On Saturday, the University of Michigan Wolverines (6-1) will be taking on the Michigan State University Spartans (7-1) in East Lansing. This huge rivalry game not only gives the winner ultimate bragging rights for an entire year, but this Saturday’s game also puts the winner in the driver’s seat in the Legends Division. There are five players who stick out as key guys in Michigan’s quest to defend the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Let’s take a look at who they are and why they are important.
This was the easy choice to make. This is the key guy in every game the Wolverines play, but against a defense like the one he will be seeing on Saturday, he’s that much more important.
We all know about the turnovers. We have seen how Gardner’s mistakes have kept lesser teams in the game. We’ve also seen Gardner take games over. The bottom line is that this is the best defense Michigan will face all season. On the road. How Devin Gardner responds will make or break Michigan. No pressure or anything.
I know, I know. There’s this guy named Jeremy Gallon that lit the world on fire in Michigan’s last game. Why isn’t he the key player? Well, he is a key guy no question. But Devin Funchess is the one who needs to establish himself in this game. He’s big and he’s physical, and if he’s not catching balls he needs to be at least occupying the secondary enough to where guys like Gallon can get open.
It’s going to be tough to get the ground game going in this game for Michigan, especially if the receiving corps isn’t doing their job. Mr. Funchess has to have a big game for Michigan to be successful.
You don’t often see a true freshman start on the offensive line at a place like Michigan. The young guard saw his first game action against Indiana a little over a week ago. Now he’s being asked to make his first start. On the road. Against a chief rival. Against one of the top defenses in the nation.
That’s not asking too much, is it? Bosch needs to grow up in a hurry. He’s been plugged in on an offensive line that has struggled mightily this season, especially on the interior. To his credit he played very well against Indiana, but this
Michigan State defense is a totally different animal. It’s crucial for him to hold his own if Michigan’s offense is going to have any success on Saturday.
Brady Hoke said earlier this week that he expects Ryan to start against the Spartans on Saturday. What does that mean for the Michigan defense?
Well, to me it means that the team’s best defensive player is close to 100% if he wasn’t already. Michigan hasn’t dialed up the pressure too much this season, possibly because their best pass rusher (Ryan) hasn’t been healthy. Now that he’s starting, we will probably see defensive coordinator Greg Mattison send the heat at MSU quarterback Connor Cook.
It’s vital that Jake Ryan hits home when he’s sent on blitzes. As a leader of the defense, the rest of the team will feed off of his success.
Last year’s game came down to a field goal. Gibbons made that field goal and Michigan won the game. This year may be quite similar, as points will be at a premium for the Wolverines. Gibbons will have to come through for the team when he’s asked to. Michigan has to come away with points when they get into Spartan territory, and missed field goals could spell disaster. Gibbons will have to bring his A-game if Michigan is to have a chance at coming away with a W in East Lansing.
In a game like this, everyone is a key player. This is going to be an absolute slug fest of a game. However, if Michigan is going to be successful, these five guys are really going to have to bring it. As a Michigan fan, and a football fan in general, I cannot wait for the game this Saturday.
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