It’s Rivalry Night

Campus Clash

Michigan State Spartans at (7) Michigan Wolverines

Michigan State: After a down 2016 campaign that saw them go 3-9, not many knew what to really expect from the Michigan State Spartans in 2017. Would it be another rebuilding year or would they turn the page and improve? They have quietly gone about their business and through the first four games, they’re 3-1 and they’ve matched their total number of wins from 2016. They’ve never been known as a team to run jet sweeps or anything of that nature. They’ve always run a pro-style offense and they’ve always been a team that prides themselves on running the football and they have a really good running back that some people haven’t been introduced to yet and he goes by the name of L.J. Scott. Coach Dantonio has called him a clone of Le’Veon Bell because they both have the same work ethic and when you watch the tape, he plays very similarly to the former Spartan. He’s a patient runner and if the hole isn’t open, he simply bounces outside and will still get his yards. I’m excited that everyone will get to watch him and see what he’s capable of doing. Sparty bounced back last week after an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame the week before. Since Connor Cook went pro, the quarterback position has been a big-time question mark and it may be now answered with the way Brian Lewerke has played this year. He was named the full-time starter and he hasn’t disappointed at all. He’s a six-foot-three guy that can really show the mobility and use the play action to his advantage to lure a defensive front in and then, he takes off for the run. He can also throw it and his skill set really keeps a defense on its toes because you just never know what he’s going to do next. This will be their first road game of the season and it’s a showdown with their in-state rivalry.

Michigan: They’re 4-0 for the second straight season and in the hunt for the division once again. Their offense though is very concerning to be especially at quarterback because Wilton Speight has really struggled big time to produce and put up some big numbers. We all wonder if this has to do with losing all his weapons from last year or is he just really struggling. I remember during the summer when I broke down the Big Ten East and talked about them, they needed a good Wilton Speight to show up and greater things would happen. So far, he’s thrown three touchdown passes and two interceptions. In their last game against Purdue, John O’Korn replaced Wilton and didn’t look bad at all. He completed 18 of his 26 pass attempts, threw for 270 yards and a touchdown pass. They love to run the ball and they’re one of the best at it. The ground game is averaging 184 yards per contest. The biggest talk of this team once again is their defense, which I think is the second best unit in the entire nation behind the Clemson Tigers. They may have lost a lot from last year’s team, but they still have got the job done and I think this unit is better than last year’s to be completely honest. They’re extremely fast and athletic and never have to load up the box to blitz or rush the passer because they have such great athletic push and power up front. Defensively, Michigan is allowing 13.5 points and 203.3 yards per game. Don Brown has done a fantastic job with these guys as the defensive coordinator. The bye week is over and they’ll look to start 5-0 for the second straight time for the first time ever in school history.

Sparty Player To Watch: Joe Bachie– He’s one of the nation’s best inside linebackers and the best always have to show up for the big games and this is one of those games right here. A linebacker has always been considered the quarterback of the defense and he’s exactly that for the Spartans. He’ll have to be all over the place to help shut down Michigan’s running game and make them pass the football.

Michigan Player to Watch: John O’Korn– With Speight out for the foreseeable future, this is his offense now. He’s going to have to show some consistency in what will be the most pressure-packed start of his career. At Houston, O’Korn was a streaky player. It’s why he ultimately lost his job. That was a long time ago, however, and O’Korn – an emotional player – was able to keep everything moving forward with fluidity two weeks ago at Purdue. He has to maintain a cool hand this week in what should be an emotional game.

Final Analysis: Believe it or not, this will be the first ever primetime battle between these two rivals. Michigan’s main purpose will be to contain Brian Lowered and force the game into his hands as a passer and not a runner. Michigan State’s biggest problem this season has been ball security, as the Spartans have committed eight turnovers through four games – six of those by a lost fumble. MSU’s a -4 in turnover margin. Michigan, meanwhile, has had turnover issues of its own – coughing it up seven times. The difference? The Wolverines have gained seven turnovers back. It might not be as simple as this: But winning the turnover margin in a rivalry game often makes the difference.

Prediction: Michigan 20 Michigan State 17