Game Of The Week 7: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Michigan
Bo Schembechler. Lloyd Carr. Jim Harbaugh. Jim Harbaugh? Yes, you read that correctly: The King of Khakis himself is in the same sentence as the greatest coaches in Michigan football’s history. Six games into the 2015 college football season and any questions of whether or not Jim Harbaugh will be the next great head football coach at Michigan have ceased.
But this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, for Harbaugh has experienced similar results in each of his last two coaching stints.
Jim Harbaugh will lead No. 12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) onto the field at the Big House on Saturday to take on No. 7 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) in a battle for state supremacy.
Still undefeated, Michigan State looks to steal one on the road from its in-state rival behind the strong play of senior quarterback Connor Cook.
Six weeks into the season and Cook has looked like the first round draft pick that he has been projected to be, passing for 1,334 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 60 percent of his passes.
The Spartans will also be relying on senior wide receiver Aaron Burbridge and freshman running back LJ Scott to make plays and keep the offense moving against a Michigan defense that is ranked top three in the nation in total defense, passing defense and rushing defense and ranked No. 5 in defensive efficiency.
In most seasons under Mark Dantonio, Michigan St. usually boasts one of the most dominant defenses in the country. Not this year.
Michigan State is coming off back-to-back wins against weaker conference opponents in Purdue and Rutgers, but only beat them by a combined 10 points.
This trend has to be alarming to some degree for Spartan fans that are usually accustomed to blowing teams out. However, despite the uncharacteristic play of its defense, Michigan St. is in fact still undefeated.
Enter Michigan, who at 5-1 is ahead of schedule in Jim Harbaugh’s first season as head coach.
Everyone knew coming into this season that Harbaugh could coach, but the question mark that was the Wolverines’ roster has been answered with an exclamation point.
The Michigan offense has been solid so far, scoring at least four touchdowns in all of its games except against Utah in week one.
But what has been really impressive about Michigan so far this season is its defense. After letting up 24 points against Utah in week one, Michigan only allowed 14 total points the next two weeks.
What has everyone impressed with Michigan’s defense, however, is what they did the next three weeks. Since allowing seven points to UNLV, Michigan has not allowed a point, shutting out BYU, Maryland and Indiana back to back-to-back weeks.
Michigan State has won six of its last seven meetings against Michigan, and Michigan coaches are 0-6 in their first game against Michigan State.
Michigan has been blitzing 34 percent of the time during its three game shutout streak, but Connor Cook has been excellent against under pressure, ranking third in QBR against the blitz dating back to last season. Cook has also thrown 17 touchdowns and no interceptions against five or more pass rushers in that time period which is the best mark by a Power 5 player.
Michigan State is favored by 7.5 going into Saturday’s game.
Prediction: Michigan: 28, Michigan State: 10
Jesse Finver is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.