Pees, Saban and the defensive staff design several new schemes to use specifically against Silver: 40 Point Waco 9 (a run-stop formation with the middle linebacker reading and playing in the gap) and 40 Point Mickey 9 Peel (a passing-downs formation featuring a middle linebacker blitz). The defense will try to get into its nickel scheme whenever Clarence Williams is in the game and, ideally, whenever a pass is a possibility so that there will be a defensive back, rather than a linebacker, on Tuman. This will be difficult to do if Michigan subs late (a certainty). Against the double cross, the Spartans will "cut" Tuman as he crosses, football terminology for making what amounts to a basketball-like switch. If any Michigan State linebacker finds himself looking for something to do, "just look for number 80 [Tuman] and flat-head him, knock his ass," says Pees.
In all, the defensive plan is heavy on jamming the run and equally heavy on finding Tuman and pressuring Griese. "Their quarterback, he'll just throw it anywhere, right to us sometimes," says Campbell. "And their receivers aren't fast."
"We're not trying to be the gurus that shut down Michigan's offense, because nobody does that," says Pees. "It's a lot easier on film, when you can stop the reel and look at the formation. The players have to do it a lot faster, and Michigan has good players. We're just trying to give ourselves a chance."
Wednesday, 1 p.m.
Philip Greenman, a 69-year-old osteopath with a full head of thick, silvery hair and the hands of a bricklayer, is working over Schultz's body like a pizza maker kneading dough. Schultz groans occasionally. Officially, he has a left rotational sprain of his sacroiliac joint, which sent most of the muscles in his back into painful spasms. Translated, he threw out his back. After 20 minutes of "muscle balancing," Green-man promises that Schultz "will notice a lot of difference in 24 hours." Indeed, Schultz will practice on Thursday and play on Saturday.
Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.
Taking his cue from Saban, Reese calls a players-only meeting before practice and begins it with a tirade. "You can't just throw a switch on Saturday and be ready for the Michigan game," he shouts. "Anybody who doesn't remember last year's game can come on over to my house and watch the tape with me, like I've been doing all week." Reese would later recall, "I was so angry, I felt like I wanted to reach out and strike somebody." Instead, he beckoned sophomore tailback Sedrick Irvin to speak. "Sedrick, you're somebody who the team respects, for your work ethic and your talent," Reese says at the meeting. "But now it's time for you to take a leadership role. It's time for you to speak." Irvin rises and at one juncture in his short speech asks his teammates, "Do you want to go back to El Paso (the Sun Bowl, in which Michigan State played last year] or do you want to go to Pasadena?"
Wednesday, 2:35 p.m.
The offensive plan is complete. True to Tranquill's wishes, the Spartans will keep it relatively simple. They will run far more often than usual from their Green Formation (two tight ends, one wideout, two running backs). The reason for this is that Michigan likes to run multiple defensive sets and zone blitzes, jumping in and out of gaps wildly until the snap. "Teams like Michigan are doing so much crap on defense that you just decide it's better to be simple and make them be a little more simple," says Bollman. "If we're not spread out, they can't spread out. Two tights, two backs."
Irvin, who has run for 591 yards in the first six games, will be vital to this attack. In many ways the Spartans are handing him the game. "He's the only guy we've got who can make a big play," says Tranquill. "Otherwise we're trying to sustain 80 [yards] on every series, and that's really hard to do."
There will be four gimmick plays in the offensive package, all involving Irvin: 1) a halfback pass, which Irvin has thrown effectively in the past; 2) a counter screen left to Irvin off a play-fake to him; 3) a halfback option, in which Irvin would take a handoff from Schultz and assume the role of a wishbone quarterback, with the option of pitching to trailing back Marc Renaud; and 4) a devilish fake field goal, called Ranger, in which Irvin would linger near the sideline as the kicking team ran onto the field late (more than one team can play the late substitution game) and catch a pass from holder Bill Burke. Saban was so protective of this play that he didn't run it in practice after Tuesday, fearing somebody connected with Michigan would find out. Can Irvin do all of this? "He can do anything," says Baggett.
There will be no special attempt to avoid throwing at Woodson. "Derrick Mason caught 10 balls on him last year," says Tranquill. "Our receivers this year aren't as good as Derrick was, but we're going to run some double cuts, some hook-and-gos on Woodson. He's aggressive and he's good, but he makes mistakes, too."