Unless you live under a rock, you certainly know by now that the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans square off this Saturday. Ahhhh yes, campus vandalism and graffiti, insults, and general smack talk have already hit fever pitch.
But, as we begin to look towards the game itself on Saturday, all the makings for an incredible game are there. The Wolverines are coming off an absolute shellacking of the formerly No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers, while the Spartans did what most thought of as the unthinkable by going to Happy Valley and taking down the formerly No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions.
While the Spartans may have taken down Goliath last weekend in Pennsylvania, they will absolutely NOT be able to do so two weeks in a row! Call it a hunch, premonition, or whatever you’d like. But mark my words: there is no chance Michigan State wins this game. Just to back it up, I’ve got three reasons why:
1. Defense, defense, defense
The Wolverines have been able to simply get the job done on the defensive side of the ball to this point this year. Defensive coordinator Don Brown‘s squad has held opponents to just 1,666 yards this season, which is the sixth-best mark in the country. That’s 129.1 passing yards per game (best in the country), and 108.9 rushing yards per game (15th in the country). The Spartans do boast one of the best wideouts in the country in Felton Davis, but the Wolverines have shown both the ability to get to opposing quarterbacks (20 sacks, 13th most in the country) and shut down receivers downfield. While this opponent will provide more of a challenge, the Wolverines have shown that they possess the ability to make it tough on opposing offenses.
2. Quarterback play
Shea Patterson‘s arrival in Ann Arbor did not start off on it’s best foot. His first outing against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish did not go as planned, as the Wolverines lost the opener. But since then, Patterson has been able to right the ship. He has thrown for 1,311 yards and 10 touchdowns overall. He has only thrown three interceptions. Backup Dylan McCaffrey has also shown the ability to run the offense effectively as he has thrown for 126 yards and two touchdowns in limited time. The two have also combined to run for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Brian Lewerke, conversely, has thrown for 1,587 yards and eight touchdowns but also has been intercepted seven times. He has run for 83 yards on 55 carries. With the weapons that the Wolverines possess in the passing game (Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Zach Gentry) compared to the weapons that the Spartans possess in Cody White‘s absence (Davis), the advantage arrow leans heavily in the favor of Michigan.
3. Harbaugh NEEDS this one
Let’s face reality for a moment. Harbaugh has not delivered a truly big road win yet. His overall record stands at 34-12 as the head man at Michigan, but only one of those wins has come against the school’s biggest rivals (Michigan State, Ohio State). Michigan not only brings the No. 6 ranking in the country into this game but also a large need for a victory. If there was ever a time for Harbaugh to rally the troops and win a big game, this is it. Not only to keep the season alive, but to continue his legacy as the Wolverines’ head coach.