Michigan vs. Michigan State: 10 Things We Learned in Wolverines' Loss
The Wolverines (6-2, 2-2) had lost four in a row prior to winning in 2012. Looking for back-to-back wins, they were met by a tenacious Spartans (8-1, 5-0) defense that sacked Devin Gardner seven times.
Michigan rushed for minus-48 yards, its lowest total ever (per ABC live report).
Why didn't Hoke take a shot before halftime? How could a team that averaged 42 points fail to score a touchdown?
This slideshow will examine why the Wolverines fell to their in-state rivals for the fifth time in six years.
Loss Is on Coaching
Brady Hoke has been battered this season, and last, for questionable calls.
Well, Saturday was the final straw. His overly conservative play cost Michigan a chance, at the very least, for six points prior to halftime. Instead of testing Gardner's arm, Hoke opted to take a knee and head into halftime down 13-6.
That was a bad move. The Spartans got the ball back in the second half. And although they didn't immediately score, they continued to pile on Michigan.
And yes, there is a gap, Coach Hoke. A big gap.
Brady Hoke on the rivalry: "I don't think there is a gap."— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 2, 2013
Gardner Was Overhyped
Don't be ashamed if you thought that Devin Gardner was going to be a star this season.
You weren't the only one (ahem).
That being said, it's clear that his tires were pumped a little too much by Wolverines fans and media members. After a sparkling five-game close to 2012, Gardner looked like he was the answer to Michigan's problems.
Turns out, he's the root of some of them.
Gardner completed 14 of 27 passes for 210 yards and an interception, which cost Michigan a last-chance scoring opportunity deep in Michigan State's zone.
This season, Gardner has been good against the bad, and bad against the good. Michigan State's defense is one of the country's elite and played as such. Gardner isn't an elite quarterback, and he played as such.
Dantonio Was Ready
A 12-10 loss had people thinking that Michigan State's four-year stretch of dominance was a mere fluke.
Not after Saturday's 29-6 pummeling of Michigan.
The 23-point win had the feel of a 50-point trouncing. If you watched closely, you would have witnessed the air exit Michigan's sails after Connor Cook found Bennie Fowler for a 14-yard touchdown prior to halftime.
During sideline interviews with ABC, Mark Dantonio talked of "letting the lion out of the cage." Well, if Denicos Allen was a lion, Dantonio did just that.
At 5-0 in the Big Ten, the Spartans are in firm control of the Legends Division. Dantonio knew what Saturday's game meant.
But did Hoke?
Taylor Lewan's Stock May Take a Dive
Taylor Lewan returned to Michigan to win championships and beat Michigan State.
He could have entered the 2013 NFL draft. He may wish he reconsidered that choice due to what happened Saturday.
Associated Press writer Dave Hogg pointed out several flaws with Michigan's offensive line. He even suggested that Lewan's pro stock could fall because of the laughable effort:
This isn't Brady Hoke coaching all of RichRod's players any more. They've got to build an offensive line.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) November 2, 2013
Lewan is still one of the best tackles in the country. He should be among the first three picked in the 2014 draft.
His line makes him look bad. The offense makes him look bad. And in the first half, Lewan made himself look bad by jawing with Michigan State's Kurtis Drummond.
Fire is one thing. Ramming a facemask into another player's facemask is a bit over the limit.
Was it a sign of frustration? Sure it was. But it was also a sign of reality.
Michigan's Secondary Is Falling Apart
Connor Cook isn't a superstar.
But he appeared close to being one Saturday with his calm approach against Michigan.
The first-year starter picked apart Michigan's secondary at will. If not for Fowler's drop in the first half, Cook would have had a pair of passing touchdowns on the day.
Three Spartans had more than 60 receiving yards. Cook threaded the ball through each crevice, and Michigan couldn't do anything about it. He completed at least four passes for 20 yards or better.
That's called lighting up the defensive backs.
By way of a tip, Jourdan Lewis saved the touchdown during Fowler's drop. Blake Countess was a virtual non-factor. Raymon Taylor gave Team 134 a fighting chance with an interception late in the third quarter.
Other than that, Michigan received very little from a unit that was supposed to be a strength.
Same point each week. But after Saturday, it has to be filed away and never spoke of again.
Well, until the next game.
Fitz Toussaint had a 151-yard game against Indiana. But that meant nothing when colliding with the Spartans defense, which hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
No fear, though.
Toussaint wasn't even close with eight carries for 20 yards.
And again, Michigan failed to use another running back. Thomas Rawls, Derrick Green, Justice Hayes and DeVeon Smith didn't get a tote.
No Way Michigan Is Beating OSU
Forget about playing for a Big Ten Championship.
Saturday's loss to Michigan State basically removed any possibility of that happening.
There's a small chance, with a ton of help, but consider the Wolverines' chances of winning a conference title game at about four percent (no actual calculation went into that projection).
Ohio State is the cream of the crop. And if the Spartans play their hand correctly, they'll get ran over by the Buckeyes in December.
Michigan couldn't score a touchdown against the Spartans. Odds are that it'll have similar problems when facing the Buckeyes, who may not have to rely on defense.
They'll just put up 50 on the Wolverines and call it a day.
Put RichRod Talk to Rest
The "blame RichRod" game was acceptable for about two years. But it's been three.
Time to give it a rest.
Hoke has his players. Sure, has some of Rodriguez's athletes, such as Lewan, Gardner and Toussaint, three of the team's best players, but he has enough of his own to make a difference.
That was the thought entering this fall.
Hoke gets top-10 classes but doesn't produce. He went 8-5 in 2012. This year could be similar if he doesn't find a way to find his team.
Michigan is lost. And that's been clear throughout the year. But after such a beating at the hands of a little brother, it's time to get real.
Hoke's Seat Getting Warm?
Not sure. You tell me.
Are Wolverines fans sick of uninspired performances? Will it take a beating by Ohio State for fans to call for Hoke's job?
Or will that happen this week? Sports talk radio should prepare for the anti-Hoke comments that are sure to be spewed by the masses.
Michigan State Is Better Program
Forget recruiting. Forget rankings. Forget history.
Right here, right now, Michigan State is the best team in the state. No question.
Dantonio has 32 league wins and won a share of the Big Ten in 2010. Hoke hasn't come close to that after his first year when Michigan won the Sugar Bowl, a game in which the Spartans were deserving of.
Today, in November of 2013, the Spartans are the better team than Michigan.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.