One of the most intense rivalries in college sports is renewed on Saturday when the Michigan Wolverines (7-2, 4-2 B1G) play host to the hated Michigan State Spartans (4-5, 2-4 B1G) on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor. This matchup features two squads heading into totally opposite directions as the season has progressed. That said, throw every cliche out there as to why you can probably expect a fierce game on Saturday.
There was a time in this rivalry where it felt fairly one-sided, not only because Michigan State had dominated for a stretch under Mark Dantonio, but also because it never really seemed like Michigan took it seriously (RE: “Little Brother”). Any doubts as to how important this game and hated the Spartans are can probably be thrown out the door after last year’s game in East Lansing, a 21-7 Michigan win. It was headlined by Devin Bush tearing up the Spartan logo at midfield with his cleats and a subsequent celebration at midfield with the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Where things stand right now, it is looking bleak for the Dantonio era and the Wolverines have a shot to potentially send him out of this rivalry with a loss in the game he has built his program around. Dantonio is 8-4 against Michigan and 2-2 against Jim Harbaugh. A win for either coach might just be the rubber match in the series between two coaches who do not like each other all that much.
MSU’s season is going sideways in a similar fashion to Michigan’s 2014 season under Brady Hoke, but there is likely one major difference here. If nothing else, we know that Dantonio will have his team ready for this game enough that, at the very least, they can put a scare into the Wolverines and put themselves in position to reap the benefits of something stupid that happens during the game.
There is always potential for an upset here, but this team is not nearly as good as the two that Harbaugh and the Wolverines have lost to in Ann Arbor in this series. If MSU cannot run the football and instead has to rely on Brian Lewerke to win them the game with his arm, things are going to get dicey for them. They are depleted in the passing game in terms of playmakers, but freshman running back Elijah Collins does have some juice to his skill-set. If the Wolverines are able to stop him, there might not be much to worry about here.
Michigan’s run game will also be in the spotlight during Saturday’s game. MSU brings a stout run defense into the Big House in a matchup that sees them looking to slow down a rushing attack for the Wolverines that is finally hitting its stride with Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins. The Spartans have enough defensively to give the Wolverines some problems, but if they are able to identify a matchup they like through the air to open things up on the ground, this may be a game that opens up for the Wolveirnes as it goes on.
Prediction: Michigan 30, Michigan State 14
This game is personal for the Wolverines now. It does not always feel like it has been this way, but the Spartans cannot weaponize their hatred as much anymore with Michigan matching it. Rivalry game or not, this is a Spartan team in a free-fall facing a team that is playing loose and inspired football. I see this being close for 2.5 quarters until Michigan takes over late.
A win for Michigan would make it two-straight in the series for the first time since 2006-07 and would be three of the last four in their favor. Taking care of business at home and taking the rivalry back is a must as this season continues to move toward its conclusion.
Teams: Michigan State Spartans (4-5, 2-4 B1G) at No. 14 Michigan Wolverines (7-2, 4-2 B1G)
Date: Nov. 16, 2019
Location: Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Television: FOX (Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft on the call)
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, Hulu, Fubo, YouTubeTV
Radio: 950 AM in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, see affiliate stations here
Spread: Michigan -13.5, over/under set at 44.5 points
What are your predictions for Saturday’s game? Sound off in the comments below with your score and why.