Weekend Spotlight: Michigan at Michigan State
No. 21 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) at No. 22 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten)
Michigan leads the series 68-32-5 (Last meeting October 12, 2012: Michigan 12, Michigan State 10)
Michigan and Michigan State meet for the 69th consecutive season and for the 106th time since 1898. Michigan would move into a tie atop the Legends Division with a win, while the Spartans look to retain sole possession of first place and reclaim the Paul Bunyan Trophy. The Wolverines snapped a four-game losing skid in the rivalry with a 12-10 win in Ann Arbor last season. The offenses figure to be better in this year’s edition as the two teams have combined to score more than 40 points in five of their last six games.
Michigan’s offense enters as one of the best in the nation, ranking eighth in the FBS, scoring 42 points per game. The Wolverines needed every bit of that offense in their last game, a 63-47 win over Indiana two weeks ago. Junior quarterback Devin Gardner has repeatedly found his two favorite targets through the air, wideouts Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess. Gallon, a central Florida native, ranks second in the Big Ten with 831 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, while Funchess has added 492 yards and four touchdowns. The two wide receivers combine for 72% of Michigan’s receiving yards and 11 of the team’s 13 touchdowns through the air. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has led the Michigan running game, accounting for 575 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns, while Gardner ranks second in both categories with 520 rushing yards and nine scrambles for scores. Michigan’s only loss this season came in four overtimes at Penn State, 43-40.
While Michigan features one of the nation’s best offenses, the Spartans may possess an even better defense. Michigan State’s defense leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation in points allowed, surrendering 12.3 points per game. The Spartans have allowed only 12 touchdowns through eight games, while scoring five defensive touchdowns, leading the FBS. The offense has played its best in recent weeks, scoring 42 points in both wins against Indiana and Illinois. Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook has led the attack, throwing two or more touchdown passes in three of the last four games. Cook was efficient in the team’s last win against Illinois, completing 15 of 16 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans possess a balance offensive attack and are led on the ground by junior Jeremy Langford’s 655 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Extra Point – The ground game has been the deciding factor in the rivalry over the past four decades as the team with more rushing yards has gone on to win 40 of the last 43 meetings.