This is the Game of the Week in the state of Michigan. Michigan State (6-0) is ranked #7 in the AP Poll and is coming off of a 31-24 ho-hum win over Rutgers. Michigan (5-1) is ranked #12 and man handled Northwestern last week 38-0. The Spartans won last year's match up in East Lansing 35-11. Michigan leads the all-time series 68-34-5. They also lead the all-time Big Ten series which features the Paul Bunyan Trophy 35-25-2.
The Spartans have sputtered since reaching the #2 ranking back in week two. Injuries have decimated many of the their strengths and remain huge question marks entering the game in Ann Arbor. State is however; still undefeated and are led on offense by starting QB Connor Cook. The 5th year senior is once again having a solid season having thrown for over 1,300 yards, along with 12 TD's and only 2 Int's thus far. His favorite target has been senior WR Aaron Burbridge who has already has 34 receptions this season. True Freshman L.J. Scott leads the Spartan rushing attack and has scored 6 TD's while averaging 6.0 ypc. Look for his workload to go up this week with Madre London most likely out for this week's game.
Defensively, the Spartans have been less than stellar this season and have failed to live up to the lofty standards set by recent Spartan defenses. Senior Shalique Calhoun leads the MSU defense with 5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss while junior Riley Bullough leads the team with 55 tackles. Senior Lawrence Thomas and sophomore Malik McDowell are part of the best defensive line the Wolverines will have seen all year.
Michigan has surprised many after their opening week defeat at Utah. Coach Jim Harbaugh has shown many what the hype was all about as he has turned the Wolverines from a soft team into one of the nation's most physical. The offense is led by senior transfer QB Jake Rudock. His numbers aren't gaudy, but he does just enough to help make the Michigan offense effective. Tight end Jake Butt has showed everyone why he is the best player at his position in the country by hauling in 22 reception thus far to go along with 1 TD. The improved offensive line has helped bolster a running game that is averaging over 200 yards per game led by junior De'Veon Smith.
The strength of Michigan's team this year besides Harbaugh has been the defense. Michigan has shut out three straight opponents and currently has one of the nation's best defenses along with Boston College. The Wolverines lead the nation in scoring defense. Senior's Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan lead the Michigan defense in tackles. Senior DT Willie Henry leads the defense in sacks with 4 while senior DE Chris Wormley leads in tackles for loss with 7. Sophomore Jabril Peppers has been outstanding on defense and special teams this season and may be the most exciting defensive player the Wolverine have had since Heisman winner Charles Woodson.
This should be a great game and I am quite certain that we will see the best from both of these teams. Michigan has the edge in playing at home. Match ups to watch will be the Michigan defensive line against State's offensive line along with Michigan's Jake Rudock against State's secondary. Another match up to watch is the head coaches, as they match wits. Jim Harbaugh is a great coach and has had the advantage in each of the first 6 games this season. That won't be be the case this week as Mark Dantonio is one of the best coaches in the country. Ultimately this game will come down to State's Connor Cook against the Michigan defense. With the exception of week 1, the Michigan defense has feasted on young and/or inexperienced QB's. That won't be the case this week in Cook. UM will look to get pressure on him and force him into making some mistakes.
While Michigan at this point is a 7 point favorite, this to me looks like a pick'em game that would make Michigan a slight favorite because they are the home team. If we want to go with the look test, Michigan looks like the better team at this point. With that said, I will go with the higher ranked Spartans. Pick: Michigan State 20 Michigan 17