One of the most contentious rivalries in the Big Ten continues when the Michigan State Spartans travel to face the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. The Spartans are struggling through the 2019 campaign, coming into this one on a four-game losing streak, including blowing a 25-point lead to Illinois last weekend. Michigan seems to be finding its groove of late, winning its last two games by a combined score of 83-21, and the Wolverines would love to kick their in-state rival while it’s down.
Michigan won last year’s meeting after a pregame scuffle between the Wolverines’ Devin Bush and the Michigan State team doing its walking of the field prior to the contest. Bush got upset and took it out on the Spartan Stadium field, tearing up the MSU logo painted on the grass at midfield.
The moneyline for this contest has the Michigan State Spartans +425 and the Michigan Wolverines -550. Michigan is favored by 13.5 points playing at home, while the over/under for the game has been set at 44.5.
Michigan State thought some of its troubles were over after playing three straight Top 10 teams and jumping out to a 28-3 second-quarter lead on the Illini last week. But the inconsistency of the Spartans offense popped up yet again, and Illinois made the biggest comeback in school history for a 37-34 win. Quarterback Brian Lewerke appeared to get hit hard in the helmet in the second half but stayed in the game and is expected to play in this one. If the Spartans are going to contend, they’re going to have to avoid turnovers and penalties, two areas that have been problem areas this season.
Defensively, Michigan State has had its troubles stopping the opposition from getting into the end zone, giving up an average of 34.2 points over the past four games. The Spartans’ run defense will need to be solid to force Michigan to beat them through the air, and despite its struggles, Michigan State still ranks 16th in the nation, giving up 108.1 rushing yards per game. Defensive lineman Kenny Willekes needs to be a big factor in this one. In two career games against the Wolverines, Willekes has 18 tackles, including five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Michigan’s loss to Penn State three games ago seemed to show a change in the Wolverines, as they rallied from a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter and nearly tied the game in the final minute before losing 28-21. A blowout win at home against Notre Dame followed, and the Wolverines took it to Maryland in their last outing. Michigan would need a lot of help to get into the Big Ten Championship Game, but the Wolverines are going to make every effort to win out to try to get there.
Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet has been solid, running for 559 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Shea Patterson hasn’t put up big stats the last two games — a total of 251 passing yards — but he has three touchdown passes and no interceptions during that time. Michigan will look to overpower the Spartans, and possibly take advantage of their slump, trying to put their rivals in an early hole so they possibly just give up with very little to play for.
Wolverines Take The W
This rivalry is full of upsets, especially by the Spartans, and the road team has won the last four meetings. But, Michigan, for as much as it likes to sometimes downplay the rivalry, would like nothing more than to add to the Spartans’ misery this season. Look for Jim Harbaugh to really push his team to win and win big in this one. I’m taking Michigan -13.5 to roll over Michigan State.