Game of the Week: Michigan vs. Michigan State

Story posted October 18, 2018 in CommRadio, Sports by Andre Magaro

Week eight of the college football season is fast approaching. This is the time of year where teams solidify themselves as pretenders or contenders, as the season surpasses the midway point.

Conference play is now in full swing for nearly every team, and with that comes many intriguing matchups and rivalries that the whole country will be watching. One of the most captivating matchups this weekend is the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, as the sixth-ranked Michigan Wolverines head into East Lansing, Michigan to take on the 24th-ranked Michigan State Spartans. Kickoff is at noon EST and the game can be seen on FOX.

In recent years, Michigan State and Michigan has been not only one of the most exciting rivalries in the Big Ten, but also in all of college football. The last three meetings between the schools have all been decided by single digits and have all been won by the visiting team. While Michigan leads the all-time series 69-36, Michigan State has won eight out of the last ten matchups.

In addition, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also only defeated the Spartans once in his tenure with the maize and blue, and has been heavily criticized for his lack of success against this huge rival. Expect Harbaugh to be looking for a statement win this Saturday.

Michigan enters as 7.5 point favorites, and is coming off a huge home win against then-ranked No. 15 Wisconsin by a score of 38-13. Likewise, Michigan State is also coming off its biggest win of the season,  a shocking 21-17 upset win on the road against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Both teams have a lot of momentum heading into the matchup and look to solidify themselves as Ohio State’s best remaining competition in the Big Ten East.

The matchup to watch will be the Michigan running game against the Michigan State rushing defense. The Spartans major strength has been their ability to stop the run, only yielding an average of 62 yards per game on the ground. However, Michigan State looked suspect against the rush last week. Against their toughest competition of the season, the Spartans allowed a season-high 205 yards to Penn State.

Meanwhile, the Michigan rushing attack, led by senior Karan Higdon, averages 217 yards per game. The only game where the Wolverines failed to reach the 100 yard plateau was against Notre Dame, their lone loss of the season.

Even if Michigan State can stifle the Michigan rushing game, it will have to overcome its weakness against the passing game. The Spartans rank as one of the worst teams in the Big Ten against the pass, allowing opponents an average of 286 yards through the air.

It will be up to Michigan junior quarterback Shea Patterson to provide balance to the Wolverine offense. Patterson offers a dynamic playmaking ability Michigan has been lacking at the position for the last few seasons. A very respectable 68.6 percent completion percentage, combined with an average of 187 passing yards per game, has kept defenses honest and allowed the Michigan offense to thrive like never before under Harbaugh this season. Last week against Wisconsin, Patterson showed his potential as a running threat as well, scrambling for 90 yards and a touchdown.

A plethora of injuries have plagued the Michigan State offense this season, but there are still a couple of playmakers to watch out for. Senior wide receiver Felton Davis is coming off a huge week against Penn State. Davis posted 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns on eight receptions and has been the top target of junior quarterback Brian Lewerke all season.

Watch for Michigan State to offer some creative looks this weekend, especially through sophomore Connor Heyward, who was an integral part of a fake punt and pass off a handoff last weekend which set up a Spartan touchdown. Head coach Mark Dantonio has been known to pull out all the stops in big games before, so don't be surprised if we see more of the same against Michigan.

Despite the resourcefulness of Dantonio, the talent of Michigan on both sides of the ball is just too much for the Spartans to handle. It's likely Michigan will put some distance between the two teams in the fourth quarter and will close out what will be a huge road victory for its season and program.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Michigan State 17


Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email