Michigan State (4-3) at (23) Michigan (4-2)|
Saturday, October 20, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 23rd-ranked Michigan Wolverines will try to stay atop the Big
Ten Conference's Legends Division on Saturday afternoon when they host
intrastate rival Michigan State at The Big House in Ann Arbor.
Michigan is 4-2 on the season, with its two losses coming on the road against
top-ranked Alabama and No. 5 Notre Dame. Since the setback to the Fighting
Irish on Sept. 22, the Wolverines have rebounded to knock off Purdue and
Illinois by a combined score of 89-13. Still, head coach Brady Hoke knows his
team faces a stiff test this weekend.
"This game has always, in my recollection, been a very physical, feisty to
some degree, football game," Hoke said. "You know, there is a lot of pride in
both universities and programs and guys who are out there representing. Our
guys know their guys; their guys know our guys a vast majority. So it's always
a physical game."
Michigan State suffered its third loss of the season last week, falling at
home to Iowa in double-overtime, 19-16. The Spartans have been in some tight
battles of late, also losing to Ohio State by one point (17-16) on Sept. 29
and then notching a four-point win at Indiana (31-27) the following week.
UM leads the all-time series, 67-32-5, although the Spartans have claimed the
last four meetings to retain the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Keep an eye on the
respective running games for this matchup, as the team that has won the
rushing battle has won 39 of the past 42 meetings in the series.
Michigan State's offense has struggled to put points on the board with any
real consistency, as the unit ranks 102nd out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision
teams in scoring offense (21.0 ppg). The transition from Kirk Cousins, last
year's starting quarterback, to this year's starter, Andrew Maxwell, has been
shaky at times. Maxwell ranks 11th in the Big Ten in passing efficiency,
although he did manage to go six games in between throwing interceptions. That
streak came to an end in the latter stages of last week's loss to Iowa.
Le'Veon Bell ran for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Hawkeyes. Bell has
now run for 916 yards (4.6 ypc) and eight touchdowns on the year, and he
remains a focal point of the Spartans' offense.
Whereas the Spartans' offensive production has been spotty, the defense has
been just fine. In fact, the team enters this tilt ranked seventh in the
nation in total defense (270.1 ypg) and eighth in run defense (91.3 ypg). The
Spartans also boast the nation's No. 14 scoring defense (15.7 ppg) and the No.
17 pass defense (178.9 ypg). However, the defense came up short last week in a
game that MSU never trailed until the final whistle. Leading 13-6 late in
regulation, the Spartans allowed Iowa to drive 68 yards in nine plays, forcing
overtime on a five-yard touchdown run with 55 seconds on the clock. During the
drive, MSU gave up a 35-yard completion on 2nd-and-26 and a 37-yard run on
For Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the low point of his season came
late in the first half against Notre Dame a few weeks ago when he was
intercepted on four consecutive pass attempts. Since then, however, Robinson
has been lights out. He had a 340-yard (235 rush, 105) effort in a rout over
Purdue two weekends ago, breaking the Big Ten career quarterback rushing
record in the process. Last week, Robinson threw for 159 yards and two scores
while also adding 128 yards and two scores rushing -- the seventh career game
he has tallied two scores both on the ground and through the air. During his
weekly press conference, Hoke said offensive coordinator Al Borges has spoken
to Robinson about making plays, not miracles.
"Making miracles is trying to not stay within the framework of what we're
trying to do from an offensive standpoint," Hoke said. "It probably happens
more in the passing game than in the run game.
"(Robinson's) got something that a lot of people don't have (running the
ball), his ability to start and stop and then accelerate."
Wolverines linebacker Jake Ryan had a monster performance in the team's
shutout win over Illinois, tying a career-high with 11 tackles, including
seven solo and 3.5 for loss. Ryan, who paces the team with 42 tackles on the
year, also tallied 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble, and as a result was named
this week's Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. With Ryan leading the
charge, UM allowed a mere 134 yards of total offense and seven first downs to
the Fighting Illini, who managed just 29 yards passing. Fifth-year senior
linebacker Kenny Demens also added eight tackles and his first career
interception in the victory. That tandem has helped the Wolverines to
surrender just 283 yards per game on the season, which ranks second in the Big
Ten and 10th in the FBS.
Michigan has won 11 in a row at home, but notching No. 12 won't be easy
against a stout Spartans defense. Still, if Robinson can continue trying to
make plays, and not miracles, the Wolverines should be able to pull this one
out on their home turf.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 27, Michigan State 16
10/17 11:02:16 ET