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Michigan at Michigan State—Big Ten Championship Implications

Andrew Forner ProfileThis Saturday the Michigan Wolverines head to East Lansing to face in-state rival the Michigan State Spartans.

Although the hatred between these two teams is no secret, this game has bigger implications than bragging rights and the Paul Bunyan Trophy. This game could very well decide who wins the Legends Division and earns a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Spartans head into this game after a landslide victory at Illinois last week. The Spartans defense lived up to their reputation by stifling the prolific offense of Illinois holding them to a mere 128 yards of total offense of which 25 yards were on the ground. The key to victory for Michigan State is to not get complacent. Attack Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner and force him to make hasty decisions. It is no secret the Wolverines have had a tough time turning the ball over this year with most of those turnovers a result of Gardner’s poor and/or rushed decisions.

If the Spartans defense stays aggressive all 4 quarters it will leave little to no breathing room for the Michigan Wolverines. On the offensive side of the ball the Spartans will have to control the game clock. If they can manage just a few long scoring drives keeping the ball out of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner’s hands the defense will do the rest.

For the Michigan Wolverines and Coach Brady Hoke to finally get that quality road win a number of things will have to happen. First, the offensive line will have to play better than they have all year. This is going to be the toughest defense they have matched up with all year to this point. They cannot afford to leave gaping holes for the Michigan State linebackers to plug. If this young offensive line for Michigan is not up to the task it very well could be a long day for the Michigan Wolverines. The running game will be just as essential to establish.

If Michigan can’t get something going on the ground they won’t be able to open up their passing game. Surely the Spartans watched game film of the Michigan vs. Indiana game almost two weeks ago and if anyone thinks they won’t be keeping a keen eye on Tight End Devin Funchess and Wide Receiver Jeremy Gallon you have another thing coming. The offense will need to mix it up and throw to other targets such as Wide Receiver’s Drew Dileo and Jehu Chesson.

Keep the Spartans defense guessing, adjust the tempo of the offense, and keep their defense out on the field for as long as possible. It boils down to this really; the Michigan offense cannot be predictable!

I expect passion and pride in every player’s eyes out on that field Saturday. Michigan State will always remember the “little brother” comment made by former Running Back Mike Hart. It fuels the fire sort of speak and they no longer feel the lesser of these two storied programs. If Michigan matches that intensity and hones the pride and attitude of former players in this rivalry they may very well pull out a narrow victory in East Lansing.

My prediction: Michigan 45 – Michigan St. 42 in double overtime.

Andrew Forner

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