Michigan vs. Michigan State: How Michigan Will Win
The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has caused little excitement in the college football world recently. Michigan State has won 6 of the last 7 matchups, and rarely has the game held postseason implications for both teams.
This year is different.
The #12 Wolverines (5-1, 2-0) look to keep their forward momentum as they welcome the #7 Spartans (6-0, 2-0) into Michigan Stadium this Saturday at 3:30 pm EST.
These teams face their biggest game yet and the winner will be in the driver's seat in the Big Ten East race, strengthening their chances of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.
First-year coach Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines rolling after a season-opening loss to a Utah team that is looking better every week.
Let's look at a few key aspects that will help Michigan come out on top in The Big House.
In Michigan's last three games, their defense has allowed a total of 0 points. Two of these shutouts came against BYU and Northwestern, quality opponents who were ranked coming into the game.
When you look at the statistics, Michigan's defensive dominance is hard to ignore. They rank third in the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of only 66 yards per game on the ground.
If Michigan is able to stifle Michigan State's rushing attack, it will force fifth-year senior quarterback Connor Cook to drop back and throw. With Big Ten, Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl titles under his belt, Cook is a veteran. ESPN's Brian Bennett believes that Cook will be the difference maker for Michigan State.
Jim O'Connor - USA TODAY Sports
However, Cook is facing the second-best passing defense in the nation, a defensive backfield that has only allowed 2 passing touchdowns all year. It is likely that the Michigan secondary will be too much for Cook to overcome.
While Michigan has played incredibly well in its past 5 games, Michigan State has not.
Early in the season, the Spartans held on to beat Oregon with a 31-28 victory. But Oregon's recent downfall makes that win look less impressive with each passing week.
Last week, Michigan State beat a mediocre Rutgers team 31-24 in game that was too close for comfort. The week before that, the Spartans barely came out on top 24-21 against a Purdue team who's only victory this season is against Indiana State.
If the Spartans continue with another lackluster performance this Saturday, it will be a long day for them in The Big House.
If you've been paying attention to college football for the past few years, it has been hard to ignore that Michigan football is not what it used to be.
In his first year returning to coach for his alma mater, head coach Jim Harbaugh's impact has been immediately felt. It is hard to argue that he hasn't played a central role in turning the program around. The wins say it all.
No disrespect to Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, but Jim Harbaugh will be the best coach on either sideline this Saturday.
Look for Harbaugh to use his dominating defense to control the ball, and keep it in his offense's hands.
As good as Michigan's defense looks, Michigan State's looks bad. The Spartan secondary has been a problem all season, they allow an average of 242 passing yards per game.
Harbaugh should look to attack by drawing up plays for Wolverine quarterback Jake Rudock. If he connects on big passing plays, the door will open for Michigan's running game, and Harbaugh will have a chance to control the clock.
Even with Michigan State's recent dominance in this rivalry, and their higher ranking, it is hard to see the Wolverines not coming out on top in this one. The Spartans are running into a team that just looks unstoppable right now.
Prediction: 24-14 Michigan