The battle for the state of Michigan begins on Saturday when the Michigan Wolverines head to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans. Mel Tucker has helped reshape the roster in quick work to form one of the better teams in the country.
The quick turnaround for Michigan State has been led by some explosive players on the offensive end, and a few veteran defensive players to boot. Let’s take a look at some of the key players for the Spartans:
RB Kenneth Walker III
When look at the Spartans’ roster there is one guy that sticks out, and that is transfer running back Kenneth Walker. Walker imposses his will on the ground averaging 6.6 yards per carry on 152 attempts this season. He will likely surpass 1,000 rushing yards on the season against Michigan in just his eighth game of the year, making him the second player in the FBS this season to accomplish that feat. That also makes Walker second in rushing yards in college football, and he has nine scores on the ground to go along with it.
Walker will be the best running back the Michigan defense has seen this year. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, he’s a big back with solid speed to go with it. Tie that with good vision and the ability to pick up yards after contact and make men miss, and you can expect a lot of damage to be done with one of the nation’s top backs. Slowing down Walker will be priority No. 1 for the Michigan defense.
Happy birthday to the Kenneth Walker III pic.twitter.com/ibE5pz4adH— Spartan Fan (@SpartyOn70) October 20, 2021
WR Jayden Reed
Every Michigan fan still gets nightmares of all the pass interferences called last season against Michigan State, and Jayden Reed was a big part of that.
He has turned into quite the deep ball threat for the Spartans and provides the perfect counter for the inside runs that come from the aforementioned Walker. If kept unchecked, Reed can be the difference maker in any game. It feels like every time he gets the ball in his hands he can do something special with it. Just look what he did to open up the game against Rutgers:
Michigan State WR Jayden Reed has two receptions for 92 yards and 1 touchdown. He's also returned an 88-yard punt for a touchdown.— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 3, 2021
There's just under three minutes remaining...in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/fDx6UjWogU
EDGE Jacub Panasiuk
A player who is more than capable of causing headaches on the defensive side of the ball for the Spartans is Jacub Panasiuk. Name sound familiar? That’s because he was ejected back in 2019 for a late and dirty hit on Shea Patterson.
Jacub Panasiuk with a very on-character cheap shot. Got himself ejected. Chump. pic.twitter.com/a90P75GCbb— Due# (@JDue51) November 17, 2019
While he may be a bit of a hot head, he is also a guy who knows how to get to the quarterback. Panasiuk boasts seven sacks on the season, tied for 20th in college football. He also has 45 pressures on 263 pass rushing snaps, meaining he gets a hand in the face of opposing quarterbacks about 17% of passing downs.
As the Michigan offensive line is still nursing injuries to Zak Zinter and Trevor Keegan, Panasiuk will be getting a large load of the attention from the Wolverines in practice this week. The last thing that any of the Michigan faithful want to see is this guy heating up in this rivalry.