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This Week at The Wolverine Den
Michigan @ Michigan State
October 25, 2014 - 3:30 p.m. ET
Michigan travels to East Lansing this week to take on their in-state rival Michigan State. The Spartans have aspirations of making the Final Four and playing in the first-ever college football playoff. They are currently ranked 5/8 in the two major polls and have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way – all of their challenging games are at home. After making a trip to the Rose Bowl in 2013 (their first Rose Bowl in 26 years), the Spartys have upped their goals. But after years of focusing on Michigan, are the Spartans looking past the Wolverines? To the Wolverines, this has been another game. Over the last 44 years, Michigan has beaten the Spartans 31 times. For most of our lifetimes, this has been a ho-hum rivalry. But losing 5 out of the last 6 to MSU has elevated the game in the eyes of Michigan. In many UM minds, this game means more to Michigan than it does to MSU. That could be the recipe for an upset.
MSU has a more balanced team this year. The offense is much improved while the defense is very good, although not as dominant as last year. Sparty is 9th in the nation in Total Defense, but have given up 21.6 points per game. In their only loss at Oregon, MSU gave up 491 yards of offense and 46 points. The defense is strong at all three levels. The defensive line is led by Shilique Calhoun. While not as productive as last year, Calhoun is usually drawing a double team. He makes the rest of the D-Line better. The linebackers are solid with Taiwan Jones and Ed Davis getting most of the plays. The secondary is led by Kurtis Drummond and Trae Waynes. The Sparty defense leads the Big Ten in 3rd down conversions, yielding only a 25.3% conversion rate.
Tomato Sausage Delight
Offense is where MSU has improved the most. They lead the Big Ten (3rd nationally) in points per game at 47.0. They lead the nation in time of possession at 36:22 per game. They have a strong running game and an efficient short passing game. And they hit the big play once you bring the safeties up to stop the short stuff. Connor Cook has become an excellent game manager. He is completing 61.4% of his passes with 16 TDs with only 5 interceptions and he is averaging 234 yard passing per game being just mobile enough to avoid the rush. Jeremy Langford is the key running back. Langford averaged over 100 yards per game in 2013 and is just short of that mark in 2014. With a string of blow outs, Langford is fresh and healthy and is set up to have a strong finish. The top receiver is Tony Lippett. Last year, Lippett led the Spartans averaging 44 yards per game in receiving yards. This year, he is averaging 112 yards per game and already has 8 TD receptions (leads the Big Ten in both categories).
The MSU special teams are average at best. Punter Mike Sadler averaging just over 40 yards per punt with a net of only 34.6. Kicker Michael Geiger has missed 4 FG’s this year in 11 attempts after connecting on 94% last season.
The Wolverine Den Trivia
Michigan recorded a safety against Penn State. When was the last time Michigan had a safety in a game?
Yes, we mentioned upset. They have beaten Michigan in 5 of the last six. But the biggest difference in the game is the turnover margin. MSU is 1st in the conference and 3rd nationally with a +11 turnover margin. Michigan is one of the worst in the nation with a -13 margin. If this statistic plays out, it will be a long day in East Lansing. But Michigan has the capability and the defense to contain the Spartans. The team had a week off to come up with some new schemes. Look for the State defense to pressure Devin with run blitzes rather than sitting back. They will try to force the Michigan offense into turnovers. For the Wolverines, we need to make sure the Spartans do not have an easy game on offense. The toughness of the Michigan Wolverines has been called into question. To win this game, we must run the ball, hold on to the ball and play tough. We must also play smart and not get involved in the silly penalties that invariably result from the “little brother” syndrome.
This will be the 107th meeting for these in-state rivals. Michigan owns a 68-33-5 record in the series. A win by Michigan would its 8th win over MSU in the last 13 games and a win by MSU would be its 6th win over Michigan in the last 7 games.
The Wolverines are a 17 point underdog.
Great Moments in Wolverines - Spartans History
- Woodson’s interception in the 1997 win at Spartan Stadium. One of the greatest individual efforts ever. Look at the picture of this great play on the wall in the Wolverine Den.
- Michigan beat the Spartys 119-0 in 1902 behind 7 TDs from Al Herrnstein.
- Michigan held MSU to only 10 yards of total offense in the 1942 shutout.
- Desmond Howard had 140 yards receiving and a 95 yard kick return in the 1990 game. He was also tackled (and no flag was thrown!) on the 2-point conversion attempt that would have given Michigan the victory that day.
- Butch Woolfolk had his best day as a Wolverine with 253 yards in the 1981 win.
- Rob Lytle had 180 yards rushing on just 10 carries in the 1976 win.
- Chris Perry had 51 carries for 219 yards in the 2003 victory.
- Braylon Edwards had 11 receptions for 189 yards and 3 TDs in the triple overtime thriller of 2004.
- Mike Hart and Chad Henne beat the Spartans 4 straight times. Henne had 14 TD passes and Hart 672 yards rushing in those 4 MSU games – and Hart’s famous “little brother” comment.