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November 01, 2013 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-11-01

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, November 1, 2013 - 7

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, November 1, 2013 - 7

Beware big-play
Spartan defense
By MATT SLOVIN Michigan State pass offense vs.
ManagingEditor Michigan pass defense

Redshirt junior linebacker Jake Ryan should play expanded minutes Saturday, in what will likely be another physical battle with Michigan State in East Lansing.
An in- state rivalry re es
this tiewt ihrsae

Daily Sports Editor
Michigan coach Brady Hoke
was asked this week to compare
the Michigan State rivalry to the
one with Ohio State. This game,
especially in East Lansing,
always feels like a playground
This time, when the No. 23
Michigan football team meets
No. 24 Michigan State on Sat-
urday, the field will be muddy,
the forecasts say. Windy again.
Last time the game was in East
Lansing, trash. swirled around
Spartan Stadium as if this game
wasn't being held in a stadium at
all, but in a dirty lot anywhere
in the state,
in Detroit or Michigan
Farmington Michign
Hills or Grand
Rapids, and State
two teams met Matchup
here to fight Michigan 6-1;
and settle old MSU 7-1
Hoke didn't 3n atur-
take the bait.
"I think Where: Spar-
they're both tan Stadium
important," he TV:
said. ABC
But this one
has gotten more and more so
since Mark, Dantonio became
Michigan State's coach in 2006.
Michigan hates the Buckeyes.
But at least it respects them.
For this game, the rhetoric has
become familiar.
"We labeled them as a little
brother," said fifth-year senior
running back Fitzgerald Tous-
saint on Tuesday. "And, you
know the little brother always
want to prove themselves and
try to beat up the big brother
one day. I think they really take
offense to that."

This game, always, is brutish
and ugly, and it's that brutish
ugliness that makes it beautiful.
This year, the stakes are higher.
The game will be as close to a
divisional championship game
as it gets at the start of Novem-
ber. Michigan is 2-1 in the con-
ference, with a tough month
ahead. Michigan State is 4-0
with few tests remaining. For
Michigan, a win means it con-
trols its own Legends Division
destiny. A loss all but hands the
Spartans the division.
For Michigan State (4-0 Big
Ten, 7-1 overall), not much has
changed. Offensively, Michigan
State relies heavily on the ground
game. Its passing game has been
inconsistent. Michigan's defense
has been vulnerable to the big
play, but the Spartans hardly
generate any. They rank second-
to-last nationally in plays of 40
yards or more.
Defensively, the Spartans are
dominant. Its defense is ranked
first nationally in total defense
and rushing defense. It is ranked
third in passing defense and-
scoring defense. On both sides of
the ball, the strategy is no secret:
win the running game.
"There's not a lot of gim-
micks," said Michigan defen-
sive coordinator Greg Mattison.
"And I love that."
When opposing teams have
had success against the Spar-
tans, it has been through the air.
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard
is one of the conference's best,
but so is Michigan's fifth-year
receiver Jeremy Gallon. Last
time Gallon played, he set the
Big Ten record with 369 receiv-
ing yards.
The Spartans' cornerbacks
are especially physical, but
Michigan (2-1, 6-1) is well-suited
for that. The 5-foot-8 Gallon is

Needing a win against a bitter
rival on the road to keep control of
its Big Ten title hopes isn't exactly
an ideal position for the Michigan
football team. But that's where the
Wolverines stand entering Satur-
day's showdown with Michigan
The Spartans clearly have the
advantage on defense, while the
Michigan offense is by far the bet-
ter of the two. So where will this
game be won or lost? Probably in
the trenches.
Michigan pass offense vs. Michi-
gan State pass defense
Chances are, the record-setting
offensive display against Indiana
two weeks ago willifeel like a thing
ofthe past once the Hoosiers'slop-
py pass coverage is replaced bythe
Spartan secondary, led by Dar-
queze Dennard. Michigan coach
Brady Hoke called Dennard, who
has a pair of interceptions this
season, a "high-round pick," and
redshirt junior quarterback Devin
Gardner will need to take extra.
care when throwing in his direc-
Gardner surely won't be throw-
ing for 503 yards this week as he
did against Indiana.He would be
extremely fortunate to escape the
Big Ten-leading Michigan State
defense without a turnover.
Sophomore tight end A.J. Wil-
liams's one-game suspension
shouldn't cause too much damage
to Michigan's aerial attack. Sopho-
more Devin Funchess will still get
his reps on the outside, and fifth-
year senior wide receiver Jeremy
Gallon is coming off the best sin-
gle-game receiving performance
in the history of the Big Ten.
But again, this isn't the Hoo-
siers, and the Wolverines won't
move the ball with anywhere near
as much ease.
Edge: Michigan State
Michigan rush offense vs. Michi-
gan State rush defense
This is where the Spartans are
at their best. Teams simply do not
run the football on them. They
haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher
all season. And fifth-year senior
running back Fitzgerald Tous-
saint probably didn't do himself
any favors by referring to Michi-
gan State as "little brother" earlier
this week.
Freshman guard Kyle Bosch
will be making his first-ever start
Saturday as Hoke continues to try
to piece together the best offen-
sive line possible. He may have
finally found the right combina-
tion, but against the Spartans, it
could easily be moot.
Expect almost all of the carries
to go to Toussaint as the coaching
stafftries to prevent any turnovers
from Derrick Green, who might be
prone to them in his first battle for
the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Edge: Michigan State

Defensive coordinator Greg
Mattison has said there are still
passes that Michigan defensive
backs should be picking off but
have not. With that said, the sec-
ondary has shown it can force
turnovers in key spots, with fifth-
year senior safety Thomas Gordon
sealing the Indiana game with
two late picks.
But Connor Cook, the start-
ing Spartan quarterback, doesn't
make many mistakes. He has
thrown just two interceptions,
compared to 12 touchdowns, this
season in eventually winning
the top spot on the depth chart.
Last week, he completed 15 of his
16 pass attempts, though it was
against lowly Illinois.
Edge: Michigan
Michigan State rush offense vs.
Michigan rush defense
Most of Michigan's efforts will
be focused on stopping the run,
and rightfully so. Spartan tailback
Jeremy Langford has nine rushing
touchdowns this season and has
racked up 655 yards.
The Michigan State offensive
line is much improved from the
early weeks when the Spartans
failed to move the ball with any
consistency. Michigan State coach
Mark Dantonio will run the foot-
ball early and often, trying to wear
down the Wolverines' defense.
The Spartan offense may not
have many explosive playmakers,
but it has shown it can grind teams
down, and Michigan is in trouble
if that happens Saturday.
Edge: Michigan State
Special teams
Mike Sadler is almost enough to
singlehandedly give this category
to the Spartans. Not only is he an
outstanding punter, but earlier
this season against Iowa, he car-
ried the ball for 25 yards on a fake.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines have
had problems punting the ball.
Michigan State relies on fresh-
man Michael Geiger to handle its
kicking duties, and he's 6-for-7 on
the year.
Edge: Michigan State
The Spartans can sense that
they are on the verge of a berth in
the Big Ten title game, with the
schedule shaping up favorably the
rest of the way.
With 27 players back from the
Michigan team that was beat up
in East Lansing in 2011, the Wol-
verines should be prepared for
the physical game that lies ahead.
That means no excuses if they are
again bullied at Spartan Stadium.
Edge: Michigan
Prediction: Michigan State 20,

Fifth-year senior runningback Fitzgerald Toussaint averages 3.7 yards per rush.

often pressed, with little suc-
cess. Sophomore Devin Funch-
ess is a converted tight end,
where he grew accustomed
to bigger defenders. Redshirt
junior quarterback Devin Gard-
ner has flourished since Funch-
ess moved to receiver, but he
is also turnover-prone, and
the Spartans secondary has
returned four interceptions for
touchdowns this year.
But the game is usually decid-
ed on the ground, and team that
has won the rushing battle has
won the game in 40 of the past
43 meetings. Michigan State
defensive coordinator Pat Nar-
duzzi has terrorized Michigan
in the past with A-gap blitzes to
generate pressure up the middle.
The Wolverines enter Saturday
with major question marks on
the interior of the offensive line,
where they have yet to find a
successful combination of block-
ers. Fifth-year senior running
back Fitzgerald Toussaint aver-
ages just 3.7 yards per carry this
year. Michigan State's defense
averages just two. Michigan's
offense is weakest where Michi-
gan State is best.
Like most things in this
rivalry, the Wolverines take
Michigan State's physical

supremacy personally. Michi-
gan won in 2012, but it was a
defensive struggle. In 2011, the
Spartans dominated the line of
scrimmage. They pulled Denard
Robinson's facemask after the
whistle. Fifth-year senior left
tackle Taylor Lewan said it felt
like Michigan was bullied.
"If somebody came up to you
and hit you right in the face,
would you take it personally?"
he said. "Yeah, I take it person-
His fellow fifth-year senior
right tackle, Michael Schofield,
said the seniors talk about that
game constantly.
"We don't want to forget
that," he said.
Schofield said the veterans
have tried to prepare the fresh-
men for the intensity of the
rivalry. But Hoke said it's impos-
sible to understand the game
until you play in it.
But, at the very least, even the
young players know what's at
stake. When Mattison stepped to
the podium for his weekly press
conference Tuesday, he didn't
waste words on what everyone
already knew.
"Michigan State week," he
said. "Here we go."

With lots of film, and a Final Four run, a folk hero is born

Daily Sports Editor
ROSEMONT, Ill. - They can't
all be Mitch Mcdary.
There are the guys that have
been recruited since they were
underclassmen in high school,
with others not being noticed
until senior year, and in Spike
Albrecht's case, not until senior
year was almost over.
It wasn't until the spring
recruiting period of his senior
year that Albrecht was recog-
nized, pursued and finally signed
by Michigan. His alternative plans
were to play in the mountains of
North Carolina for Appalachian
State. Rather than the National
Championship, he would have
been playing to finish above .500
in the Southern Conference.
"It was probably the shortest
time period of an evaluation with
the most in-depth evaluation,"
said Michigan coach John Beilein
at Big Ten Media Day about
the time from when he noticed
Albrecht, to when Albrecht com-

mitted in early April 2012.
The move on the 5-foot-11 point
guard from Crown Point, Ind. may
very well have been spurredby the
possibility of Trey Burke leaving
for the NBA after his freshman
Beilein asked for five high-
schooltapes ofAlbrecht's games at
Crown Point High School, as well
as three or four prep-school tapes
from Northfield Mount Hermon
in Massachusetts. He then had
his staff edit the tapes into 300 to
400 cuts of every possession that
Albrecht had the ball.
In the heart of the Big Ten sea-
son as Michigan worked its way
toward its first conference cham-
pionship since 1986, Beilein would
watch Albrecht's edits while trav-
eling. He'd watch those same cuts
over and over again.
"I see him score 30 points in
a high-school game and then 30
more the next game," Beilein
said. "But then I'd see him not
even shoot it in prep school, then
become the MVP."
Beilein was referring to

Beilein has often likened to an
"altar boy" wasn't a tough deci-
"This one, it wasn't as hard as
you think for me," Beilein said.
"Because I knew what I was look-
ing for. A kid that embraced aca-
demics, that wanted to be part of
a Big Ten team and also was not
going to be going pro. He had no
illusions of leaving to go pro early."
Beilein's success in recruiting
Albrecht was no aberration. The
blueprint for pulling in the unher-
alded recruit and turninghim into
a glory boy had been long estab-
lished. Beilein reeled in just one
top-100 player in his time at West
Virginia, and converted lightly
recruited nobodies like Kevin
Pittsnogle and Joe Alexander into
household names. Alexander, who
became the eighth overall pick in
the 2008 NBA Draft, averaged just
two points a game in prep school,
according to Beilein.
Albrecht's ceiling likely won't
reach shouting distance of the
NBA, but there's plenty else going
his way.

"He just wanted to come in and
be a great teammate on this team,
no matter what his role was,"
Beilein said. "It worked out pretty
good for him."
Beilein expected Albrecht to
come in and play five to 10 minutes
a game, not to take on folk-hero
status after a 17-point outburst
against Louisville in the National
Championship. Albrecht nailed
3-pointer after 3-pointer, crafted
nifty drives to the basket and kept
the Wolverines competitive while
Burke sat on the bench in foul
trouble in the first half.
"There was a moment in the
Louisville game where he was
on his run. One of our walk-ons
who guarded him every day, Eso
Akunne, was sitting there. And
he couldn't gather himself, what
he was watching," Beilein said
as he clutched his face, mimick-
ing the former Wolverine guard,
turning his head to the side. "He
was just shaking his head saying,
'I can't believe what I am seeing
right now.' Those are the great
moments in coaching."

Sophomore guard Spike Albrecht wasn't recruited by Michigan until the 11th hour.
Albrecht winning the NEPSAC us with what we're looking for,"
Class AAA MVP in 2012, a top Beilein said.
prep-school tournament where And so Albrecht was offered a
Northfield Mount Hermon beat scholarship to play point guard at
McGary's Brewster Academy. Michigan. Even with the limited
"I just said, he's not gonna pass amount of scholarships available,
the eye test, but this kid can help gambling on the plucky kid that

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