Friday, October 12, 2012

Keys to victory for MSU, Michigan against Iowa, Illinois

The seventh week of the college football season is upon us tomorrow. Here are a look at keys to victory for MSU and Michigan on Saturday.

MSU vs. Iowa
Start fast – Michigan State has not been too good at this in recent weeks, but starting fast will be very important in this game. The Hawkeyes have had their two losses this season come by a combined four points. Iowa is a team that tends to hang around, so MSU doesn’t want to leave this game up to a few plays in the fourth quarter. The defense needs to limit the big play early and the offense has to find a way to get the ball to its receivers in open space.
Look for Burbridge – Michigan State finally got a receiving performance it could build on last week as freshman Aaron Burbridge caught eight passes for 134 yards. Burbridge made some tough catches in traffic and moved well with the ball. The Spartans need to find ways to get him the ball and make him a focal point in the offense. Next to Michigan State, Iowa has the next-best rushing defense in the Big Ten, so the Spartans will have to be able to move the ball through the air, and Burbridge will play a big part in that.
Get to the quarterback – Iowa is far from an offensive juggernaut. The Hawkeyes average just 22.6 points per game right now and only 200 passing yards per game. Quarterback James Vandenberg has just two touchdowns passes with two interceptions this season and he has been sacked six times. Michigan State has to get pressure on him and force him into bad passes. The Spartans have just five sacks this year from a front line that has been hyped up all season. It’s time for the front four to live up to that hype and create havoc for the quarterback.

Michigan vs. Illinois
Don’t look ahead – Illinois has been bad, no doubt about it. But, the Wolverines can’t start looking ahead to Michigan State until this game is over. The Illini can still be a dangerous team and they are desperate for a win. Michigan just needs to take care of its business and then move on to the Spartans.
Build off last week’s game plan – I thought Al Borges did a real nice job with the way he attacked Purdue on offense and I think that is what will work against Illinois on Saturday. Use the run heavily to open up the occasional big pass plays, get Denard Robinson in space and try to find some balance with the other backs. Robinson had to do most of the work on the ground last week, but he didn’t get “beat up” doing it. That will be important again this week.

Make Scheelhaase a passer – Michigan’s defense has taken on a whole new identity over the last few games, really shutting down opponents. This week, they take on a quarterback with some questionable passing ability. In limited action, Scheelhaase is just 65 of 104 passing for 659 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. He does have the ability to run the ball, as he had 84 yards on 22 carries at Wisconsin last week. Michigan would be wise to keep Scheelhaase in the pocket and make him beat the defense with his arm, which I don’t think he can do. If Scheelhaase is able to find open running lanes on the outside, he can create some big offensive plays and make the game interesting.

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