Everyone knows how Michigan’s only in-state rivalry has gone over the past decade. Though the Wolverines have a .650 all-time winning percentage against Michigan State, the Spartans have taken eight of the last 10 in a fairly lopsided twist of fate. Most games have been winnable by either team, especially recently, but the outcomes have been painful more often than not.
The narratives surrounding head coach Jim Harbaugh almost always revolve around his dismal record against Michigan’s top rivals, and it can be hard to argue against them. While Michigan could easily be 3-0 against State in the past three seasons, the simple reality is that they are not. Anything short of a convincing win this weekend will not be enough for Harbaugh to silence his critics.
2015: Michigan State 27, Michigan 23 (Ann Arbor)
Yes, this game had a fluky outcome that will never be forgotten. This is a Michigan website; there is no value in talking about something everyone already knows. While the No. 12 Wolverines should have won the game, they were outgained 386-230 by the No. 7 Spartans and failed to take over the contest when they had the chance.
Jake Rudock had a very modest 168 yards with a 60 percent completion percentage, with both Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson topping 50 receiving yards but failing to score. The Michigan touchdowns came from Sione Houma, who twice took it in from short distance. Kenny Allen made three field goals, which highlighted the real problem: an inability to finish drives with seven points.
2016: Michigan 32, Michigan State 23 (East Lansing)
Even though No. 2 Michigan led by 20 points at one time, this game never felt comfortable. The Spartans marched down the field to take an early lead and scored a couple touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tighten the deficit. The teams were nearly even in yardage, but the Wolverines did look like the better team for the majority of the game.
Again, too many drives ended in field goals, as Kenny Allen went 3-for-3 on the afternoon. De’Veon Smith got into the end zone a couple of times, while Wilton Speight threw for 244 yards with a pick and no scores. The other Michigan touchdown belonged to Jabrill Peppers while playing offense, who rushed his way in from three yards out. Peppers also returned a failed Spartans two-point conversion — which was a baffling decision — all the way to put the game out of reach.
2017: Michigan State 14, Michigan 10 (Ann Arbor)
Whether it was the coaches’ fault for the play-calling or horrendous execution of those plays, No. 7 Michigan looked helpless against State on a rainy Saturday night. John O’Korn made his first start of the season after a decent relief outing against Purdue and promptly threw three interceptions against the Spartans. Adding in two lost fumbles makes it hard to believe the game was winnable at the end.
O’Korn completed less than half his passes and did not find the end zone. Michigan’s only score was a Khalid Hill run, as the Wolverines did outgain the visitors but had little to show for it. Karan Higdon might have had the best day, averaging more than five yards a carry but only seeing 12 touches. The defense did its job for the most part, but the offense was helpless as the Maize and Blue dropped yet another game they had a chance to win.