Friday, November 2, 2012

Keys to victory for Michigan/MSU against Minnesota/Nebraska

Michigan and Michigan State hit the field in 24 hours for a pair of Big Ten games. Here are my keys to victory for both teams on Saturday.

Michigan at Minnesota, Noon
- Be smart with Denard – It is fully expected for Denard Robinson to play on Saturday, but he may not be 100 percent. If the Wolverines are going to have a shot at the Big Ten title, they need Robinson to play the rest of the season. Against a team like Minnesota, Michigan should be able to move the ball on the ground with players like Fitzgerald Toussaint. The Golden Gophers have the third-worst rushing defense in the Big Ten, so Michigan should be able to exploit that with a healthy mix of ball carriers other than Robinson. I’m not saying don’t utilize Robinson, that would be silly, but keep his touches lower than normal and try to avoid piling up the hits on him.
- Stop the obvious players – Minnesota doesn’t have much in regards to big offensive stars. Running back Donnell Kirkwood is the top player, as he has 609 yards rushing with three scores this season. Michigan can live with Minnesota trying to win the game on his legs. I don’t see Minnesota being able to establish enough of a running game to be a one-dimensional offense. Where Michigan needs to avoid a letdown is in the passing game. Minnesota will take some chances, but their lone receiver with any stats of note is A.J. Barker, who has 30 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns. The next closest receiver has just 13 catches for under 200 yards. If Minnesota is going to air it out, it will be to Barker. Michigan needs to stay close to him and focus a lot of coverage his way. If someone is going to beat the Wolverines on Saturday, make sure it is not him.
- Slow the game down early – Coming off their 44-28 win over Purdue last week, the Golden Gophers have some new life and will be looking to start Saturday’s game with a bang to get the crowd into it. Michigan needs to avoid getting caught up in that and play a smart, methodical pace on offense. Don’t come out of the gates looking for the 70-yard score. Steady drives down the field will take the crowd out of the game and keep the Minnesota offense from being on the field. Michigan can send its biggest message by controlling the line of scrimmage and dictating the pace of Saturday’s game.

Nebraska at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m.
- Pressure on MartinezMichigan State knows what it’s like to meet up against mobile quarterback. They have had success against Denard Robinson but struggled against the likes of Braxton Miller. In this game, the Spartans need to have the same mentality they had against Robinson. They need to keep Martinez in the pocket and now allow him to get to the outside where he can make plays with his legs. If they can contain the pocket and apply pressure on the ends, it should lead to turnovers. Martinez is a better passer than Denard Robinson, but he still has his flaws and will makes mistakes if he tries to force throws under pressure.
- Line improvement – I am not sure if this is a realistic possibility, but the offensive line has to play better. The Spartans need to avoid penalties and missed assignments up front. If Michigan State can’t establish a steady run game with Le’Veon Bell, the offense will continue to struggle as they have most of the season. Nebraska has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the Big Ten, so their defensive line is not exactly a powerhouse. The Spartan linemen need to challenge themselves and win the battle up front to help the offense finally have a breakout performance.
- Make the plays that need to be made – Like most MSU games, this one will probably come down to a handful of plays late. Michigan State made the key plays last week at Wisconsin and a lot of that had to do with quarterback Andrew Maxwell and his receivers stepping up. The same needs to be done this week. Maxwell has to play with confidence and make the tough throws in a small window. The receivers need to make the tough catches and avoid the drops that hurt them early in the season. Perhaps last week’s finish will lead to an improved offense. We will find out soon enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment