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Michigan State Week: Keys to MSU Victory

Posted above is a little something called "Here's How You Win the Biletnikoff Award." It's a highlight reel from Michigan's epic comeback victory against Michigan State in 2004. You may still direct all notes of appreciation and admiration to Braylon Edwards.

The 2004 MSU-UM game was, of course, emblematic of both programs. Michigan allowed an inferior team to threaten it for far too long and only "opened up" its offense when it had too, backed into a proverbial corner and overcome by despair. Really it was a Lloyd Carr trademark--why ever test yourself in the depths of greatness when you can instead flounder about in the unrewarding shallows of good enough? It was also a showcase for Jim Herrmann's wildly ineffective defensive coordination. Thank God he got so many chances to solidify how inept he had become.

For Michigan State, that game, of course, was a notable contribution to an ever growing catalogue of dramatic collapses and shocking defeats, a canon of work already enhanced this season by the colossal failures at home against Notre Dame and Illinois. Year in, year out, the Spartans are reliably inconsistent and regular underachievers, rarely ever demonstrating the mental focus, emotional stability, and tactical execution required to ultimately mean anything. Ignoring the cheap ignominy of couch burning and rioting, when was the last time that the Spartans truly mattered?

As Michigan gears up for its showdown with reeling-but-dangerous Michigan State, the staff of Schembechler Hall wanted to invite Michigan sports talk radio host Mike Valenti, of 1270 WXYT-AM, to share some thoughts about this week's game. If you don't know Mike, please see here. He's...uh...passionate about Spartan football. Sadly, Mike turned us down, citing something about his voice and cutting us off with, "Shut up, I'm not finished" when we tried to reschedule. Instead, we're using this audio to extrapolate which factors Mike would have identified as the keys to a Spartan victory in the Big House.

Michigan can't eat pudding at halftime
Against Notre Dame, the Spartans were really hurt by the fact that at halftime, Charlie Weis, Fat Boy, was able to feed his team pudding. The creamy, gelatinous texture, combined with the rich, exciting flavor of vanilla, reenergized the Irish, giving them an emotional ferocity that overwhelmed Michigan State.

Sticking with semi-liquids, Michigan State cannot be allowed near applesauce.
Prior to the Notre Dame loss, Michigan State trainers stocked the Spartan locker room with applesauce, as Head Coach John L. Smith knew a guy at Mott's who could get him a good deal. It was a clear deviation from the lead paint chips that the Spartans usually have as a pre-game meal, but apples are said to keep doctors away, and Smith knew his team would need to stay healthy if it were going to beat a top-15 team. Sadly, Smith didn't read the packaging labels on the sauce carefully, and he missed the warning that poorly coached teams with quarterback who talk a lot of smack and then turn the ball over too much can easily choke on applesauce.

Apples? Like the ones that are too tart and make you pucker up?
Exactly. Michigan State can't pucker up. Too many guys who put on the uniform have been embarrassing such a proud program by failing to make plays and instead asking Drew Stanton to carry the program. Now, don't get it twisted: Drew is not Vince Young, and even he had help. But Drew is good, and Michigan State's other players can't sit, there, turn to the quarterback with a puppy-dog look, and say, "Help us! We don't know what to do." No more puckering up. And similarly, no kissing the air with a lead like 38-17 against Notre Dame or 34-17 against Michigan. Pucker, pucker, pucker!

Virile Michigan State fans must do their job, paying $75 and getting a bunch of old asses off their feet, cheering their asses off.
This one is simple--the fans have to do their job, because the team may not.

Michigan State can't mismanage the clock agaaihhhhn; fail to use its timeouts right agaaihhhhn; and allow opponents to get into halftime and make adjustments agaaihhhhn. With your foot on the pedal, you don't let up. John L. Smith needs to learn the effin' rules of football (there's likely a manual he can read) and remember that unlike the minutes he receives on something like a Cingular cell-phone plan, timeouts do not carry over. Michigan State needs to cut its opponent's throat real deep and watch the blood squirt all over; it can't let another team get into halftime and eat pudding (see above). Really, MSU might want to consider boarding shut the Michigan locker room once the teams emerge from the locker rooms before the game. That would make most pudding inaccessible and would make the implementation of adjustments challenging. But mostly, it's the thing about cutting and the thing about pudding.

Javon Ringer, out for the season, will no longer be getting exclusive carries in the second half. *Phew*

Check the play calling
Where to start? First, if this week's game is played in monsoon-like conditions, what the hell would MSU use the shotgun formation for? It's not really fair to ask the players to run the option in Hurricane Katrina. So that's one thing to keep in mind. Second, Defensive Coordinator Chris Smeland should be calling the game remotely. He needs to get out of town, as his zero blitzes are ineffective, and his secondary plays with non-standard equipment on its feet that looks like dinghies. Also, all stupid-ass blitz packages must get "home," or else the Spartans could be in trouble.

Michigan State has to MAKE PLAYS!