The only blemish on the 2021 Michigan Wolverines was a loss against Michigan State last October. The Wolverines blew a 16-point lead late in the third quarter to take their only loss during the regular season, 37-33.
Michigan has now started 7-0 in back-to-back seasons and the maize and blue will be hosting a 3-4 Michigan State team. The Wolverines are focused and hungry to get a win against an in-state rival. Mel Tucker is 2-0 against Jim Harbaugh and Harbaugh said this week “I’m not going to lie to you. I really want to win it.”
During the all-time series, Michigan holds a 71-38-5 lead over the Spartans, but Michigan State has won two straight games and if Michigan is going to contend for the Big Ten title and make another College Football Playoff then it has to take care of Michigan State under the lights.
Here are our three keys for a Michigan victory over Michigan State.
Establish the run
Photo: Isaiah Hole
This rivalry has a trend. 46 out of the last 52 games played the winning team had more rushing yards.
Last season, Kenneth Walker ran all over the Wolverines. Walker rushed for 197 yards while scoring five touchdowns. The entire Michigan team gained 146 yards on the ground and failed to score a touchdown running the ball.
But the 2022 version of these two teams are totally opposite. Michigan has the No. 7 rushing attack averaging 241 yards on the ground and the Spartans are ranked 116th averaging 106 yards per game on the ground. Blake Corum is second in the Big Ten with 901 yards and Michigan State’s leading rusher is Jalen Berger, No. 15, with 367 yards.
Michigan State doesn’t do a great job of stopping the run either. MSU will enter the contest with the 80th-ranked run defense allowing 153.2 yards on the ground per game.
The Wolverines still depend on the run to keep their offense flowing. Not that J.J. McCarthy couldn’t put the team on his shoulders and throw the ball 50 times in order to win — we just haven’t seen it yet.
As long as the Michigan offensive line owns the line of scrimmage and continues to give Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards some running lanes, the Wolverines should have more yards on the ground than MSU.
Don't allow MSU receivers to win the 50-50 ball
Photo: Isaiah Hole
A painful memory for Michigan fans is from two years ago in Ann Arbor. The Spartans beat the Wolverines 27-24 while Rocky Lombardi made a living of throwing up 50-50 balls to Ricky White and Jalen Nailor.
Fast forward to 2022 and MSU doesn’t have much of a running threat, as we mentioned above. The Spartans lost a key piece to their offense after Kenneth Walker left last season, but Michigan State still has Payton Thorne throwing the ball and the most dangerous part of its offense is the wide receivers.
Starting out with Thorne, he is seventh in the Big Ten averaging 214 yards per game passing and he is 13th with seven interceptions thrown. He is averaging nearly 30 passing attempts per game with the run game becoming more and more of a non factor.
The Wolverines are going to need to contain both Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman when Thorne starts throwing the ball. Reed was a 2021 AFCA All-American as an all-purpose player. The senior has battled some injuries this season, but after a bye week, he should be good to go. He is second on the Spartans with 373 yards and three scores.
Sophomore Keon Coleman has played all seven games and has filled in nicely for Reed. He leads MSU with 393 yards and five touchdowns.
It seems likely that the Spartans will be forced to pass the ball and the Wolverines are going to need to do a nice job of covering the two MSU playmakers.
Photo: Isaiah Hole
It’s the battle for Michgian. The Wolverines really, really want this win and even though the Spartans are having a down year, they want to maintain their current win streak against the maize and blue.
There will be a ton of emotion from both sides entering the game and penalties have been an issue as of late for the Wolverines.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t appear that penalties have been much of an issue. Michigan ranks 12th with 33 penalties called against it through seven games. But the past three games have told a different story. The Wolverines have been called for 24 penalties for 196 yards in the last three games.
The Spartans play a physical brand of football and they will try and say anything they can do to get Michigan flustered. The key here is to play 60 minutes of football and not do anything to give Michigan State extra yards, or to back up the Wolverines’ offense.
Michigan is definitely playing better football than Michigan State right now and is probably the more talented team, so let the play do the talking on the field.