Just about every writer, every fan, and every TV analyst were wrong on their predictions for Saturday’s matchup between the Michigan State Spartans and the Michigan Wolverines, including me. I thought this game would be a blowout, I really did. I had a tiny feeling that it was going to be one of those games we saw under former head coach Mark Dantonio where nobody is picking the Spartans to win and they go to Ann Arbor and punch the Wolverines in the face, but I thought that was me just being a fanboy. Turns out that tiny feeling was right.
This was easily the worst loss for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh since he was hired in December of 2014. Michigan State was coming off an embarrassing loss to Rutgers at home in which their offense managed to turn the ball over a whopping seven times. Michigan was coming off a dominating win on the road vs a Minnesota (24) team that was missing six players due to COVID-19. Harbaugh did some very questionable things on Saturday, the biggest one came late in the second half on third down. Harbaugh sent out second string running back, Hassan Haskins to attempt a pass on the goalline. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Thankfully, Michigan State stand out linebacker, Antjuan Simmons made a great play and was able to knock the ball away.
Mel Tucker and Jay Johnson put together a great gameplan and it was nothing like anything I’ve seen since maybe 2017 vs Penn State at home where Brain Lewerke threw 51 passes in regulation. They took a ton of downfield shots with quarterback Rocky Lombardi. I didn’t know what to expect from Lombardi this season but he has been pretty good so far. He wasn’t very efficient on Saturday as he went 17/32 but when your throw the ball downfield 20 times down the field that’s expected. Michigan’s defensive backs were getting flamed by the MSU receivers. Including freshman Ricky White who caught eight passes for 196 yards and a touchdown. It looks like they tried to get a run game going but couldn’t get anything big to happen. Even though MSU has struggled to run the ball this season they have found a nice young piece in freshman running back Jordon Simmons. His stat line wasn’t great on Saturday but he was able to break off a few big runs and has taken the role of being the most productive running back on this team.
Mel Tucker and Jay Johnson did a lot of good things on Saturday but they also did some very dumb things. Jay Johnson’s play calling at times was straight up garbage. In a game where you are burning the opponent’s defensive backs on every play, there is absolutely no need to run the ball on third and fifteen three times. It was almost like they were trying to lose. After Michigan’s failed onside kick attempt Mel Tuckers decides not to kneel the ball with under two minutes to and Michigan only had two timeouts. This was an unbelievable thing to do considering this team fumbled four times the week before.
Last week the defense looked kind of sluggish but Scottie Hazelton and Mel Tucker put together a great defensive effort this week lead by senior linebacker, Antjuan Simmons. Simmons had 11 tackles and a very clutch pass break up as I mentioned earlier. This defense made Michigan quarterback Joe Milton look very uncomfortable. They were able to sack him a few times and made him make some bad throws. I said that MSU would need to make Milton throw the ball downfield and they did, they forced him into multiple third and longs. The thing about this new Michigan offense lead by Josh Gattis is that when you don’t let their quarterback dink and dunk down the field they turn into pumpkins and make bad throws. I thought the defense was utterly amazing on Saturday.
Next week the Spartans travel to Iowa City to take on the 0-2 Hawkeyes. MSU is favored by nine points, heading into the matchup. I have some worries that MSU might have a letdown week after coming off a huge win vs a Rival.
Photo: University of Michigan Athletics