It’s Sparty week! Social Media posts are full of #BeatState, maize and blue colors, and even some green. Sports radio is filled with chatter about this game. Even ESPN College Gameday is in Ann Arbor for this rivalry game. Michigan’s dominance on the defensive side of the ball has gained attention from the entire nation, asking is Michigan for real? Yes they are! Coach Jim Harbaugh has turned the mindset around in the Wolverine locker room and he will have his team prepared to bring the Paul Bunyan trophy back to Ann Arbor. Here is your Last Look at everything you need to know before kickoff.
What: #12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0) vs #7 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0)
Where: The Big House Ann Arbor, Michigan
When: Saturday October 17, 2015 at 3:30 PM
The winner each year gets to take to its school the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which signifies Michigan’s history as a major lumber producing state. The Wolverines lead the series 68-34-5 but State has won six of the last seven. The very first meeting was in 1898.
The last meeting was just last year when the Spartans defeated the Wolverines in East Lansing 35-11. Michigan scored its first touchdown against State in three games with less than four minutes left to play. Then the Spartans added one more unneeded score with 0.11 seconds on the clock, don’t forget about that one, Wolverines.
Michigan shutout #13 Northwestern 38-0 in a game where the Wolverines had total domination. They ran back the opening kickoff and never looked back.
Michigan St defeated Rutgers 31-24 when the Rutgers QB spiked the ball on fourth down. Yes that really happened.
Players to Watch for Michigan
The Michigan defense. Once again I cannot single a player out because they have played some of the best team defense I have ever witnessed. The defensive line will break up plays, bat down balls, and\disrupt your backfield all game long. The Spartans offensive line is a little beat up already, so they better get prepared for more punishment because these guys will be coming hard all game long. The Michigan linebackers are quick to the ball, can cover receivers and are fast enough to blitz the quarterback. The secondary is one of the best in the nation. They have shown they can cover anybody no matter how much height advantage the wide outs have. They tackle extremely well in open field and have several interceptions.
Quarterback Jake Rudock is improving each week and making less mistakes. He will need to be at the top of his game this week, facing a very physical defense. He cannot turnover the ball and give State chances to score. He needs make smart reads and cannot force anything thats not open. The defense will want to cover short passes because Rudock does not throw the deep ball very good.
Players to Watch for Michigan State
Senior quarterback Connor Cook has played quite well versus the Wolverines during his years as the Spartans leader. He is 2-0 versus Michigan but has never played in the Big House. So far this season he is putting up career high numbers in completion percentage and his quarterback rating. Cook will be the best quarterback Michigan has played this season. He can make all the throws needed to put points on the board, so Michigan better dial up the right blitz packages and put pressure on him. Cook has a lot of good weapons on the field with him so defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will have his work cut out for him this week.
Defensive End Shilique Calhoun is a beast on the field standing at 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds. He has collected five sacks and 10 quarterback hurries this season. Michigans offensive line will need to know where he is lined up at all times, and contain him.
An intense rivalry game like this will be won in the trenches. Which line can get meaner, nastier and stay that way for the duration of the game. Each offensive line will need to protect its quarterback, control the line of scrimmage and open up holes for the running backs. The Spartans O-line is already beat up with three of its starters sitting out some time this season. The Wolverines on the other hand have guys that are coming together and getting stronger each week. Each defensive line has to disrupt the backfield and put heavy pressure on the opposing quarterback. Michigans front seven have done exactly that. This will be a hard-hitting fight between both lines that is going to be exciting to watch. Whatever teams O-line and D-line can stay stronger in the final quarter will lift their hands in victory.
There is a lot at stake for this huge game. The Paul Bunyan trophy, in-state bragging rights, a top ten ranking, and a game closer to the Big Ten championship. The Michigan Wolverines are rolling on all cylinders and they are ready to take the next step up. I have them winning this one 24-10 and they will enter the AP top ten. This defense is legit and the entire nation will see how much is changed at Michigan. Coach Jim Harbaugh has changed the mentality at Michigan and they are rising to the top very quickly. Although I do not see another shutout for the defense, I do see them getting a lot of pressure on Cook causing him to throw a couple picks. I think the special teams unit for the Wolverines will score again this week. Look for De’Veon Smith to return and have a great game. The Wolverines D-line should be able to over power an injury plagued Spartans O-line.
At the end of the day Coach Harbaugh and the Michigan football team will be lifting up the Paul Bunyan Trophy and bringing it back home! The power and momentum in the state of Michigan will be switching back to the Wolverines. There are several high ranked recruits that will be on hand to witness this, so this big victory could persuade them to choose Michigan. #BeatState