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Get To Know The Opponent: Michigan

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

The Michigan State Spartans are on the road against the Michigan Wolverines this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ABC. Let’s get to know more about Michigan.

School: The University of Michigan

Nickname: Wolverines

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (eighth season as UM head coach, 68-24 record, 126-51 overall)

Series History: Michigan State and Michigan have met 114 times, with the Wolverines leading the all-time series record 71-38-5. The Spartans have won two in a row in the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, with the most recent win coming last season when the Spartans ripped the hearts out of all Wolverines fans, with a 16-point comeback in the second half on the legs of Kenneth Walker III.

Michigan State and Michigan will square off as the featured ABC primetime game this Saturday in one of the biggest rivalries in the sport. The Wolverines, who are the heavy 23-point favorites, according to the DraftsKings Sportsbook, will be looking for sweet revenge under the lights in their own backyard after last season’s heartbreaking loss in Spartan Stadium.

The 2021 rendition of the Paul Bunyan Trophy game wasn’t just for in-state bragging rights, both teams were undefeated, in the top-10 and had legitimate Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff hopes.

There won’t be the same hype around the 2022 contest, as the Spartans are not ranked and just won their first game since Week Two, defeating Wisconsin in Week Seven, and coming in at 3-4 overall. As for Michigan, all of the Wolverines’ championship hopes are still on the table. UM has displayed a dominant running game and a disruptive defense, which has led to a 7-0 start. Both teams are coming off of a bye week.

Players/Schemes To Watch

Michigan’s running game

As every defensive coordinator knows going into a contest with the Wolverines, you must be able to control Michigan’s ground game. A dominant running game has always been in Jim Harbaugh’s DNA, going back to his time with Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers.

Whether it’s in a heavy I-formation set or spread sets, Harbaugh is set on having a dominant ground game to set up play-action passing success. The Wolverines have adopted more of the Harbaugh with the 49ers running game, rather than his time at Stanford. Below you can see the difference in formations.

Michigan allows itself more opportunities to face lighter boxes, while going with a more spread structure, which gives the Wolverines one-on-one open field situations with their talented running back room, headlined by Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Below is an example of Michigan spreading Penn State out, giving the offense a numbers advantage into the boundary on this gap scheme running concept.

The Wolverines line up three receiving options to the “field” side, forcing Penn State to line defenders up over all three of those receivers, which allows Michigan to have a numbers advantage to the “boundary” side of the field.

Michigan pulls it’s center and guard to create a new gap on the edge, where the Wolverines have two offensive linemen versus two Penn State defenders. This is a great numbers advantage because if those linemen pick up their blocks as the Michigan linemen did in this play, that allows any of the very talented Michigan running backs to hit an explosive play.

Mike Morris

Coming into the 2022 campaign, there were question marks around who will step up on the Michigan defensive line, after both starting EDGE defenders, David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson, were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Those questions have been answered. Senior Mike Morris is putting together his best season yet as a Wolverine.

Morris has recorded five sacks and eight tackles for losses, both career highs for him. The 6-foot-6. 290-pound EDGE has been a versatile talent for the Michigan defense this season. Morris’ ability to dominate the line on run plays and create pressure on quarterbacks in passing downs has been elite so far this season.


The Wolverines will be looking to make a statement and regain the Paul Bunyan Trophy on Saturday night, and the Spartans will be playing for a third win in a row in this historic rivalry. The 23-point spread seems pretty large, considering these two teams usually keep it close. Expect this to be a close game for a half and the depth of the Wolverines pulling away late.