2011 Michigan Wolverines Football
Michigan @ Michigan State Football Preview
Now, the United States of America will begin to see just how real the Michigan football team is. The 6-0 Wolverines will take their perfect record to East Lansing on Saturday to face the 4-1 Michigan State Spartans.
Michigan has certainly exceeded expectations up to this point. The last-second win over Notre Dame was unexpected, as was the throttling of a talented San Diego State offense. Michigan’s defense has matured far better than most pigskin pundits thought it would, and the Maize and Blue have quickly cultivated a resilience that was missing under former coach Rich Rodriguez. New boss Brady Hoke has transformed the program, which seems destined for bigger things in the near future. The question of the moment, though, is if Michigan can win big in the present tense, and it’s this game against Sparty which will go a long way to determining just how special this 2011 season can become for the Maize and Blue.
Michigan State is the defending co-champion in the Big Ten, and while the Spartans have not played all that well this season, they haven’t lost a league game. A win this weekend will give MSU the inside track to a division championship and a spot in the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game in December.
The Spartans' talented defense will be tested by Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson, who has rolled up 1850 all-purpose yards (1130 passing, 710 rushing) and has scored 18 touchdowns. Michigan averages 257 rushing yards per game, and boasts the Big Ten's second most productive offense with 457.5 total yards.
The Michigan State defense allows just 173.4 yards per game, best in the nation, and just 67 per game on the ground. In their most recent game, the Spartans held Ohio State to 178 total yards in a 10-7 win in Columbus on Oct. 1. Michigan State was off last week.
The Spartans have won three straight against the Wolverines. Last year, Michigan State won 34-17 in Ann Arbor. If the Spartans win Saturday, it will be the first time since 1962 that they have beaten Michigan four straight seasons.
Last week, Michigan erased a 10-point halftime deficit to blow out Northwestern 42-24. Robinson threw for 337 yards and ran for 117. The Wolverines scored 28 unanswered points in the second half.
In their win over Ohio State, the Spartans needed just one touchdown, a pass from Kirk Cousins to B.J. Cunningham, who finished the game with 154 yards receiving. Cunningham has caught 38 passes for 582 yards and two touchdowns this season. The Spartans' running game is led by the tandem of LeVeon Bell (267 yards) and Edwin Baker (252 yards).
Is Michigan’s unbeaten record a mirage? Is Sparty’s 2010 season an aberration? These and other similarly intriguing questions will be answered at the end of one of the greatest weeks in the state of Michigan’s sporting history. A week that began with the Detroit Lions becoming 5-0, and then continued with the Detroit Tigers playing in the American League Championship Series, will conclude with Michigan-Michigan State. We’ll see how the landscape in the state of Michigan’s football environment has changed by the time this tussle is over.
By: Matt Zemek