Football Saturday - October 24, 2008 - 3B
6B - Football Saturday - October 24, 2008
Breakdown: Michigan vs. Michigan State
By IAN ROBINSON
and NATE SANDALS
Daily Sports Editoro
Michigan rushing offense vs.
Michigan State rushing defense:
Junior runningback Brandon
Minor had a breakout game
against Penn State last week. His
117 yards weren't a career high,
but they moved Minor to the top
of the depth chart. f Minor can
hold onto the ball, he should be a
weapon against Michigan State.
The Spartans' rushing defense is
ranked eighth in the Big Ten, and
it has allowed opponents an aver-
age of145 yards on the ground per
game. Michigan's offensive line
hasn't exactly been dominant so
far this season. The Wolverines are
ninth in the conference in rushing
offense. But Michigan's combina-
tion up front should be the same as
it was against Penn State, when it
opened big holes for Minor to start
Michigan passing offense vs.
Michigan State passing de-
fense: Michigan fans should hope
redshirt freshman quarterback
Steven Threet kept his right elbow
encased in bubble wrap this week.
Threet has been struggling with a
bruised throwing elbow since the
Toledo game. When he aggravated
it at Penn State, Threet had to
come out of the game. The results
were not good.
Even if Threet is 100 percent on
Saturday, Michigan will struggle
Middle linebacker Obi Ezeh tackles Michigan State running back Javon Ringer in last year's matchup.
to move the ball through the air.
Senior safety Otis Wiley can be
a game-changer in the Spartan
secondary. Wiley has already had
two games with two interceptions
this year. If the Wolverines want
to gain yardage on Wiley and Co.,
they will need to distribute the ball
and force Michigan State to cover
receivers other than junior Greg
Edge: Michigan State
Michigan State rushing.
offense vs. Michigan rushing
defense: The Wolverines' missed
tackles and poor pursuit angles
have turned opponents' short
gains into big plays all season. At
Penn State, Nittany Lion running
back Eric Royster averaged almost
ten yards every time he ran the
ball. And Michigan State has a bet-
ter running back.
The Spartan offense runs on
the legs of Javon Ringer. Until last
week's letdown against Ohio State,
he was mentioned as a possible
Heisman candidate. Even after
the loss, he's still second in the
nation in rushing yards. Although
he mightbe a little short and
lacks breakaway speed, he should
be able to break into the Michi-
gan secondary regularly. People
knocked on former Michigan run-
ning back Mike Hart for the same
reasons, and he played some pretty
good games in this rivalry.
Edge: Michigan State
Michigan State passing of-
fense vs. Michigan passing
defense: Michigan is 95th in
the country in pass defense. The
cornerbacks haven't lived up to
preseason expectations, and the
defensive line has been neutral-
ized in the last few weeks. But
it should get a bit easier for the
defensive line, because Brian
Hoyer isn't a dual threat like Juice
Williams and Daryll Clark.
Moyer is expected to play Sat-
urday, despite injuring his hand
and head last week. But many in
the Spartan fan base are calling
for backup Kirk Cousins to start
instead. As long as the quarterback
can put the ball in Ringer's hands
and limit mistakes when he's
called upon to throw, he won't be
the deciding factor in the game.
Special teams: Before last
week, the lone bright spot on
Michigan's special teams was
punter Zoltan Mesko. After getting
a punt blocked and kicking the
safety punt out of bounds, even
he has shown flaws. He should be
back to form this week, but the
fumbles on kick returns will likely
The Spartans have a reliable
kicker in Brett Swenson (15-for-
16). If the game goes down to a
field goal, Michigan State has the
Edge: Michigan State
Intangibles: Where to begin?
First, there's Michigan junior
defensive end Brandon Graham's
guarantee that Michigan will
win, despite the fact that Michi-
gan State is the clear favorite.
Second, there's the ramifications
of a brawl that took place be-
tween the Michigan State hockey
and football teams, which could
result in the suspension of some
Spartan football players.
Realistically, it's just the
standard amount of distractions
that surround an in-state rivalry
game. In the end, it all evens out.
Prediction: Michigan State
will win 20-16.
Michigan will run multiple trick plays. The Wolverine offense has been stagnant
for.long stretches, and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez will try to jumpstart it. A
rivalry game is the perfect time to unleash the bag of tricks.
Michigan State safety Otis Wiley will have an interception. The Flint native leads
the Big Ten in picks. Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet's bruised elbow
will make him a little erratic, and redshirt sophomore backup Nick Sheridan hasn't
shown he can handle game speed. Wiley will take advantage.
Michigan will win 23-20. If this game was in East Lansing, the Spartans would win.
But as vulnerable as Michigan is, junior defensive end Brandon Graham's guarantee
will be enough to give the Wolverines focus in a sloppy, hard-fought game.
IAN R' B:NS"
Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet will outplay Michigan State quarter-
back Brian Hoyer. In each of the last few games, Threet has shown signs of progress.
Hoyer is a senior and in his second year as the starting quarterback. But after Hoyer's
performance against Ohio State and Threet's against Penn State, Michigan's quarter-
back is the one on the rise.
Junior defensive end Brandon Graham will do his part to live up to his guarantee.
On multiple occasions against Penn State, Graham was inches away from getting to
Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark. Clark was just too mobile, but Hoyer doesn't have
the same robility as Clark. Graham will get consistent pressure on Michigan State's
quarterback, and the question will be whether the rest of the team backs up Graham's
Michigan State will win 20-16. Michigan's run defense has proven vulnerable in the last
few weeks, and it hasn't gone against a back like Michigan State's Javon Ringer yet. The
Spartans will avoid their traditional October collapse as Ringer leads them to victory.
Darryl Stonum will have his best game of the season. With wide receiver
Greg Mathews injured and James Rogers likely starting in Mathews'
absence, Stonum will probably get more playing time, too. After being
suspended for the game against Illinois for what Rodriguez called a "viola-
tion of team rules," Stonum will be looking to redeem himself. After being
the only freshman to enroll early last winter, he hasn't been an impact
player this season. Now's his chance.
John Thompson will have an interception. Michigan State quarterback
Brian Hoyer is notorious for cracking in high-pressure situations. Thomp-
son has already had an interception in a high-pressure game - the
19-point comeback against Wisconsin. Thompson was one of the team's
most pumped-up players in the Wolverines' strong first half against Penn
State, and he will go for the kill Saturday when the game is close.
Michigan will win 28-21. The Wolverines are due for a victory and the
Spartans are due for their usual second-half-of-the-season collapse. Both
will happen Saturday.
NATE SANDA LS
Michigan will score two touchdowns in the third quarter. The Wolver-
ines have just seven points all season coming out of halftime. It's hard
to diagnose why the offense has struggled so mightily after the break,
but Michigan has simply been killed in the third quarter. But with Threet
healthy, Michigan will be in rhythm all afternoon.
Michigan will know how Wisconsin felt after losing its late-game lead.
The fourth quarter was a strong point for the Wolverines early in the
season. But the Wolverines gave up 21 in the fourth to Illinois and 20 in
the final 15 minutes at Penn State last week. Michigan will head into the
final quarter with the lead but won't be able to hold it.
Michigan State will win 21-16. Michigan will take the lead into the fourth
quarter but has struggled late in games recently, especially on defense.
Ringer's bruising running will finally break through in the closing minutes.
CAN T GO TO
MICH IGAN DAILY.
COM/TH EGAM E