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Next Up: The Michigan Wolverines

This is truly a game that needs no introduction, particularly this season.  The annual game against That School To The Southeast pops up in the second week of the conference schedule this year, and the good news is that come Sunday, MSU will have played two of its four most difficult conference games.  A 2-0 record would place MSU in position to at least be in the discussion for the conference title.

Following Michigan is somewhat part-and-parcel to being a Michigan State fan, and given the way the Denard Robinson Hype Express has been rolling these last few weeks, this Wolverine team is even more omnipresent than usual.  So, nearly everyone is familiar with the basics: Michigan's offense has been extraordinarily good, and the defense has been nearly as bad.  Indeed, that narrative is supported by the relevant statistics:

Michigan (rank)
Michigan State (rank)
Passing offense
240.6 (39)
240.4 (40)
Pass efficiency 181.29 (4)
166.09 (12)
Rushing offense 324.4 (3)
220.2 (20)
Total offense
565.0 (2)
460.6 (23)
Scoring offense
41.4 (9)
36.2 (24)
Passing defense
307.8 (120)
227.4 (78)
Pass efficiency defense
129.47 (79)
110.68 (29)
Rushing defense
125.8 (37)
101.2 (20)
Total defense
433.6 (102)
328.6 (41)
Scoring defense
25.4 (73)
18.6 (36)
Turnover margin
.8 (15)
.4 (43)

There are a few surprises there.  Robinson gets all the headlines for his spectacular runs; but that team pass efficiency rating is fantastic.  (His personal pass efficiency rating is 179.97, also good for fourth.)  This is really the reason for Robinson's giant leap forward.  Last season, teams could contain Robinson by stacking the box and tailoring the defense to curtail his Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws (mgoblog's trademark) because there was no reason to respect his passing ability.  MSU did exactly that in Robinson's only series against us last season.  This year, he's learned to pass accurately, and teams focused on stopping the run game are getting burned by the passing attack.  Robinson may be 99% of Michigan's offense, but so far this year, that has been a very, very good thing for them.

The Wolverines' pass defense is clearly a disaster -- they're dead last in the country in pass yardage allowed, but they do rate slightly higher in pass efficiency defense.  Conversely, they're a very respectable 37th in rushing defense.  The takeaway from these three figures is that teams seem to forego running the ball in order to concentrate on gashing Michigan through the air.  It's doubtful that MSU will give up on Bell, Baker, and Caper quite so easily, but we could see Cousins take more of a central role than he has so far this season.  Nonetheless, this is a terrible Michigan defense, and MSU should have success.  The only question is whether we'll have enough offensive success to keep up with Michigan's firepower.  (Or whether our defense is good enough to slow Michigan down, obviously.)

We're only a little more than 72 hours from the biggest regular season game in years.  How are you feeling?