"There are five keys to the game for Michigan."

So says former Michigan staffer Mark Ouimet regarding Saturday's battle with the Spartans.


By the way, before we start -- I just heard on the radio that this is the first time since 1968 that MSU comes into the game ranked higher than Michigan in the polls.

The Michigan Defense vs. The MSU offense

Jeff Smoker is a LOT better than Kyle Orton. He's football-smarter. I think we'll see the same kind of attacking defense from Michigan as we saw against Purdue. Smoker is the trigger man, and Michigan needs to force him into mistakes. But Smoker makes good reads on blitzes and disquised coverages. I think there will be fewer turnovers by MSU than Purdue.

MSU will spread Michigan's linebackers out, and they will throw to their tight ends more than Purdue. And they'll also throw to running back Jaren Hayes -- he has 37 receptions, third best on their team. Akim Shabaz leads with 39, and Mattt Trannon is third. They average 269 yards a game passing. They spread the wealth, with seven players having15 or more catches.

As I said, expect Michigan to come out with an attacking style of defense once again.
Pierre Woods and Lawrence Reid have to have great games covering the tight end and and running back out of the backfield in the passing game.
Pierre leads the team in sacks, and Michigan needs him to lead once again. And Lawrence Reid needs to have his best game of the year.
Lamarr Woodley with Larry Stevens up front will have to have good games. Van Alstyne and Kashama aren't playing as much right now.
And Ernest Shazor -- everyone saw last week what he can do in an attacking style. He needs to do it again.

Michigan HAS to get to the quarterback ... it's a nescessity. Michigan has to get some sacks for momentum, for field position, and to get the MSU defense off the field to help with time of possession.

As far as time of possession goes. The MSU offense is not a quick offense, it's more a possessing offense even though its a passing offense. It's a good offense, but they do not have a Braylon Edwards or a Jason Avant at the receiver positions - their WR's are good but still young.

Its a good offense and John L. Smith has done good job.
On paper Michigan's defense is better, but to win they will have to force Jeff Smoker into mistakes --and he doesn't make many, with only five interceptions in eight games.

There are 5 keys to the game for Michigan - and 3 of the 5 are related to the Michigan defense.
1: turnovers
2: getting to Smoker
3: the Michigan linebackers making plays.

The Michigan Offense vs The MSU Defense

The Key (Key #4) -- Chris Perry MUST get over 100 yards. Michigan has to control the ball, in order to take the crowd out of the game.
No turnovers is another key, as I've said.
MSU's best players on defense are in their front seven, that's why they have so many sacks -- 34, which leads the Big Ten.
Michigan's offensive line against MSU's D-line is one of top matchups of the game.
MSU has three good linebackers in Mike Labinjo Eric Smith, Ron Stanley, and two good defensive ends in Askew and Taplin.
And Kevin Vickerson, Cliff Ryan, Greg Easter on the defensive line - Michigan recruited all those guys.

MSU's defensive weakness -- they have young corners. And Michigan has two good receivers in Braylon Edwards and Jason Avant. So Michigan has to take advantage of perimeter, throwing to Edwards, Avant, Steve Breaston and the other wideouts.

We should see also John Navarre toss passes out of the backfield to Chris Perry -- to get linebackers out of the box and open up Michigan's running game.
And key #5: Michigan can't let MSU score early -- they'd be jacked and the crowd would be jacked.
We actually might see Michigan start out passing to open up running game. Especially with MSU's weakness at the corners. It's even be interesting to see if Michigan goes no-huddle some -- our two minute drill is pretty darn good.

Special Teams

MSU place kicker David Ryan may be the best in the Big Ten (along with OSU's and Iowa's).
MSU may do what Oregon did with Breaston -- kick it high and make him fair catch.


MSU has good talent. But MMichigan has more talent and should win. Remember, MSU has only beaten two teams with winning records, Iowa and Minnesota.
But it'll be close. It's an intate rivalry, on the road, and MSU got blew out last year. So they'll be pumped.

I'll say this: it will be better game than last week. In fact it'll be a hell of a game. JL Smith will have better game plan than Tiller, and Smoker is better than Orton.
This game is a good possibility for overtime. But Michigan wins: 27-24.

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