October 09, 2010
Michigan State 34, Michigan 17. The Wolverines' exhilarating 5-0 start came with two nagging concerns. The first was over the sad-sack defense, already ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten in total D and dead last nationally against the pass. The other was over what was going to happen when warp-speed quarterback Denard Robinson ran into a competent Big Ten defense that could hold him reasonably in check as a runner and made him throw when he didn't want. This was bad news on both fronts.
The Spartans' 519-yard outburst on offense isn't very surprising against a unit that's been gashed on a weekly basis by far less balanced outfits than Michigan State's, which rolled up an offensive coordinator's dream game: 233 rushing, 286 passing. Denard Robinson's afternoon was more a bad dream: The Spartans corralled the nation's leading rusher for 88 yards, on a long of just 16 for a guy who'd broken 11 runs of at least 20 yards in the first five games. And they picked him off, twice on third downs and again with the Wolverines in hurry-up mode down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
That's much closer to the one-trick track star Michigan fans were afraid of when Robinson first emerged as a potential starter in the spring. Of course, for some teams, 376 yards total offense and 17 points is just fine. With this defense, Michigan is not one of those teams. The Spartans are the third team in six games to hang at least 34 points on the Wolverines, and the third to go well over 500 yards on offense. This team obviously needs a supersonic playmaker in the backfield to put up 30 points of its own on a regular basis. If Shoelace and Co. aren't there yet against top-25-caliber defenses, they may be headed for another long, sobering finish, beginning next week against arguably the best defense in the conference, Iowa.