CFN Analysis: Michigan at Michigan State

"There's still plenty of time to come back and end up winning the Legends division. Nebraska and Ohio State come to Ann Arbor, and while road games at Iowa and Illinois are tough, Michigan is good enough to win those. The key is next game against Purdue."

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CFN Analysis
Michigan at Michigan State

By Pete Fiutak

Michigan didn’t fire Rich Rodriguez and hire Brady Hoke to win every game, at least not this year; Hoke was hired to stop the bleeding after losing a game like this.

Michigan started out 5-0 last year, lost to Michigan State, and went on to lose six of the final eight games. In 2009, Michigan started out 4-0, lost to Michigan State, and went on to lose seven of the final eight games with the only win coming against Delaware State. In 2008, the Wolverines were in the midst of a losing streak when they lost to the Spartans, and finished up losing three of the final four games. In 2007 after beating Michigan State, Michigan lost its final two regular season games.

There’s still plenty of time to come back and end up winning the Legends division. Nebraska and Ohio State come to Ann Arbor, and while road games at Iowa and Illinois are tough, Michigan is good enough to win those. The key is next week against Purdue.

If the Wolverines really have changed under Hoke, then getting by a bad Boilermaker team at home shouldn’t be a problem. But getting Denard Robinson healthy is a plus, and Michigan State might have provided the blueprint on how to stop the high-octane attack.

The Spartans used well-time blitzes, especially from the corners, and made Robinson a pocket passer. Defenses will take 18 carries for 42 yards and a score, and they’ll also take a 9-of-24 passing day with a pick six to make up for the touchdown allowed. Robinson couldn’t get loose and had to become a pro-style thrower, and he couldn’t do it. Credit the MSU coaching staff for using the last two weeks to figure out how to get to No. 16, and credit the great play of the Spartan defensive front for getting into the backfield on a regular basis.

And now it’s up to Hoke to figure out how to keep his star from getting banged around so much, and he has to make sure Devin Gardner is ready for action at a moment’s notice. The key for the Wolverines is to not let Michigan State beat them twice. Rodriguez couldn’t do it. Hoke has to.

By Richard Cirminiello

A Spartan defensive effort.

I’ll admit that I was still a little skeptical about the Michigan State D, even though it entered Week 7 tops in the country. Not any longer. Now, I’m just hoping to see it matched up against the high-scoring Wisconsin offense in the Big Ten Championship game a little over a month from now. The Spartans are for real, holding rival Michigan 24 points below its season average. They swarm, they attack and they raise the level of their play when the other team starts to drive deep into the red zone. Even Wolverines QB Denard Robinson was powerless against Pat Narduzzi’s crew.

When was the last time anyone was able to say that about No. 16? Narduzzi and his assistants have done a brilliant job with a unit that lost its top three tacklers to graduation, and didn’t begin the season with a whole lot of accolades beyond DT Jerel Worthy and FS Trenton Robinson. Today, though, it’s an air-tight group that’s consistently getting big plays from every level of the defense, collapsing the pocket to make life miserable on opposing quarterbacks.

Michigan State has emerged as the top choice to keep Wisconsin from a second consecutive trip to Pasadena. The Spartans have a talented veteran at quarterback, Kirk Cousins, and a physical running game that’ll come in handy as the temperature in the Midwest becoming a little more brisk. Oh, and that defense is the genuine article. Just ask Michigan, which was unable to shake free from its four-quarter choke hold.

By Matt Zemek

Michigan State was dirty on Saturday, committing cheap shots left and right. Some of those below-the-belt blows merited ejections, others a stream of 15-yard penalties. The Spartans were also sloppy, exhibiting horrible ball security, inelegant punting, and wayward passing. The lack of a credible passing attack was particularly discouraging, considering the fact that it came from a version of Kirk Cousins that is entirely different from the laser-sharp 2010 incarnation, the man who briefly made MSU look like an elite program. Saturday afternoon’s game in East Lansing was chock-full of Michigan State moments, the kinds of foul-ups, flubs and failures which have defined Sparty in the post-Duffy Daugherty era. Coach Mark Dantonio’s team wasn’t disciplined, it wasn’t precise, and it wasn’t anything a reasonable person would view as impressive.

And THIS was the team that WON by two touchdowns.

Yes, in a bad year for Big Ten football, even the winning teams produce subpar afternoons between the painted lines. Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that’s doing things right on a regular basis. The Michigan Wolverines, protected by a home-field cocoon through September and then given the safe landing of the second-half-challenged Northwestern Wildcats last weekend, finally ran into an opponent that – for all its limitations and weaknesses – could raise hell with its defensive front. Michigan State’s defensive linemen and linebackers got in the face of Denard Robinson (and, at times, Devin Gardner) from start to finish, hounding the Wolverines’ quarterbacks into an endless parade of panicky decisions, poor throws, and dead ends.

No matter how many personal foul penalties the Spartans committed or how many cringe-inducing turnovers they coughed up, the defense of Dantonio redoubled its efforts and flatly embarrassed Michigan’s offensive line. Yes, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges made a terrible decision to eschew a quarterback sneak on fourth and short for the Wolverines from the MSU 8 in the middle of the fourth quarter; that move – on the game’s defining play – allowed Sparty to preserve and then extend its 21-14 lead. Michigan’s coaching staff did play a role in the Maize and Blue’s loss. However, the dominance of Michigan State’s front seven deserves to be viewed as the main reason why “Sparty was Sparty,” and yet lived to tell the tale.

This was a game in which the winner wasn’t better; the loser was worse – that’s the proper point of emphasis to apply in Michigan-Michigan State. However, It’s just as true that Sparty’s defense, particularly the big guys up front, deserves a game ball for the good work it did… when it wasn’t dishing out cheap shots, that is.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

By Phil Harrison

All the talk going into this game was whether Michigan could keep its offense humming against a legitimate defense, and whether Michigan State was a real contender in the Legends division versus the same team that laid an egg against Notre Dame.

Answers were received on both accounts as Denard Robinson and company were not nearly as effective against the physical and athletic MSU defense as they were against the likes of Western Michigan and San Jose State. Robinson was a shadow of himself with only 165 yards of total offense-well below his over 300 yard average.

Things started off well with the dynamic QB switching the field around on a crazy fifteen yard scramble to pay dirt only to have Sparty answer on the next drive covering 63 yards and culminating with a one yard plunge by Edwin Baker to tie it up at 7-7 in the first quarter. From there, things turned into a bit of defensive struggle with neither team able to do too much all the way into halftime.

Once the second half began, Michigan State again showed that the Wolverines are not yet ready to play a physical style as the the Spartan defensive line continued to get a great push against the Michigan front. The result was a harassment on Denard Robinson all day that was a display of rushed throws and quick decisions. On the offensive side of the ball, Edwin Baker was able to take advantage of the same physicality as the line paved the way for 182 yards on 26 carries allowing MSU to control the clock.

The Wolverines tried to make things interesting in the end by pulling to within seven with just over four minutes left, but the game was sealed for all intents and purposes by a pick six courtesy of sophomore S Isaiah Lewis to put MSU up by fourteen with just over four minutes to play. The rest was all academic with Robinson getting injured and standing on the sidelines as the maize and blue were unable to get anything going offensively the rest of the way.
For Michigan, it was the first loss of the year, and the fourth straight to its in-state rival, while Michigan State can now control its own destiny in the race for the Legends division.

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