Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison spoke with the media Tuesday afternoon. Here are the highlights:
News: Redshirt junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan is fully back in the fold now, after returning from an ACL tear suffered in spring practice to play in a rotation at the SAM position. Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he may get more snaps this week, and Mattison reiterated that sentiment.
Mattison: "Jake, to me, is 100 percent. Jake has practiced very hard. He and Cam [Gordon] have practiced very hard at that position, and Brennen [Beyer]. We're full-strength there.
"We would never put a game ahead of a player, but I think with the timetable and the communication with the trainers, doctors and him, I tend to believe he will get more and more playing time."
Views: Basically, this is perfect timing. The Wolverines ran No. 101 nationally in tackles for loss with 38.0 on the season (5.4 per game). They have gotten to the quarterback much better, ranking 47th in sacks with 16 on the year, but there is no doubt that Ryan's particular style of mayhem will increase the defense's production behind the line of scrimmage.
The Spartans are going to want to grind out yards in the run game to open things up in the play-action department. Ryan can add something to the pass rush, coverage, run support - everywhere on the field.
Now that he's fully healthy, he's going to be a huge asset for the defense in this game.
News: The Wolverines have deployed a heavy rotation along the front seven this season, with guys coming in and out every three plays at most spots.
Now that Michigan has entered the crucial stretch of its season, with a do-or-die game at Michigan State, that rotation may slow a little, allowing the Wolverines' top-flight guys more snaps and more opportunity to make a play.
Mattison: "At this point of the season and after this many games, you now have to decide, 'We should be able to go a little more than we usually would.' You may not have equal rotation. You'll have guys rotating and subbing in and out, but it may not be at the pace that you did in some of the earlier games. That will be evaluated all week, to see how many plays a guy earns to play."
Views: The Wolverines are not going to stop rotating, nor should they. But the more you feel comfortable keeping your No. 1 guys out there, the better.
It should be a problem in a game like this. Yes, it will be physical, especially in the trenches, but the Spartans and Wolverines are both going to want to control the ball and bleed the clock a little.
Snaps will be at a premium here - it's not like the defensive linemen are going to be running around like they were vs. Indiana a couple weeks ago.
Cut the rotation a little, leave the No. 1 guys out there and let them make a play.
News: With a five-game slate in November that will make or break the Wolverines' season, it is officially Go Time.
Mattison: I think our defensive guys feel the same way I do, in that we have the ability. We have it there - we have to do it. We have to do it for 60 minutes. I think it's kind of like a test. Enough is enough. You can say all you want about all these other games - it's on the line now, so let's go play. I really feel all the players feel the exact same way."
Views: The Wolverines have played lights-out defense during stretches this season. Look at the majority of the Connecticut game or the second half of the Penn State game, before the infamous final drive of regulation.
Michigan is just a few missed assignments or miscommunications away from being dominant on that side of the ball.
There's no time like the present, though. This is a perfect opportunity to shake off the stench of the Indiana game - during with Michigan gave up 47 points and more than 500 yards of offense - and make some plays. The Spartans have steadily improved on offense, but they're nowhere near world-beaters on that side of the ball.
The Michigan offense will most likely struggle to move the ball on the No. 1 defense in the country. The defense is going to be huge in this one.
News: Mattison talked about the importance of turnovers in this game.
Mattison: "You're only a great defense if you get turnovers. You don't see many defenses that are very strong if they're not getting the ball back for their offense. That's always one of our huge objectives, to get the ball back. Our guys have done that. It's never as good as it should be, but we have done that at a little better rate. Every game now down the stretch, turnovers are huge, and we have to keep working to get them."
Views The Wolverines have already forced 15 turnovers (they had 18 all last season), including 11 interceptions, four more than they had in all of 2012.
The problem has been the Michigan offense's propensity to cough up the ball, with 17 of its own.
Turnovers are going to be huge in this game. The Spartans have been pretty good about holding onto the ball, with just nine turnovers on the year (just 20 teams in the country currently have fewer than that).
Michigan is going to have to come up with some opportune turnovers in this game.