Michigan football is on a roll this year. And, when it comes to the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy, the cross-state rivalry, and the Michigan Wolverines v. Michigan State Spartans game, prior goodwill doesn't mean much. Sure, their records are nowhere near each other, one is ranked in the top five, and the other … well … let's just say they're not ranked in the top five. But, this is a rivalry game and anything can happen.
Alright, now that the glad-handing is over, let's be real: this game will not be close. Sure, The Wolverines still have to do more than simply show up, but there shouldn't be too much to worry about when it comes to the Spartans. This should not be a repeat of years past where Kenneth Walker III ran rampant for five scores last year and hopefully it won't come down to a punter catching a snap. The Wolverines are in a primed place to put Tuck Comin' out to pasture and move on to the rest of their season's schedule.
What are the 3 keys to victory for the Michigan Wolverines v. Michigan State?
Michigan Football comes into this game as the #4 in the country, they are 7-0 on the season, scoring 42.7 points per game, and only allowing 12.4 per game. They have been very efficient on offense behind a two-headed monster in the backfield with Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. These two racked up nearly all of the 418 rushing yards two weeks ago against Penn State, and have been a crushing presence this entire season. They are the obvious answer to a “keys to victory” article, so let's think outside the box. Here are three keys to Michigan's victory tonight:
Do not settle for FGs when in the Red Zonehttp://gty.im/1243705203
The Michigan Wolverines have a high-powered offense led by their rushing attack and complimented well by young-gun J.J. McCarthy at quarterback. Over their first seven games, the Wolverines have been in the Red Zone 39 times–nearly six times per game on average. Now, while it is important that they have walked away with points on 36 of those 39 trips, they have settled for a field goal 10 times. That may not seem like a lot, but when combined with their three misses as well, those thirteen moments are 1/3 of the trips they've made. Yes, you have a near-automatic kicker in Jake Moody, but not having to rely on him in a rivalry game will be just what the doctor ordered.
Do what you do well and take advantage of MSU's deficiencieshttp://gty.im/1424733196
Michigan State's defense is susceptible to either the run or the pass. They rank 79th in rushing defense, allowing 153.3 yards per game and they rank 111th in the country in pass defense allowing an astonishing 269 yards per game and nearly 12 yards per completion. They have only created 2 INTS (120th in the country), recovered 7 fumbles (12th in the country), and created 17 sacks (42nd in the country) on the season.
All of that to say this: Michigan's offense should work well doing whatever they need to do. If they want to run the ball, they should be able to do so. However, this could also be the game Michigan fans have been longing for from J.J. McCarthy. The do-it-all quarterback really hasn't had to do it all yet this season. Given the swiss cheese that is the Michigan State secondary, the playbook should open up a bit for J.J. to take advantage of, utilizing the run game as a way to open up those passing lanes even more against the Spartans. Allowing J.J. to sling it could lead to a victory for the Wolverines and our third key to victory.
Don't allow MSU any room to breathe
At the end of the day, one of these teams is superior to the other one. If the first two keys are heeded, then it is imperative that Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines continue to apply pressure. In a game like this, you cannot let a team like the Spartans feel like they are in the game, ever. Keeping pressure through the defensive front seven, stuffing their run game, and doing whatever you please on offense has to be the goal for Michigan.
Over the years there has been a lot of consideration given to “can MSU play with their big brother?” and Michigan has allowed the narrative to persist. Tonight that should be different; J.J., Blake, and Donovan should dominate their side of the ball as the defense swarms and swallows up the MSU offense, not allowing it to get going, and moving on to 8-0.