PRIZE: PAUL BUNYAN TROPHY
WHERE: MICHIGAN STADIUM 3:30 PM
ALL TIME: MICHIGAN LEADS SERIES 63-28-5
LAST MEETING: MICHIGAN 27 - MICHIGAN STATE 20
NOTABLE: Chris Perry ran for 219 yards on a school-record 51 carries and John Navarre threw for 223 yards and three scores to lead No. 11 Michigan to a 27-20 victory over No. 9 Michigan State. It marked Michigan's first win in Spartan Stadium since Oct. 25, 1997.
(EAST LANSING, MI) - Brimming with confidence after a huge blowout upset over top-20 ranked Minnesota and with a week to prepare, the Michigan State Spartans are ready to pull upset number two.
With the annual backyard brawl against the University of Michigan scheduled for this Saturday, the Spartans believe the key to success is to prevent any turnovers while forcing a couple Michigan miscues.
The Spartans aren't at all intimidating going to the so-called "Big House", the cavernous 107,501 seat Michigan Stadium. Michigan State head coach John L. Smith says Michigan's home field isn't intimidating of itself.
"I do remember it (Michigan Stadium) was not as intimidating as I had expected going in because it's not as noisy a place as you might have expected. But boy, there's a lot of people there and its got a lot of tradition."
Smith says the reason that Michigan State has not had success playing in Ann Arbor has nothing to do with the stadium but everything to do with the talented players wearing the "winged" helmets.
"They are very very talented. They are a good football team, they got great personnel and they find a way to win. They are so used to winning, they find a way to get it done, that's what they did in the Purdue game," said Smith.
Michigan has won several close ballgames including wins at Purdue and at home against Minnesota to put themselves in the drivers seat for a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, but the Spartans hope to be spoilers.
"If we can prevent any turnovers," says Smith, "and maybe get a couple of our own, we have a chance to win."
WHEN MICHIGAN HAS THE BALL
The primary difference in what the Spartans faced in Minnesota and what they'll see in Michigan is a two-dimensional offense. The Spartans will face one of the conference's toughtest run threats in freshman Michael Hart (ranks second in rushing yardage) who's small stature allows him to 'disappear' behind his mammoth offensive line and then pop out of seemingly nowhere into the secondary.
The Spartans will need another stellar day stopping the football and they may have no choice but to put eight men in the box to stop Hart.
That means the poison that MSU will pick is to see if freshman quarterback Chad Henne can beat them. Henne has shown poise and presence beyond his years. He led Michigan from the brink of defeat with a picture perfect two minute drive to defeat Minnesota by three points, perserving the Wolverines Rose Bowl chances.
Henne has two outstanding receivers in senior Braylon Edwards and junior Jason Avant. Sophomore Steve Breaston hasn't been as explosive as he was his freshman season but remains a threat. Tight end Andy Mingery is also dangerous, finding seams in opposing defense.
WHEN MSU HAS THE BALL
Drew Stanton, the self-proclaimed Michigan hater, has a chance to stamp himself as one of the all-time great money players in Spartans history if he can pull of a win here.
Don't count Stanton out. Drew has the poise, presence and saavy of a veteran even if he doesn't possess the most pretty of spirals. Stanton will do whatever it takes to win this football game. This is the reason he committed to Michigan State and he will let nothing, including being benched by the head coach earlier this season, prevent him from putting his team in a position to win.
Michigan has shown a vulnerability to running quarterbacks in the past and will likely have trouble accounting for Stanton. Michigan doesn't like commiting a player to 'spy' on the quarterback. If it does, it takes a player out of coverage, allowing Stanton to have an extra downfield receiver.
Stanton must get the most out of the talented, but mericurial Eric Knott playing in his last Michigan game. Knott has shown that he can be a factor with his speed and ability to get into the secondary. He must hold on to the football and limit mental mistakes. If so, he can be the "x" factor in this contest.
Freshman Jehuu Caulcrick is also likely to take center stage. Smith appears to have been grooming the brusing freshman for this game. Caulcrick is the type of big back who can move the chains. Smith has been preaching ball security and understanding the blocking assignments and Caulcrick appears to have gotten the lessons.
When Stanton goes to the air, he's likely to go in the opposite direction of corner Marlon Jackson.
Michigan usually matches Jackson up against the hot receiver to take him away, but the Spartans intend to spread the football, not allowing Jackson to do his thing. Jackson will likely line up against receiver Agim Shabaj, Stanton's favorite target hoping to bait him into a poor decision. Stanton has to allow emerging freshman Terry Love, junior Matt Trannon, Kyle Brown and Jerramy Scott to all be "go-to" guys to keep the Michigan defense off balance.
Michigan State's kicking game, led by All-American Brandon Fields and place kicker Dave Rayner must be on their games. In a close game, the Spartans kicking game gets a huge advantage over inconsistent Garrett Rivas of Michigan.
The Spartans will likely come into the game at a fever pitch led by Stanton, none of that worries Smith.
"I don't necessarily believe that you can be too "up" and you can be too emotional and [you] can be too much and that you're going to tighten up. If that's the case, then you weren't really prepared to begin with."
Smith wants his charges playing with emotion.
"When you go to the field and play with great emotion, that's the way the game is meant to be played. If you're letting the people and the other parts of the thing take you out of your game, then you're not focused and you're not really doing what you're prepared to do or you're not [really]prepared to do it."
On an emotional high and playing their best football of the season, Drew Stanton leads the Spartans to an improbable victory and a shot at the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State 31 - Michigan 20