Michigan comes into the game ranked 18th in the nation off a 42-35 last minute win over Indiana, while Michigan State ranks 17th after an upset win over the formally 11th ranked Wisconsin, jumping the Spartans 7 spots in the AP Top 25. Both teams are coming into this game with intriguing storylines.
Michigan State hasn’t started a season 6-0 since 1999. To get to 6-0 that year, they also beat Michigan 34-31 in East Lansing. This is the best team the Spartans have fielded since that time and don’t show any sign of stopping. The Spartans momentum began after a thrilling 34-31 OT victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish when MSU faked a field goal try on the last play of the game.
The momentum carried over two weeks later when the Spartans defeated the favored Badgers, even without coach Dantonio, who after suffereing a heart attack after the Notre Dame win, a blood clot was found in his leg. Nothing is going to stop Dantonio this week though, as he will be coaching from the press box on Saturday.
Last year, Michigan started the year 4-0, but after losing to the Spartans 26-20 in OT, the Wolverines faltered and finished the season 5-7 and missing a bowl game for the second straight year. This year, Michigan has started off 5-0 with the 2nd best total offense in the country, led by Heisman contender Denard Robinson.
Robinson is leading the nation in rushing with 905 yards and has the third best quarterback rating in the nation at 180. The Wolverines have had many close games this year, including last minute wins over Notre Dame and last week at Indiana. It’s clear that if the the Wolverine want to win this week, then they’ll need to step up on defense.
What Michigan State has to do to win: the Spartans defenseÂ need to contain Denard Robinson on the ground. They can not let Robinson break for long runs like he has been able to do in every game this season. That doesn’t mean though the Spartans can’t play pass defense. Robinson uses his legs to draw the defense in, then throws down the field for a long gain.
On offense, Kirk Cousins needs to avoid costly mistakes that will affect their drives on offense. That happened last week when he threw two interceptions against Wisconsin. If MSU can limit mistakes on offense and contain Robinson on defense, then the Spartans will come out a winner.
What Michigan has to do to win: Denard Robinson has to have a big game against a tough Spartan defense, both in the air and on the ground. But the key to the game for the Wolverines is their defense. The defense for Michigan has been horrible this year and may cost their offense the game if they can’t step up.
Players like Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh need to step up their game this week and contain a deadly Spartan rushing game. Their pass defense ranks 120th in the nation, and their are only 120 teams in the FBS, so they are dead last. If the Wolverines want any hope of winning, then the defense has toÂ play better.
The game will be played at Michigan Stadium at 3:30 and will air on either ABC or ESPN.