THE BIG GAME - Smith wary of UM's Watson

Even with an extra week off to prepare for their biggest game of the season - the annual Backyard Brawl between Michigan State and Michigan - Spartans head coach John L. Smith has plenty of unsolved problems on his hands when it comes to figuring out how to beat the Wolverines. Chief among them, how to handle nose tackle Gabe Watson.

(EAST LANSING) - Even with an extra week off to prepare for their biggest game of the season - the annual Backyard Brawl between Michigan State and Michigan - Spartans head coach John L. Smith has plenty of unsolved problems on his hands when it comes to figuring out how to beat the Wolverines.

First and foremost on Coach Smith's mind is nose tackle Gabe Watson, and more importantly, how to keep the mammoth 6-foot-4, 336-pound middle guard from wrecking the Spartans fledgling running attack.

"That nose guard is probably the best kid we've seen all year," said Smith about Watson.

"There's a kid, that to me, he can go in and dominate a football game. He can change the whole complexion of things because you just can't handle him. [You talk about] blocking him one-on-one, it's just not going to happen."

"He demolishes everybody."

Because of Watson's intimidating size, strength and agility, Michigan changed its defensive alignment to take advantage of his unique talents. The Wolverines will run a 3-4 defense on Saturday something uncommon in the Big Ten.

Watson comes into the game with 22 tackles and two sacks, not the kind of numbers you would expect from a player with such lofty praise from coaches around the conference but much of that is due to being double teamed, because as Smith noted, Watson is virtually unblockable if he isn't occupied by two players.

Michigan will happily take the trade off because it means their linebackers are usually free to make plays because of Watson's presence. "Sometimes you get mad about it," said the junior from Detroit, MI., "but I notice on film that some guys make plays because I am double-teamed. It's all a part of the job."

State hopes to counter the presence of Watson by spreading out the Wolverines with four, five or even six wide receivers and then using quarterback Drew Stanton's running ability to their advantage.

"Being a defensive coach, anytime you have to account for the quarterback, it makes things a lot tougher," said Smith. "It presents a problem because you have to keep some people in and they have to account for that guy, if they don't then he could end up hurting you."

UM's Watson and MSU's Stanton will be two players who will go a long way toward determining the outcome of this one.

Tomorrow-Stopping the Michigan freshman duo


Spartan Nation Top Stories