So the showdown at the Big House in Ann Arbor happens tomorrow afternoon at 3:30!
I am taking Michigan State! Go Green! There's no doubt that this will be a killer game. Stock up on the beer! MSU is a 4.5 point underdog. Michigan has the homefield advantage and MSU has the emotional advantage as Mark Dantanio will return to the coaches box for the game.
Here's some breakdown action from USA Today below!
There's not a lot of mystery or intrigue involved with what is going on offensively with the Wolverines. There are a lot of pee wee teams out there using "hike it to me and I'll run", but with not nearly the success that Michigan has had.
The Wolverines are just running the ball, and not doing it with any kind of ultra-sophisticated approach. QB Denard Robinson has done most of the damage, and the majority of it has come on relatively simple plays where crisp execution and Robinson's elite speed have been the difference.
Michigan enters its showdown with rival Michigan State ranked second in the nation in total offense with 565 yards per game. The Wolverines have rushed for more than 280 yards in each of their five games this season, including a ridiculous 466 rushing yards against Bowling Green.
The speed of Robinson, and the fear factor he puts in the hearts of safeties and linebackers, is the equivalent of putting their shoes in quicksand. For that instant when they are trying to anticipate his next move, they are frozen. From that position, the chances of catching him is reduced to nil.
Due to Robinson's impact, the Wolverines do everything better offensively. They have hit on 20-of-22 red zone chances, with 19 of those for touchdowns. Michigan has six scoring drives in excess of 90 yards in five games.
There's no secret as to what is going on here. Michigan is going to run Robinson until someone stops him. And the Wolverines are going to display his vastly improved throwing skills just often enough to keep defenses dizzy with fear. The Wolverines are holding the right cards, until a defense comes along that can trump them.
—QB Denard Robinson had 494 yards of total offense in the win over Indiana, with 217 rushing and 277 passing. He won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time in five weeks.
—Michigan ranks second nationally in total offense, third in rushing, fourth in pass efficiency, and ninth in scoring.
—With his next 95 rushing yards, sophomore QB Denard Robinson will have 1,000 for the season. Robinson needs just 87 yards of total offense to make 2,000 for the season.
—With three and four tackles, respectively, LB Jonas Mouton and S Jordan Kovacs will reach 50 for the season.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads 67-30-5 (last meeting, 2009, 26-20 OT, Michigan State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: It has been the Denard Robinson show for the most part, but the Wolverines are showing that they have other viable weapons. Junior WR Roy Roundtree had his second straight 100-yard receiving game last weekend at Indiana, while WR Junior Hemingway had 126 receiving yards on five receptions. RB Vincent Smith had a season-high 80 yards on nine carries and scored one touchdown in the Indiana game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While celebrating its 5-0 start, Michigan is also wincing at the sight of its defense getting shredded by Indiana's passing game last weekend. The Wolverines could do little to slow the Hoosiers through the air, and now head into the meat of the Big Ten schedule with major concerns about this defense's ability to match up with the league's better teams.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For as many problems as we've had, and I don't want to belabor the fact and lower our heads . . . but the main thing is to win. We've won." — Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez on his team's success.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan State at Michigan, Oct. 9 — The Wolverines (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) clash with the rival Spartans (5-0, 1-0) with more than the usual bragging rights on the line. Both have looked exceptionally strong to date, and something has to give. Last year's meeting went to overtime, and this one has the potential to produce its own special drama.
KEYS TO THE GAME: When these two knock heads, the superior rushing game has usually led to victory. The team with the dominant running game has won 38 of the last 42 meetings. This series went through a 26-game stretch (1969-94) where the eventual winner had the best rushing total, so logic tells us that will be a pretty fair indicator of who comes out on top in 2010.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Denard Robinson — The stunning sophomore from Florida has had his previous performances outdone only by his next one. Robinson scored the winning touchdown in Michigan's 42-35 win over Indiana, and accounted for 494 yards of offense and five touchdowns. We are still looking for his ceiling.
DT Mike Martin — This team's troubled defense needs some impact plays from Martin if it intends to impede the Spartans' passing attack. Martin is the team leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
LB Jonas Mouton — The Big Ten leader in tackles, Mouton has a pair of interceptions and is the kind of big-play energizer the Wolverines need in order to help this unit turn things around.
SS Jordan Kovacs — The former walk-on ranks second in the conference with 46 tackles through five games. Kovacs burst on to the scene for the Wolverines last year, and his team is hoping for a repeat performance of his 17-tackle performance against Michigan State from last season.
—RB Michael Shaw missed the Indiana game with a knee injury, but he is expected to play against Michigan State.
—RB Fitzgerald Toussaint was held out of the Indiana game as he nurses a sore shoulder, and his status for the Michigan State game is still uncertain.
—LB Brandon Herron is rehabbing an injured ankle but is expected to play against the Spartans.
—S Mike Williams was held out of the Indiana game due to suffering multiple concussions, and his career could be over.
Denard, Denard, Denard.
His name will no doubt be on the minds of Michigan State's defense all week. That's Denard Robinson, nicknamed "Shoelace" for his famously untied shoes. The Michigan QB is the early Heisman front-runner, the most lethal offensive weapon so far this season in college football, and the focus for Michigan State's defense as the No. 17, 5-0 Spartans prepare for Saturday's massive rivalry showdown with the No. 18, 5-0 Wolverines.
Robinson is the nation's leading rusher (181.0 ypg), he's fourth in passing efficiency, he needs 85 total yards to reach 2,000 for the season, and his speed is extraordinary. Operating in Rich Rodriguez's read-option, spread offense, Robinson has flourished this season and will be a difficult player for the Spartans to contain.
"He's the guy with the ball most of the time, so we've got to try to stop him," MSU linebacker Greg Jones said.
"He's quick on his feet and also he'll hurt you with his arm," linebacker Eric Gordon said.
"It's gonna be a challenge for our defense," cornerback Chris L. Rucker said, "and I think we're gonna have a good time out there."
If the Spartans have any schematic wrinkles planned, they aren't divulging. Michigan State does have a 3-4 look that it hasn't used much this season. Overall, though, Gordon made it clear that the Spartans' attacking style can't change just because Robinson is such a threat to go the distance.
"We've still got to play our game," Gordon said.
—Coach Mark Dantonio will return for the Michigan game, after missing the past two for medical reasons. He suffered a mild heart attack on Sept. 19, and was supposed to return for last week's Wisconsin game, but a blood clot in his leg kept him in the hospital for that game.
Dantonio was released Monday and came to the news conference Tuesday. He plans to be in the coaches' box this week, while offensive coordinator Don Treadwell stays on the field.
—Dantonio was calling and texting his coaches frantically during the Wisconsin game, which made some wonder if the Spartans violated any NCAA rules. But the Big Ten spoke up Monday and made it clear that Dantonio's contact with his coaches was not a violation in any way.
—The Spartans are going for their third straight win over Michigan, which hasn't happened since 1965-67. These teams haven't met with both unbeaten since 1999, and they haven't both been ranked entering the game since 2003. This is the 14th meeting with both ranked, and they are knotted at 6-6-1 in the first 13.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads the series with Michigan State, 67-30-5 (last meeting, 2009, 26-20 OT, Michigan State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The passing game is officially in rhythm after it started the season with some rust. Kirk Cousins is throwing to his backs and tight ends more, and WR Mark Dell is on his way to a big senior season. This just in time for Michigan's porous pass defense — ranked No. 120 in the FBS.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Spartans are coming off their best defensive performance in years, holding a potent Wisconsin offense to 292 yards and 3 of 11 success on third down. But now it's like the Spartans are playing a different sport with Michigan next on the schedule. MSU handled Wisconsin's brawn, but can it handle the speed of Michigan? A lot of stress will be on Greg Jones and Michigan State's linebackers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's got to be the game of the year. Bottom line. It just is. There's really nothing more to it." — Michigan State LB Greg Jones on the Michigan game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan State vs. Michigan, Oct. 9 — The winner of this game passes a key early test in the quest to contend for a Big Ten title. It's Michigan State's power football against Michigan's spread/read option, and so far Mark Dantonio's style has won the day in two meetings against Rich Rodriguez.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Wolverines are essentially the best running team and worst pass-defending team in college football. The Spartans should be able to throw it around and score, but they'll have a difficult time slowing Michigan's offense. A big key will be MSU's time of possession, and the Spartans also can't turn it over against a Michigan defense that will have to gamble to avoid being trampled.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DT Jerel Worthy — The star of Michigan State's defensive line is going up against one of the best offensive line interiors he'll see all season. His ability to disrupt will be key to throwing Michigan's read option out of sync.
RB Larry Caper — Caper made some huge plays late in the Wisconsin game and is listed as a co-starter this week with Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell.
SS Marcus Hyde — Hyde had a solid day against Wisconsin and is delivering big hits in run support. He'll be asked to do a lot of that against Michigan QB Denard Robinson.
RT J'Michael Deane — The senior has aided Michigan State's rushing attack with his power, but he is still struggling at times in pass protection. The Wolverines likely will blitz often to get after QB Kirk Cousins.
—DT Kevin Pickelman (shoulder) appears to have a long-term injury, but he is listed on the depth chart for the Michigan game. Michigan State rarely gets specific about injuries.
—DE Colin Neely (hand) should be back for the Michigan game after missing the Wisconsin contest. Neely has been the Spartans' best DE this season, so his return could be vital.
—WR Tony Lippett is redshirting this season, but he's playing a key role this week. Lippett is impersonating Michigan QB Denard Robinson for the scout team in practice. Lippett was a spread QB in high school.