After last Saturday’s loss to Iowa, the season seemed lost. MSU just blew a game it was supposed to win and the Big Ten title fell out of reach in all but the Ohio State sense of official. The Spartan Internets turned into a tail-eating imploding mess. The offense looked like a blubbering pile of sadness and I assumed it was because of the rain. After watching our friends in Ann Arbor put 45 up on Illinois though, it wasn’t only the damn rain. The offense cannot move the chains and shoulder almost the entire burden of MSU’s three losses this season.
In a season of maddening statistics here might be the most maddening one of all. MSU has the passer with the most yards(Maxwell) and the rusher with the most yards(Bell) in the Big Ten. You say MSU isn’t moving the ball? Apparently they are. Even more strangely, MSU and UM have the exact same redzone percentage at 87.5 on the same number of attempts (24). MSU has even kicked fourteen field goals, seven more than UM. So how does UM average 12.7 more points per game? Simple, MSU has scored 2 TD’s on offense from outside the redzone where Michigan has scored twelve.
In past years, MSU has saved it’s fancy dishes for whenever we get together with U of M. Every year, there’s a formation or package that gets it’s grand unveiling even if it might have helped out in a game or two previously. 2012 will be no different. I’m not sure how yet, there are so many tricks that an offensive coordinator can use to hide a bad offensive line, such as but not limited to: Screens, Draws, No huddle, Slants, three step drops. How many of those have you seen? I saw some of those things in the Boise State game and then with the exception of the No-Huddle package they up and vanished like a fart in the wind.
18.7. MSU has averaged 18.7 ppg in their losses. Only Utah State and Stanford have lost multiple games while conceding fewer points. 18.7 would give MSU the 27th best scoring defense in the nation. For as much internet jabber about how the Defense isn’t holding up to snuff they’re giving up three points fewer per game than last year.
So where am I going with all of this?
The stats really bear out the story that the defense is the keystone of the team this year despite their message board whining about their lack of dominance. What’s surprising though is how close the offense has been to being keystone instead of Keystone Cops which is how I envision them in my head. The key to beating UM has nothing to do with making grand alterations to the defense. That gameplan is simple, keep everything between the tackles and just hold the score down. MSU has been able to do that the last three years and the only defense in that bunch that was better was the 2011 version. In fact Denard Wolverines have score 20, 17, 14 respectively. They’re only “due” to score 11 this year.
On offense, MSU has to finish drives this week. Notice I didn’t say in the redzone. MSU is fine once it gets in the redzone. To do that MSU will need to improve itself in the rushing game substantially. This is not a function of Le’Veon Bell, this is a function of the leading rusher in the Big Ten frequently being on a team where he’s the only trusted running back. For all of his foibles in the Punt Return game, Nick Hill looked just fine as a change of pace back against Iowa. MOAR of that please.,
This game is going to rely on Dan Roushar’s ability to take advantage of the flashes Mumphery and Burbridge have been showing. The game is going to rely on creative playcalling to help MSU finish drives. Maxwell and Bell have been moving the sticks this year in spite of the fact it feels like they haven’t been. They just need some help getting into a position to close. They don’t even need to score tons, a simple average of 17 points will be enough.
Figure out a way to get three touchdowns and MSU walks out of Ann Arbor with the Paul Bunyan trophy. It’s that simple.