Opponent: Michigan Wolverines
Date: Nov. 2, 2013
Location: Spartan Stadium — East Lansing, Michigan
Final Score: 29-6, Michigan State
All-time Matchup Record: Michigan leads (71-37-5)
Michigan State and Michigan clash for the 114th time in East Lansing this weekend and It’s hard to pinpoint a meeting in recent memory that has meant more. One team will leave Spartan Stadium with more than just the usual pride and bragging rights, but will also control their own destiny to a Big Ten championship and possible College Football Playoff berth.
Michigan (7-0) has moved up to No. 6 in the polls and is coming off another lopsided victory against a Big Ten bottom-dweller in Northwestern. Defensively, the Wolverines have played very well, ranking 11th in total defense in the nation. All eyes will be on quarterback Cade McNamara, who up to this point hasn’t exactly proven he can be “the guy” — but will surely have the chance to prove skeptics right or wrong on Saturday.
The Spartans (7-0) also moved up slightly in the polls to No. 8, and are well rested coming off a much-needed bye week following a close encounter in Bloomington against Indiana. While Michigan State has been mostly built up as an offensive team, MSU’s defense has been consistently stern, especially in Big Ten play, in terms of giving up points. The question I think will also come down to quarterback play for the Spartans, as Payton Thorne has gone through a couple of rough stretches in games in which defense or special teams have had to compensate.
Say what you want about the schedule each team has faced, they’ve taken care of business up to this point of the season and now both are in a position to reach their ultimate goals.
Surprisingly enough, considering the Spartans’ recent success, it’s been seven years since MSU has beaten the Wolverines in Spartan Stadium (2014). For this weeks playback installment, we go back a year earlier than that to an early November day in 2013 where the best defense in the country completely demoralized the team’s biggest rival for a full 60 minutes.
Much like this year, both teams entered the game in 2013 with momentum and high hopes for a conference championship run. The Wolverines prevailed the season prior, ending Paul Bunyan’s four-year stay in East Lansing and the Spartans were eager to snatch him back.
Michigan State entered ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, and the Spartans refused to give an inch for most of the game. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was sacked four times in the first quarter, and things progressively got worse. The Wolverines were held to a record low -48 (yes, that is negative 48) rushing yards overall and failed to sniff the end zone once.
The game was a classic Big Ten bonanza of stagnant offense up until the final minute of the first half, where Connor Cook found Bennie Fowler in the corner of the end zone for a beautiful 14-yard touchdown to put MSU up 13-6. In the second half, the Wolverines failed to put of any sort of fight, collapsing to what seemed like a thunderstorm of blitzes orchestrated by defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
This was Michigan State’s most lopsided win over Michigan since a 34-0 victory in 1967, right before the Wolverines gained the upper hand in this rivalry and held onto it for about four decades. Oh, how things have changed since then.
While Cook did pass for a touchdown and run for another, this day belonged to Narduzzi’s defense. In what was a cold, wet day for spectators, they were treated (or spoiled) with one of the most impressive defensive performances in recent memory.