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Staff Predictions: Michigan vs. Michigan State

The battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and in-state bragging rights are on the line.

Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We are just about 12 hours away from Michigan vs. Michigan State — one of the most intense rivalries in not only the Big Ten Conference, but in all of college football.

Maize n Brew staff members got together to give some bold predictions, try to say something nice about MSU, and provide a final score for the game.

Well, guys, it’s finally here — Hate Week Pt. 1. Michigan vs. Michigan State. Before the season began, this was a game many thought would impact how the Big Ten East shakes out. Now...not so much. What do you attribute to MSU’s struggles this year?

Von Lozon: Not having a do-it-all Heisman-caliber running back is what is hurting MSU the most. Their defense wasn’t stellar last season, and Kenneth Walker covered up a lot of the overall team’s deficiencies. Jayden Reed is a quality offensive weapon, but KWIII was a game-changer for the Spartans last season.

Zach Breininger: I’ll go on record and say Mel Tucker punched well above his weight class last year. There’s no denying he brings magnetism to the MSU program with the transfer portal talent they’ve accrued and the hot start to the 2023 recruit class they had. However, I get Brady Hoke vibes when I see Tucker on the sidelines, and without Kenneth Walker as his running back, he has a losing record as a head coach. This is just water finding its level for a respectable — but by no means elite — program.

Kellen Voss: They no longer have the best running back in college football. Plus that defense is atrocious and Payton Thorne hasn’t taken the step forward we thought he might.

Andrew Bailey: Last season, Kenneth Walker made an average offensive line look great because of his rare abilities. This year, without Walker and without another dynamic weapon like Jalen Nailor to complement Jayden Reed, the offense has struggled behind a sub-par offensive line. Defensively, this team has a bad scheme and doesn’t have an identity. They have been switching from the 3-4, 4-3 and 4-2-5, hoping to find one that fits their personnel, but keep coming up empty. Average players in a bad scheme, with no identity, is a recipe for failure.

Scotty White: I honestly expected Michigan State to have the fall off they are having. Not to take away from the success the team had last year, but the Spartans had a lot of close games that easily could’ve gone the other way, and I knew losing Kenneth Walker would be hard. The secondary was a problem last year, and it’s killing MSU this year.

Dan Plocher: They cannot run the football against Power 5 teams. The Spartans really, really miss Kenneth Walker III and the new transfers just have not filled his shoes. In this era of the Big Ten, you have to move the ball on the ground and right now, they are incapable of it.

When we last saw the Wolverines, they destroyed the No. 10 team in the country. MSU’s rush defense is 78th against the run this season, but is 111th against the pass. Should we expect another healthy mix of offensive play-calling this week or would you focus on one or the other?

Von Lozon: I would think a healthy dose of run/pass is on the docket for this game. Blake Corum has been phenomenal this season, and Donovan Edwards has looked good at times as well. I think they’ll run more than they pass, but when they do pass, I think McCarthy will find some open receivers and pass for 250-ish yards.

Zach Breininger: There’s a slight difference between what I’d like to see and what we will see. What I’d like to see is J.J. starting to push the ball downfield more. What we will see is Blake Corum getting 25-30 totes and rushing for 150+. Harbaugh wants to win this one, and I can’t fault him for sticking with ole reliable.

Kellen Voss: Focus on the run. Don’t get cute and stick with your bread and butter. Definitely run some play action and some boot plays with J.J. once the run is established, but this should be a game where the Wolverines rely heavily on Blake Corum.

Andrew Bailey: Absolutely expect a mix. This team discovered it’s true identity last week and it’s a direct evolution from last year. Michigan wants to pound you into submission behind the best offensive line in football and mix in around 20-25 passes to keep a defense honest. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy is improving every week as a passer and his ability to run creates even more problems for the opposition. This is a “run-heavy” team, not a “run-only” team.

Scotty White: I think Michigan will start with the classic run game routine, but if it’s not working, I expect to see the Wolverines to quickly shift to the passing game. Last year, the MSU game was really the only game we saw Michigan have a pass-first attack, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see that this year.

Dan Plocher: Michigan is going to give the rock to Blake Corum at least 25 times in this game. I expect them to have the same game plan offensively that they had against Penn State — run the ball until they stop you. If they can’t, Michigan should be in for another blowout.

As best as you can, say one nice thing about Michigan State, whether it be about the university, the football program, anything

Von Lozon: My girlfriend went to MSU and I love her very much.

Zach Breininger: Michigan State University? Not a blessed thing. Spartans? I guess some are all right.

Kellen Voss: Mel Tucker seems like a really cool guy, and unlike his counterpart in men’s basketball, the sport is definitely not passing him by and he definitely doesn’t give “tough love” to his players too much.

Andrew Bailey: Michigan State’s all white jersey combination with the Spartan logo on the helmet is CLEAN.

Scotty White: I have a lot of great friends that go/went to MSU and they’re all awesome people.

Dan Plocher: I actually really like their logo and secondary logos. They aren’t as good as Michigan’s but they’ve done a decent job with their imaging.

Give me one bold prediction for the game

Von Lozon: Despite being incredibly quiet this year so far, Andrel Anthony once again goes off on his hometown team and puts up seven receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

Zach Breininger: Michigan State converts on three two-point attempts. The Spartans’ Super Bowl calls for an emptying of the playbook.

Kellen Voss: Andrel Anthony scored the first touchdown the last time these two teams played, and I think he does it again. That kid is due, and a big pass play once the run is established seems inevitable.

Andrew Bailey: Blake Corum breaks 200 yards on the ground and Michigan State’s offense struggles to cross the 50-yard line in the second half.

Scotty White: Not that bold, but I think Michigan State keeps this one close despite the huge line in favor of Michigan. The Spartans always show up for this one.

Dan Plocher: Michigan completely shuts down the run and intercepts Payton Thorne twice on 50/50 balls.

The final score will be...

Von Lozon: 49-20, Michigan. I can’t see the Spartans hanging around too much. The Wolverines win and cover the spread with relative ease.

Zach Breininger: 45-24, Michigan. Michigan is the much better team, but State will hang around.

Kellen Voss: UM 34-MSU 10. MSU keeps it close in the first half like Penn State did but Michigan rolls and ultimately covers the spread.

Andrew Bailey: 49-10, Michigan.

Scotty White: Michigan pulls away to win, 34-24.

Dan Plocher: 38-13, Michigan. The Wolverines lead 21-3 at half and then the Spartans make a little run before Michigan pulls away late.