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Michigan running game has to shine for the Wolverines to beat Michigan State

Michigan State has the No. 16 rush defense in the country.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Notre Dame at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Daniel Plocher Dan Plocher contributes to Maize n’ Brew in several areas including podcasts, game previews/recaps, and various YouTube videos.

Over the past several weeks the Michigan Wolverines have slowly begun to figure out this offense by attacking defenses while moving the football on the ground.

The Wolverines have averaged 223.5 rushing yards in their past four games and have done it with several different guys. Zach Charbonnet just broke the Michigan program’s rushing touchdown record with his two touchdowns against Maryland two weeks ago. Hassan Haskins had run for over 125 rushing yards in two of those four games.

It feels like the Wolverines finally have an identity offensively of moving the football on the ground with a passing game that assists much better than it has in previous years. It is a merger of the old (from Jim Harbaugh and Ed Warriner) and the new (from Josh Gattis). So far, it has seemed to work decently well in helping Michigan go to a 3-1 record in that span.

They even beat the Maryland Terrapins in somewhat boring fashion two weeks ago in a style that fans have been hoping to see from the Maize and Blue since the Rutgers game. Looking back on it now, Illinois has figured out how to play football as they have won their last four games since playing Michigan (including wins over No. 6 Wisconsin and Michigan State), Notre Dame is back to their winning ways after being utterly destroyed by Michigan’s offense a couple of weeks ago, and the Wolverines lost a tight one to Penn State who up until last week, was considered one of the top-four teams in college football.

The Wolverines moved the ball on the ground against each of those teams and will need to so throughout the rest of their season. Michigan State is up next with the No. 16 run defense in the country, and Ohio State is coming up in just a couple of weeks with their No. 8 ranked run defense and the monstrosity of Chase Young being back on that defensive line for The Game.

Now if you are thinking that Michigan is going to have an easy task on Saturday when the Spartans come to town, you are just dead wrong. In a rivalry like this, records don’t matter. Each team is going to have extra juices flowing in this bitter rivalry, and MSU is going to come into the Big House with more energy than they have had in any game thus far, and less to lose than ever before with their poor record.

The Spartans defense is what has kept them in football games several times this year. It is a top-50 defense in the NCAA, and their run defense is hard to be topped. Playing without star linebacker Joe Bachie after he was deemed ineligible by the Big Ten for failing a drug test certainly hasn’t helped, but there are still plenty of pieces there that will cause the Michigan offensive line fits when trying to move the football on the ground.

Even though Illinois beat them last week, the Spartans held them to just 36 yards on the ground on 27 carries.

Michigan has really struggled at times this season to move the ball through the air, and if they are tasked to do so again, this game could be kept close by the Spartans. The Wolverines offensive line is going to have to play one of their best games of the season if they want to stay successful in the run game like they have over the past several weeks.

We have seen how stale the Spartans offense can be several times this season, and the Wolverines defense is playing some of their best football of 2019 over the past couple of weeks. Moving the ball down the field on the ground will be key to the Wolverines winning back-to-back games against the Spartans on Saturday.