clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Questioning the Enemy: The Only Colors

Jeremy Warnermuende from SB Nation's friendly Michigan State blog The Only Colors donates some time to answer some questions about Saturday's game.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

As always, be sure to visit The Only Colors for all the Michigan State information one would need.

What's MSU doing this week to not get too ahead of themselves knowing they are the heavy favorites? Did Dantonio Take away all the players' electronics and lock his coaches in a small room because I haven't heard a peep from East Lansing.

I think Mark Dantonio has been taking his own advice this week. The whole "Pride comes before the fall" rant has been viewed as a turning point in the rivalry, and I'm sure the last thing Dantonio wants is for those words to come back and bite him. He's toed the line in that regard in recent years, but whatever he's done to keep everyone quiet leading up to this year's game, it was a great move.

Also, Dantonio has seen the rivalry from the perspective Michigan is seeing it right now. You don't have to remind any Spartan it wasn't that long ago MSU was the heavy dog seemingly without a puncher's chance to even keep the games competitive. Knowing what that feels like, it's not hard to stay motivated while also keeping your mouth shut.

On the field what are some things the Spartans will do either with personnel or scheme to prevent Michigan from staying in the game?

Defensively, MSU is pretty much the same week in and week out, but there's no doubt the Spartans will try to put constant pressure on Devin Gardner. The MSU defense sacked him five times in the first half last year and never really gave Michigan a chance to do anything. MSU has been more vulnerable to the big play this year, especially up the middle against the safeties (Devin Funchess is a concern), but I still expect to see a variety of different blitzes from Pat Narduzzi.

On the other side of the ball, MSU's offense has made a huge leap from this time last year. The run game has taken some time to get going, but Connor Cook - despite the occassional bad decision - has probably been the best quarterback in the conference. The strength of Michigan's defense is its ability to stop the run, and although the Spartans will always try to establish the ground game, I expect them to try and spread it out quite often as well. Not only do I think the Spartans will do that to air it out, but they've also shown they like to get the ball to the receivers on sweeps and reverses to diversify the run game.

There's a pretty stark contrast in how well Connor Cook and Devin Gardner have developed, respectively. What's the secret to how Cook has gotten so good?

Connor Cook is obviously very talented, and the current MSU staff has a pretty good track record of developing quarterbacks, especially compared to Brady Hoke and co. That's the simple answer.

I say that because - and I don't want to take anything away from Cook - I think a lot of it has to do with the talent surrounding each quarterback. Cook has been working with Tony Lippett, who has developed into one of the best receivers in the country, for four years, and other guys have become very reliable secondary targets. He has an insanely consistent running back behind him in Jeremy Langford and probably most importantly, a strong offensive line that has been incredibly fortunate when it comes to injuries the last two years (knock on wood).

On the flip side, Gardner has been under duress seemingly every time he's dropped back as the Michigan quarterback, he's never had much of a run game to speak of and Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess are pretty much the only two guys he's been able to count on at receiver.

Individually, I don't think there's any doubt Cook is the better quarterback, but Gardner's supporting cast hasn't done him any favors.

Who are a couple Michigan players MSU is paying attention to this week that could sneak up on them? Now reverse that: who are a couple MSU players who've been having a great year that Michigan should pay attention to?

As I mentioned earlier, Devin Funchess is the major concern, but he's not sneaking up on anybody. Jake Butt hasn't done much yet this year, but he's obviously a threat and could help attack the middle of the MSU defense.

Dennis Norfleet is a guy who could make a difference on special teams. As evidenced by the Nebraska game, MSU can be hurt in the return game, and Michigan is likely going to need big plays, such as long punt returns, to have a chance. I can also see the Wolverines trying to use him on quick hitters on offense to counter Michigan State's pressure.

For Michigan State, Nick Hill is having the best year of his career by far, running for 6.1 yards a carry and taking some of the load off Langford. Hill has been running hard and showed he can break big runs against Indiana. After Lippett, the Spartans have been pretty balanced in the passing game, but almost a third of tight end Josiah Price's catches have gone for touchdowns, so Michigan can't forget about him in the redzone.

Defensively, linebacker Ed Davis has six sacks this season and got to Gardner for 2.5 sacks last year. Expect to see him blitzing often.

For any Michigan fans who travel to East Lansing looking to drown their sorrows in some beer, what watering holes should they visit and what should they drink to forget they even came?

My favorite question. For beer, HopCat is the obvious option, with about a hundred choices on tap. However Crunchy's is also a great spot for craft brews and has the more local atmosphere. And if you go with a group of friends, you can order an entire bucket of suds! Peppino's has solid pizza, a decent beer selection and roughly a milltion TVs if you still feel like watching football. The Peanut Barrel is small, but if you can get in, order the olive burger and your allotment of two Long Islands. They're delicious and potent.

All of those spots are right in downtown East Lansing and within walking distance of the stadium.