Friday, October 26, 2012

Keys to victory for MSU/Michigan against Wisconsin/Nebraska

A pair of big games for Michigan and Michigan State are just a day away. Here are my keys to victory for each contest.

MSU at Wisconsin
Survive the early storm Wisconsin will be very up for this game and look to make an early statement. The Badgers have started to find their groove on offense, having scored at least 31 points in their last three games against struggling defenses. The MSU defense will need to come out fast and contain Montee Ball. Offensively, MSU needs to be able to convert third downs and put a drive or two together to take the loud Madison crowd out of the game.
Turn The Tables – Most defenses have been stacking the box against MSU and forcing Andrew Maxwell to have to beat them. In this case, MSU needs to take the same approach against Wisconsin. The Badgers rank110th in the country in passing and have already went through two quarterbacks. I am not overly impressed with Joel Stave and think the Spartans would be wise to play one-one-one coverage against the Wisconsin receivers while putting all their focus on stopping Ball. Stave has five touchdowns to three interceptions and is completing 57 percent of his passes. He is bound to make some freshman mistakes if put under pressure.
Finish Drives – Michigan State seemed to make some positive strides in its passing game last week, but the Spartans once again settled for field goals instead of touchdowns deep in the red zone. This week, Michigan State needs to make the most of each opportunity. If Dion Sims is able to play, that should help in both the passing game and the run game. In order for Maxwell to take the next step as a starting quarterback, he has to make the big throws in the red zone.

Michigan at Nebraska
Get back to what works – Michigan struggled on offense last week and I know part of that had to do with the MSU defense, but I felt that the Wolverines played right into the Spartans’ hands. Michigan didn’t do much attacking outside the tackle box with Denard Robinson. It ran right into the MSU trap. For this game, Nebraska isn’t as talented on defense and Robinson should be able to find open space and rack up the yards. But, Michigan still needs to show some creativity and mix things up by getting Fitzgerald Toussaint, Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls involved as well.
Take your chances with Martinez’ arm – Taylor Martinez has made strides as a passer this year, but Nebraska’s strength is its run game, including Martinez. Even if Rex Burkhead is out for the game, the Cornhuskers are more than capable of moving the ball on the ground. Like the Wolverines did against MSU, Michigan needs to stack the box and challenge Martinez to throw deep. Michigan may give up the occasional big play with that game plan, but I don’t see Martinez being able to consistently beat Michigan through the air.
Finish – Similar to MSU, Michigan needs to finish drives in this game. That hasn’t been much of a problem for the Wolverines this year, but Nebraska is a feisty team at home. If/when the Wolverines have a chance to put this game out of reach, it must do it because Nebraska can rally in a hurry. Just ask Wisconsin. Field goals won’t get the job done in this one.

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