Well guys its rivalry week. Its hate week. Whatever fans want to call it the University of Michigan is officially on the clock.
The Spartans are traveling to the Big House Saturday night (and hopefully walking away with a huge victory). But before that happens we have Josh LaFond here from Maize N Brew, the Michigan SB Nation affiliate.
He is here to give us a run down of the game Saturday. Josh was kind enough to answer all my questions and give us as much insight as possible.
Here we go! Go Green!
Jim Harbaugh is a great football coach. The man has been able to turn around multiple programs including making the San Francisco 49ers relevant again. He is currently 24-6 (14-4 B1G) as the head coach of the Wolverines. How has he been able to bring Michigan all the way back from the Rich Rod and Brady Hoke days?
I think a lot of his success is due to the culture that he has established. Once Lloyd Carr walked out the door the blue collar, Michigan style of play went with him. With the not only college, but NFL experience and
pedigree that Coach Harbaugh and his staff have, that helps with player development and in the locker room. That’s a big reason why the Wolverines are back on the national map.
We have seen four great weeks of college football up to this point. Is the Wolverines season going as predicted? And where do you see them finishing this year? (Record and conference wise).
The offense has been shaky at best — at least up until the 2nd half of the Purdue game — and that’s a major concern going forward. It’s hard to believe but the Michigan o-line seems to have taken a step back from last season. The pass protection has been a sight for sore eyes and the run game seems to be either big play or 2 yards and a pile of dust. Hopefully those aforementioned issues were addressed in the BYE week that the Wolverines are coming off of. The defense on the other hand looks even better than last year, which to some, is a major surprise.
So despite the lack of offensive consistency, I think the defense can and will carry this team to at least 9 wins. If the offense can put it together like I know they’re capable of, I can see them going 11-1 with a road loss to either Wisconsin or Penn State but still winning the East. That’s the record I predicted before the season and I’m sticking by it.
Talk to me about the quarterback situation. John O'Korn will get the start due to Wilton Speight being out. Speight suffered an injury during the Purdue game. But I'm not sure how upset Michigan fans really are about the quarterback change, Speight hasn't looked like the man for the job this year. What are the differences between the two QB's and who would you personally start against the Spartans if given the option? Why?
John O’Korn comes from a mostly shotgun offense in Houston, granted, that was 3 years ago, but that’s still his bread and butter. The reason I bring that up is because Michigan’s new passing game coordinator, Pep Hamilton has introduced more spread looks and even west coast style sets, and that’s why O'Korn gives the Maize and Blue offense the breathe of life that’s it’s desperately needed. He showed a knack for escaping the pressure and making plays in the midst of chaos against the Boilermakers and I don’t think that’s a fluke.
Who is the difference maker for Michigan this weekend? Why?
Mark Dantonio always seems to get the most out of his team on offense and defense despite whatever talent gap may exist, and that’s why it’s got to be John O’Korn for every reason I stated in your previous question. John breathed life into a stagnant offense, and even though it was against Purdue, I think that carries over into the rest of the season and on especially on Saturday. Michigan’s defensive line should have a good outing but the key will be how the passing game performs against the Spartan defense.
What are three things the Wolverines must do to ensure an upset doesn't take place at the Big House?
(1) Limit Felton Davis. (2) Maintain pressure on Brian Lewerke. (3) Keep John O’Korn upright.
What's the key match up you will have your eye on during this ball game?
[Cornerback] LaVert Hill against Felton Davis. As I said in our staff roundtable that previewed this game, this is the make or break matchup. Both players are among the best (if not THE best) at their respective positions in the conference, but yet haven’t proven themselves against elite talent on the other side of the ball up until this point. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.
ESPN says the Wolverines are an 11 point favorite. Do you agree with the spread? Why or why not? And how close do you see this game being?
I respect the spread and it’s because of the talent that Michigan has. But I am not sure on whether or not the Wolverines can cover it. Like I mentioned earlier, Coach Dantonio always seems to get his guys to play to their absolute best against the Maize and Blue. I think this game will either Michigan running away early or it’ll be a dogfight inside of 7 points.
Where would you recommend grabbing a bite to eat for visiting Spartan fans?
I’ll go with one that even some MSU fans know, and that’s Zingerman’s Deli. Great sandwiches and eats, it’s hard to beat. For sweet tooth go to Washtenaw Dairy, they have the best donuts and ice cream around.
Where are the best tailgating spots?
If you’re looking for a fun time where all the action is you’ve gotta check out the Michigan golf course, and then Pioneer High school, which is right across the street. Always cornhole games, slinging the pigskin around, plenty of tv’s and a lot of good food.
Prediction time: Who wins? Final score? Why?
I have Michigan winning 35-14. I think the talent gap is just too large to overcome, and although I respect the heck out of Coach Dantonio, there’s only so much coaching he can do. It’ll be something like 14-7 at the half in a slugfest with Michigan pulling away in the 2nd half.
I would like to thank Josh and everyone over at Maize N Brew for making this Q&A happen. We always greatly appreciate all the cooperation our fellow sites lend to us.
Also everyone head on over to Maize N Brew to see what I had to say when Josh picked my brain about the Spartans chances.
As always Go Green!