While I am optimistic about the future of the Michigan football program, I must admit at present it's a little depressing to be an underdog to our "little brothers" at home. It's kinda embarrassing to be hoping for an upset of Michigan State at home to save our season. If the Spartans are going to beat the Wolverines, this is the year to get it done, because RichRod's squad is only going to get better over the next few years. Here are some arguments why Michigan can win this game - and some Sparty counter-arguments:
Michigan State is one dimensional on offense...
So far this year the Spartans have rushed for 160 yards per game (and remember - college football counts sacks as negative rushing yards). Javon Ringer is a stud, but that's the extent of MSU's offense. QB Brian Hoyer is completing less than 50% of his passes this year - not good. If Michigan commits to stopping the run by putting Brandon Harrison up on the line of scrimmage (and I'll start throwing stuff at my TV if they don't), Hoyer is probably not capable of beating them with his arm.
...but that one dimension is pretty damn good
Ringer already has 1179 yards on the season, and already has more carries than all of last year. He's a workhorse and, like legendary Mike Hart, he does not fumble. Michigan's defense has proven to be less than stout against the run, despite the fact that their strongest unit (in theory anyway) is their defensive line. The problem is the linebackers and the safeties are bad. The Spartans could exploit this.
Michigan's offense is coming around...
In the first half of the Penn State game, here is a summary of the Wolverines' first three drives: 86-yard TD drive, a 49-yard FG drive, and a 78-yard TD drive. They had 253 yards in the first half against the Nittany Lions, who have a pretty good defense. Minor and Threet ran the ball well, passes were on target, and there were no turnovers. As long as Threet is in the game (and the offense doesn't give the ball away) the Michigan offense is competent, and borders on being good. Note to RichRod: Let Threet play the whole game.
...but Nick Sheridan
Yeah, I know. For some reason, Coach Rod insists on running Sheridan out there time and time again when Threet doesn't appear to have any sort of injury and Sheridan doesn't appear to have any sort of talent. If Sheridan plays at all, that is a bad sign. God bless the kid, because he's out there giving it his best, but the offense becomes stagnant (or just plain bad) when he's in there. The defense doesn't have to play for the pass at all, and there is no running room with 8 guys on the line of scrimmage. The Michigan offense becomes more one dimensional than the Sparty offense, except they don't have a stud like Ringer to fall back on. If Sheridan takes off the headphones and puts a helmet on, Spartan fans should rejoice and start ordering celebratory shots.
Brian Hoyer may not play...
Starting QB Hoyer is listed as questionable (covers.com lists him as "questionable - Head" - an assessment that many Spartan fans might agree with). As shown above, backup QBs are a scary proposition for the offense. Many times it leads to narrowing the number of plays that the offense is going to call, making the job of the defense easier. The backup is a freshman. Even if Hoyer starts, after a head injury in the OSU game, one hit from Brandon Graham could send him to the sidelines asking for a popsicle and his blankie.
...but Brian Hoyer sucks
I'm not sure why Spartan fans would not be excited about the possibility of getting someone else in there to run the offense. After all, Ringer's gonna get 40 carries anyway, so does it really matter who's going to hand him the ball? Why not replace the QB with a fullback and just snap the ball directly to Ringer?
The Spartans haven't won in Ann Arbor since 1990. They have to be pointing to this game as an opportunity, not only for a big win, but to impress the recruits that are going to be on their own sideline and also the opposite sideline - both physically and metaphorically.
I think the Wolverine offense has turned the corner. They seem to have good balance and have the talent to make plays - as long as Threet is playing. Brandon Minor adds power to a previously "soft" running game. The defense has to start making plays, and the turnovers have to stop. If Threet plays the whole game: Michigan 27, MSU 24. If Sheridan plays more than one token series: Michigan 17, MSU 27. Enjoy the game and as always: