Written By: Case Conley
One of the best rivalries in sports has the latest chapter in its storied history on Saturday night. Michigan State will travel into Michigan Stadium to take on the undefeated Michigan Wolverines under the lights. The game will start at 7:30 on ABC and it will be a maize out for the home Wolverines. The Spartans have won 10 of the last 14 against Michigan including the last 2 in a row. However, both teams are trending in opposite directions.
The Wolverines are 7-0 and ranked 4th in the first College Football Playoff Rankings. Led by running back Blake Corum, this offense has been one of the best in the country. They are ranked 6th in the country in points per game and 7th in rushing yards per game with over 241 yards per game. Corum is already at 901 yards rushing and leads the country with 13 rushing touchdowns. JJ McCarthy has been the most accurate passer in the NCAA with a 77.1% completion rate. Ronnie Bell and Roman Wilson lead this receiving corps and they will have a chance to expose the very weak Michigan State secondary. Defensively, the Wolverines have one of the top defenses in the nation ranking in the top 6 in scoring defense, rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense.
The Spartans have been spiraling down hill this season sitting at 3-4, however have some confidence coming off a Homecoming overtime win over Wisconsin. The offense has struggled especially running the ball where they are 116th in rushing offense. The passing game has been the strong point at times this season and they will need it to be strong on Saturday. They have strong receivers led by Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman and they need to continue making life easier for Peyton Thorne. Thorne has actually been decent with an offensive line who has struggled to protect him and a lack of a run game. Jalen Berger will try to create some energy in the backfield but with the offensive line struggles, he can only do so much. Defensively, MSU still has one of the worst defenses in the country, giving up more than 422 yards per game. Some bright spots are that All-Big Ten safety Xavier Henderson and defensive lineman Jacob Slade should be back from injury this week.
Michigan defensive backs vs MSU wide receivers
The Spartans have loads of talent in the receiver room with the before mentioned Reed and Coleman along with Tre Mosley and the two tight ends Daniel Barker and Maliq Carr. They love giving their receivers chances on 50/50 balls and will challenge the Michigan secondary to not only make plays but also not commit any penalties which have plagued the Wolverines in the past in this rivalry. Starting corners DJ Turner and Gemon Green will have their hands full Saturday night.
Michigan offensive line vs MSU defensive line
Michigan State’s defense already has issues in the secondary, but the battle in the trenches will be just as important. Michigan’s bread and butter under Jim Harbaugh has been the run game and they will lean on it big time on Saturday night. Corum and backup Donovon Edwards are hitting their strides but McCarthy will also be a weapon in the quarterback run. The Spartans will have to choose to either load the box and force McCarthy to make plays with his arm or try to help the battered secondary as much as possible.
This game should be a complete mismatch just looking at each team, however in the rivalry games are almost always close. Since 2000, only 5 games have been won by more than 2 possessions. Mel Tucker will have the Spartans confident and fired up as they come into the Big House but Michigan will be too much. MSU has no answer to Corum and Edwards on the ground and McCarthy will have some good chances deep through the air. The Spartan offense will have some success in the pass game, however the lack of a run game will catch up to them. The Wolverines will be able to bring Paul Bunyan back to Ann Arbor, but it will be a sweat.
Michigan 34, Michigan State 17
Written By: Case Conley
Photo Courtesy of: University of Michigan