Monday, June 18, 2012

Recent Struggles With the Spartans

Is anybody else getting sick and tired of losing to Michigan State? It has now been 4 years since the Wolverines got a win against the Spartans, and, especially after stopping a skid against Ohio State, this is a wound that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Besides winning the Big Ten, beating Michigan State is the only major accomplishment not under the belt of Brady Hoke. He knocked off Notre Dame, ended a 7-year slump against "Ohio", completely turned around the Michigan defense, and won a BCS bowl. Remember, that was all in his first year. A Big Ten Championship is not looking likely unless Michigan can finally beat their "little brother": the Spartans.
The last time Michigan walked away with the Paul Bunyan trophy was in 2007, Lloyd Carr's last year as head coach in Ann Arbor. It was a 28-24 win in East Lansing. Since then, Rich Rodriguez went 0-3 in his time with Michigan, and Brady Hoke currently stands at 0-1. Needless to say, this is a battle that has recently been heavily dominated by the Spartans. In fact, it really hasn't even been too close from '08-'11.
  • 2008: MSU-35 MICH-21
  • 2009: MSU-26 MICH-20 (OT)
  • 2010: MSU-34 MICH-17
  • 2011: MSU-28 MICH-14
The Spartans seemed to have the upper hand in coaching for as long as Rich Rodriguez was in Ann Arbor, but things are certainly starting to even out, even though results did not show for it last season. In of Brady Hoke's first discussion topics when he became Head Football Coach was rivalries and how important they are to the program and school as a whole. That is the kind of passion every Michigan Football fan was waiting for.

Don't get me wrong, I have a tremendous amount of respect for MSU coach Mark Dantonio. I think he is  a very fine football coach. But all the hype surrounding Brady Hoke and his rejuvenated Wolverines is going to outshine the Spartans 10:1. Recruits are going to buy into it right away, and it is starting to show in the 2013 recruiting class, where Michigan is dominating the Michigan State on the boards. 

Fortunately for the viewer's sake, the game isn't decided on paper. A team has never won because they got the better recruits in the off-season. It takes an on-field battle to crown the victor, and, as of late, Michigan has done a poor job in that aspect of the game when it comes to the Spartans. 

Michigan State will always have a pretty tough defense to penetrate, so it is vitally important that the Wolverine offense takes full advantage of everything they can. Whether it's turnovers, field position, or home-field advantage, Al Borges must put his offense in a position to succeed. 

Obviously, a large part of the offense rests on the shoulders of Denard Robinson. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he handles the pressure as he heads into his senior season without a win against Michigan State. The Wolverines will undoubtedly need a couple of big-time players for this one. 

On defense, there will be nothing better than pressuring an inexperienced quarterback, after the departure of Kirk Cousins. It will be his first visit to the Big House and more than likely his first performance in that kind of an atmosphere. Getting to the quarterback early and often will spell deep trouble for the Spartans offense. 

 A win against Michigan State in 2012 would mean an incredible amount for 2nd year coach Brady Hoke and the seniors who haven't been able to hoist the Paul Bunyan trophy. Of the last four years, this is by far the Wolverines best shot to end the slump against the Spartans.

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