Phil Callihan and Clint Derringer discuss Michigan’s upcoming versus Michigan State.
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LAST WEEK RECAP
During the Week 11 Bye, we looked at 2018 & 2019 through 9 games, and we kept an eye on what to expect in the final 3 games.
PREGAME SP+: Michigan by 12.7, Michigan Win Probability 77%
Bill Connelly’s metric system is now dialed in with eleven weeks worth of data. With that said, the SP+ spread has moved in Michigan’s direction by only 1.2 points, with a small 2-point bump in Win Probability.
Michigan Offense (43rd) vs. Michigan State Defense (11th)
Michigan’s offense has not been quite as good as expected, but the Spartan defense hasn’t either. When I have watched Michigan State games in 2019, it feels an awful lot like watching the Wolverines in 2017. This defense is good, but they just cannot maintain a high level of play for a full 60 minutes. A lot of that is because the offense does not give them breaks in time of possession or field position. But, the Michigan State defense is also prone to making mistakes that turn into explosive plays. Offensively, Michigan has shown that they can be effective against top defenses. The Wolverines have played three top 10 SP+ defenses (Wisconsin, Iowa, & Penn State), plus Notre Dame is 23rd. The key will be whether Josh Gattis’ group comes out of the bye week sharp enough to exploit the inevitable MSU mistakes for big plays.
Michigan Defense (4th) vs. Michigan State Offense (84th)
The match up between Michigan’s defense and MSU’s offense will determine whether this game remains tight, or gets out of hand. The Spartans will definitely want to turn this game into a rock fight by grinding out first downs and playing the field position game. As Don Brown has transitioned to multiple fronts, and mixed in more zone coverage, Michigan has allowed some yardage but has tightened up on scoring opportunities. In this game, MSU would gladly march between the 20 yard lines and milk the clock. The Wolverines must turn the rivalry game energy and emotion into a laser focus on run fits during standard downs. Once they’ve forced Michigan State into passing downs, Michigan will be looking to create havoc.
PREDICTION: As bad as the Spartan offense has been, SP+ thinks their special teams are worse. They are currently ranked 108th nationally. This doesn’t bode well for the field position rock fight strategy that I expect from Mark Dantonio. I was happy to hear Jim Harbaugh using “High Alert” as the program mantra this week. This season was reduced to a one-game season in October. Potentially winning this game is the last shred of opportunity remaining the Spartans. Dantonio will have them playing at their highest level, but that won’t be good enough. #LeaveNoDoubt
Michigan 24 Michigan State 7 (PRESEASON Michigan 17 MSU 13)
The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 1998. The offseason preceding the 1998 football season was arguably the most enjoyable of the modern era of Michigan football. The previous season, Michigan finished with a perfect record, a Big Ten championship, a Rose Bowl championship, and even a share of the national championship. Michigan Stadium had been expanded by 5,000 seats to reclaim its status as the nation’s largest on-campus stadium, and the Wolverines had landed the top overall player in the 1998 recruiting class, quarterback Drew Henson, and a very explosive running back, Justin Fargas. The offseason party lasted a long time in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, a little too long.
The Wolverines started the season with losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse. Charles Woodson had left early for the NFL, and Marcus Ray had been suspended for dealing with an agent. By the time the Wolverines finally woke up from their offseason party, it was clear the Wolverines still had lampshades from the party on their heads, when they should have been wearing the winged helmet.
By the fourth game of the season, those helmets were on, and they buckled tightly. Michigan State roared into The Big House, and following a Bill Burke touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, the Spartans led, 10-3. After a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Michigan State got the ball back, but Paul Edinger missed a field goal, giving the ball back to Michigan. Tom Brady then put the ball in the very capable hands of Anthony Thomas, who rumbled 69 yards to tie the score. The Wolverines led by three at the half, but Michigan State had the momentum, and the ball starting the second half. That’s when the Wolverines regained their identity. The defense shut out Sparty in the second half, Jay Feely kicked his third field goal of the day, and 49-yard pass from Brady to Marcus Knight set up a Brady sneak, and Michigan went on to beat Michigan State, 29-17, highlighting all the usual strengths of a Lloyd Carr team.
The Wolverines finished 10-3 in 1998, losing to Ohio State, but topping Arkansas in a bowl game. The shame is that if the Wolverines had started the season with the same focus they had the previous year, things might have turned out much better.
Thanks to YouTube, ABC Sports, and YouTube poster CMB 7686 for the video. As always, I own nothing, and I do not profit in any way from this blog post.
The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry takes us back to 1976. The Nation was celebrating its Bicentennial, and Michigan was celebrating the development of a new quarterback, then sophomore Rick Leach. Today, Leach would be called a run-pass option QB, but the option was part of Michigan’s package back then, and the triple option was fairly prominent across the nation. Leach could it all, run, pass, read the defense, you name it. And when he handed the ball off, his “lack of ball” fakes gave the defense an extra element to think about — as if they didn’t already have enough problems!
Sadly, it’s virtually impossible to find a box score, or a game story, or anything on this game except the final score (Michigan 42, Michigan State 10) and the film below, which doesn’t have any audio. The most important thing to know is this: Michigan dominated Michigan State. That win was the Wolverines’ seventh of eight consecutive victories against the Spartans, and it’s clear that Bo quickly learned never to underestimate Michigan State, a lesson that paid dividends throughout Bo’s tenure in Ann Arbor.
In addition to Leach, there were many outstanding players on the 1976 Michigan team, including four players who were named All-Americans, Rob Lyle, Calvin O’Neal, Jim Smith, and Mark Donahue. But one of the most interesting stories came from left tackle Mike Kenn, who was never a household name. Kenn went on to play 17 years with the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League, and gained acclaim as one of the few players who could hold his own against Lawrence Taylor. Long, rangy, and very light for an offensive tackle, Kenn relied on technique and smarts to overcome most pass rushers, skills he learned from Michigan offensive line coach Jerry Hanlon. Listening to Hanlon speak, it’s almost difficult to imagine that such a soft-spoken man could develop such dominant offensive linemen.
As always, I own nothing and I do profit from this blog post in any way. Many thanks to YouTube and YouTube poster Ed G. Berry for the video below.
The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us to 1968. With the notable exception of 1964, the Wolverines hadn’t exactly prospered in the ‘60s. Michigan had two players who were named to several All-America squads in 1968. Running back Ron Johnson gained more than 2,500 yards that season, while defensive back Tom Curtis intercepted 10 passes. The Michigan roster was stocked with many talented players, but the more talented team doesn’t always win the Michigan-Michigan State contest.
In fact, Michigan opened the 1968 season with a loss to California, which made coach Bump Elliott’s seat even warmer than it had been. Going into the game against Michigan State, the Wolverines had a 1-2 record, and they had lost the previous three games against the Spartans. For Johnson, in particular, this game would be his last hope for victory against Michigan State. If the Wolverines didn’t win this one, Johnson, and the other seniors on the Michigan squad, would be haunted by the result for the rest of their lives.
Johnson didn’t take long to make his presence felt, scoring on a 38-yard run to give Michigan the early lead. But in the fourth quarter, Michigan State quarterback Charlie Wedemeyer found receiver Frank Foreman in the end zone, and after the two-point conversion, Michigan State led, 14-13. Facing yet another potential defeat by their rivals, the Wolverines leaned heavily on Johnson, and he delivered. Johnson carried the ball 19 times in the game, gaining 152 yards, and touchdowns by future All-America tight end Jim Mandich and Montclair, New Jersey native Garvie Craw led the Wolverines to a 28-14, giving the outgoing seniors their shining moment in the in-state rivalry.
After college, many members of the 1968 team went on to prominent careers. After prospering in a blue jersey in college, Johnson wore blue with the New York Football Giants, where he became the first player in franchise history to gain at least 1,000 yards in a season. Curtis, too, wore blue in the NFL, where he won Super Bowl V in the 1970 season with the Baltimore Colts. Mandich went on to win two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, and served as the de facto spokesperson for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins for many years after his retirement. Sadly, both Johnson and Mandich passed away in recent years.
Thanks to YouTube, the University of Michigan, and YouTube poster WolverineHistorian for the following video clip. As always, I do not profit in any way from this blog post and video, which are presented strictly for the enjoyment of blog readers.