Opponent: Michigan State
Location: Spartan Stadium
Game Time/TV: 12:00 p.m.
Betting Line: MICH -7
Coach: Mark Dantonio (12th season)
2017 Record: 10-3
2018 Record: 4-2
Last Game:Michigan State 21 Penn State 17
The first five games were really rough for Michigan State. A close win in the opener against Utah State, a loss against Arizona State in a game the Spartans should have won, a game against Central Michigan that was closer than it should have been and a loss at home to a bad Northwestern team. It wasn’t looking good for MSU.
Then the Spartans traveled to face No. 8 Penn State at Beaver Stadium and pulled out a stunning victory. It was a very typical MSU win when you look back at the end of the game and say “how the heck did they win that one.”
Either way, the Spartans are coming into the game with Michigan off their best win of the season. They are also limping into the game. The full injury report is quite extensive.
Josiah Scott, MSU’s best cornerback, has been out the whole season with a knee injury. Both of their starting guards, David Beadle and Kevin Jarvis, missed last week with Beadle out until November with an arm injury. Senior running back L.J. Scott has only played a game and a half after injuring his ankle against Arizona State. MSU’s top five wide receivers are on the injury report, with Cody White their second wide receiver out forsure. That list keeps going.
The keys to victory for the Spartans are to get a push with the run game and get a quick start on offense, stop Michigan from getting chunk running plays (that is what killed Wisconsin,) play good defense on the short passes, which have hurt MSU all season and get the ball to Felton Davis as much as possible.
On defense the players to watch for the Spartans are Kenny Willekes, the defensive end who has nine tackles for loss and five sacks, Andrew Dowell, the senior linebacker with four tackles for loss, Khari Willis, the team captain and anchor of the defense and Joe Bachie, the middle linebacker who leads the team in tackles with 43.
On offense, pretty much everything runs through quarterback Brian Lewerke. Basically everything is working against Lewerke on offense. Teams know they aren’t able to run the ball, they have a beat up offensive line who can’t block at times and a bunch of inexperienced receivers. The only thing Lewerke really has going for him is Felton Davis. Davis is one of, if not the best receiver in the Big Ten and the type of guy who will catch anything thrown at him. He’s not a speed burner but he’s really big and has amazing hands. Those two are the key on offense, along with their ability to get any sort of push in the run game.
Picks (Special Rivalry Edition!)
Andrew Birkle: Coming into this season, I predicted that Michigan State would win the Big Ten East based off their strong returning cast and their impressive 10-3 record the year before. Through their first five games, that pick looked pretty silly. However, MSU did as MSU does and upset Penn State on the road in a game they probably should have never won. Meanwhile, Michigan got tripped up early against Notre Dame but have been on an upwards track ever since, culminating in their pummeling of Wisconsin last weekend. You could make the argument both teams are playing their best football of the year so far right now. All though I have a hard time picking Michigan in a road game against a ranked opponent, I think U-M’s defense combined with the injuries all over MSU’s offense will be too much for the Spartans. Michigan in a close one 24-21.
Michael Spath: If Saturday's opponent did not have green helmets and a white 'S' I'd be picking Michigan to win comfortably based off the talent and performance of the two teams this season. But it IS Michigan State and it IS in East Lansing, which complicates things. Still, I have confidence that this Michigan team is the best of the Jim Harbaugh era and as emotion and intensity alone cannot overcome the deficiencies MSU has at this point in the year. U-M wins 27-17.
Steve Deace: To me it's very simple. Like last week when we knew who Wisconsin was, and how they would play, so it was about who Michigan is and what they will do. Same thing here with Sparty. They're the constant in the series right now. The variable is Michigan. And until we see Michigan not beat itself playing in the white jerseys against a team with a pulse, let alone a rival, I'm not falling for the banana in the tailpipe. Michigan State 21, Michigan 17
Joshua Doering: Michigan State’s road win over Penn State last week adds an interesting dimension to this game. Replicating that performance is no small task. That being said, if any team can pull it off, it’s Mark Dantonio’s Spartans. The difference between this game and previous matchups is Shea Patterson. He makes this Harbaugh’s best team in his time at Michigan and will be the deciding factor. The Wolverines prevail, 28-24.
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