Michigan State at Michigan Preview

Most cross country and track meets in high school.  Singing in the Battle of the Bands during Greek Week.  Asking a girl to homecoming. The five or six days between the Elite Eight and Final Four.  Waiting to hear back from prospective colleges.  Those are the only times in my life I can think of that I've been as nervous as I am currently.  The prospect of jubilation from a Michigan State victory and a 6-0 start combined with the dread of a possible Michigan win has made me shaky since Tuesday.

I think I broke the event horizon of objectivity on Wednesday night.   In the past four days on this blog, we've found a lot of ways to look at what each team's offense and defense will try to do. Since it is impossible for me to form anything approaching a rational thought, here's a brief recap of what each team will try to do:

MICHIGAN STATE OFFENSE: ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING EXCEPT TURNOVERS

MICHIGAN DEFENSE: NO KNOWN DATA

MICHIGAN STATE DEFENSE:  HOPEFULLY THE JETPACK RESEARCH IS COMPLETE

MICHIGAN OFFENSE SHOELACE SHOELACE SHOELACE SHOELACE SHOELACE shawleft SHOELACE SHOELACE SHOELACE

MICHIGAN STATE SPECIAL TEAMS: CONROY SPLITS UPRIGHTS, KESHAWN GOES VRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM

MICHIGAN SPECIAL TEAMS: PRAY

Alright, with that out of the way, a few of my final impressions are after the jump:

- It's MSU's first road game of the year, and I don't think it will matter that much.  The first road game experience could be a bit jarring with a younger team, but the Spartans have the requisite experience to stay settled.

- However, the increased volume of the Big House will make this Michigan game slightly more difficult than past ones.  I think crowd noise may cause one or two false starts, but not enough to make a huge difference in the game...hopefully.

- Best guess on the trick play we'll see on Saturday - A pitch to Keshawn Martin to an end-around, with Keshawn throwing it to B.J. Cunningham.  With Michigan's pass defense however, trickery may not be needed to move the ball.

- The talk about stopping Denard Robinson is a bit ridiculous.  I think he's shown at this point that he'll break off two or three great plays a game.  However, if MSU can hold him under 350 combined yards, that should definitely be good enough to win.

- Speaking of defense, forcing a few turnovers this game would be greatly appreciated.  I saw the Notre Dame and Northern Colorado games; I know that ability's there.

- Penalties will be of little concern when the Spartans are on offense.  Conversely, yellow flags must be avoided at all costs on defense.  The last thing Michigan's O needs, aside from a functioning tailback, is second chances.

- In my opinion, talk about special teams in this game has been relatively sparse.  This probably means two things: that a big play will happen due to special teams, and Michigan fans should be scared crapless about this prospect.

- Michigan's run defense is probably better than Notre Dame's, but most likely worse than Wisconsin's.  I hope.  Either way, I still bet one of the backs finds a way to average five yards a carry.

Among the several podcasts, interviews, and other articles that have been posted this week, I feel like every other game factor has been discussed ad nauseam, so I'll cease the game analysis here.

The stakes in this game have rarely been bigger.  A Michigan win would be a huge step on the path to vindication for Rich Rodriguez, and a chance for most Michigan fans (the ones that don't follow hockey) to get a respite from the onslaught of trash talk hurled their way since October of 2008.  A Michigan State win will mean, as you've probably heard, that the Spartans will have beaten the Wolverines in football three straight times for the first time since the late 60's, and turn the question "BCS berth???" into "BCS berth?".

All statistics point to what we mostly all thought - each team's offensive and defensive weaknesses cancel each other out. This stalemate leaves special teams as a difference maker - a difference firmly in favor for MSU.  When I was on WJR on Wednesday I plucked my score prediction from the aether.  Since then, I've seen a lot of statistics favoring both teams, arguments for and against the Wolverines and Spartans, and had several near nervous breakdowns.  None of these have swayed me from my original prediction.

MICHIGAN STATE 38 - MICHIGAN 35

P.S. Tomorrow will be my first visit to Ann Arbor for a game. I won't be going to the game most likely (I like my organs far too much to hock one of them for ticket money), but will be tailgating around Ann Arbor.  Hit me up on my twitter username (@PeteAtTOC) with your location If you need allies. I'll be more than happy to lend my assistance.

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