Saturday’s meeting between Michigan and Michigan State is by default a rivalry: the state’s two most renown football programs will be going head to head at Spartan Stadium. “Rivalry” should be used loosely in this case, as it’s clear that the Spartans have the bigger advantage over the Wolverines.
Albeit sharing the same state, the list of things in common shared by both teams this season is short. The Spartans are coming off a landslide win against the Hoosiers bringing them to 6-1, first in the Big Ten East, while the Wolverines struggle to make it to week 8 with a close win against Penn State.
Hoping to avoid another repeat of last year’s crushing loss, Michigan has been using the bye last week to prepare for a steep uphill battle against MSU. Here are five things to look for this Saturday:
1. Connor Cook
Currently, Cook is 18-2 as a starter and is one of the Big Ten’s elite quarterbacks. With 39 passing touchdowns, he ranks seventh overall in MSU’s history, and ninth in total passing yards with 4,490 yards in the season. It also doesn’t hurt that he has the third best QB pass efficiency rating in Big Ten games, which more than likely accounts for his 11-0 records against conference opponents. With a tight passing game and the ability to move, Michigan will have a hard time stopping MSU’s offense. Key targets to cover will be Tony Lippett and Josiah Price.
2. Michigan’s Offense
Kicking three successive field goals may have worked playing catch-up against Penn State two weeks ago, but the Wolverines will need stronger tactics against a more difficult team like the Spartans. Establishing a good running game against MSU’s defense will better their chances at success, which means that running back De’Veon Smith will need to give 110% to make up for the loss of Derrick Green. Key players for MSU to cover will be De’Veon Smith and Justice Hayes.
3. Michigan’s Defense
Michigan’s secondary will have to stay on their toes on Saturday, literally. After Cook’s 332 yard performance against Indiana last week, the defense can’t allow for air traffic. Rather than mimic their lethargic performance against Rutgers, in which they allowed Rutgers’ Gary Nova 400 yards, they should aim for a repeat of their Penn State game, where they allowed Christian Hackenberg only 160 yards.
As it stands, MSU is favored to be the winner in this rivalry, indicating a power shift that hasn’t been seen since 1950 to 1967, where Michigan dominated the series 13-3-2.
*Section Photo credit to; Featured Photo (above) credit to Michael Conroy, Associated Press