UMAA at Michigan State - GAME PREDICTION

UMAA at Michigan State - GAME PREDICTION

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UMAA at Michigan State - GAME PREDICTION

#24 Michigan State will play #6 UMAA in a football game this Saturday at Spartan Stadium. What is going to happen in this football game?

Contact @crowleysullivan

It’s practically universal across the UMAA Twitterverse and general Maize and Blue neighborhood.

“I hate this week.”

The whole thing is a nuisance for them.

It’s something they just want get through so it all can be over and done with.

They spend the entire week of the UMAA – Ohio State game weeping with nostalgia, waxing poetic about the days (of forty years ago) when temperamental coaches battled one another for ten years as violins play bittersweet melodies and everyone speaks quietly and wistfully of how the annual game is a rite of passage and that America wouldn’t be America without it.

The game that occurs each year between Michigan State and UMAA doesn’t need all of the set-in-stone folklore combined with sepia-toned film and mythological folly.

This game is, instead, frenetic, chaotic, nasty, stressful, and sloppy in every way.

And I think these are some of the reasons why they don’t ever have any fun with it.

It’s really messy.

The nastiness isn’t covered over by anything – it’s all right out there in the open and the scabs and the bitterness isn’t ever made any easier to handle due to any contrived “honor to be associated with it” type of thing.

There isn’t any Autumnal rhythm to it either – it’s never played on the same weekend.

This must really cause a lot of problems for the UMAA set since there is a fastidiousness that goes along with being elitist.

The herky-jerky nature of the scheduling of the game doesn’t ever matter even a tiny bit to the Spartans – “Oh – the game’s on October 20th this year?  Okay. Excellent.  I’ll bring a pumpkin to the tailgate.”

The hatred and bitterness on the UMAA side speaks more to the annoyances of the entire thing rather than the “rivalry.”

Most UMAAers, as has been said forever and will continue to be said forever since people like Desmond Howard say it out loud on national television, don’t even consider this to be a “rivalry” which is why we put the word in quotes here.

Spartans don’t ever put quotes around the word for this game.

And, deep down, the UMAAers wish they had the same intense feeling about this game as Spartans do.

It’s not any fun for them.

And they kind of are envious of the fun that’s had on the other side.

I saw where Denard Robsinson sent out a Twitter where he asked the UMAAers to save their talk for after the game since “MSU has been showing us up every year.”

Denard Robinson shows some maturity, some perspective, and some sanity here.

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

For some people, Thanksgiving is a major pain in the neck.

Those people think about how it’s going to be stressful and bothersome to have to spend four or five hours with some relatives who they really just don’t want to be around.

  • The brother-in-law who gets drunk and says stupid stuff before, during, and after dinner and doesn’t even realize he’s a drunk and a jerk and a pretty dumb guy.
  • The step-father-in-law who thinks he’s smart but really he’s just a bit of a dolt.
  • The mother-in-law who really isn’t all that nice and sort of has pursed lips all afternoon and evening because she’s just kind of bitter about her house getting messed up by everyone.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who can’t wait for Thanksgiving all year because of the countless things that are so great about it.

  • The non-stop gluttonous enjoyment of food that’s made by everyone with care and provides everyone at the table with mounds of tastiness.
  • The football that gets played early, the football that gets watched all afternoon and night, the devouring of the feast that, for some, is the best 45 minutes of the year because it’s one of the featured elements of what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about.
  • The eating of the leftovers later that night and for the rest of the weekend.
  • The laughs, the family, and the fun.

One perspective stems from a person who has an attitude that everyone is beneath him/her and that his/her time is too important to stoop to such cliched and annoying things like finding entertainment in the drunk brother-in-law.

The other perspective stems from a person who has perspective, understands that he/she should be grateful for what he/she has, and embraces the dynamics of life’s cliched traditions even if there are imperfections everywhere while the traditions are being embraced and enjoyed.

IMPERFECTIONS

There are imperfections abound right now as one side is counting down the minutes to the time when this week can finally be over and done with.

The other side is counting down the minutes to kickoff and the hope that yet another celebration can be had after yet another victory in what has been a decade+ long Thanksgiving dinner.

And Jim Brandstatter and Dan Deirdorf will walk around East Lansing and inside of Spartan Stadium with instinctive condescension, praying to God that they don’t have to sneak out of the place and hear all of the rubes whopping it up all around them another time.

Memo to Brandstatter and Dierdorf – get ready to sneak, slink, and sluff out of there as quickly as possible.

IS THE UMAA MACHINE AS GOOD AS PEOPLE THINK IT IS?

UMAA has a nifty team this year – that’s for sure.

Ever since Notre Dame made UMAA look like Brady Hoke was back, things have improved and the victories have been impressive.

However, just how impressed should everyone really be?

Let’s take a look at each game that UMAA has played this season and let’s include a quick look at each game’s leaders –

At Notre Dame – lost, 24-17.

Shea Patterson threw for 227 yards, Karan Higdon rushed for 72 yards, Nico Collins had 66 yards receiving.

Vs Western Michigan – won, 49-3.

Patterson threw for 125 yards, Higdon ran for 156 yards, Collins had 44 yards receiving.

Vs SMU – won, 45-20.

Patterson threw for 237 yards, Chris Evans ran for 85 yards, Zac Gentry had 95 receiving yards.

Vs Nebraska – won 56-10.

Patterson threw for 120 yards, Higdon ran for 136 yards, Ronnie Bell had 56 yards receiving.

At Northwestern – won 20-17.

Patterson threw for 196 yards, Higdon ran for 115, Collins had 73 yards receiving.

Vs Maryland – won 42-21.

Patterson threw for 282 yards, Higdon ran for 103 yards,  Gentry caught for 112 yards.

Vs Wisconsin – won 38-13.

Patterson threw for 282 yards, Higdon 105 yards, Collins caught for 31 yards.

UMAA comes into this game riding a six-game winning streak, a #6 national ranking, has the nation’s #2 overall defense, and is surging at 6-1.

But which of the performances referenced above is supposed to make Michigan State fans think this game is not a game that Michigan State can win?

UMAA’s win at Northwestern is significant since Northwestern punked the Spartans in East Lansing and Michigan State looked as bad as the Spartans have looked in a long time that afternoon.

But, even in the case of UMAA’s win over the Wildcats, Northwestern had a 17-0 lead in the first half – maybe Northwestern is a pretty decent team?

UMAA’s defeat of Wisconsin was impressive – but do any of us really think that Wisconsin is A) all that great this season and B) played that game while conscious?

UMAA has a very imposing defense that’s filled with fast, punishing athletes.

But the one team that UMAA faced that’s Top 10-good (Notre Dame) handled them pretty easily as the Irish were in control of that ball game all night – and Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush had his way with the defense.

UMAA OFFENSE vs STATE’S FRONT SEVEN

There sure is a lot of talk about how UMAA’s offensive line, led by water-walker Ed Warriner, has reinvented the way to block and protect.

Has the UMAA fan really, truly asked him/herself if this UMAA offensive line has faced a defensive front seven that’s even remotely close to as good as the one Michigan State has?

UMAA running back Karan Higdon has looked very good through seven games.

Does anyone really think that Karan Higdon is better than Saquon Barkley, the guy who the Spartans held to 63 yards last season?

Shea Patterson has played well.

Patterson is the guy who humbly and quietly transferred to UMAA after a stint as Mississippi’s quarterback where he played in The Egg Bowl.

Does anyone really think that Patterson is better than Trace McSorley, the guy who Michigan State has beaten two years in a row and just totally inoculated last Saturday by limiting him to minimal yards through the air and on the ground?

For all of the talk about this UMAA offensive line, it’s, basically, the same one that Michigan State manhandled a year ago.

Higdon ran for 65 yards against the Spartans last year in Michigan State’s 14-10 punch-in-the-gut victory.

Yes, Ed Warriner has sprinkled some pixie dust over these UMAA beefeaters and they’re very good and they’ve appeared to coalesce.

But when Mike Panasiuk, Jacub Panasiuk, Raequan Williams, Kenny Willekes, Jack Camper, Gerald Owens, Naquan Jones, and Dillon Alexander are out there on the field playing against the exact same guys they Spartaned last season, what makes anyone think that these guys in Green & White are going to ask for their blankies midway through the 4th quarter?

Joe Bachie, Andrew Dowell, Antjuan Simmons, Brandon Bouyer-Randle, and Tyriq Thompson all still play linebacker for Michigan State, don’t they?

Are these guys sheepish heading into the game this Saturday?

PATTERSON & UMAA OFFENSE vs STATE’S SECONDARY

Can Shea Patterson connect with his collection of receivers and take advantage of what has been an underperforming Spartan secondary?

Clayton Thorson sure did.

Trace McSorley, however, did not.

All afternoon against Penn State, the Spartan secondary suggested that it might be too soon to bury them just yet by providing Michigan State with blanket coverage while the entire defense pressured and hurried McSorley all afternoon.

If Shea Patterson, Karan Higdon, the offensive line, and the receiving corps for UMAA are all able to play great football and put up, say, 28 points, I’ll tip my cap to them.

I just have a hard time seeing how they’re going to do that against a defense that, for one thing, is #1 in the nation against the run and, for another thing, is as confident and as energized as its been all season.

UMAA scored 10 points against this defense last season.

Maybe Shea Patterson can account for three extra touchdowns.

Maybe he won’t.

STATE’S OFFENSE vs UMAA’s #1 DEFENSE

Meanwhile, what about UMAA’s #1 ranked defense and the prospects of Michigan State being able to do anything against that defense?

It’s true – UMAA’s defense is damn good.

And Michigan State has, I think, a total of 3 healthy players to represent the 11 offensive positions on the field of play.

On top of that, the Michigan State offensive line has been anemic for most of this season.

Ah – but what about that offensive line for Michigan State?

People should not be – nor are they – questioning Spartan offensive line coach Mark Staten’s ability.  They could be fairly questioning how he’s remained sane since he’s had to deal with a rash of injuries that would send most offensive line coaches to the rubber room.

However, last week against Penn State, Staten had, for the first time this season, five players play the same position for every snap of the game without a single change due to anything at all.

As we’ve noted here many times, the return of Cole Chewins appeared to have a very positive impact on the stability, the rhythm, the cohesion, and overall performance of that line against Penn State.

The rushing numbers against Penn State didn’t create any reason for celebration – however, the cohesive dynamic, the ability to play a full game without any penalties that caused drives to be stalled (Michigan State had a total of 3 penalties for 20 yards in the win over Penn State), the effectiveness of the line to create room for the Spartan backs and time for Brian Lewerke to make plays, and the scheme itself – an adjustment to zone blocking rather than head-against-wall-pounding – all has created a confidence this line hasn’t had this season.

Can Michigan State rush for 250 yards against the UMAA defense?

Unlikely.

Will Michigan State need to rush for 250 yards against UMAA to win this game?

No.

Michigan State held onto the football for ten more minutes than Penn State thanks to the performance of the offensive line.

If Michigan State can have a meaningful advantage in time of possession, the Spartans will be in good shape.

WHO WOULD YOU WANT AS YOUR DIFFERENCE-MAKER?

Last season, Brian Lewerke ran for 61 yards on 15 carries against UMAA.

His gutty, instinctive, fast, and powerful 14-yard touchdown run against this defense set the tone for the whole game.

Lewerke isn’t going to be wondering if he can run against these guys – he already has.

Lewerke isn’t going to be wondering if he can make the plays against these guys – he already has.

And while Darrell Stewart and Jalen Nailor are questionable for Saturday (if they don’t play, it’ll be surprising), Felton Davis will be in uniform.

Can Michigan State make enough plays to win this game with only one dangerous receiver?

Ask Plaxico Burress or Charles Rogers.

Or Braylon Edwards.

A single player can – and often does – make the difference in this game.

If you had to choose one, single player as the guy you’d predict was going to be that guy to be the difference-maker, who would you pick?

Shea Patterson, a talented quarterback who’s experience that’s preparing him for the intensity of this game is The Egg Bowl?

Karan Kigdon, the guy who ran for 65 yards against these exact same guys last year?

Donovan Peoples-Jones, the guy who accounted for a total of 15 yards in this game last season?

Or Felton Davis, the star senior Spartan playing in his last game against these guys in front of the lunatics that will make Spartan Stadium a living hell for UMAA all afternoon?

THE MAGIC RECIPE

Mark Dantonio isn’t a magician.

He’s not a wizard.

When, from time to time, he says things like, “There isn’t some magical recipe…” he’s not being coy.

But, I watched Nick Hill talk with Bob Wojnowski on Wojnowski’s fun “College Football Show” and Hill spoke of what Dantonio is like during the week of this game.

“He’s still calm, still focused on making sure everyone is focused on the fundamentals and their assignments, and the game plan….”

There’s a very important ingredient right there – particularly the word “calm.”

Prior to this amazing run during the Mark Dantonio Era, this week was often anything but calm for Spartans.

The entire approach was frothy.

And there is a need for frothiness and crazed intensity and all of that.

But if that crazed intensity doesn’t have any meat on the bone in the way of preparation and fundamental execution and a disciplined approach to playing with a controlled intensity, the intensity and rage just becomes counterproductive – and even silly.

Dantonio has found the right way to manage the intensity and rage while making sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be, what they’re supposed to be doing, how everyone should just be calmly confident, and properly focused.

But then Nick Hill said this: “Oh, but all week, Coach D shows clips to the team of past moments against Michigan……He always shows the Mike Hart quote…..then he shows what he said after that about how it’ll never be over and how it’s just starting….he shows that stuff all throughout the week and then he peaks on Saturday.”

Does UMAA have anything at all like that that they utilize that makes the team’s preparation for this game extra special?

No doubt, UMAA’s J. Ira and Nikki Harris Family Head Football Coach has his players focused on the fundamentals and their assignments and playing great football.

But from what bag does he pull to get that extra froth going that, no matter what any of the UMAAers want to say, is essential in a game like this?

A clip of Bob Ufer saying that Michigan State isn’t really that big of a game for UMAA?

Desmond Howard saying that because more UMAA jerseys are sold, Michigan State isn’t a rival?

Lloyd Carr talking about how his players deserved better?

Brady Hoke and that guy who planted a spike into the Spartan Stadium turf for reasons that remain unknown to this day giving a pregame speech?

A video clip of Rich Rodriguez wondering if Michigan State is located in Lansing?

All of this stuff matters.

It’s why Michigan State has won eight of eleven – eight of the last ten – since Dantonio arrived.

And it’s going to matter on Saturday – once again, more than the UMAA people think.

And when the game is tight and the place is going bananas and calm, confident, strong leadership is needed from the man in charge, who would you want as your main man?

A guy who has yet to win a meaningful game, who has temper tantrums all game long, and has tightened up to the point of freezing in every close game he’s coached at UMAA?

Or would you want the guy who has proven time and time again that he’s as cool as a cucumber when the pressure is most intense, has slayed ten Top 10 teams since becoming the head man at Michigan State, and has a day-in, day-out commitment to the significance of this game?

WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN?

And what about the guy that nobody’s saying anything at all about?

Matt Coghlin.

This guy has not missed a kick this season and is the record holder for consecutive field goals made in Michigan State history.

The guy has ice water running through his veins.

The kick is good.

UMAA – 21

MICHIGAN STATE – 23

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