Rivalry week. Catch the fever. Woohoo.
Alright, if you’re like me, all the wind in the sails of rivalry week has kind of been taken out. To say this injury-riddled MSU team is stumbling into this game after the last month of games would be putting it very kindly.
Anyway, sorry to be a Debbie Downer right off the top. It doesn’t get much better from here either. Again, I’m sorry. (Also if you want more of this pessimistic-yet-realistic attitude, I’ve got the blog post for you)
3 Things We Want To See
Call me negative all you want, but make sure you call me this too – a realist.
On the depth chart alone, MSU is missing three of its starting offensive linemen, two of its top three receivers and one high usage tight end. On defense they are down its senior captain middle linebacker. Now we look at recent results – four straight losses, all embarrassing in one way or another. Take your pick between playing in three games over by halftime or a fourth loss that saw a 25-point lead crumble to the ground for which is more demoralizing to hang over a team’s head going into this matchup.
I can’t see the offense doing anything. I can very easily see the defense letting up 30 or more points for the sixth game in a row. The only way I can see a win is if a bonafide miracle takes place on the field. And I’m not even talking about a Jalen Watts-Jackson type of miracle – a $9 million head coach sending out gunners to a punt return team rushing 11 players wasn’t a miracle, it was poor coaching.
I’m talking much more than that. Again, I’m sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but there’s not one aspect of this matchup that I like.
The only .001 percent of me that thinks an upset could happen is the fact we saw Michigan play abysmal a few months ago. Taking an OK Army team to the brink in overtime and getting steamrolled in Wisconsin sticks out. Sending football back to the WWI Era (their favorite era to talk about) in its game against Iowa also happened. Illinois kind of made it close against them that one time?
Since all that, they’ve looked decent. A good second half against Penn State before, quite literally, dropping their Big Ten Championship Game hopes. Wiping Notre Dame off the face of this earth. Beating Maryland soundly. Not losing their bye week, which we’ve learned is possible.
So maybe Michigan has another dud in them. But still…can they out-dud a team that is coming off the month MSU is coming off of?
Continuity of the running game
Hey! That was exciting last weekend! (Shields eyes from final score and directs you to Elijah Collins and his two touchdown, 170 yard outing)
Collins was the man last week, but it will be a different test this weekend. Going from Illinois’ average run defense to a run defense that has a national top ten line of just 2.9 yards per carry probably won’t have you duplicating those numbers. However, it was nice to see the running game back after a hiatus of being ineffective and being stuck in games where MSU had to try to pass itself back into the game.
2 Key Stats
That’s the number of players that Never Been To Indy has that have at least 20 catches. On the contrary, neither of them have more than 30. So right there you see how balanced their passing attack is and how they can get you in a myriad of ways and exploit mismatches. Any receiver can be the man for them any given game or any given drive. This isn’t a “lock one guy down and pray the other one or two guys struggle” situation like Michigan will get with Cody White and Co.
That’s how many games it’s been since Brian Lewerke went interception-free. We’re going to need Lewerke to play a nearly perfect game on Saturday to have a shot in this one. Think Ohio State game Lewerke – quick and decisive with the ball, not getting himself into much trouble and burying the ball instead of trying to force plays in ill-advised spots. He needs to have, quite literally, the game of his career to put Michigan State in a spot to win, especially with a struggling defense taking the field when the ball is not in his hands.
1 Best Bet
Michigan State +13.5, over/under 44.5
Point blank, I’m smelling a blowout. This is as close to a Big Ten Championship Game as it gets for the program in Ann Arbor, so they won’t hesitate to pour it on. I know Dantonio, if he doesn’t win, at least always plays it close. However, with all the injuries alone, I don’t think he has the horses this year. And this team is coming off a month that doesn’t necessarily scream “confidence” from the mountaintops. A recipe for a good ol’ “turn the game off in the second half and pull out your basketball gear” game.
(If MSU does indeed win this game I will stand outside its locker room so each player can slap me in the face one by one.)
Pick: Michigan -13.5
Record: 6-3-1 (I take no pleasure in being right with Illinois +(whatever it was) last week
What’s your best bet for this Saturday?
This poll is closed