Friday, November 2, 2012
Keys to victory for Michigan/MSU against Minnesota/Nebraska
- 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 –
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.
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.
- Pressure on
Martinez – 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 Michigan
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
can’t establish a
steady run game with Le’Veon Bell, the offense will continue to struggle as
they have most of the season. Michigan
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
- 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.