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TOC Staff Picks: Michigan versus Michigan State

The two in-state rivals are battling to remain undefeated.

Syndication: USA TODAY Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK

There really isn’t much more to say that hasn’t been said already.

Michigan and Michigan State enter Saturday’s contest undefeated and a win would do wonders for both in terms of staying in contention for the Big Ten Championship and remaining in the College Football Playoff picture.

Michigan enters around a four-point favorite, even with the Spartans holding the home field advantage.

In a game that could come down to the wire, see what our writers have to say about Saturday’s clash.

Ryan O’Bleness

Michigan State 23, Michigan 20

This could seriously go either way. I think this game is going to be an absolute slugfest. Expect a tough, physical low-scoring game with two squads that want to keep on hitting each other until one finally gets the knockout blow. This game will be won and lost in the trenches, as both teams have strong rushing attacks on offense and tough rushing defenses. Can Michigan State’s offensive line step up against Michigan’s imposing defensive line? Will Kenneth Walker III have room to run? Can MSU shut down the tandem of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins?

On the other side of the coin, though, the Wolverines have not shown an ability to pass the football, especially on deep throws. Meanwhile, Michigan State has shown a knack for big plays in the passing game with Payton Thorne, Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor. If Michigan State can contain the rushing attack, keep Michigan one-dimensional and force Cade McNamara (or J.J. McCarthy) to beat the Spartans through the air, I like Michigan State’s chances. But containing the rushing attack and finding room to run on the Michigan defense are both tasks that are easier said than done. I think both fan bases are in for a stressful game on Saturday, but in the end, MSU finds a way to get it done once again.

Paul Fanson

Michigan 30, Michigan State 23

As always, I let my computer make the “official pick” and the machine likes the Wolverines. Ultimately, this game will come down to a battle of wills. Both teams will try to run on the other. If one team can dominate the other at the point of attack, that team will likely win.

I think a lot of pundits expect Michigan to be able to move the ball on the ground better than the Spartans, but I have to wonder if that opinion is based more on the mystique of the winged helmets than on reality. The fact is that a comparison of yard per carry performance with common opponents suggest that MSU is both better at running the ball and at stopping the run. MSU also clearly has a much better and explosive passing attack.

If I combine these facts with some of the intangible aspects of this rivalry, such as Michigan’s inability to actually beat “good” Michigan State teams, I think that there is a good chance that MSU fans will be the ones celebrating on Saturday night.

Zach Manning

Michigan 23, Michigan State 17

I think this game will be close, but I see Michigan State’s offensive line struggling to open up holes for Kenneth Walker III, which makes it tough on the rest of the offense to find a rhythm. We’ve seen this happen a couple of times this year, and it’s led to some pretty nasty offensive performances.

Defensively, I think the Spartans will allow Michigan to move between the 20-yard-lines like most teams have been able to this season. However, with Michigan having one of the better offensive lines in the conference, I think the Wolverines may be able to score one or two touchdowns, where other teams have ended up kicking field goals.

On Michigan’s side, and I have no intel on this whatsoever, I believe the Wolverines will trot out J.J. McCarthy to start against the Spartans. At the very least, he will play a significant role. He’s ramped up his game action over the last few weeks, and Michigan is heading into its biggest stretch of the year. McNamara has been solid and has the Wolverines at 7-0, but McCarthy has the higher upside, which Michigan will look to take advantage of.

In the end, Michigan State has the ball down a score late in the game, but can’t find the end zone and loses a close one to in-state rival Michigan.

Matt Sheehan

Michigan 25, Michigan State 21

I predicted a 70-something point Wolverine victory last year, so don’t doubt my motives with this prediction. Also, Michigan State’s offensive line scares me.

Kevin Knight

Michigan 31, Michigan State 24

There has been far too much bad voodoo coming from the Michigan State fans this week. I will now counteract that and incur their wrath with my attempt to admit the chip on the shoulder flaws that need overcome in this one. MSU’s offensive line has not been great of late and the team has had boneheaded penalties. Despite a valiant effort by the defense and totally shutting down the run game, the Spartans can’t close out the gap late and fall to a late score by the Wolverines in a heartbreaker.

Matt Hoeppner

Michigan State 28, Michigan 27

Matt Coghlin hits a late field goal to keep Paul Bunyan in East Lansing and continue the Spartans’ undefeated season.

Austen Flores

Michigan State 20, Michigan 16

The game will come down to who is better able to control the run and I think Michigan State has the slight edge with Kenneth Walker III. While both offenses have shown plenty of big play ability, this matchup has all the makings of a slugfest (per usual in the rivalry). Maybe expect to see doses of J.J. McCarthy if things look stagnant for the Wolverines. The crowd in East Lansing should have an impact as well.

Justin Walsh

Michigan State 35, Michigan 31

Rivalry games are almost always closer than they should be, no matter which team is better, and this one will be no different. Michigan State is going to need to play a near flawless game to pull out a win against the Wolverines, especially the offensive line. The Michigan defense is going to be very tough, but Payton Thorne will connect with his playmakers enough to secure the victory.


Michigan 24, Michigan State 20

Michigan State’s offensive kryptonite is good defensive lines. Michigan has a very good defensive line. If MSU is able to mitigate that issue, plays can be made versus the Michigan defensive backs in the passing game. I am not confident of that, though.

Something to keep an eye on, the weather. The forecast shows deteriorating weather, with an increase in rain probability and wind. That also does not favor MSU, as Michigan is comfortable being an unbalanced, run dominant offense.

David Harns

Michigan State 37, Michigan 24

Throughout the year, several members of TOC will participate in Big Ten picks using Tallysight. You can keep up with those picks here: