KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
SERIES: Michigan leads 67-31-5 (last meeting, 2010, Michigan State 18-17)
RECORDS: Michigan 6-0, 2-0 Big 10; Michigan State 4-1, 1-0 Big 10
POLLS: Michigan (No. 11 AP, No. 10 USA Today); Michigan State (No. 23 AP, No. 19 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan State 28-24
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Michigan: Avoid game-changing errors that could put the Spartans on a short field. The selective use of QB Denard Robinson will be important to Michigan's game plan. The Spartans cut up Ohio State with blitzes, and the Wolverines need to keep the rush away from Robinson.
-- For Michigan State: Run the ball. Michigan State ran the ball at will against Michigan a year ago, but the Spartans' rushing attack is down and Michigan's defense is up. On the other side, the Spartans picked off Denard Robinson three times last season and contained his running threat, but the Wolverine quarterback is making more big plays through the air this season.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Michigan is at its best when QB Denard Robinson is a wild card and not a regular play. If Robinson is passing enough to keep the opposition honest, and the Wolverines' backs are running the ball with authority, Robinson is the most dangerous man in the Big Ten.
Michigan's biggest improvement this season has been on the defensive side of the ball, where the Wolverines could not stop anyone for most of the past three years. DL Mike Martin and DL Ryan Van Bergen have been impact players this season, and if they can get to MSU QB Kirk Cousins, mistakes from Cousins likely follow. S Jordan Kovacs has produced plenty of big plays and will blitz often in this game.
The Michigan State rushing attack showed slight improvement against Ohio State and now needs another step forward after a week off to tinker and gain cohesion up front. QB Kirk Cousins still needs another downfield threat to emerge as a complement to WR B.J. Cunningham.
The Spartans lead the nation in total defense and did a great job against a mobile quarterback at Ohio State -- but this one (Michigan's Denard Robinson) is a bit better than the Buckeyes' Braxton Miller. The Spartans' terrific secondary will be tested by a strong group of Michigan wide receivers.
Wolverines: Michigan is 6-0 for the 27th time in school history but the first time since 2006. ... In the 2001 Michigan-Michigan State game, Brady Hoke was an assistant at Michigan and the guy who sent too many players in on defense, which brought about a crucial penalty that helped the Spartans move down the field and win the game. ... The Wolverines have scored on 26 of 28 trips into the red zone in their first six games. Of those ventures inside the opponent's 20-yard lie, 22 have resulted in touchdowns. ,,, Michigan had 541 yards of offense against Northwestern and 580 yards the previous week against Minnesota, marking the first time since 1991 the Wolverines have had back-to-back 500 yard games. ... Junior QB Denard Robinson ranks 10th in Michigan history in career touchdown passes (30) and 11th in touchdown runs (27). He also is 10th in school history in passing yards (3,888) and 11th in rushing (2,773).
Spartans: Michigan State gave Mark Dantonio a new contract Sunday. The money isn't much different -- a $30,000 increase to get to $1.83 million a year, but the longevity bonus of $2 million can now be picked up in 2014 instead of 2016, there's a new $100,000 incentive for winning the Big Ten Championship Game, and Dantonio now has a job in the athletic department waiting for him if he wants it after retiring. It's a five-year rolling deal.
... Dantonio is 3-1 against Michigan and looking to become just the second coach of the Spartans to go 4-1 against the Wolverines. The only one who has done it was Charlie Bachman, who won four of his five meetings games against the Wolverines from 1933-37.
... The last six times the Spartans and Wolverines have met in East Lansing the games have been decided by a total of 25 points, and they split those six 3-3. ... Since 1953, the winner of the Michigan State-Michigan game has received the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a foiur-food wood statue of the fictional lumberjack. ... Only Ohio State with 44 has more victories over Michigan than Michigan State's 31. ... The team that has totaled the most yards rushing has won 38 of the last 41 meetings between the two.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Denard Robinson -- Robinson had 337 yards passing and two touchdowns, while also running for 117 yards and two more touchdowns last week at Northwestern. It was his fifth straight game with at least three touchdowns.
WR Junior Hemingway -- He has averaged 26.1 yards per catch and leads Michigan with 391 receiving yards.
WR Jeremy Gallon -- Got his first start just two weeks ago against Minnesota, and then had a career-best five receptions last week at Northwestern.
RB Edwin Baker -- The junior still hasn't busted free this season, but he had 147 yards on 22 carries against Michigan last season.
FS Trenton Robinson -- Robinson picked off Denard Robinson a year ago but has a tough job. He need to help defend when Robinson takes off while staying alert for play-action deep passes.
DE Will Gholston -- After his best game as a Spartan, Gholston's speed could be a major factor in the pursuit of Denard Robinson.