There’s your run of the mill rivalry games between conference foes, and then there’s your ‘stop everything you’re doing and pay attention’ games between two programs that have legitimately strong feelings of disdain against each other. The rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State falls into the latter category, and we should be treated to a dandy on Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing as a result.
To make this year’s meeting of the two squads even more appealing, both schools are nationally ranked and have their sights set on greener pastures. Michigan enters the game ranked #6 with a mark of 6-1, while #24 Michigan State has a record of 4-2.
For the Wolverines, a victory cements their status as a serious Big Ten title contender as well as a squad that’s ready to pounce into the College Football Playoff conversation. A playoff berth may be a bit rich for the Spartans with two losses already, but they remain a factor in the Big Ten East and have their sights squarely set on a spot in a primo bowl game.
In short, we can buckle up for what shapes up to be one of the more entertaining games of a huge Saturday of College Football action. Let’s see what both programs are bringing to the table as we break down this matchup in detail.
Michigan @ Michigan State, 12:00 PM EST, FOX
- Michigan -7 (-115)
- Michigan State +7 (-105)
- Michigan -300
- Michigan State +250
- Over 41 (-105)
- Under 41 (-115)
Michigan vs. Michigan State pick:
Michigan’s lone blemish came in the opener against Notre Dame, and you can be sure the Wolverines are still kicking themselves after that one. The team was criticized for its effort in the wake of the game, but there haven’t been any complaints on that front since that point. While the team has been tested here and there, head coach Jim Harbaugh has had the team focused and playing up to its capabilities.
In its most recent outing, Michigan delivered a convincing victory over the Wisconsin Badgers in front of a primetime audience. The final score was 38-13, and the Wolverines basically dominated their conference rivals. It has to go down as their most impressive outing of the season, namely because Wisconsin entered the game ranked #15 in the nation.
On the season, Michigan has outscored opponents by a margin of 267-108, or an average of 38.1 to 15.4 points per game. The Wolverines have been leaning more heavily on the run on an overall basis. While the defense is strong overall, it has been particularly potent against the pass. Michigan’s defense has 20 sacks on the year, eight turnovers, and three defensive touchdowns.
Michigan State is back in the Top 25 after a big win over Penn State last week, but the program has been inconsistent on the whole to start the year. We can trace that all the way back to the season opener, as it took everything the Spartans had to take down Utah State by a score of 38-31.
From that point, the Spartans dropped two of their next four, with both losses being of the disappointing variety to lesser competition in the form of Arizona State and Northwestern. Last week’s 21-17 victory over Penn State was a little on the surprising side, as the Nittany Lions came were ranked #8 heading into the game.
For the year, Michigan State has outscored opponents by a margin of 157-134 in total, or an average of 26.2 to 22.3 points per game. The offense has been pretty balanced, while the clear strength of the defense has been in stopping the run. The Spartans have generated 14 sacks, 10 turnovers, and one defensive touchdown on the season.
This is one of the most historic rivalries in all of College Football. The two schools met for the first time back in 1898, a 39-2 victory for Michigan over what was then known as State Agricultural College. All told, they have met 110 times. Michigan holds an all-time edge of 69-36-5. Recently, Michigan State has had a clear edge in the series.
Over the past decade, Michigan is just 2-8 straight up against its rival and 0-10 against the spread. The Over has been the correct call four times over that span, including in three of the last four years. Last year, the Spartans won a tight and hard fought game by a score of 14-10, a game in which Michigan was a 12.5-point home favorite.
Michigan is on the road this time around, but the school is still favored, albeit by a smaller 7-point margin. However, this year’s Wolverines team seems like a much stronger squad. Junior QB Shea Patterson has done a fine job in fitting in and leading the offense. On the season, he’s completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 1,311 yards, 10 touchdowns, and three picks.
Among the weapons he has at his disposal are senior RB Karan Higdon, who has posted a line of 120/687/6 so far. Sophomore wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones is among the talented pass catchers, as he has hauled in 21 balls for 247 yards and five scores. The balanced offense is complemented by a standout defense which can take over a game in its own right.
Michigan State doesn’t quite have the starpower that its rival does, but there’s still talent to be found on offense, including senior wideout Felton Davis III, who has hauled in 31 passes for 474 yards and four scores. The defense has had some bright spots through the season, but it needs to show more consistency overall.
On paper, Michigan is better squad than its in-state rival this year. The program appears poised and focused, and they are legitimately in the conversation as one of the nation’s top teams not named Alabama. They should be able to steal a road victory from the Spartans as a result. That said, we’re expecting another tight one in which the home team covers the touchdown spread.
We’ll take Michigan State plus the points in what should be an entertaining and hard hitting affair.