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Posted on Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 12:03 p.m.

For Argument's Sake: Previewing the Michigan-Michigan State game

By Dave Birkett

Every week, sportswriters Dave Birkett and Mike Rothstein break down Michigan's upcoming football game. This week, they're at odds over whether the Wolverines can beat Michigan State.

Michael Rothstein: Finally, a road trip, and while I'm not sure what to think of your driving skills, Dave, I'm just glad to get out of Ann Arbor to cover a game. Love the city, but I think it's a real chance to see what this Michigan team is about. Thankfully, it's a short trip up to Michigan State, where I hear the Spartans and their fans are waiting with unicorns, lollipops and teddy bears to give to the Michigan players. Actually, this should be an interesting game. Both teams are in spots I don't think many thought they'd be in at the beginning of the season. Michigan State is hanging on to bowl dreams. A loss here means the Spartans have to play really well the rest of the way. Michigan, meanwhile, has surprised with a 4-0 start but it has all been at home. And now it goes on the road with a quarterback in Tate Forcier who likely isn't 100 percent healthy, a defense with a lot of questions and playing a team that is, to put it mildly, desperate. Oh, and in case anyone didn't get it, Michigan State's players pretty well hate Michigan. A lot. What are you most curious about?

Dave Birkett: I'm most curious why you think my driving skills are so bad. Everybody's got a speeding ticket or six to their name. But on the field, I want to see how Forcier, bum shoulder and all, takes to his first road game. The kid's showed a lot of moxie so far in leading Michigan on late game-winning drives against Notre Dame and Indiana. But he's had freshman moments here lately, and we haven't seen him in a hostile environment. This will be a test for him and for the offense, for that matter. I'm sure we'll see some elements of the playbook we haven't thus far. Sloppy weather might make it tricky, but neither defense is good, so I expect a high-scoring game.

MR: It should be interesting to see how the weather affects Michigan, especially after last week's snapping issues. I'd think there could be some more mistakes on the horizon, but it's also possible that it was a one-week thing. Plus, when reviewing the tape again, not all of the snaps were David Moosman's fault. The most curious thing for me will be to see if Mark Dantonio can kind of stay out of his own way with the quarterback situation. Kirk Cousins has played well enough to be the starter and, honestly, the full-time guy. But Dantonio has made some interesting decisions when it has come to when and how he's played his quarterbacks. I think Michigan State has a much better chance of winning with Cousins in the game.

DB: Dantonio said he owes it to both players to keep them involved, being that they're both sophomores. I understand that, but I agree that Cousins gives MSU the best chance to win, even after he choked away the Notre Dame game. If it's close, Michigan might have the edge for that reason. Forcier's won two tight ones, while MSU has dropped games against the Irish and Central Michigan in the final seconds. I know you know this stat, too, Mike, but the team that's won the rushing battle has won 37 of the last 41 games in this series. Michigan leads the Big Ten in rushing offense and both Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown will play. I'd say that's a good omen.

MR: Ahh, the old history being thrown out there. I agree with it, though. In this game, the team that rushes the ball better should win. And that would probably be Michigan. However, Michigan State could counter with what every other team has done against the Wolverines - crossing routes over the middle and 8-yard outs away from Donovan Warren's side of the ball. That was successful for Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan and Indiana. But, I think it will be a close one, and despite my usual decisions to side with the desperate team, I am going to go with the one that has shown it can win a close one. And that would be Michigan. However, it won't be Forcier doing it this time. Look for a Jason Olesnavage field goal in the last minute - last second, perhaps - and a 34-31 Wolverines win.

DB: We'll reverse roles this week, then, and I'll play most-hated prognosticator on staff. I don't think there's much difference between these teams, and Michigan State has two things going for it Michigan does not: Home-field advantage and a sense of desperation that, if the Spartans don't win this game, their season's over at 1-4. Michigan's going to run the ball just fine. Michigan State's got the No. 1 passing offense in the Big Ten, and as long as it's not too wet they'll put up numbers against Michigan's shaky secondary. I think Glenn Winston, Larry Caper and Co. have a decent day running the ball, too, and that's enough to give the Spartans a 35-31 victory.



Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:34 a.m.

I can't imagine after 12 months of smack talk, anyone in the Wolverine locker room is looking past this game. From the little sister billboard on down, it isn't the MSU players who should be talking about not being respected, it is ours. Add to that, we didn't have our best game in either of the past two weeks, so I would bet there was a lot of focus this week, and our guys are going to play their hardest. Go Blue!


Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 12:59 a.m.

this can sometimes be a trap game for MICHIGAN when its played at state but sparty has been running its trap so long i doubt MICHIGAN will look ahead to iowa.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 9:09 p.m.

azwolverine, I agree. I'm more worried about this game than I was about ND. First road game, Tate not 100% and you have to admit our D sucks. If we win this one, and I hope and pray we do, it will give these young men the confidance they need to play with anyone, anywhere. You can throw out the record book on this one. It's going to be a battle, and who ever wants it more will be the victor. All in for Michigan, Go blue, Wear maize.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 7:48 p.m.

Buck1, I agree with your assessment of some fans. Sheesh! I'm a diehard UM fan, but if a writer can't even predict that Michigan might not win, what H&LL can they write about? Should they all just be total moronic homers and predict Michigan even if that's not what they think? Everyone who writes for Michigan should wear blinders and predict 13-0? I happen to be worried about this game myself. It's on the road, Tate is not 100%, and our defense is suspect. Throw in the fact that we just edged lowly Indiana at home, and there is reason to be aprehensive. This is the type of game that if Michigan does win, I will be VERY excited about because I view it as a pivotal game that will go a long way in determining just how good Michigan can be this season. Michigan, in my opinion, has a very good shot at winning. Conversely, in my opinion, so does MSU. That's part of what makes it so exciting.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 5:31 p.m.

buck1, I haven't seen too many Michigan fans be delusional about this game. We know it's going to be close, and I know that almost every Michigan game this season will be close, actually, because of their D and because of some of the offenses they'll face. The only thing I can't understand is how anyone thinks a change of venue is going to rattle Tate Forcier...or have they not heard him say 100 times now that he does not get nervous? A good test of letting anything get to him mentally or even physically was the Indiana game. That game was NOT going well for him in the first half, and he got himself together and made some essential plays in the second half to get Michigan the win, even with his shoulder hurting. That's why, like MR said--along with rushing stats--you have to go with Michigan on this. And it's not like we need Tate to run to win--that didn't work most of the time last week anyway. Michigan needs to let Brown/Minor (and maybe even Robinson at times) do their thing and pass when they have to. Oh, and my guess as a Michigan Law School grad is Carty isn't missing writing--he will do plenty of it in Legal Writing class and on boring legal internships. But he will miss it as a JOB once he graduates from law school without a job but in tons of debt like about half of law school grads nowadays...writing about sports is better anyway.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 3:55 p.m. you want your journalists to only say what you like to hear??? These guys give their opinions its what they are paid to do, Carty is actually in law school so do you think he misses writing??? This will be a better game than most delusional fans think. Richrod isnt going to let tate run free as he has been doing to protect him for the bigger iowa game. Michigan wins this but its not a runaway or landslide. More interesting to me is seeing how michigan's offense performs if the home run plays arent allowed. Can they drive lengths of the field on a consistent basis? Waiting to see and hoping UM wins


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 3:01 p.m.

Pioneer High School would beat msu.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 1:18 p.m.

Have to agree with MR on this one. I like a field goal in the last minute to put Mich on top. I am a little worried about Tate though. If he is self-conscious about his shoulder could throw his game off. But I have no reason to believe that he will be affected. Look for DR to carve up the MSU D for a couple big runs. They looked pretty bad trying to stop the spread attack of CMU.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 12:18 p.m.

Birkett Picking Sparty is not wise when you are the beat writer for Michigan. Tomaselli and Carty learned about that and where are they now??????