"60 minutes of unnecessary roughness". It’s a statement made after last year’s game, by MSU DC Pat Narduzzi. It was also such a telling statement. MSU out-physicalled, out hit, and beat up (both figuratively and literally) Michigan. Its sticks in the mind of even the most passive of Michigan fans, and I can assure you, inside Fort Schembechler. Brady Hoke even admitted the game was taken to them from a physical standpoint.
Fast forward a year, and MSU has fallen on harder times, having lost several skill players to graduation, and 2 starting offensive linemen to season ending injuries. Their defense, while still stout, isn’t quite as dominant as last year.
Michigan on the other hand, is trending up after taking one on the chin against Bama in the season opener, and the turnover fest in South Bend. The defense, while still a work in progress, has stepped up and at times has even looked dominant. The offense seemed to get back to basics after the ND game, and while there is still some concern about running the football with anyone not named Denard, the offense is improving as well.
As crazy as it may sound, the biggest test this week for Michigan may very well be how Michigan defends MSU’s passing game. At first blush, one would assume that Michigan would stack the line of scrimmage to stop Le’Veon Bell, and pressure a beat up and somewhat struggling offensive line.
Frankly, there are talented wide receivers in East Lansing, primarily Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett and true freshman Aaron Burbridge. They are starting to find a little groove, but it remains to be seen whether they can step up in key moments. Dion Sims, their top target, is questionable with an ankle injury. Its certain that if he plays, it will be at far less than 100%.
When Michigan has the ball, expect them to continue to try and pound the ball on the ground and use play action to take their chances downfield. MSU likes to play their safeties close to the line of scrimmage and like to play more run support than pass coverage. This should open up opportunities, especially up the middle (think big game for Devin Funchess) providing the run game shows some semblance of productivity.
Anything is possible in rivalry games, but barring a turnover laden game, Michigan should be able to slow an already struggling Spartan offense, control the clock, and restore what was considered normal in the state of Michigan prior to 2008. Michigan 24 MSU 13.