This Saturday, the most anticipated Big Ten game of the season to date will take place in Ann Arbor. Undefeated Michigan State will look to stop undefeated
Denard Robinson Michigan, and when it's all said and done I think Michigan will end up with a solid win. The Paul Bunyan trophy returns to Ann Arbor, and I think we'll look back and go 'yeah, we should've seen this coming'.
Follow my logic after the jump.
I got to see a lot of the Michigan-Indiana game, and a fair amount of the MSU-Wisconsin contest. They were both great wins for both schools, but in different ways. Michigan just ran through and around Indiana, just as they have everyone so far this season. MSU got a great win against Wisconsin, but let's look at some of the numbers a little closer.
Wisconsin RB James White, a very similar runner to Denard Robinson, only slower, gashed MSU for 98 yards on only 10 carries, and there wasn't a lot of misdirection. John Clay only had 80 yards, but averaged close to 5 yards a carry. Wisconsin's offensive line was able to open up holes, and (from what I saw) they continually beat MSU to the outside all day. What will happen when Robinson lines up with the spread option? He has eviscerated everyone, and I think it will be more of the same on Saturday. MSU came up with a great effort, and I don't want to take anything away from their effort, but Wisconsin dropped a lot of passes at the absolute worst time, and had they executed better, they would have won. As bad as they had played, the game was still there for the taking well into the fourth quarter. Was it Michigan State's defense coming up with schemes that confused Scott Tolzien and his receivers, or was it Wisconsin just not able to execute?
To stop this version of the spread, Michigan State must be able to bottle up Denard Robinson before he can either get to the outside or get to the second level. Is there anyone that can do that for the whole game? Greg Jones? He'll be the best player on the best defense that Michigan has faced this year, but Michigan can account for him and run away from where he is positioned. But let's say Jones can do a good job of bottling up Robinson when he runs, and the defensive line helps keep outside containment. Do you have faith in MSU's secondary to keep Michigan from passing? Personally, I think making Michigan a one dimensional passing team is the best way to stop them, but they've been almost as good passing the ball as they have been running.
To be fair, Michigan State is the best defense, with the most athletes, that Michigan has faced so far, and by a wide margin. If anyone can do it, it's the Spartans, but the more I watch Denard Robinson, the more I think I see a guy that is as close to unstoppable that college football has seen in a generation. More than Vince Young, more than Reggie Bush, more than His Holiness TIm Tebow. I don't know that there is a defense in the Big Ten that can stop this kid right now. His athletic ability is freakish in nature, he is fundamentally sound from a spread standpoint with a read option handoff as good as anyone in the FBS, he is a good decision maker, and his stop-start acceleration is better than anyone I have ever seen.
So it comes down to this--can Michigan State's offense outscore Michigan's? I don't think so. Michigan's offense just seems like a pinball machine, and even though Ben Chappell and Indiana went through the Wolverines like the government goes through money, I don't think that MSU can keep up score for score.
I agree with Graham when he says that MSU has been the story of the season so far. You could maybe argue Northwestern and the play of Dan Persa, but yeah, I'll buy Michigan State.
But I think the feel good story ends Saturday, with an eye opening thud.