This is the eighth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 8: Michigan
Time and Date: TBA, Oct. 25
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Wolverines at a glance
Coach: Brady Hoke (fourth season, 26-13)
Last season: 7-6 overall; 3-5 Big Ten (5th, Legends Division)
Returning starters: 15 (seven offense, eight defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten (4th, East Division); ranked No. 32 nationally
Lindy’s: 3rd Big Ten East; ranked No. 20
Sporting News: 3rd Big Ten East
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
“This is Michigan,” as Hoke once said. And there’s a ton of real talent behind that brand. After last season’s humbling and demoralizing thumping, how U-M views this rivalry differently than ever. Hoke’s job, the program’s sliding credibility, 2014 relevance — there’s a lot on the line for the Wolverines.
As a practical matter, this shouldn’t be a bad Michigan football team. Senior quarterback Devin Gardner was terrific at times last season, before he lost his confidence — partly his own inadequacies reading defenses, and more so the relentless pounding he took. Running back Derrick Green reported to camp out of shape a year ago, but he was still the top running back recruit in the country. If Green learned his lesson, he could be a ferocious downhill runner. And tight end-turned-wideout Devin Funchess is a game-changer as much as any pass-catcher in the Big Ten. Defensively, eight starters are back from a unit that was sound against the run the majority of last season.
Why they won’t
No matter how motivated and desperate Michigan becomes in this rivalry, I don’t think a Mark Dantonio coached team is ever going to get arrogant about its standing in this rivalry. Dantonio knows the rise of his program began with changing the tide against the Wolverines. From a football standpoint, Michigan lost so badly last year because its offensive line couldn’t hold up against a storied MSU defense having a defining moment. MSU’s defense may not be able to replicate Nov. 2, 2013, but it won’t matter if U-M’s offensive line is worse. The Wolverines O-line was porous, despite having two first-three-round NFL draft picks as its tackles.
At some point, U-M will even out this series a bit, maybe even win a couple or three in a row. And when it happens, the media will overreact and make proclamations, the trash-talk will switch sides, etc. — as is the nature of this sick-in-the-head rivalry. But this probably isn’t the year.
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29