By Casey Keefe
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In a weekend that boasts a less than remarkable slate of matchups, the one game that sticks out to me the most is #11 Michigan (6-0) at #23 Michigan State (4-1). This season’s edition of the hated rivalry will take place in East Lansing where the Spartans will be looking for their fourth straight victory over the Wolverines—a streak which hasn’t been reached in 50 years.
There’s no need to drag anything out, let me cut right to the chase… Michigan State is winning this ball game. I feel very strongly about that. They match up perfectly against the Wolverines—anybody who tells you different is either blind or is named Bob Heussler… If you remember, last season Michigan was flying high, was undefeated and Denard Robinson was the Heisman favorite—all until Michigan State came into The Big House and shut them up… I expect tomorrow to play to a similar tune.
First year head coach Brady Hoke has restored pride and swagger to the Wolverine program. They triumphed over Notre Dame earlier in the season and are coming off a big come from behind victory over Northwestern. Denard Robinson is well on his way to shattering the record for most highlights made on SportsCenter. Unfortunately, I see many more lowlights than highlights in store for him tomorrow. As evidence last year, the Spartans have the recipe to not only force Robinson into mistakes, but make him pay real bad for them too.
Robinson has thrown the third most interceptions of any quarterback in the country (9) and his rushing numbers have gone down as the competition has gotten stiffer. Michigan State is statistically the best defense in the entire nation. They allow a measly 173 yards per game, including just 64 yards rushing. Not to mention the fact that they have allowed 7 or less points in four of their five games. Not too bad, huh?
If you’re familiar with my work, you know how I feel about Michigan’s defense. If you don’t remember, let me remind you—they’re TERRIBLE. I used the line earlier in the season that they “can’t stop a nose bleed”. That still rings true… Michigan State has had two weeks to prepare for this game and knowing how important this rivalry is to head coach Mark Dantonio I think it’s safe to say you’ll see a hungry and determined Spartan team come tomorrow afternoon.
Kirk Cousins is a very talented and smart quarterback. He has a stacked receiving core, led by deep threat B.J. Cunningham who can be an all-out game breaker. What makes this offense so dangerous is their balance. They have a deep running game with the two-headed monster combination of Ed Baker and Le’Veon Bell. Expect the Spartans to march up and down the field on the pathetic Michigan defense… Big Blue is a strong second half team, but they’ll be so shell-shocked by the Spartans that they won’t have a comeback in them. The matchup is that bad.
Hypothetically, the only way the Wolverines have a chance in this game is if Robinson can avoid making dumb mistakes and they can somehow find a way to score more than 20 points on Michigan State’s defense. Let me just say here and now, there absolutely no way either one of those things will happen. The Spartans’ defense is too damn good, especially their front seven. Expect a long, frustrating afternoon for golden boy Robinson and his Wolverines. When the dust settles, the Spartans will find themselves in sole possession of first place in the Big 10’s Legends Division… Prediction: Michigan State
#18 Arizona State (5-1) @ #9 Oregon (4-1) – 10:15pm
The matchup looks sexy on paper, but truth be told I don’t see any way Arizona State has a shot in Eugene. Yes, even without LaMichael James who dislocated his elbow in the Ducks thrashing of California last week. Oregon has more than enough depth at running back, led by the ever-so-dangerous Kenjon Barner… A lot of people are saying this is a preview of the Pac 12 title game. Well, that’s not a flattering reflection on the conference. Arizona State shouldn’t be playing in anyone’s conference title game… It’ll be business as usual as quarterback Darron Thomas and the Ducks light up the scoreboard on the very much mediocre Sun Devil defense… Prediction: Oregon
#6 Oklahoma State (5-0) @ #22 Texas (4-1) – 3:30pm
I said last week that the Longhorns would be exposed against Oklahoma, and boy were they ever, getting embarrassed 55-17 in Dallas. They could not stop the deadly combination of QB Landry Jones and WR Ryan Broyles. Too bad OSU’s duo of QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon is even better… The Cowboys are legit national title contenders. Texas is too young and too inexperienced. They will be eaten alive by the Cowboys who average 51 points per game. Expect that average to hold strong after tomorrow’s ballgame… Prediction: Oklahoma State
#20 Baylor (4-1) @ #21 Texas A&M (3-2) – 12pm
I like A&M but their weakness are hard to overlook. They’ve suffered two heartbreaking losses and in both those defeats it was their defense that let them down. Even in last week’s big win over Texas Tech the defense let up 45 points. I just don’t trust them to contain or even slow down Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III. He does major damage with both his arm and his legs, and that’s not good news for a defense as bad as the Aggies. Their quarterback Ryan Tannehill will do everything he can to keep them in the game, but in the end I expect Baylor to squeak out a close, high-scoring victory… Prediction: Baylor
– It’ll be an easy weekend for the nation’s top four teams… #1 LSU (@ Tennessee), #2 Alabama (@ Ole Miss), #3 Oklahoma (@ Kansas) and #4 Wisconsin (vs. Indiana) will all win big in their glorified exhibition games.
– The entire state of Florida is out of the top 25 for the first time since December 6, 1982… Think about that—no Florida, no Florida State and no Miami… Pretty amazing… As far as this season goes, you can make the case that South Florida is the best team in the state and even they are out of the polls.
– Tough break for the Nebraska Cornhuskers who lost their star defensive tackle Jared Crick for the season. Crick tried his best to play through his torn pectoral muscle but it’s gotten to the point where the senior just needed to shut it down and get surgery… He’ll be a great pro.
– As talented as South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is, not even he was above coach Steve Spurrier’s rules. Always a trouble maker, serving suspension after suspension, Garcia just could never get his head on straight. After demoting him to backup, Spurrier finally gave him the boot due to his continued problems with drugs and alcohol.
Follow Casey Keefe on Twitter: @CaseyKeefeWFAN