A loss at home to Sparty this Saturday and the bowl streak is over. Odds are the streak will end anyway, but hope stays alive for another week with a win. Given the calibre teams to which Michigan has lost on occassion this year, the chances of winning in Columbus are slim and none and that may be the back of Slim’s head off in the distance. So if there is any chance of winning six games this season, Michigan needs to win its next four. A pretty tall order for a team that has won only twice in seven tries.
It is indicative of where the program stands that beating Sparty is make-or-break to Michigan?s season. Well, winning will not make the season, but losing ostensibly ends it.
If Michigan can win this week, they have three consecutive games against perennial Big Ten lesser lights?Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern. After three straight losses, though, BlueFan will be happy with a one-game winning streak.
Michigan?s offense has scored 20 or more points only twice this season, and since the team?s greatest offensive output came in the season opener, the only way to win on Saturday is shutting down Michigan State?s offense. Unfortunately, Michigan has allowed over 40 points twice in the last three games, so winning with defense may be a little too ambitious.
The good news is that Michigan State likes to run the ball (about 62% of the time) and the Wolverines defense has been pretty good against the run for the most part. The bad news is that Michigan’s pass defense has been so bad (243 yards/game) that even Sparty may throw the ball downfield with success. Quarterback Brian Hoyer is an under-50% passer in 2008 and did not play for parts of the second half last week, so back-up Kirk Cousins could get the start.
The defensive gameplan will come down to the play of the front seven in shutting down RB Javon Ringer, who has also caught 15 passes out of the backfield. Michigan blitzers have been burned a few times lately by big plays on screen passes (Illinois and Penn State, no one in Ann Arbor thanks you), so they will need to pressure Hoyer or Cousins and always remain aware of where Ringer is on the field.
On offense, it has been same old, same old for several weeks. The unit will move the ball for a quarter and then punt for three quarters. BlueFan understands that the offense is full of inexperience, but it is confounding how they will move the ball right down the field on two or three drives only to do nothing for the rest of the game. Earlier in the season, the offense moved the ball a little more effectively by employing more diversity in playcalling than fans have seen in recent weeks, so it is difficult to think that more variety would not jumpstart the offense. What is the worst that can happen? The offense cannot get much more anemic.
Against Penn State, Michigan had two first downs and less than 50 yards of offense after the team?s second touchdown and before the closing drive of the game which meant nothing. Fifty yards and two first downs in almost three quarters of football is inexcusable given the amount of talent Michigan has on offense. This offense may not boast the number of potential NFLers as recent squads, but there is skill everywhere. Skill that is capable of putting more points on the board than what fans have seen in the last three games.
Whatever has happened to date is done and cannot be undone. What the team can control is gameplan and execution this Saturday. BlueFan refuses to fathom the horror of a season in which his heroes in Blue lose to Notre Dame, Sparty, Ohio State and fail to play in a bowl game, so it is time to start a winning streak with one win.
BlueFan?s Three-Point Stance
- A Michigan defense had never allowed over 40 points twice in one season until last Saturday in Happy Valley.
- Michigan State has won only once in the Big House since 1984.
- Michigan has not lost four consecutive games since losing five straight in 1967.
Tale of the Tape
2-5 (1-2 Big Ten)
6-2 (3-1 Big Ten)