Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hope Blooms Eternal in the Dog Days of August

Michigan fans have never seemed so divided about their boys in blue - are we hopeful for this season or dreading it? And some of the hopes have nothing to do with Michigan turning in a winning season and earn a bowl bid - there is a large contingent of fans who want to see RichRod crash and burn and earn his ouster.

The fact is this game is still played by 18-23 year-olds who will don the same uniforms as Tom Harmon, Dan Dierdorf, Rick Leach, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. They're our guys and you've got to support them. And let's just give AD Dave Brandon the benefit of the doubt that he's a pretty smart dude - he doesn't seem like he'd be the type to coddle any personnel he didn't agree with. I think if he'd wanted RichRod out, he would be out by now.

So could 2010 become the season to exorcise the demons? Tradition says hell yes - they can't be so bad three years in a row. Reality says let's hope so.

There are still a lot of unknowns with this team starting with who will be taking the snaps from center David Molk. The coach staff did not annoint Tate Forcier this year's starter despite starting every game last year. He was reintroduced to having to earn his spot. I think this is a good thing because no one from a 5-7 team should feel that comfortable.

The Bright Spots

Quarterback play will be so much improved from 2009 and may catch much of the league off-guard. Forcier has 12 starts and lots of Big Ten experience under his belt. Denard Robinson has full year of learning in the RichRod system and seemed poised to unseat Forcier at the end of last year. Both are freakishly athletic and should have a firm grasp of the system to go with their natural ability. Waiting in the wings is Devin Gardner who I'd love to see redshirted, but he may be too talented to not include on this year's squad.

The offensive line has more experience in this system than you might give them credit for. Stephen Schilling has been around forever and played very solidly toward the end of last year. I've long regarded David Molk and his play at center as vital for the success of the line. Patrick Omameh and Mark Huyge played in seven and nine games respectively, many of them as starters. Freshman Taylor Lewan is earning a lot of praise in camp and is expected to play a lot. This line has experience and should give Forcier/Robinson lots of time to make plays.

Roy Roundtree became the go-to receiver in the last few contests of 2009. He led the team with 32 receptions and 434 receiving yards - these numbers will go up significantly. With a cast of slot receivers led by Roundtree, expect Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady to also run through lots of defenses. That should open up some room for Kevin Koger at tight end and Junior Hemingway to become true impact players. Roundtree is the key to the passing game and should be significant contributor to the offense.

The defensive line quietly built up lots of depth last year while all the attention was paid to Brandon Graham. These seven players all saw significant time on the line last year: Craig Roh, Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Will Campbell, Greg Banks, Adam Patterson and Renaldo Sagesse. That depth should make them a solid group and with Van Bergen's leadership, you'd like to count on them for less flash than last year (without Graham) but with more consistency.

Troy Woolfolk may not be the "shutdown corner" Donovan Warren was, but he seems to be getting the attention of his teammates. The defense needs a vocal leader and Woolfolk seems to be the guy - he's already called out Forcier for not working out enough and earned his bona fides playing wherever the coaches put him last year (he played six games at safety and six at cornerback).

The coach staff should be a bright spot this season. Greg Robinson has had a full year to implement his system on defense and Calvin McGee and RichRod have a full complement of "their players" on both sides of the ball. Players seem to have genuine adoration for RichRod and while that's hard to quantify, I don't think anyone will argue that you work harder for someone you care about.

And that's the unceremonious end to the "bright spots." So as you might imagine there are plenty of uncertainties: who will play tailback, who will play linebacker, who will play in the secondary and who will kick?

There's some depth everywhere but kicker so hopefully these questions will get settled over the next three weeks during camp.

The countdown is on and let's all hope for a great season (and that means more wins than losses, folks).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Draft Thoughts

With the first round behind us, we can sit back and take stock of some of these picks. Overall, with some exceptions, I'd say it was a fairly conservative and deeply satisfying first round, with the focus being on O-Linemen and D for many teams. I'm old school, so in my opinion, great teams are forged from excellent defenses, great running games and solid O Line. Anybody else not in the least bit surprised that Tebow was taken and Clausen is still on the board? Not me!

Some notables:

Pick 1: St. Louis Rams - Sam Bradford (QB):

Welcome to the worst team in the NFL, Sam. With Spagnuolo at the helm, though, I see things looking up for the team that has assumed the crown formerly defended (or not!) by the Lions as worst team in the NFL. Putting a good young QB like this on a team on the will make for an interesting season to watch for the Rams.

Pick 2: Detroit Lions - Ndamukong Suh (DT)

Good, solid pickup for the Lions here. Though the Lions have needs on the O-Line, WR, RB.. well, everywhere... their run defense will certainly get a boost from this stout and dynamic player. I don't know if Suh was crying because he finally is living his dream of playing in the NFL, or if he was crying at the prospect in living in a detroit suburb and, well, playing for the Lions. I've got high hopes for the Lions, though, as they seem to be on the edge of putting it all together, which is a swift departure from their consistent lackluster and effortless play.

Pick 5: Kansas City Chiefs - Eric Berry (S)

Kansas City is getting one heck of a player in Berry. I'm very high on this guy, as from the games I've seen him play, I've seen a very solid safety with great instincts and great athleticism. This guy just. makes. plays. Nice pickup for KC to boost a really, really poor D. This team has some major issues, and they just addressed one of them.

Pick 7: Cleveland Browns - Joe Haden (CB)

Who knows what's going on in Cleveland now. This team seems to be caught in a confusing whirlpool after dealing their 2 starting QB's from the past 3 years (including bust Brady Quinn, who I never thought was that good in the first place). Their D also needs some help, and Haden has great athleticism in the defensive backfield to compliment the aging Sheldon Brown.

Pick 8: Oakland Raiders - Rolando McClain (LB)

Was anybody else surprised that the Raiders made somewhat safe and levelheaded pick?! I'm a big, big fan of Rolando McClain. I think he's a leader, he's tough, and he's a very solid linebacker. It's a shame he's going to play for such a completely disfunctional organization such as the Raiders. I was hoping he might go to the Giants and play for a team that, well, isn't in a perpetual state of self-destruction such as the Raiders.

Pick 9: Buffalo Bills - CJ Spiller (RB)

CJ Spiller is GOOD. Any team that gets this guy is getting a playmaker; Spiller is simply electric and has blazing speed. Even on the Bills, I think he can make an immediate impact and I'm excited to see him play. This alone will make me want to watch the Bills this season, like Adrian Peterson made me want to watch the vikings. If Spiller plays like he's capable of, dare I say potential rookie of the year candidate?

Pick 13: Philadelphia Eagles - Brandon Graham (DE/OLB)

I am ecstatic about this pick. The Iggles traded up several spots because they were enamored with B Graham, and they are getting simply the best DE in the draft. B Graham is not only quick off the end and extremely powerful (insert Dwight Freeney comparison here), but he's a leader and a true Michigan Man. B Graham is going to a team that consistently finishes near the top of the NFC every year (we'll see about that with the departure of Donovan McNabb). It's one of the best run organizations in the NFL, and they saw what all MIchigan fans know: B Graham is the real deal. Next year will be an interesting one for the Iggles.

Pick 18: Pittsburgh Steelers - Maurkice Pouncey (C)

The Steelers, along with the Patriots (and, recently, the Giants) are one of, if not THE, best drafting team in the NFL. They continue to amaze with heady, smart picks who almost always pan out. This is no exception, as the Steelers address their O-Line issues directly with a proven winner in Pouncey, who led the offensive line at Florida. Pouncy should be ecstatic, as he is going to perhaps the best-run organizations in the NFL. This is a player's team, and anybody should be excited to be on it.

Pick 21: Cincinnati Bengals - Jermaine Gresham (TE)

Gresham has been the best TE in the country for two years now, and the Bengals add a new option to their offense with this guy. Solid TE play is simply a thing of beauty and can really solidify an offense. I think a good TE is just what the Bengals need in order to get their offense going. That and a good lawyer (wah wah!).

Pick 23: Green Bay Packers - Bryan Bulaga (OT)

The Packers are another of the solid organizations that draft well. Bulaga is a great OT, a two time All-Big Ten selection, and simply looks like he's from Iowa. He'll be perfect for the blue collar Packers team.

Pick 24: Dallas Cowboys - Dez Bryant (WR)

Dez Bryant is spectacular. "Character issues" aside, this is a match made in heaven for an organization that seems to covet boneheaded, egotistical but incredibly talented WR's. I was a little bit mystified by this pick, as it appears Dallas is giving up on Roy Williams. I guess they want to free up Miles Austin a bit and inject some more playmaking into their passing game. It should be a good team to watch next year with a bunch of weapons on offense.

Pick 25: Denver Broncos - Tim Tebow (QB)

After a "WTF?! Dez Bryant is still on the board and you picked WHO?!?!" moment a few picks earlier, Denver surprises again and gets Tebow. I don't want to say I told you so... but I just did. Just yesterday morning, I was telling my friend Jon that Tebow is going to go to the Broncos. I just didn't think it would be a first round pick! The Broncos are the perfect home for Tebow, where he can sit behind Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn to learn the ins and outs of the position of QB. You can't hate Tim Tebow: not only is he perhaps the best college QB to ever play the game, but he's also passionate, cares about his teammates, will do whatever it takes to win, loves Jesus, is a hard worker and a fierce competitor. You want this guy in your locker room. It's a big risk, but IMO you want to draft QB's who know how to win. Name me one big game Jimmy Clausen willed his team to win in his entire career at ND. Neither can I. Now let's do the same for Tebow. Bingo. I want Tebow on my team, and I'm willing to take that risk. Again, going to a great organization and fanbase that will nurture him and give him some time.

Pick 28: Miami Dolphins - Jared Odrick (DT)

The Dolphins are my new favorite team. What with Parcells running the show, their affinity for Meech players, their dealing tOSU failure Ted Ginn (I hate that guy... overhyped, worthless) and the success of their Wildcat offense, I'm always pulling for the Fish. After addressing a lot of their deficiencies via trading (Brandon Marshall = excellent, excellent pickup), they addressed their need on the D Line with a great pick in Odrick. Exciting to see a team like the Dolphins get good again. Chad Henne!

Pick 30: Detroit Lions - Jahvid Best (RB)

I'm not so hot on Best. The Lions do indeed need help at RB, but I think the dropoff in talent is considerable after Spiller. Time will tell, of course, but Best is set up to fail as he is what I believe to be a mediocre to good RB at on a poor to mediocre team.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daaaaamn Tate

Who knew Tate had a 132.84 QB rating? Not this guy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Give Rich Rod Time

One win in the Big Ten? Does that sound eerily familiar? To many Wolverine fans, this season does not appear to be a great improvement over the last. After a hot start defeating a now-pitiful ND team, and with another squeaker comeback win over 1-win IU, we're since winless against quality opponents. Our defense is one of the worst in the Big Ten, our offense can't seem to get into a rhythm, and for some reason we're bleeding points in the third quarter. The big question I keep on getting is, is this season an improvement over the last?

The answer is a resounding and thunderous YES! Follow up question, should Rich Rod be canned if we look similarly bad next year? The answer is a resounding and thunderous NO!

This season is a vast, vast improvement over the last one. Every game we've lost this year, we have had a shot at winning (save #10-ranked Penn State, where we got completely killed), but have fallen prey to the same issues. Those issues are freshman mistakes from our freshman quarterback, turnovers, penalties and a shallow (opposite of deep, right?) defense that is unable to buttress a sometimes dynamic, but oft inconsistent offense.

These are issues that RR cannot fix in one season. Let's start with the D, shall we? The D is playing poorly for several reasons. One is that we are severely lacking talent at key spots on D. Obi Ezeh our middle linebacker (the QB of the defense), simply isn't good enough. He constantly makes the wrong reads, has terrible instincts, and takes poor drops back into pass coverage. It is no surprise that this former 3-star running back recruit was benched for Kevin Leach (a walk on...) in the Purdue game. A walk on?!?! At MLB?!?! That's gotta say something. Speaking of walk-ons, we're starting another one, Jordan Kovacs, at safety. Kid plays hard and has great fundamentals, but he clearly has a lack of elite athleticism. He's starting because there is nobody else. Brandon Graham is obviously a monster, and will wipe his tears with his signing bonus. So he's an outlier. Don't even get me started on the horror that has been Mike Williams this season.

We do have talent though, the problem is that they are young and inexperienced. Craig Roh is playing phenomenally well for a freshman, and RVB and Mike Martin, who are only sophomores, have shown flashes of talent but are struggling to execute consistently. Big Will Campbell, 5-star freshman stud DL out of Detroit, clearly has a ways to go. These guys are all starting. Sheeeeeeesh. Talk about your bare cupboard! At least D Warren won't be leaving anytime soon, and we've got some help on the way at CB (though our latest 5-star CB to see the field is no longer on the team... whoops!). Always next year, right?

So let's see: lack of talent, lack of depth, loads of inexperience at key positions... ah wait, one more thing. Since our offense is so inconsistent and so prone to those gut wrenching 3 and outs, the defense is forced to be on the field for the entire game. No defense can play well when they're on the field that long. I'm actually amazed at how well our D has been playing after being forced to compensate for our shoddy O.

Also, people calling for GRob's head are completely nuts. The dude is a proven winner at multiple levels, just give him the tools. Besides, do you really want 4 D Coordinators in 4 years? Neither do I.

That's quite a hefty post already. Let me just touch on the offense briefly. It comes down to this: freshman QB's will make freshman mistakes, and that is exactly what is happening with Tate. Holding onto the ball too long is his key issue (as well as ball security, or lack thereof in Tate's case) but he will learn. Best thing about freshmen? They become sophomores. It's frustrating, yes, but you knew this day would come. Molk getting injured was also HUGE, as our O line didn't look like they had it together really with Moosman at center until the Purdue game.

Biggest problems for our O: inconsistent play, lack of execution, and PENALTIES and TURNOVERS. We've improved on all these issues as the season has gone along, but it is clear that our O is young and that they make mistakes. These issues too have their roots in inexperience, and should improve with time.

In summary: Be patient. Give RR time to bring in his players and develop them. This will take more time than we previously thought, but it will come. To put it plainly, winning will silence all the doubters. All RR needs to do is win, and all the boo-birds will fade into the crowd. If he can't get it done in a few years, then we can start talking about canning him. For now, just be patient.

Some Bullets:
-What has taken so long to get Roundtree out on the field? After a spectacular spring game, he disappeared. And people are surprised now that he's making plays. Sheeeeeeesh coaches!! Roundtree > Odoms.
-VINCENT SMITH!!!! (for anybody who hasn't watched a game with me, I have absolutely loved this kid since I saw his high school film)
-I like seeing that RR (or is it GRob?) is rotating some bodies in on D to try a few things. We've seen brief appearances from Kenny Demens and JB Fitzgerald (!!! Big fan of this kid too), and we even saw the journeyman Brandon Smith (#4) play a pretty big role on D in the Wisconsin game. He played well, I thought, for being new to the position just this year.
-I'm glad that Patrick Omameh beat out Dorrenstein. Kid is an absolute beast (and an engineer, to boot!), and we're seeing it on the field. Just wait til RS RG Q Washington sees the field next year, and you will see him DESTROY.
-What happened to Kevin Koger? It looks like he's regressed since the beginning of the season.


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Badgers Will Crush Michigan (Jinx!)

On the road at Camp Randall in mid-November against a bruising top 25 team surely means a beat-down for Big Blue, right?

Well, probably.

And now in Week 11 this team seems to be in full-blown disarray. Coach Rodriguez is planning on rotating more heavily on defense this Saturday (get ready for prime time, JT Floyd) and there are rumors being kicked around that Denard Robinson will get his first start.

The coaches pulled the plug on the Kevin Leach/JB Fitzgerald switcheroo that put starting LB's Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton on the bench against Purdue by the fourth quarter. Now it sounds like all four will be rotating in. For whatever reason none of the LB's seems capable of cementing themselves as THE starter. Leach looks quicker than Ezeh and puts himself into better position but Ezeh is bigger and better at shedding the big uglies that Wisconsin specializes in. Fitzgerald's emergence last week was surprising because I think Mouton has been a good performer this season. On the one hand I credit the coaches for not being complacent and continuing to search for the right combination on defense. On the other hand, did it take until Week 10 to realize our defense needed some kind of change?

Our safety play seems erratic at best. Mike Williams comes up with a nice play every once in a while, but he often seems to be involved in every play that you groan "Who missed that tackle?!" Jordan Kovacs looks like a good find but I think the novelty of a walk-on-turned starter is wearing off and he's being exposed a little bit more in recent weeks. Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk often look like the defensive secondary's most sure tacklers but the only backup in the secondary the coaches seem to want to use is Floyd, so if we see him this Saturday, does that mean Woolfolk plays a some safety?

The defensive line is generally a bright spot. Bright in that it looks better than the LB's or secondary. This is the only unit that sees plenty of rotating and it features our two best defensive players, Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown (I'm counting Brown as a D-lineman because he's been too good to lump him in the LB's and secondary). But if Brandon Graham doesn't get pressure on the QB, do you really believe someone else on the line will? I hope during practice this week Greg Robinson focused his young D-line on getting to the quarterback (let's try a few stunts!).

It's distressing that in Week 11 we're still searching answers on defense.

It's distressing that in Week 11 we're also still searching for answers on offense.

I think generally our offense "gets" RichRod's schemes. M scores a lot of points and often puts together scorched-earth drives, moving the ball at will. But in Week 11, who is our "go-to" receiver? Greg Mathews either seems the centerpiece of the passing game or the forgotten man. Martavious Odoms missed the last few weeks with a hurt knee. Junior Hemingway started off hot then missed a chunk of the middle season nursing an injury. Kelvin Grady appears to be off the depth chart. Roy Roundtree has emerged in recent weeks do we want the fate of our passing game in the hands of a redshirt freshman?

Speaking of "go-to" receiver, who do you trust to get us four yards on the ground in a crucial third down? Brandon Minor of course, but he's on an every-other week playing schedule with a chronically gimpy ankle. Is Carlos Brown the man? Sometimes. What about Michael Shaw or Vincent Smith? Despite occassional heavy doses of playing time they still look they're learning on the job. How about QB's Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson? If they hold onto the ball, maybe.

Scary that after so many weeks of play, we have lots of weapons but not any that an opposing defense should fear. Maybe that's partly out of design so other teams can't key on one or two playmakers, or maybe it's that none of our skill players are truly exceptional.

This brings me to the Denard Robinson conundrum. The talk is that he'll play a lot on Saturday, possibly even starting. That sound you hear is Michigan nation saying, "Huh?"

Robinson was a non-factor against Purdue or Illinois and hasn't played well since Delaware State...and even I played well against Delaware State. If he's showing lots of growth in practice, why didn't we see it during the last two games? His feet are still electric, but if the coaches expect him to come in and throw 15 times on Saturday, they should really think about how they've only called 22 passing plays for him the previous 10 weeks. This potential switch seems to be less about rewarding Robinson and more about punishing Forcier.

Why not put them both in the game at the same time?? By my count it's happened twice this season and everyone in the stadium (and a few people just passing by outside) knew the ball would be handed off to Robinson. Let's use our weapons to be creative. A reverse? A double pass? A flea flicker? I just came up with three awesome ideas if I do say so myself.

You'll notice I haven't said anything about Wisconsin yet. That's by design. There is too much about M to discuss. Everything we need to know about Wisconsin came in the first line of this blog: they are playing at home, they are in the top-25 and they are still a big, bruising Wisconsin team.

But maybe, just maybe Michigan will put out a shocking win (at this point, it would be a shocking win) on the road. Or maybe not. Or most certainly not.

Wisconsin 28-Michigan 17...but let's just hope I'm wrong like I've been consistently wrong for the last month.

Friday, October 30, 2009

On Paper (or in HTML) This One Is Over

I'd liken the season Illinois is putting together to Brandon Minor's chronic gimpy ankle, but that would be an insult to Minor's persistent limping.

Illinois is not just limping into this game, they are barely crawling in. The Fighting Illini are 1-6, winless in the Big Ten and generally give a bad name to all other teams described as being in "disarray."

Remember how they went to the Rose Bowl two seasons ago? Remember how Ron Zook was the Big Ten renaissance man and his teams were only going to get better given his SEC-mentality and recruiting roots? Ah, time really does fly.

How in the world did Juice Williams and Eddie McGee become the least potent 1-2 quarterback punch in the conference since Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan? And let's keep in mind that Williams and McGee were supposed to be stars, Threet and Sheridan were supposed to not die.

There are so many questions to ponder with this Illinois team and at this point in the season the most worrisome is to wonder if they can beat Michigan this Saturday?

They shouldn't and here's why: Illinois simply encourages teams to run on them. They are giving up 227 rushing yards per game in Big Ten play. Michigan will likely be without Brandon Minor and center David Molk is gone for the year, but the Wolverines should still increase that rushing average. With its stable of running backs (Carlos Brown is expected to play a lot on Saturday), Michigan could run for 250 - 300 yards against Illinois. Given that Michigan is playing only its third road game, expect them to run a lot to put Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson back into a comfort zone after a dreadful game against Penn State.

I know Michigan had fumble-itis last week against Penn State and did have trouble moving the football for about 30 minutes in the middle of the game, but the Fighting Illini will basically be inviting the Wolverines to run. Don't turn them down.

Offensively Illinois is a mess - they are only scoring 16 points a game. Considering Michigan scores more than 30 a game (yes I understand the Delaware State game skewed the average), the averages are on Michigan's side. Despite the Fighting Illini's inept offense, you've got to worry that its dormant weapons could catch fire against a weak Michigan secondary. Hopefully Brandon Graham will get to whichever QB Illinois trots out there before he can throw.

The big question is how Michigan will handle the road. It's shocking and a bit troubling that on October 31 Michigan is only playing it's THIRD road game. This goes to scheduling and Michigan's unwillingess to go on the road for non-conference games, and I think it does a disservice to the team.

But Michigan really has been in both of its road games (both losses) when it played Michigan State and Iowa - both which would be on the "greater than" side of a mathematical equation involving Illinois. This leads me to believe Michigan will finally put things together on the road against the hapless Juice & Co. and win their first road game.

By Saturday night Michigan will be bowl-eligible, will be 1-2 on the road and you'll be buzzing from either Halloween candy or Halloween booze.

Final score: Michigan 33, Illinois 21

Friday, October 2, 2009

Committing to Making a Non-Commitment for This Rivalry Game

Will you at least give me a three step head start?

I’m going to need it to run away from the mobs of angry Wolverine fans after they read this: Michigan State should win this game and they probably will...but it's definitely not even close to being a sure thing.

Before last Saturday’s debacle against Wisconsin (not to mention the blown game against Notre Dame and the embarrassing, mistake-filled loss to Central Michigan) I would’ve have written Michigan State will win this game. But that all changed now that the Spartans are limping into this game with a 1-3 record and the clouds of failed seasons past are beginning to gather overhead.

Let’s take a look at this game realistically: no one expected the Spartans to be this bad coming into Week 5 and no one expected the Wolverines to be this good. You are simply lying to yourself if you thought otherwise.

Combine those two factors with the Spartans home field advantage and I think you’ll reach the same flimsy conclusion I did: the Spartans should win this game, but they might not.

Now for the why.

The one thing that should be staring everyone in the face is that MSU will be DESPERATE to win this game. Mark Dantonio’s career might depend on it. If he doesn’t win this game and the Spartans drop to 1-4, MSU will lose public support faster than Kanye West.

MSU players can’t stand the fact that they are coming into this game at 1-3 (although they didn’t seem to care enough in their previous three games to actually try and win them) and they hate that Michigan is 4-0. These Spartans want to be the team that brings Michigan back to earth. They will be motivated and will be fired up by a home crowd that last saw the boys when they were 1-1.

The Spartans can move the ball through the air – they threw for nearly 400 yards last week against Wisconsin. Blair White and Mark Dell are very good receives and BJ Cunningham provides another game-breaker. The problem is who will get them ball. This might not be the game for Dantonio to keep the two QB experiment going. MSU needs to air it out against Michigan’s soft secondary to win this game. That means keeping Keith “Crazy Legs” Nichol on the bench in favor of Kirk Cousins.

Just like USC, the Spartans have a stable of backs. Unlike USC, none of them are very good. If the Spartans are forced to run the ball they will be in for a long game.

If the Spartans go after Michigan through the air, they should put enought points on the board to outscore the Wolverines.

This brings me to the “X-factor” and I’m not talking about whether or not Denard Robinson will tie his shoes…I’m talking about THE WEATHER.

The forecast is calling for rain and lots of it. That should favor the Wolverines for two reasons: 1) it will limit the Spartans ability to throw and 2) it will limit the Wolverines ability to throw – and that means letting Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Michael Shaw, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will be running wild (that’s assuming David Moosman can get the snaps to Forcier and Robinson – a very real fear I pointed out in an earlier column).

Michigan averages 240 yards per game on the ground. Michigan State gives up 113 yards per game but has not seen a rushing attack like the Wolverines have. If the pass game is neutralized for both teams, the edge has to go to Michigan.

Also don’t be surprised if Forcier gets banged up and the Wolverines insert Nick Sheridan into the game. This is the Wolverines first road game and if the weather is bad, the coaching staff might turn to the veteran to simply hand the ball off.

Bad weather will also affect the Spartans’ kicking game. MSU Brett Swenson will be the best kicker on the field (he might be State’s best player) but lots of wind and rain could create problems for thim.

You may be asking yourself – why haven’t we discussed the either team’s defense? For the simple reason that neither team plays defense. This game is all about which offense shows up and which offense handles the elements.

I don’t even have the guts to make a prediction on this game but I will…sort of.

Non-tsunami weather: Michigan State 37 – Michigan 35

Tsunami weather: Michigan 31 – Michigan State 24