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Michigan’s keys to victory vs MSU

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A lot on the line

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines are hours away from facing the Michigan State Spartans.

If Michigan is to beat the Spartans, here’s what they’ll have to do.

Michigan’s keys to victory versus Michigan State

Intercept Lewerke

MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke might have a 60% completion percentage, but he’s let far too many balls get picked off (7 INT’s).

Michigan suffocated Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook last Saturday, and the skillsets of Lewerke and Hornibrook are similar.

Combine that fact with MSU having a much worse offensive line than Wisconsin could bring a handful of sacks being tallied by the Wolverine defense, as well as hauling in an interception or two. It would be surprising if Lewerke didn’t turn the ball over.

Challenge the MSU run defense

The Spartans have an excellent front seven and are the best in the nation at stopping the run. If Michigan truly bows to now man, today should be no different. Run the rock and see what happens.

If it is to rain during the game, it will be pivotal for the ground game to get going for Michigan. The U-M rushing attack didn’t do much in the first half vs Wisconsin, but those body blows took their toll in the second half and Michigan began to run at will on the Badgers.

Michigan is going to try and establish the run, and if they pass this test they can run the ball against any team in the nation on a given week.

Clean game

No interceptions.

No fumbles.

No muffed snaps.

No bad penalties.

Don’t give the Spartan fans any reason to get loud and animated. The sooner Michigan can get the crowd quiet, the better it will be for them.

Zach Gentry

This is just a hunch. I feel tight end Zach Gentry could be in line for a big game. He could be a mismatch in running situations where they call a play-action pass instead.

One way or another, tight ends usually seem to play a pivotal role in this rivalry, and this game should be no different.

Eliminate Felton Davis

Felton Davis III is MSU’s best receiver. Against Penn State he made some highlight reel catches that put the Spartans in a great position to win the game. Davis had 8 receptions for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns vs PSU.

If the Michigan secondary can shut Davis down, their chances of winning will become increasingly slim.

The MSU run game has been mediocre at best in 2018 and the depth behind Davis at WR isn’t strong. Cody White has 20 receptions and 300 yards on the year, running back Connor Heyward can catch passes out of the backfield (20 for 125 yards), but they aren’t near the threat Davis is.

If Michigan can hold Davis to under 50 yards receiving, they should win the game.

Beware of trick plays

Mark Dantonio plans all year for utilizing a trick play or two against Michigan. The only thing that would come as a surprise would be for MSU to not try a surprise to begin with.

Stay healthy

This is going to be a physical game. A lot is on the line for both teams, and they both happen to hate each other.

This sounds like a recipe for a player or two to get absolutely wrecked out there. I’m not going to name names but there are specific players that can’t get hurt vs MSU. Next man up? Sure, but you can never bank on the next man doing what the first man at the same level of production.

Shea’s legs

This one I’m not entirely sure about. Will we see Patterson run around like he did vs Wisconsin, or will he be more of a pocket passer in this one. We’ve seen Michigan game plans change repeatedly this season on a week to week basis, and this week should be no different. The vast variety of Michigan’s playbook will be leaving MSU guessing.

Even if Patterson doesn’t run the read-option in this one, he will still likely have to scramble a time or three and pick up a key first down.

Give Shea time

The Michigan offensive line has been outstanding the past two weeks, and they’ll need to be yet again.

Patterson has been getting more than enough time to throw the ball and find open wideouts, but you know the biggest point of emphasis by MSU staff is to pressure Patterson early and often.

If Michigan gives Patterson time to throw, it’ll show that Michigan is as physical of a team as any in the Big Ten.