Five keys for Michigan football vs. Michigan State

This rivalry is no joke. The amount of drama created by the Paul Bunyan Trophy alone in the past few years is enough to give Big Ten officials a headache. Fights, pre-game antics, constant scuffles, etc –these teams hate each other.

After last year’s especially messy postgame situation and both programs working through off-the-field distractions, this year feels like it could be the tipping point in the rivalry. A clean game is the desire, but realistically there will be some dirt thrown between sides.

Michigan is clearly the superior team this season and is expecting a massive win. What exactly do the Wolverines need to do in order to call Saturday’s game a success?

Lock in

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes for both teams right now. Michigan just got told they were under investigation for sign stealing, Michigan State is in a legal battle with their former head coach, and last year’s game ended with felony assault charges. Wow.

The Wolverines cannot let this change their approach. They have more talent, better athletes, and better coaching. A beatdown is more than warranted, but rivalry games tend to end up close. The best approach for Michigan is to forget their opponent and treat it like any other week.

Hit the QB

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Michigan has one of the best defensive lines in the country. MSU does not have one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Make that obvious Saturday night.

Michigan should feast upon Katin Houser. This is just his second start, so he will be prone to mistakes with pressure in his face. Hit him enough in the first half and he should start pulling his release in the second, leading to underthrown passes and interceptions.

The opportunity is there to win the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Last year the Wolverines managed just two sacks. This year I expect at least four with constant pressure.

No bad penalties

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Just stay clean. Don’t let MSU get free first downs on pass interference, unsportsmanlike conduct, or any other silly mistakes. Don’t put yourself behind the sticks with holding or false starts — just let your maturity persevere.

The magnitude and aggressiveness of the past few years could also be an issue here. Players will naturally be playing through the whistle, but do not get chippy in between plays. This rivalry needs to come down to earth, getting through this game without a fight would be a win in its own right.

Control the clock

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Last year, Corum was the game MVP. His ability on the ground was instrumental in allowing Michigan to possess the ball, move down the field slowly, and not allow MSU to develop rhytm on offense.

Edwards has had a slow start to the year, but being a Michigan-born player, MSU should light a special fire under his pads. Hopefully, this is the game Edwards puts together 100 yards from scrimmage, but his role so far this season has been effective.

Getting Mullings back is also a big deal. He is the biggest running back on the roster, and actually outweighs MSU star linebacker Cal Haladay by four pounds. If he can get going downhill, expect some favorable collisions for the Wolverines.

Don't stop no matter what

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Let’s run the score up. It would be pretty cool to drop a 50-spot on MSU this season, especially with Dantonio back on staff.

There will be a ton of recruits in attendance who are considering both schools, embarrassing the host would be great for momentum in a number of key battles. MSU legacy Kaden Strayhorn is one of the biggest names in attendance. The 2025 offensive lineman has offers from Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and a host of other impressive names. Michigan is right around the top, and knocking off his father’s school would be huge for its chances.

Though Michigan will always hate Ohio State more, there’s no doubt that U-M fans run into MSU fans more regularly. Let’s give Wolverines everywhere undeniable bragging rights for a year.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire