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Michigan State Spartans Football: MSU 27 - UM 23 Kneejerk Reactions

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Joe catches his breath and actually reacts

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, after a few hours of processing time I'm ready to do some more intelligible analysis:

#ReachHigher is Still Alive

This team is 7-0 with a road win over a top-15 team. During the offseason, Mark Dantonio coined the phrase "Reach Higher" as the team motto, presumably with reference to making the College Football Playoff. Despite the close games and the injuries, that dream is still alive and kicking. November 21st at Ohio State still looms.

Two True Freshmen Safeties

I was terrified when I saw that true freshmen starting for this MSU defense. Playing safety in an aggressive Cover-4 scheme is no easy task (just ask Montae Nicholson), but they did a nice job of limiting big plays and in run support. As the game wore on, my concern faded and they visibly seemed more comfortable. Maybe the configuration changes once more if Darian Hicks returns, but those two have very bright futures.

This Win Wasn't a Fluke

Yes, the final play - oh that final play - was improbable. But MSU outgained Regular Michigan by 150 yards (I'm using total yardage stats because I don't have better ones at my fingertips right now). MSU held Michigan to 238 total yards of offense. MSU didn't turn the ball over, even one time. And that vaunted RM pass defense, led by Jourdan Lewis, gave up 328 yards passing and Aaron Burbridge had another great game with 9 catches for 132 yards. The final play was a fluke, but the final result wasn't.

Special Teams Sucked Until They Didn't

Let's put it this way. The special teams in this game for MSU were so bad that they distorted what would be normal decisions. On the long drive in the first half, the ball was at the 28 yard line on 4th-and-8. A 45-yard field goal is typically an option, but instead MSU went for it and didn't come away with points. A similar decision was made with the ball at the RM 32 in the third quarter on 4th-and-10. A field goal in either situation renders the final play unnecessary.

Rivalry Talk

Dantonio vs. Harbaugh is going to be something fun to watch for many years. The immediate turnaround engineered by Michigan by Harbaugh is reminiscent of the turnaround MSU had in 2007 under Mark Dantonio, in fact. It was massively obvious that even the (largely) same group of guys RM had in 2014 had made crazy improvements. They'll get even better after a few years of Harbaugh and the acquisition of a more effective quarterback.

But Dantonio's not going anywhere, either, and the MSU team taking the field today was not vintage Dantonio squad. They were good enough to make it 7 of the last 8, and that's good enough for me. I mean, 7 of 8! It took MSU 17 years to get the prior 7 wins (1984-2001). Twenty percent of all MSU victories against RM (7 of 35, per Winsipedia) have come under Dantonio.