ANN ARBOR—Wondering which Michigan defense might show up in East Lansing Saturday afternoon is similar to Spartan fans opining about which Michigan State offense will take the field at this point in the Big Ten season.
On one end, the Michigan State offense comes in at sixth in the Big Ten in total offense averaging exactly 414 total yards per game.
Michigan, coming off the bye week and after giving up 47-points at home to Indiana, heads into Saturday at eighth in the conference in total defense giving up 414.3 total yards per game.
Two pretty interesting statistics to look at, but what does it all mean? Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will tell you the numbers don’t mean a whole lot, but the fact that it’ll be Nov. 2 for kickoff Saturday does.
“I like it because there’s a great amount of enthusiasm, a great amount of emotion because this is a huge game,” Mattison said. “I think again, because of how we played the last game, adds more to our defense.
“It’s time that if we’re going to step-up, let’s do it, let’s go, and I think our players feel the same way.”
Michigan will have that opportunity against a Michigan State rushing attack averaging 206-yards per contest in the conference with the bulk of the production coming from junior running back Jeremy Langford, rushing for 344-yards and five touchdowns over his last three games.
“They do it all,” Mattison said. “They have the ability to get the ball outside. They’ll run it inside. They have a very good running attack.”
After struggling with a proverbial quarterback shuffle in the early part of the season, the Spartans have been able to find some consistency at the position in sophomore and Ohio native, Connor Cook.
Cook is completing just shy of 65-percent of his passes in four conference games, good for sixth in the conference in pass efficiency and sixth in passing yardage.
“They seem like they throw the ball much better,” Mattison said. “This is a good football team.
“It seems like their offensive line is blocking a lot more cohesively and they’re very physical. This will be a tremendous challenge for us.”
The Michigan secondary has been under a microscope of sorts in recent weeks after failing to make plays on the football, despite being in the right position, and showing a propensity for giving up explosion plays at key moments against Indiana and Penn State.
Though Mattison and the Wolverines continue to work on it, the longtime coordinator at the college and pro level wasn’t pointing the finger at one person, nor one position.
“The big plays, obviously everybody see’s that it’s the secondary guy, that’s why they call them big plays cause they’re the back end,” Mattison said. “But it’s never all of them.
“I think on any one of those if you hit the quarterback or sack the quarterback that maybe doesn’t happen. That’s something that has to be eliminated and you can’t have a successful defense if that keeps happening. And I’ve said it before, a lot of times there were guys in position to make plays and just didn’t make the play.”
More Jake Ryan Saturday?
As Michigan junior linebacker and captain Jake Ryan continues to work his way into the lineup after coming back on schedule for an ACL tear, the bye week came at a good time for Ryan to not only get some extra reps but also some rest before the tough November schedule.
Could Michigan State provide a bigger role for Ryan?
Mattison wouldn’t go that far, but Ryan does continue to progress and there is the possibility he becomes featured more against the Spartans.
“The timetable and the communication with the trainers and the doctors and him, tend to believe that he gets more and more (every week),” Mattison said.