8 - Friday, October 14, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
'M' defense tasked with slowing diverse Spartan offense
By STEPHENJ. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
Something in the East Lan-
sing air changes during Michigan
At Spartan Stadium, the shoes
are laced up a little tighter and
the pads crack a little harder, as
the Michigan State football team's
intensity picks up.
During the Spartan Marching
Band's rehearsals next door on
Dem Field, the fight song's stac-
cato strain, "Go right through
for MSU," shifts to, "Smash right
through that line of blue."
By Saturday's kickoff, the city
reaches a fever pitch to welcome
the 11th-ranked Wolverines.
And once the teams take the
field in front of 75,000-plus fans
in East Lansing on Saturday, it's
that "line of blue" - Michigan's
defensive line - that will have the
toughest task in the rivalry game.
No. 23 Michigan State (1-0 Big
Ten, 4-1 overall) boasts an offen-
When the Spartans visited Ann
Arbor last seasdn, they trampled
over Michigan's front line, rush-
ing for 249 yards and three touch-
downs. Coming off a shared Big
Ten Championship season in 2010,
even with a weak offensive line,
Michigan State will pound the line
of scrimmage. Michigan coach
Brady Hoke expects nothing less.
"They're going to be physical
up front, they're going to run the
power, they're going to run the
outside stretch play," Hoke said on
Monday. "The three backs are all
really capable of hurting you."
Michigan's defense has been
notoriously bad in first halves
this season, but spectacular in the
second half. The Wolverines (2-0,
6-0) have allowed 54 first-half
points and just 21 in the second
Against the Spartans, that
inconsistency won't work. It starts
with stoppingthe run.
"That's what a great defense
is built on," Michigan defensive
coordinator Greg Mattison said
on Tuesday. "You can measure a
defense on how they stop the run
in my mind.
"We'll get challenged. That's
what it's going to be. They can
throw it, too. It's not like we can
put 10 guys up there (on the line).
This is going to be another test."
The Michigan-Michigan State
rivalry game was named the
Davey O'Brien National Quarter-
back Award Marquee Matchup of
the Week, pitting Cousins against
Michigan junior quarterback
"(Cousins) was good last year,"
Mattison said. "I think he's really
good this year. ... Anybody that
wins as many games as he's won,
you're a good quarterback."
After watching film, Mattison
determined Cousins's favorite
target, senior wide receiver B.J.
Cunningham, is "a big-time wide
receiver" with NFL-type talent.
Cousins and Cunningham
have connected 38 times this
season, averaging 116 yards per
game. Michigan's secondary
had its tune-up for Cunningham
when Notre Dame wide receiver
Michael Floyd collected 159 yards
in the second game of the season.
But during Michigan week,
anything can happen. Over in East
Lansing, the final change falls into
place. On Dem Field, the march-
ing band makes one last fight-song
alteration in the line, "See, their
team is weakening."
"Michigan is weakening, we're
going to win this game," the Spar-
tan brass chant. "Fight. Fight.Rah,
team, fight. Victory for MSU."
After never beating the Spar-
tans, Michigan's seniors have one
last chance to topple them on Sat-
urday. And it's the defense's job
to force the rivalry back in the
Wolverines' favor. Until then, the
Paul Bunyan Trophy, given to the
winner of the annual rivalry game,
will rest in East Lansing with the
Senior defensive linemen Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen have yet to beat
Michigan State, and they will play a crucial role at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
sive corps - headlined by senior per game. And three highly-tout-
quarterback Kirk Cousins - with ed running backs - sophomore
big-play potential across the LeVeon Bell and juniors Edwin
board. Baker and Larry Caper - will be
The passing attack ranks sec- prowling in the backfield, eager to
and in the Big Ten; with 269 yards make it a long day for the Wolver-
The Daily football writers do their best
to predict, against the spread, what Michael
happens in the 2011 football season. Florek
No.11Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State(-3)
No.1 LSU(-t5) at Tennessee
No. 2 Alabama (-23) at Ole Miss
No. 3 Oklahoma (-31.5) at Kansas
No. 4 Wisconsin (-38) vs. Indiana
No. 5 Boise State(-32)at Colorado State
No. 6 Oklahoma State (-5.5) at No. 22 Texas
No. 7 Stanford(-20) atWashington State
No. 58Clemson (-8) at Maryland
No. 9 Ore)on (-5)us. No o 10Arina State
No. 12 Georgia Tech (45)S at Vinginia
No.15 South Carolina (-5) at MississippiState
N. 16 Illinois (-35) us. Ohio State
No.17 Kansas State atTexas Tech (-3.5)
No.19 Virgiina Tech (-7) at Wake Forest
No. 20 Baylor at No. 21 Texas A&M (-9.5)
No. 24 Aubutn (-1) vs. Florida
Purdueat Penn State 3)