Whether you’re ready or not, it’s hate week, ladies and gentlemen. Michigan vs Michigan State and the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy is set to be waged Saturday at high noon in Spartan Stadium.
MSU is rolling into this game with about the highest amount of confidence possible after shocking then-No. 8 Penn State in Happy Valley with a last second win by the arm of quarterback Brian Lewerke and the hands of superstar receiver Felton Davis.
Michigan, meanwhile, appears to finally have competent — and dare I say — superb play from its offensive line and quarterback for the first time in 10 years.
This is shaping up to be another classic game in the series of this historic rivalry, and that’s why I sat down with known friend and trusted agent McLain Moberg of TheOnlyColors.com.
Josh LaFond: Losses to unranked Arizona State and Northwestern but a win over No. 8 Penn State, what a roller coaster of a season, McLain. That being said, what should the expectations for the Spartans be set at now?
McLain Moberg: There have been plenty of bumps in the road this season for Michigan State, including the two losses you mentioned. Due to injuries they’ve played multiple different guys on the offensive line and basically everywhere else. The Spartans left eight or nine guys home last weekend when they traveled to Happy Valley and we received zero updates on those players today during Dantonio’s press conference. He also decided to skip the depth chart this week so we may or may not know who’s coming back until kickoff.
As for my expectations, they’ve moved slightly, but I think it’s still possible for them to win nine regular season games, barring their only loss from here on out is to Ohio State.
Josh: Where is LJ Scott? And would his potential return fix the run game woes?
McLain: I wish I knew the answer to this question because I really have no idea what’s going on with LJ Scott at this point. At first, all signs pointed to him returning rather quickly but now the fan base is quite lost on him. Mark Dantonio isn’t offering an update on his status so it’s possible his injury turned out to be worse than what was originally thought. This would be a real shame considering he came back for his senior season.
Do I think he’d help the run game? My answer to that is it’s still a shaky offensive line but he certainly wouldn’t hurt it. We know Scott is a talented runner and he may be more productive than Connor Hayward or La’Darius Jefferson in certain spots.
Josh: Felton Davis is one of my favorite players in the conference, he’s electric every time he touches the ball. In your opinion should the offense center more around getting him touches or still stick to the traditional Dantonio style?
McLain: I think in 2018 there needs to be more of a balance in terms of the players they have available to them on offense. I said last week I thought Felton Davis had the best hands in the Big Ten and he’d most likely see an increase in targets (considering his frustration after the loss to Northwestern). Then he goes and does what he does best, which is catch the football in big moments. He’s a phenomenal player and in my opinion there absolutely needs to be plays where MSU is solely looking to get it in his hands.
Josh: The Spartan secondary seems to really miss stud cornerback Josiah Scott. What is his timetable for returning this season if at all, and who will MSU look to in an effort to slow down the Michigan passing attack?
McLain: A couple weeks ago, Mark Dantonio said Josiah Scott was close to practicing. Outside of that statement I’m not sure if he’ll be back this season. At the very least, I can say he won’t be back for the game this weekend. The Spartans are going to need something extra out of guys like Justin Layne, Khari Willis, Tre Person, and Josh Butler, if he can go. MSU has been without Scott and Tyson Smith all year and it’s been evident they miss both of those guys.
Josh: What are your three keys to victory for Michigan State?
1. Stop the run.
2. Force turnovers/don’t turn the ball over.
3. Limit what Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary can do up front against a shaky offensive line.
Josh: In the spirit of the game and Paul Bunyan, what’s your favorite factoid about the best lumberjack to ever walk the earth? Shout out to Michigan public schools for teaching children about him to this day.
McLain: A few of my favorite little facts/tales of Paul Bunyan include:
1. He was so big it took five storks to deliver him to his parents.
2. He was so strong, a single swipe of his ax took down entire forests.
3. It’s also said that he made the Grand Canyon, simply by dragging his ax on the ground.
I’ve always thought these were all very silly and playful, something a kid could take off with and think “this guy is cool.”
Josh: I’ll admit this openly and I don’t care if I get bashed for it, Michigan State has one of the best fight songs in America.
So I’ll flip it on you, what’s one guilty pleasure that you like or tolerate about Michigan?
McLain: My favorite thing about Michigan doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with them per se. It’s something I’ve always thought was cool, ever since I was a little kid watching football with my dad in our living room.
Some people, especially my Spartan followers will argue its been lackluster in recent years, but I love the OSU-UM rivalry being referred to as “The Game.”
It’s a storied rivalry dating back to the late 1800’s and is filled with great coaches, players and historic games. Hate it or love it, who wouldn’t want to be a part of a contest where people literally refer to it as the one thing you should be watching every year.
Josh: Let’s wrap it up bud, give us a game prediction for how this slug fest unfolds and a final score.
McLain: It’s supposed to be wet, cold, and rainy this coming Saturday which leads me to believe it’ll be a dog fight in the trenches. Like last year, this also favors the Spartans. I think they keep their momentum going from last week against Penn State and beat Michigan at home.
MSU 23 UM 20
Again, special thanks to McLain Moberg for joining us for this edition of Behind Enemy Lines. McLain does a fantastic job covering all things MSU, so head on over to TheOnlyColors.com and check out his work.
You can also click HERE to see what McLain had to say before the season started in our preseason opponent Q&A.