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Big Ten breakdown, Part II

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MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

13 starters returning (8 on offense, 5 on defense)
5-7 overall record (4-4 in the Big Ten) and 5-7 ATS in 2004
No postseason in 2004

ASAs take on the 2005 Spartans: The Michigan State Spartans were rolling along nicely in the Big Ten last season before their huge rivalry game at Michigan. The Spartans were on the verge of upsetting mighty Michigan on the road and moving to 4-1 in the conference. MSU actually led by 17 points with under nine minutes to go in the game. The Wolverines mounted a huge comeback and erased that deficit in the span of just 5:44. Michigan then went on to win the game in triple OT.

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That completely took the wind out of Spartys sails, as they went on to lose three of their final four games and failed to qualify for a bowl game. Starting quarterback Drew Stanton was injured (shoulder) in the first half of that game, and missed parts of the remainder of the season. He simply wasnt the same after the Michigan game. Stanton is back and should be one of the better QBs in the conference this year. When Stanton was a full strength, MSU was pretty good. When he wasnt, they werent. He also has a good supporting cast.

His offensive line is experienced, his receivers are good and the running back position is fairly deep. The Spartans averaged almost 32 points per game in Big Ten play, and should be good on that side of the ball again barring injury. The defense should take a step back, as they lost some key players to graduation including linebacker Ronald Stanley, defensive linemen Clifford Dukes and Kevin Vickerson, and DBs Jason Harmon and Roderick Maples. They will be very tough to replace. MSU actually gets a bit of a break on the Big Ten schedule as they miss Wisconsin and Iowa this year. We expect the Spartans to move back above .500 and be in a bowl game again in 2005.

ASAS "EXTRA" OBSERVATIONS ON MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans have been AWESOME in their final home game of the season. In fact, they have an incredible spread record of 13-0-1 their last 14 home finales. Last year in their last home game, they took on an undefeated Wisconsin team as a touchdown underdog. They won the game, 49-14.


MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

15 starters returning (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
9-3 overall record (7-1 in the Big Ten) and 5-7 ATS in 2004
Michigan (+7) lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl 38-37

ASAs take on the 2005 Wolverines: Michigan, as usual, has a bunch of talent coming back. The Wolverines offense should be every bit as powerful as it was last season when they averaged 31 PPG. In fact, only once all season long did Michigan score less than 20 points in a game.

With Chad Henne back at QB and a full year under his belt, this sophomore should be really good. He will operate behind an offensive line that returns almost everyone in tact (four of five starters return). Henne will also have all kinds of help from his running game. That is because fellow sophomore Michael Hart is also back after putting up nearly 1,500 yards on the ground. The Wolves will drop off at wide receiver. You cant lose Braylon Edwards (over 1,300 yards receiving last year) and not take a hit. Jason Avant and Steve Breaston are very talented and have some good experience, however after that there really isnt anyone who has played very much for U of M.

As with many other teams in the Big Ten, Michigan is loaded at LB with three starters back. However, the Wolverines will definitely miss Ernest Shazor and Marlin Jackson in the defensive backfield. The 2004 defense played well for most of the season, but there has been some concern in Ann Arbor with how they finished. In their final four games, Michigan gave up 132 points which is an average of 33 PPG. That is VERY high for a Michigan defense. The schedule is actually pretty good for the Wolves, playing seven of their 11 games at home. Their road tilts are at Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern and are all winnable games (some more than others). They miss Purdue which is a bonus, but they also avoid Illinois which would be an automatic win. When all is said and done, Michigan will again be battling for a BCS bowl berth.

ASAS "EXTRA" OBSERVATIONS ON MICHIGAN: We found a very interesting stat on the Wolverines under Lloyd Carr. They seem to be very strong from early through mid-season while they tend to falter a bit late. During the months of August, September and October, Michigan is a great 65-14 (82 percent) straight up under Carr. During the month of November however, the Wolverines are 25-10 straight up under Carr. While that is still very solid, they have almost as many losses during the month of November as they do during the first two months of the season (very few games in August) combined under Carrs tutelage.

 

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

15 starters returning (8 on offense, 7 on defense)
7-5 overall record (3-5 in the Big Ten) and 6-5 ATS in 2004
Minnesota (+2) beat Alabama in the Music City Bowl 20-16

ASAs take on the 2005 Gophers: Well the Gophers were actually a bit of a disappointment down the stretch in 2004. They started the season a perfect 5-0 (2-0 in the Big Ten), and then proceeded to lose five of their final six regular season games. After their first five games, there was actually talk about the Rose Bowl resonating from the Minneapolis/St.Paul area. That came to an abrupt halt. They did, sort of, save some face with a win over Alabama in the Music City Bowl.

Their QB position last season was wildly inconsistent. Bryan Cupito is back at the helm and he better stay healthy. As inconsistent as he was in 2004, they have NOBODY behind him. The second, third and fourth string QBs are all freshman. Cupito must improve on his 47 percent completion rate from last season.

He will have another awesome rushing attack to help take the pressure off of him however. Running back Laurence Maroney should have a monster year running behind an experienced offensive front. Already seventh on the schools all time rushing list after just two seasons, Maroney will pick up a ton of carries as his partner in crime, Marion Barber, opted for the NFL. Maroney had 217 attempts last season while Barber had 230. Thus, we look for a potential 2,000 yard season for Maroney in 2005 with the extra carries.

The defense in 2004 was not good. In five of their eight Big Ten games, the Gophers gave up 27 points or more. In 2003, the defense gave up 34 points or more in four of their eight conference games so it is an ongoing problem. Minnesota has five senior starters and four junior starters on defense so they are fairly experienced.

The main problem for the Gophs this season will be their VERY tough Big Ten schedule. The two teams they dont play, Northwestern and Illinois, were games that they would probably figure to win. They travel to Penn State and Michigan on back-to-back weekends in early October. They are also at Iowa to end the season. They host Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, none of which you can actually "chalk up" as a win. Thus, we feel Minnesota will struggle to get above .500 in the Big Ten. Look for a similar record to 2004 and a borderline bowl team for Minnesota this season.

ASAS "EXTRA" OBSERVATIONS ON MINNESOTA: Minnesota seems to put a ton of emphasis on its game with Michigan and rightfully so. However, talk about a letdown. The last two seasons, Minny was undefeated going into its game with the Wolverines, only to lose by a field goal both years. The Gophers were subsequently favored in their next game which happened to be against Michigan State both years. They then LOST both of those games SU by scores of 44-38 and 51-17. The Gophers are now an atrocious 1-13 ATS the week after they play the Wolverines.

  
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