Friday, September 14, 2012

Keys to victory for MSU/Notre Dame, Michigan/UMass

We are just 24 hours away from another busy Saturday of college football. Here is a look at my three keys to victory for Michigan and Michigan State.

3 Keys for Michigan vs. UMass
Start Fast – UMass doesn’t have much to offer in this game, so Michigan needs to put the Minutemen away quickly. This is a game that should provide an opportunity for a lot of backups and underclassmen to get snaps, so it is important for Michigan to not let this game linger on into the second half.
Find Some Confidence On Defense – The Wolverines have not been strong on defense, particularly against the run and on the defensive line. Michigan needs to find a little confidence this week in that regard. The Wolverines should be able to overpower UMass up front and get into the backfield. Brady Hoke said he wants to see his guys do a better job of getting off blocks this week. If they can’t do that against UMass, there may not be a team they will be able to do it against.
Stay Healthy – This isn’t something Michigan has a lot of control over, but in a game like this, you don’t want to have anyone get injured. Don’t have Denard Robinson take too many hits. Give him the opportunity to make plays, but look to establish Fitzgerald Toussaint and other offensive weapons other than Denard. Also, as said before, get the backups some reps in this game when it gets out of hand.

3 Keys for MSU vs. Notre Dame
Test Golson – Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is playing in his first true road game under the lights. I am sure he will have some nerves and there is a possibility for mistakes to happen for the Notre Dame offense. The Spartans need to pressure Golson early with different blitz packages and make him have to make quick decisions. The MSU secondary is strong enough to play 1-on-1 coverage in this game, so don’t give Golson time to look for openings. If he is rushed into throwing, it should lead to turnovers.
Win The Battle Up Front – This is talking about the offensive line. So far, MSU has been able to run the ball well, but the Spartans aren’t exactly gashing defenses either. Bell has been steady, but is picking up yards in small chunks. The Notre Dame defense has been very strong thus far, but is untested. MSU will need to be able to establish Bell in this game in order to control the tempo and keep Andrew Maxwell from being under fire all contest. The Irish had four sacks last week against Purdue and forced the Boilermakers into just 19 of 37 passing. If the Spartans have to rely on Maxwell to win, he may not be up to the task.
Special Teams Need To Be Special – I expect points to be at a premium in this game, so every yard will count. Field position will play a big role, as will field goals. The Irish have yet to hit a field goal past 40 yards this season, but their coverage units have been strong. Dan Conroy has a 50-yard field goal this season for MSU, but he is 0-2 from 30-49 yards. Conroy will need to be on his game. Return man Nick Hill could also be a big asset for the Spartans. He is averaging over 15 yards per punt return, and a big return could mean the difference between a win and a loss on Saturday.

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