It could go a long way toward winning the game, as the team that wins the rushing battle in the in-state rivalry game has won 52 times in 58 meetings since 1956.
“We look at that,” offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “We are Michigan State, so we look at that about every week. I think the statistics for this game probably are even a little bit more lopsided as far as who win that rushing battle.
”Coach D reminds of it all the time and we certainly game plan like every week to win the battle of who is going to rush for more yards.”
Since coach Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing in 2007, the statistic that the team that wins the rushing battle has held true in six of seven meetings – the lone counterexample being his first season.
”I think that's an indication of can you control the line of scrimmage or not, and I think that any football team that controls the line of scrimmage usually wins the football game, and I think that's pretty much true probably in most football games,” Dantonio said. “If you win up front you've got a great chance to win the football game. Doesn't mean it's always going to happen, but you have a chance.
”We try to do that every time we play a football game, we're going to try to win up front.”
Senior running back Jeremy Langford said the Spartans are hoping to continue to run the ball the way they have the past two games.
“We talk about wins, the line of scrimmage has a better chance of winning this game and does what we have to continue to do to get the ball the last couple of weeks,” Langford said.
The Spartans rushed for 330 yards against Indiana after rushing for 294 against Purdue and averaging more than 6.4 yards per carry in both meetings. With a season average of 261.4 yards per game, the Spartans are sitting as the No. 15 rushing attack in the nation.
Saturday brings likely its stiffest test to date, though, as the Michigan run defense is ranked No. 4 in the nation. The Wolverines allow just 93.6 yards per game to opponents on the ground.
”Their front seven is very physical,” senior offensive lineman Travis Jackson said. “They play really fast. … They're going to come ready to play and that's going to be a difficult task for us.
“We need to get the run game going and have it be consistent through all four quarters.”
But if the rushing attack can continue to play as it has the past two weeks and history holds true, the Spartans have to like their chances.
”The offensive line has done a great job up front and keeping people healthy, so they open up a big hole,” Langford said. “So the rest of the running backs have to deliver behind the offensive line, they'll do a great job.”