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Week 6 Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This rivalry is real and intense. The Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines are not fond of each other and this game should be a hard-hitting, classic Big Ten matchup.

Regular Michigan fans are arrogant confident that their team will pick up the win this week, and the Wolverines are heavy favorites.

However, I am under the impression that this game will be closer than most think. If there is one thing that head coach Mark Dantonio always does well, it is that he has his squad prepared, ready and up for the Michigan game each and every year.

Here is this Saturday’s preview:

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:

Record — 3-1, (1-0 Big Ten)

Offense — 429.5 total yards per game (4th in Big Ten), 242 passing yards per game, 187.5 rushing yards per game, 24.5 points per game

Defense — 248.3 yards allowed per game (3rd in Big Ten), 152.3 passing yards allowed per game, 96 rushing yards allowed per game, 18 points allowed per game


Record — 4-0 (1-0 Big Ten)

Offense — 407.3 total yards per game (6th in Big Ten), 223 passing yards per game, 184.3 rushing yards per game, 31.5 points per game

Defense — 203.3 yards allowed per game (1st in Big Ten), 134 passing yards allowed per game, 69.3 rushing yards allowed per game, 13.5 points allowed per game

Quick takeaway: Michigan State has the slight advantage offensively, but Michigan has the clear upper hand defensively. With all of that said, these teams are built similarly. Both offenses have struggled at points, while the defenses have been dominate. John O’Korn may breathe new life into the Michigan offense, but I think Brian Lewerke is the more complete quarterback and will be the true X-factor in this game. Michigan State will need its running game to get going against the Michigan defense in order to take pressure off of Lewerke, but that is a tall order against the nation’s best defense.

Series History

All-time record: Michigan leads 69-35-5

Last Spartans win: Oct. 17, 2015 (27-23)

Last Wolverines win: Oct. 29, 2016 (32-23)

Current Streak: Michigan with one win

Longest winning streak: Michigan won 14 games straight from 1916 through 1929

Takeaways: While this series looks historically one-sided, what Michigan fans never seem to mention is that Michigan actually leads the competitive series by a mark of 36-26-2 since Michigan State’s athletic teams joined the Big Ten conference in 1953. You also never hear them note the fact that Michigan has played 70 percent of the 109 games a home, including 21 years straight from the 1920s through 1940s. But that’s none of my business.

The series is 9-8 in Michigan’s favor since the year 2000. Michigan State is 5-2 since 2010, and of course, the Spartans have won seven of the past nine contests. Michigan won six out of 10 matchups in the 1990s. If you are of the opinion that this series is not close and competitive because of wins in the early 1900s through 1940, then you may need to rethink how you analyze success on the football field.

Previous Matchups

Michigan State: The Spartans beat a tough Iowa team 17-10 in Week 5. The offense came out hot, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Spartans would add a field goal, taking a 17-7 lead at halftime, but those were the last points they scored. The Spartans defense was able to hold the Hawkeyes to just three points in the second half and ice the game, though. Two clutch turnovers forced by MSU helped seal the victory, and the Spartans held the Hawkeyes to just 19 rushing yards and 231 total yards.

Michigan: Michigan had two weeks to prepare for Michigan State, coming off of a Week 5 bye. In Week 4, the Wolverines took down Purdue by a score of 28-10. Purdue actually led 10-7 at the half, but couldn’t muster any points in the second half against that vaunted Michigan defense. The Wolverines lost starting quarterback Wilton Speight, and turned to the aforementioned O’Korn who finished with 270 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Key Players

Michigan State:

Brian Lewerke: 140.8 QB rating, 963 passing yards, 63.2 percent completion rate, eight TDs, two INTs, 248 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns

LJ Scott: 58 rushes, 214 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, one TD, six catches for 31 yards and one receiving TD

Felton Davis III: 21 catches, 256 yards, four TDs

Joe Bachie: 34 tackles, four tackle for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery

Chris Frey: 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one fumble recovery


John O’Korn: 170.7 QB rating, 307 passing yards, 70.4 percent completion rate, one TD, one INT

Ty Isaac: 57 rushes, 356 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, one TD

Grant Perry: 13 catches, 163 yards, one TD

Devin Bush: 32 tackles, six tackle for loss, five sacks, four passes defended

Rashan Gary: 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one fumble forced

Game Info

Time: 7:30 p.m. EST

TV Channel: ABC

Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

Weather expectations: 78 degrees at kickoff, cloudy skies, windy, 60 percent chance of rain at 8 p.m.

Odds: Michigan -10

Over/Under: 40


Maybe it’s my pride, but I just don’t see a blowout here. Michigan State has covered the point spread in each of the last nine meetings between the two programs. The Spartans are ready and based off of the results of the last time Michigan State visited the Big House, they will have confidence no matter what happens during the game, because that contest proved that anything is possible on a football field. Here’s the thing, though, Michigan’s defense is elite. Michigan State’s offense has plenty of holes. Michigan State will have to lean on Lewerke and its defense to make plays. L.J. Scott needs to show up, as he did last year against Michigan.

I know the Wolverines’ defense has not had to face top-tier offenses yet, but what they have been doing to these opponents is nothing short of impressive. I do think O’Korn adds a new degree to the offense, but I don’t think he’s a game-changer, and I do believe Michigan will have trouble moving the ball. Michigan State will as well. Look for a grind it out kind of game where the first team to 17 points could very well leave Michigan Stadium with a W.

Go Green!

OK, the moment of truth. Forget records, point spreads, offensive or defensive totals. Players on both sides will give blood, sweat and tears and neither team can stand losing to each other.

Be honest, who do you believe wins?


Who wins between Michigan State and Michigan?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Michigan State, close
    (220 votes)
  • 33%
    Michigan, close
    (170 votes)
  • 3%
    Michigan State in blowout fashion
    (17 votes)
  • 19%
    Michigan in blowout fashion
    (96 votes)
503 votes total Vote Now

A cool hype video for the rivalry game here:

For more of our coverage on the Michigan State versus Michigan game this weekend, be sure to visit our storystream on the subject.