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Getting to know Michigan’s opponent: Michigan State

Does MSU have a chance?

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Undefeated No. 2 Michigan is on a roll so far this season, with only one nail-biter of a game. Their in-state rival Michigan State is in the midst of their worst season in years, and are now 2-5 on the season.

Although the Spartans have looked downright awful at times, Jim Harbaugh is treating them with respect.

“It doesn’t matter what’s happened before this week, for us, or for an opponent, it never does, it matters what happens on the game day. We know the task in front of us. We know the challenge. And it’s up to us to get prepared to play that game so we can go out their confident and execute and have a chance to be successful.” Harbaugh said, and also stated that they are a very good football team and will be tough to beat.

Michigan lost to the Spartans in the most freakish of ways last season on a muffed punt that was returned for a touchdown in the final seconds. Legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler also lost his first game against Michigan State, then he rattled off thirteen wins in fourteen seasons against them. Let’s see if Harbaugh can match that.

Former Spartans QB and current Washington Redskins starter Kirk Cousins doesn’t think the overall records of each team matters since it’s a rivalry game. "Michigan is playing at a high level right now. I think it's a special game no matter what the record. You always say in rivalry games: You can throw the record out.”

Being at home and it being a rivalry game should have the Spartans playing inspired, but we also cannot ignore the statistics they have this season, which are downright bad in most facets of the game:

  • 92nd in total offense
  • 106th in points per game
  • 89th in points allowed per game
  • 100th in defensive efficiency
  • 119th in sacks
  • 78th in interceptions
  • Teams have scored 19-26 times in the redzone against MSU, which ranks 117th.
  • 90th in 3rd down conversions

Michigan is favored to win by three scores, and nothing on paper indicates the Spartans will be able to stay competitive all four quarters. Throw the stats out the window once kick-off commences, because strange things happen during rivalry games. The likelihood is still strong that Michigan trounces the Spartans, as Jim Harbaugh keeps his team prepared, with the mindset to not overlook any opponent.

Mark Dantonio asked earlier this week, “Can we win?” Yeah, we can win. I firmly believe that. I know none of you do.” It will be up to he and the Spartans to prove everyone wrong, because no numbers can be found to believe it, only gut feelings and faith can support the belief.