A month before the showdown in East Lansing, we have a bit of a litmus test forMichigan and MichiganState. What have we learned? Notre Dame is probably better than both. It’s just that Michigan just might be a little luckier.
If you look at the first three quarters of the game in Ann Arbor and the entire game in South Bend, you’d realize you were watching the same game. Notre Dame led Michigan 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter in Ann Arbor. Granted, Michigan was on the one yard line going in, but that was still the spread. In South Bend, it was 28-10 Notre Dame. Both Michigan and Michigan State made enough mistakes (penalties, turnovers, bad throws, drops) to stay out of the game.
Score wasn’t the only similarity. Heading into the fourth, the Wolverines had only 211 yards against the Irish. Notre Dame had 389 yards. To give the Spartan’s credit, they out-gained Notre Dame by a tally of 357-287 for the game. What does this show? What we all knew. The Spartan defense is superior to the Michigan defense.
The problem is that the comparisons don’t take in the final quarter “Under the Lights.” The explosiveness of the Fighting-Denards is what the Wolverines can hang their hats on. Michigan State, starting the fourth down by 18, used 4 and half minutes to get 3 points. Their next drive was the punt-fumble drive (after a forth down punt was dropped by Notre Dame, Michigan State recovered in Irish territory). That drive, even with the chunk of yards gained on the punt, still took four more minutes of the clock. Even if it’s punched in, at best, the lead is still 7 for Notre Dame with 3:30 to play. Granted, the Cousin’s interception made that a moot point.
Michigan suddenly got a bolt of electricity flowing through their veins in the fourth. They gained 239 yards in the final quarter alone. That’s almost unfathomable, especially when you consider how inept the offense looked in the first three quarters. How about the fact they got all 239 in only 6 minutes of possession. Michigan just flat out took off. That’s something I just don’t see from the Spartans.
As I mentioned, clearly, the defenses aren’t even close. Though both gave up 31 points, the yards given up is very telling. Notre Dame had the special team touchdown and a field goal without even getting a first down against MSU. Sure they had the three touchdowns, but look at the rest of their drives. There wasn’t much there, including the drives ND ended by committing turnovers.
Clearly Kurt Cousins is the better quarterback. I don’t think anyone can rightly argue that point. He threw 53 passes and only had one interception against the Irish. Denard Robinson has been picked off 4 times this season and has only thrown 55 passes all year. If, like last year, the game turns early for the Spartans, and Robinson has to start chucking it around, Michiganis in a lot of trouble. With the tilt being in East Lansing, it’s a possibility.
Of course, if it’s a ground game, Michigan might have a chance. Notre Dame seemed to be getting chunk plays on the ground. Notre Dame averaged four yards a carry, but in the first-half, it seemed they were getting double that each time they ran the football. If Vincent Smith continues to improve and Denard stays healthy (big IF), that will give Michigan a chance.
All in all, a lot can clearly change in between now and the actual game. All I know is that assumptions can’t be made. Michigan fans shouldn’t assume that because they beat Notre Dame and Notre Dame beat Michigan State, they will beat Michigan State. It doesn’t work that way. Michigan State fans shouldn’t assume thatMichiganwill still roll in as a one man show. There are three weeks for Michigan to find help on the offensive side of the football. And neither fan base should assume it’ll run wild on the other. The only thing that should be assumed is it should be another dandy between the Spartans and Wolverines.