Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reasons Michigan can beat Michigan State

On paper, I don’t feel like Saturday’s meeting with Michigan State is a good matchup for Michigan. Despite that, there are some areas I think Michigan can take advantage of. Here are some of the reasons the Wolverines can beat the Spartans.

- One-on-one coverage – Michigan State’s defense is so good that the Spartans can play one-on-one coverage on the outside. Most teams have taken a number of deep shots on the Spartans, but have been unable to capitalize on those attempts. Devin Gardner isn’t a great short-field passer, but has a big arm and a couple of athletic receivers in Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess. Michigan has the potential to hit on some big plays down field if Gardner gets time to throw deep.

- Mobile quarterback – Denard Robinson didn’t have a lot of success against Michigan State, but last season, mobile quarterbacks posed a problem for the Spartans. This is a different MSU team, but the defensive philosophies are still the same. Braxton Miller had over 300 total yards of offense in beating MSU in East Lansing last season while Taylor Martinez rushed for 205 yards while throwing for 160 at Spartan Stadium in 2012. Gardner is a better passer than Robinson and also has plenty of mobility, as he has rushed for 520 yards and nine scores this season.

- Dennis Norfleet – Norfleet hasn’t exactly been outstanding on kick returns, averaging just 24 yards per return, but it is clear he has the ability to break one. Norfleet could be a big weapon for the Wolverines on Saturday if he gets an opening. With the MSU defense being as strong as it is, Michigan is going to have to take advantage of special teams, with Norfleet being its biggest key.

- Connor Cook – Ultimately, this game looks like it will be decided by the Michigan State quarterback. Which Connor Cook will show up on Saturday? Will it be the one that struggled mightily against Purdue, going just 13 of 25 passing for 107 yards, or will it be the one that showed up last Saturday at Illinois, going 15 of 16 passing for 208 yards with three touchdowns? If Michigan faces the bad Cook, or if Cook feels the nerves in his first start in this rivalry, the Wolverines will have a great opportunity to win at Spartan Stadium.

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