficult of a time they had. But Cook did miss a number of wide-open guys, including one that would have been a touchdown.

4. What specific matchups do you see Michigan State having a big advantage in this week?

I do see MSU shutting down Michigan’s running backs. The Wolverines have had enough of a problem getting the backs going, and MSU is one of the best rush defenses in the country. If Michigan moves the ball on the ground, it’s going to be Gardner making something out of a pass play that breaks down.

5. Are there any specific matchups you’re worried about, where you think Michigan might have an advantage?

Similar to above, I worry about Gardner’s abilities to make plays out of nothing. He’s very strong and has a knack for breaking tackles and getting out when the pocket breaks down. If he can escape the pressure and make a few big plays, that will go a long way for the Wolverines.

6. Everyone knows MSU’s defense is one of the best in the country. It gave up 28 points to Indiana, and Michigan’s offense – when it doesn’t turn the ball over – can be even more explosive. What will Michigan have to do to have success against your defense?

They’re going to have to take care of the ball and make some of those big plays. Not many can dink and dunk down the field against this MSU defense. Whether it’s a bomb on a pass play or a big run from Gardner, they’re going to need to make some big plays, which MSU has been prone to giving up, due to its aggressive style.

7. What’s your prediction? Explain how it will happen.

I’m going 27-21 MSU. I think both teams will be able to move the ball at times, but MSU will be more slowly down the field, while Michigan will be all or nothing. A turnover or two from Gardner would go a long way.

Ah, Beat State week. I’ve never liked MSU but the contempt has grown into almost Buckeye proportion since the Rich Rod years and their recent rise to defensive supremacy. I respect what Pat Narduzzi has up there and I’d love to see our defense play that way (sans the cheap shots and overall dirty play) but I still can’t stand them.

This is, and will be, the best defense Michigan will come across all year, period. For an offense that hasn’t been consistent and at times has just been downright awful, this will be a big test. With that let’s move on to what Michigan needs to do if they not only want to walk away from East Lansing with a win over a bitter rival but also put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Legends division.

On Offense

Devin Gardner's ability to take care of the ball will determine Michigan's fate against MSU's top-ranked defense (

Sparty is third best (yardage-wise) against the pass and they are tops against the run. Michigan has yet to show a serviceable run game and Gardner often gets happy feet and makes bad decisions in the face of pressure. This presents a difficult challenge. Not to mention State’s proclivity for defensive touchdowns. MSU likes to blitz and they often run a double a-gap blitz, which puts immense pressure on the center and guards – both of which are positions Michigan has not played well at this year. Graham Glasgow, Erik Magnussen and Kyle Bosch (or whoever else plays on the interior) need to bring their A-game. They don’t need to negate or stop these blitzes to be successful, they just need to buy Gardner or the running backs a little bit of time by slowing up linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen.

Okay, assuming the interior of the line holds up their end of the bargain we’re still not in the clear. Gardner has to keep his poise and not make bad decisions. He needs to take the sack more often than not. Lost yardage is better than turning it over. Sparty has seen the tape and they will bring pressure and try to get Gardner to make bad decisions that lead to turnovers. If Gardner can play mistake-free football and get the offense into the end zone a couple of times Michigan will win. Michigan can probably win with 21 points, but they will be very hard to come by if Gardner loses his poise and starts turning it over. To reiterate, Garnder cannot turn the ball over against Michigan State’s defense. It wouldn’t be impossible to overcome but if Michigan wants to beat Sparty it needs to hold on to the ball.

On Defense

Luckily for Michigan, the Spartans’ offense is, well, offensive. They’ve found their quarterback in Connor Cook but they still struggle to put up points even against terrible defenses (see: Purdue). Cook is mobile enough to extend plays but I wouldn’t call him a threat to run. That said, Michigan will probably sit back and play their bend but don’t break style of defense. Sparty has been pretty good running the ball and that’s exactly what they will try to do Saturday. It’s not an unstoppable rushing attack but it is very good.

Michigan needs to stay in their assignments, wrap up with solid fundamental tackling and not give up the big play. If they do this they should be able to keep it a game. As with any team that pounds the run game Michigan needs to be aware of the play-action threat. Michigan has given up several big plays this year so the secondary needs to be careful not to peer into the backfield too often looking to make a big stop lest they get beat deep for a touchdown. If Michigan can just play average defense and not let anything get into the second level they should be okay against this State offense.

On Special Teams

Once again, field position will be paramount. Despite their less than stellar offense, if you give Sparty too many short fields they will score. And if Michigan needs to march 70-plus yards each time against a stellar defense they won’t put up 30-plus points. Michigan needs to manage the field position game and keep it in their favor. I wouldn’t expect Norfleet to be able to take it to the house but if he did it could be a huge, momentum swinging event.

First Look: Michigan State

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Four weeks ago, Michigan came out of a bye week and trounced Minnesota 42-13, a win that has looked better and better the past couple of weeks. This time, however, the quality of opponent has been turned up considerably and instead of a home game it’s on the road against a hated in-state rival. The Spartans look to be the best team in the Big Ten Legends Division at this point, and this game is absolutely critical for each team’s hopes of winning the division.

Last year, Michigan ended its four-game losing streak to the Spartans with a 12-10 victory in Ann Arbor on Brendan Gibbons’ last second field goal. Michigan State had taken advantage of Michigan’s struggles during the Rich Rodriguez tenure, winning by a combined total of 123-72, including a 28-14 victory in East Lansing two years ago in Brady Hoke’s first season. Prior to that, Michigan had won six straight in the series. Now, the Wolverines look to build upon last year’s victory to start a new winning streak, but it won’t be easy considering Michigan’s road woes under Hoke. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Michigan State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
MSUMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 29.9 | 42.4 65 | T-8 12.2 | 26.7 3 | 63
Rushing Yards 1,5721,287 439 | 699
Rush Avg. Per Game 196.5 | 183.9 37 | 49 54.9 | 99.9 1 | 8
Avg. Per Rush 4.6 | 4.2 2.1 | 3.2
Passing Yards 1,4471,838 1,285 | 1,788
Pass Avg. Per Game 180.9262.6 106 | 42 160.6 | 255.4 3 | 97
Total Offense 3,0193,125 1,724 | 2,487
Total Off Avg. Per Game 377.4 | 446.4 87 | 45 215.5 | 355.3 1 | 27
Kick Return Average 17.4 | 23.0 118 | 42 20.7 | 21.7 52 | 72
Punt Return Average 8.9 | 7.0 50 | T-78 8.6 | 7.6 71 | 61
Avg. Time of Possession 34:3933:07 2 | 15 25:05 | 26:53
3rd Down Conversion Pct 48% | 49% 26 | 23 28% | 40% 3 | 72
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 6-40 | 12-98 T-7 | T-47 18-166 | 16-103 T-46 | T-43
Touchdowns Scored 30 | 39 12 | 21
Field Goals-Attempts 10-13 | 8-13 5-9 | 14-19
Red Zone Scores (24-29)83% | (29-34)85% 66 | T-51 (12-15)80% | (20-24)83% T-49 | T-67
Red Zone Touchdowns (16-29)55% | (15-34)74% (9-15)60% | (12-24)50%

It’s no secret to anybody who has seen Michigan State play this season that defense is what defines them. Looking at the defensive numbers and national ranks above, it’s obvious that the Spartans boast the best defense in the Big Ten and one of the tops in the country. Only one opponent – Indiana – has managed to score more than 20 points (28) and three of seven have been held to six points or less. The Hoosiers are also the only opponent to gain more than 300 yards of total offense (351), while three have been held to 172 yards or fewer. None have rushed for 100 yards. Indiana came the closest with 92.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Michigan State’s defense has been its ability to score. The Spartans lead the nation with five defensive touchdowns and three different players have scored at least one. That’s something of great concern for Michigan fans given Devin Gardner’s turnover problems through the first half of the season. But Gardner has taken better care of the ball the past couple of games, and when he does Michigan’s offense is dynamic.

Pat Narduzzi's defense ranks in the top three nationally in most defensive categories

Michigan State’s offense, on the other hand, could be described as anything but dynamic through the first few weeks of the season, but has started to show signs of improvement in recent weeks, scoring 42 points against Indiana and Illinois in two of the last three games. However, the one game in between those two, a 14-0 win over lowly Purdue, which allows 34.4 points per game, was anything but a solid offensive performance. Prior to the Michigan State-Purdue game, the Boilermakers were giving up over 42 points per game to FBS schools. They held the Spartans to less than 300 total yards and the Spartans’ offense to just seven points (the other seven were on a 45-yard fumble return by linebacker Denicos Allen).

Michigan State’s offense does most of its work on the ground, averaging 196.5 yards per game, which ranks 37th nationally and fifth in the Big Ten. Notre Dame and Iowa held the Spartans’ ground game to just 119 yards and 135 yards, respectively, on just 3.5 yards per carry. This past Saturday, MSU turned in its best rushing performance of the season against an FBS foe, gaining 269 yards on 55 carries against Illinois. But the Illini feature the Big Ten’s second worst rush defense.

The passing game has left a lot to be desired, averaging just 180.9 yards per game. That ranks 11th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Minnesota, and 106th nationally. The best performance of the season was a 277-yard output against Iowa, which is impressive as the Hawkeyes boast the conference’s second best pass defense. Notre Dame limited the Spartans to just 135 yards on 16-of-36 passing, while Purdue held MSU to just 112 yards through the air.

Despite the lack of a consistent passing game, Michigan State does a great job of keeping its quarterbacks upright. The Spartans offensive line has allowed just six sacks through eight games, which is best in the Big Ten and seventh nationally.

Another area that the Spartans excel in this season is turnovers. They have given the ball away just nine times through eight games, second only to Ohio State’s eight, and the defense has taken it away 15 times. Conversely, Michigan has turned it over 17 times and has also forced 15 turnovers.

On thing Michigan State does not do well is penalties. The Spartans rank last in the Big Ten, averaging 6.5 penalties and 65.1 penalty yards per game. By comparison, Michigan averages 5.1 and 40.3.

As you can see from the stats and rankings above, Michigan State does a lot of things well, most notably on defense, but despite the lack of a flashy offense the Spartans protect both the quarterback and the ball. But what hasn’t been mentioned yet is the quality of opponents Michigan State has faced thus far. The seven FBS opponents have a combined record of 21-32 and the team MSU has faced with the best record (Notre Dame, 6-2) handed the Spartans their only loss of the season. The next three weeks, beginning with Michigan, will tell us just how good this Spartan team really is.

Regardless, this is Michigan State’s Super Bowl, the game they prepare for all season, so it’s sure to be close. The outcome will likely come down to Michigan’s ability to move the ball on State’s defense without turning it over. The weather figures to be cold, windy, and possibly rainy, so a low scoring affair is in order.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the big battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy the rest of the week.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Long
Connor Cook 118-197 1,238 12 2 47
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
Jeremy Langford 141 655 9 32 4.6
Nick Hill 55 289 1 35 5.3
Delton Williams 29 210 1 42 7.2
Connor Cook (QB) 44 137 0 20 3.1
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Macgarrett Kings 26 303 3 46 37.9
Bennie Fowler 20 278 4 37 39.7
Tony Lippett 19 190 0 20 23.8
Aaron Burbridge 17 146 0 26 20.9
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Denicos Allen (LB) 22 26 48 8.0-25 3.0-16 (1 FR TD)
Max Bullough (LB) 13 34 47 6.5-17 1.0-7
Darqueze Dennard (CB) 15 18 33 2.0-4 0 (2 INT)
Shillique Calhoun (DE) 11 5 16 8.0-41 (1 INT) 4.0-24 (3 FR)
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Michael Geiger 7 6 49 17 17
Kevin Muma 6 4 30 13 12
Full Stats