Monday, October 28, 2013

An early look at Michigan vs. Michigan State

Michigan-Michigan State week is finally here.
Like most hoped, there is a lot on the line in this game. Not as much as there could have been, as both weren’t far from being unbeaten entering Saturday’s clash, but this game will go a long way in determining the Big Ten Legends Division champion.
A win for MSU clearly puts it in the driver’s seat, as it will have two games on Michigan and one game on Nebraska with the Cornhuskers still on the schedule and Nebraska heading to Michigan down the line.
Michigan can even things up with MSU with a win, which it will need with games against Nebraska and Ohio State still ahead.
Despite Michigan winning last season’s game, 12-10 in Ann Arbor, the Spartans have controlled the recent series between these two. Michigan State has won four of the last five and covered the spread in five straight meetings with Michigan.
Coming into this game, Michigan State is a 4.5-point favorite, which I think is fair. I think on paper, this is a bad matchup for Michigan, largely due to Michigan State’s defense. Devin Gardner is going to have to play a smart game on Saturday for Michigan to win and avoid turning the ball over, which has been a big problem for him this season.
Conversely, Michigan’s defense has been shaky, but so has MSU’s offense. However, Michigan State’s offense has trended toward improvement in three of its last four games. You can’t say the same for the Michigan defense. It is entirely possible that Connor Cook could fold under the pressure and have an off day on Saturday, but it is also possible he could play like he did against Illinois and allow MSU to control the ball.
I’ll give my prediction later in the week, but this game certainly feels a bit bigger than I expected it to be when the season began. While I felt it would be an important game in the Big Ten race, I thought Michigan would be a much better team than it is at this point, and I didn’t expect the Spartans to be playing as well as they have on offense in conference play.

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