On Oct. 17 Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh will lead his team onto the field to face in-state rival Michigan State. The Wolverines have lost the last two years to the school that used to be referred to as “little brother.” Ending this streak will be difficult because the Spartans have some very talented, experienced players and a great coach in Mark Dantonio.
Here are a couple of players Michigan has to focus on..
Connor Cook (QB)
Senior quarterback Connor Cook will be serving his third year as the starter for the Spartans. He provides tremendous leadership, poise, and maturity to this offense, along with the ability to make every throw on the field. Coach Dantonio recently said that we have not even seen Cook’s ability to run the football yet, which adds another weapon that the Wolverines defense must watch for.
Cook has played very consistently against Michigan, racking up two big victories in this rivalry.
In the last two years Cook has a record of 23-3 as a starter, including the two wins over Michigan and a win over Ohio State. Cook also possesses a Big Ten championship and victories in the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl. Last season he threw for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns with limited mistakes.
Although two of his weapons (Jeremy Langford, Tony Lippett) from last year are gone, Cook has the ability to make the guys who are next in line just as good. Michigan’s defense will have to play aggressively and cause some turnovers if it wants to contain this quarterback.
Shilique Calhoun (DE)
The Spartans defense has taken two major blows since last season. First they lost defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to a head coaching job at Pittsburgh. Then they recently lost one of their top defensive players, linebacker Ed Davis, to a season-ending injury. He would have been the player to watch on defense. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun is my next selection for this defense.
The 6-foot-5 senior was a first-team All Big Ten player last year after recording 12.5 tackles for loss (led the team) and 8.0 sacks. Against Michigan last year he had three solo tackles and a five-yard sack of Devin Gardner. He helped anchor a defensive unit that was one of the most physical in the nation, ranking them in the top ten for rushing defense, turnover margin, takeaways, and sacks.
Not only is he on my watch list, Calhoun has been named to four preseason watch lists for national awards. Michigan’s offensive line better know where he is on the line at all times.