Preview: Michigan at Michigan State

Preview: Michigan at Michigan State


October 19, 2018

RUSH OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE RUSH DEFENSE

Michigan is #28 in rushing offense (217 yards/game) and #20 in yards per carry (5.35). Leading rusher Karan Higdon (687 yards, 5.73 yards/carry, 6 TD) has missed some time due to injury, but he has carried the ball almost 25 times a game over the last three contests. Backup Chris Evans returned last week but only ran the ball 5 times (for 18 yards), perhaps because the coaching staff didn’t want to run him too much in the return from his hamstring injury. He and Tru Wilson (6 carries, 26 yards last week) both have 35 attempts on the year. Quarterback Shea Patterson busted out a couple runs on zone reads last week, one for an 81-yarder and another for a 7-yard touchdown. The offensive line had its best game last week against Wisconsin, and left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. was named the team’s top lineman. The offensive line as a whole is #52 in Line Yards, but they have improved throughout the season and should continue to ascend. Michigan State is #1 in rush defense (62 yards allowed/game) and #1 in yards allowed per carry (2.34). Junior linebacker Joe Bachie (6’2″, 238 lbs.) leads the team with 43 tackles, followed by junior safety Justin Layne (6’2″, 185) with 42, and senior Star linebacker Andrew Dowell (6’1″, 220) with 41. Junior defensive end Kenny Willekes (6’4″, 260) leads the team with 9 tackles for loss, while junior defensive tackle Raequan Williams (6’4″, 300) has 6. The Spartans run a 4-3 defense with Dowell serving as a hybrid player. Even though Michigan has been improving, the #1 rush defense is probably going to present some problems for the Wolverines.
Advantage: Michigan State

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.

PASS OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE PASS DEFENSE

Michigan is tied for #94 in passing offense (207 yards/game) and #26 in passer rating. Junior quarterback Shea Patterson has completed 69% of his throws for 1,311 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Last week Wisconsin gave him trouble by rushing just four guys and dropping seven into coverage, and they probably did that because Patterson has done very well against the blitz. Michigan is #47 in Sack Rate but that drops to #67 on passing downs. Michigan has four receivers between 13 and 21 catches, including tight end Zach Gentry (21 catches, 311 yards, 1 TD) and wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones (21/247/5). Michigan State is #118 in passing defense (286 yards allowed/game), they’re #55 in passer rating defense, and they’re tied for #46 in yards per attempt against them (6.8). They’re #62 in sacks (14), led by Willekes with 5. Senior safety Khari Willis (6’0″, 215) leads the team with 5 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. Penn State managed to run for 200+ yards against MSU last week, and they were the first team to top 63 yards this year, but most teams have resorted to attempting to throw the ball (42 attempts/game).
Advantage: Michigan

RUSH DEFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE RUSH OFFENSE

Michigan is #15 in rushing yards allowed (109 yards/game) and #13 in yards given up per carry (3.07). Middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. leads the team with 45 tackles, but he has been a little quieter in recent weeks. After averaging 8 tackles/game for the first four games, he has averaged just 4.3 over the last three games. Safety Tyree Kinnel and defensive end Chase Winovich are tied for #2 on the team with 39 stops each. Strongside defensive end Rashan Gary did not play last week due to a shoulder injury, and we might have to wait until game time to see if he plays against MSU. Winovich averages 1.5 tackles for loss per game and is tied for #16 nationally in that category. On the flip side, Michigan State is #115 in rushing yards (123 per game) and tied for #116 in yards per carry (3.42). Senior L.J. Scott has not played in the past four games, and sophomore Connor Heyward (6’0″, 229) leads the team in both attempts (50) and yards (191). The three top runners are all averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry (by comparison, Michigan’s top three backs are all over 5.4). Michigan State’s line is #88 in Line Yards and #115 in Power Success Rate. They have had injuries up front, and they do not have a lot of well-developed talent there in the first place. Talent-wise, this is a good matchup for Michigan, but the Spartans always seem to play their best against the Wolverines.
Advantage: Michigan

PASS DEFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE PASS OFFENSE

Michigan has the #1 passing defense (129 yards allowed/game), and they’re #5 in passer rating defense. They’re #3 in yards allowed per attempt (5.1) and have made 7 interceptions (#15), compared to just 5 touchdowns. The Wolverines are tied for #14 overall with 20 sacks, led by Bush (3.5), Winovich (3.0), and rush linebacker Josh Uche (3.0). Michigan’s top two cornerbacks have been David Long and Brandon Watson, and teams have been targeting Lavert Hill (1 INT for a TD, 5 pass breakups). Meanwhile, the safety play has improved this season, and safety Josh Metellus leads the team with 3 interceptions. Michigan State has managed to come in at #34 in passing offense (272 yards/game), but they’re #92 in passer rating with just 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Their 7.1 yards/attempt puts them at #82 nationally. Quarterback Brian Lewerke (6’3″, 220) tossed 20 touchdowns and 7 picks during the entire 2017 season, so he has already thrown as many interceptions this year with 12 fewer touchdowns so far. The star wide receiver is senior Felton Davis III (6’4″, 200), who has 31 catches for 474 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fellow wideout Cody White (20/300/2) is not expected to play due to injury. Tight ends Matt Sokol and Matt Dotson have combined for 9 catches for 97 yards and 1 touchdown. Michigan State is #80 in allowing sacks (15) and they’re #57 in sack rate, which drops to #79 in obvious passing downs. I expect Felton Davis to make some plays against some smaller defensive backs, and he will probably draw two or three pass interference penalties. But overall, this should work out in Michigan’s favor.
Advantage: Michigan

ROSTER NOTES

  • Michigan State players recruited by Michigan include: WR Cam Chambers, TE Matt Dotson, CB Kalon Gervin, TE Trenton Gillison, LB Noah Harvey, OG Kevin Jarvis, DT Naquan Jones, CB Justin Layne, QB Brian Lewerke, OT Jordan Reid, LB Jon Reschke, LB Antjuan Simmons, LB Tyriq Thompson, DT Raequan Williams
  • Michigan State LB Tyriq Thompson is the son of former Michigan safety Clarence Thompson
  • Michigan State LB Edward Warinner is the son of Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner

LAST TIME THEY PLAYED . . . 

  • On October 7, 2017, Michigan State beat Michigan by a score of 14-10
  • John O’Korn was 16/35 for 198 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions
  • Lewerke was 11/22 for 94 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions
  • The leading rushers for both teams were Karan Higdon (65 yards) and Lewerke (61 yards)

PREDICTIONS

  • Michigan 23, Michigan State 20

16 comments

  1. Comments: 848
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Oct 19, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    This is a game Harbaugh just needs to win, probably more so than any other game since he’s been here. No excuses about weather, or refs, or schedule, or luck, or anything else. He has better talent at pretty much every position on the field and needs to show he can take care of business when he has that advantage.

    A loss here would set the program back another year and raise serious doubts about whether he is ever going to get the job done at Michigan. Just win, Jim.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 19, 2018 at 9:15 AM

      Yeah, I pretty much agree. Last year O’Korn played because Speight was injured, and that might have been the difference in the 4-point loss. This year we’re mostly healthy, and even if Gary doesn’t play, that’s not a great excuse since the defense as a whole is still very good without him. It’s a road game and wouldn’t spell disaster in itself, but Michigan needs this one (more than Wisconsin last week) to stave off some of the naysayers.

      • Comments: 848
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Oct 19, 2018 at 11:22 AM

        If by “naysayers” you mean people who might say that Harbaugh isn’t getting the job done if he loses to State yet again, I would call those truth tellers.

        How many times can we fail to beat our biggest rivals and still take people seriously who say “I’m really excited about the direction this team is going”?

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3827
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Oct 19, 2018 at 11:38 AM

          More than 3 probably.

  2. Comments: 962
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Oct 19, 2018 at 9:05 AM

    I got UM, 23-14

    While I am sure sparty will come out firing on all cylinders, I don’t think as highly of them this year as most. I’ve seen them play, and they’re not very good. Their hate and our road struggles will keep this one close

    • Comments: 848
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Oct 19, 2018 at 10:11 AM

      Except they only have maybe 2 cylinders on offense. Keep Felton Davis from having a big day, and their offense is a big nothingburger, trick plays notwithstanding. If we score as many as NW did, no way does State win.

      Harbaugh needs to be ragging on the officials about uncalled holding and pass interference from the very first drive. State will be grabbing jerseys all game long, and the officials will need to be badgered into calling it.

  3. JC
    Comments: 210
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Oct 19, 2018 at 10:07 AM

    I feel like we’re going to lose by 1 point in heart breaking fashion, or we’re going to win by three scores, and Harbaugh wont let off the gas when he’s up like in 2016.

    As stupid as I feel typing this out, I’m going with the latter. Michigan 31, MSU 13.

    • GKblue
      Comments: 268
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      GKblue
      Oct 19, 2018 at 2:26 PM

      JC just about everyone has to get that MSU monkey off their back.

      To regain our confidence we have to win. Win when we are the better team, win when we are overmatched but have no quit in us. No excuses, no last second punt fiasco, no pass happy idiocy in a monsoon. I don’t know the final score but I strongly feel we will field the better team 24-10 UM.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 3827
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Oct 19, 2018 at 11:37 AM

    There is no game on the schedule with a higher “need to win” quotient.

    Michigan is the better team, – that’s not stopped MSU before. On the road, in rain, it won’t be so simple as “better team wins”. Football is a game of inches (randomness). Expecting some horrible calls and Dantonio tricks, the fanbase seems nervous.

    Hopefully Michigan “stays cute” on offense – spreading the field, running QBs, keeping the LBs guessing. Hopefully Michigan “stays ugly” on defense – lock-down coverage, mucking up the LOS, not giving any running lanes to Lewerke or Scott (who I assume will be back). Hoping for a signature game from Hudson, Bush, Winovich & company.

    GO BLUE!

    • Comments: 848
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Oct 19, 2018 at 12:41 PM

      Except for maybe the Denard years, State has typically done a better job running their QB in these games. This year, for a change, we might have the advantange there.

  5. Comments: 4
    Joined: 9/21/2015
    evey1975
    Oct 20, 2018 at 8:04 AM

    People are dismissing the MSU offense too quickly. State’s ground game showed some life against Penn State, and U-M had difficulty when Wisconsin ran straight ahead. State doesn’t have Jonathan Taylor, but they won’t inexplicably stop running the ball, either.

    Juju and trickeration aside, one of the primary challenges in this matchup is that Michigan’s defense is designed to play Ohio State, not Michigan State. If you’re Dantonio, you have to feel good about attacking the DTs and forcing Hudson to be a 4-3 LB.

    • Comments: 848
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Oct 20, 2018 at 8:25 AM

      36 carries for 123 yards isn’t much life, especially against a defense that’s nothing special. And not only does State not have Jonathon Taylor, their offensive line isn’t even in Wisconsin’s league.

      • Comments: 962
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Oct 20, 2018 at 11:34 AM

        Yup

        They’ll have a scripted drive find some success, and then some other stretch that goes well. The rest of the day our D should be able to dominate

    • Comments: 848
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Oct 20, 2018 at 4:57 PM

      As predicted…MSU offense = big fat nothingburger.

      • Comments: 962
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Oct 20, 2018 at 5:41 PM

        Meanwhile, our O tried hard to give that away in the first half

        Great time for a bye, and excited about dominating sparty in their house. Need to look at the routes our WRs & TEs run. Waaay too long

        • Comments: 848
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Oct 20, 2018 at 9:37 PM

          It’s true…our passing game is still poorly conceived, and while Shea makes some good throws and few glaring mistakes, he still misses a lot of opportunities.

You must belogged in to post a comment.