KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SITE: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
SERIES: Michigan leads 67-30-2 (last meeting, 2009, Michigan State 26-20 OT)
RECORDS: Michigan State 5-0, 1-0; Michigan 5-0, 1-0
POLLS: Michigan State (17 AP, 16 USA Today); Michigan (18 AP, 17 (USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan 42, Michigan State 38
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Michigan is essentially the best running team and worst pass-defending team in college football, so Michigan State Spartans should be able to throw it around and score. But the Spartans will have a difficult time slowing Michigan's offense. A big key will be MSU's time of possession, and the Spartans also can't turn it over against a Michigan defense that will have to gamble to avoid being trampled.
-- When Michigan and Michigan State knock heads, the superior rushing game has usually led to victory. The team with the dominant running game has won 38 of the last 42 meetings. This series went through a 26-game stretch (1969-94) where the eventual winner had the best rushing total, so logic tells us that will be a pretty fair indicator of who comes out on top in 2010.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- Michigan State's passing game is officially in rhythm after starting the season with some rust. Kirk Cousins is throwing to his backs and tight ends more, and WR Mark Dell is on his way to a big senior season. This just in time for Michigan's porous pass defense -- ranked No. 120 in the FBS.
The Spartans are coming off their best defensive performance in years, holding a potent Wisconsin offense to 292 yards and 3 of 11 success on third down. But now it's like the Spartans are playing a different sport with Michigan next on the schedule. MSU handled Wisconsin's brawn, but can it handle the speed of Michigan? A lot of stress will be on Greg Jones and Michigan State's linebackers.
It has been the Denard Robinson show for Michigan for the most part, but the Wolverines are showing that they have other viable weapons. Junior WR Roy Roundtree had his second straight 100-yard receiving game last weekend at Indiana, and WR Junior Hemingway had 126 receiving yards on five receptions. RB Vincent Smith had a season-high 80 yards on nine carries and scored one touchdown in the Indiana game.
While celebrating its 5-0 start, Michigan is also wincing at the sight of its defense getting shredded by Indiana's passing game (480 yards). The Wolverines could do little to slow the Hoosiers through the air, and now head into the meat of the Big Ten schedule with major concerns about this defense's ability to match up with the league's better teams.
Spartans: Coach Mark Dantonio will return for the Michigan game, after missing the past two for medical reasons. He suffered a mild heart attack on Sept. 19, and was supposed to return for last week's Wisconsin game, but a blood clot in his leg kept him in the hospital for that game. He plans to be in the coaches' box this week, while offensive coordinator Don Treadwell stays on the field. ... The Spartans are going for their third straight win over Michigan, which hasn't happened since 1965-67. These teams haven't met with both unbeaten since 1999, and they haven't both been ranked entering the game since 2003. This is the 14th meeting with both ranked, and they are knotted at 6-6-1 in the first 13. ... Junior Keshawn Martin, who had a touchdown in the win over Wisconsin, is one of two active players who has scored a touchdown rushing, receiving and returning both punts and kickoffs while also throwing for a touchdown in his career. The other is FIU junior T.Y. Hilton. ... Michigan State has two 1,000-yard career receivers in its lineup in senior WR Mark Dell (98-1,611) and junior WR B.J. Cunningham (106-1,384).
Wolverines: QB Denard Robinson had 494 yards of total offense in the win over Indiana, with 217 rushing and 277 passing. He won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time in five weeks. ... Michigan ranks second nationally in total offense (565 ypg), third in rushing (324.4 ypg), fourth in pass efficiency, and ninth in scoring (41.4 ppg). ... The Wolverines have posted 500-plus yards of total offense in each of their last four games. ... With his next 95 rushing yards, Robinson will have 1,000 for the season. ... Robinson needs just 87 yards of total offense to make 2,000 for the season. ... With three and four tackles, respectively, LB Jonas Mouton and S Jordan Kovacs will reach 50 for the season. ... Michigan has forced nine turnovers this season but it could easily be 11. The Wolverines fumbled the ball back on two interception returns. The Wolverines have lost only five turnovers. ... Michigan is one of the least-penalized teams in the country, averaging 4.8 penalties per game to rank in a tie for 20th. ... Michigan ranks 102nd out of 120 FBS teams in total defense, giving up 433.6 ypg. By far, the biggest chunk of that is in pass defense, where the Wolverines are the most generous team in the country in giving up 307.8 ypg.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DT Jerel Worthy -- The star of Michigan State's defensive line is going up against one of the best offensive line interiors he'll see all season. His ability to disrupt will be key to throwing Michigan's read option out of sync.
RB Larry Caper -- Caper made some huge plays late in the Wisconsin game and is listed as a co-starter this week with Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell.
SS Marcus Hyde -- Hyde had a solid day against Wisconsin and is delivering big hits in run support. He'll be asked to do a lot of that against Michigan QB Denard Robinson.
RT J'Michael Deane -- The senior has aided Michigan State's rushing attack with his power, but he is still struggling at times in pass protection. The Wolverines likely will blitz often to get after QB Kirk Cousins.
QB Denard Robinson -- The stunning sophomore from Florida has had his previous performances outdone only by his next one. Robinson scored the winning touchdown in Michigan's 42-35 win over Indiana, and accounted for 494 yards of offense and five touchdowns. We are still looking for his ceiling.
DT Mike Martin -- This team's troubled defense needs some impact plays from Martin if it intends to impede the Spartans' passing attack. Martin is the team leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
LB Jonas Mouton -- The Big Ten leader in tackles, Mouton has a pair of interceptions and is the kind of big-play energizer the Wolverines need in order to help this unit turn things around.
SS Jordan Kovacs -- The former walk-on ranks second in the conference with 46 tackles through five games. Kovacs burst on to the scene for the Wolverines last year, and his team is hoping for a repeat performance of his 17-tackle performance against Michigan State from last season.
DT Kevin Pickelman (shoulder, questionable), DE Colin Neely (hand, probable).
RB Michael Shaw (knee, probable), RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (shoulder, questionable), LB Brandon Herron (ankle, probable), S Mike Williams (concussion, out).
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