This is the ninth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 9: Michigan
Time and Date: TBD, Nov. 2
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Wolverines at a glance
Coach: Brady Hoke (third season, 19-7)
Last season: 8-5 overall; 6-2 Big Ten (2nd Legends)
Returning starters: 10 (five offense, five defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 10-3 overall; 1st, Big Ten Legends Division; Ranked No. 14
Lindy’s: 1st, Legends Division; Ranked No. 16
Sporting News: 1st, Legends Division
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Whatever brief physical edge MSU had on the Wolverines is gone, as is the mounting pressure on U-M to stop a losing streak that was becoming embarrassing. And for all Denard Robinson brought to the table, his limits as a passer limited the Wolverines to a Denard-centric offense — the sort of attack that produces seven-win seasons at Indiana, but isn’t needed at a program that can lure the nation’s top recruits. Michigan, minus a few electrifying runs, will be a more complete offense without Robinson. Devin Gardner is a better overall quarterback, though perhaps yet to completely prove the lofty preseason hype he’s beginning to receive. Michigan has a No. 1 wideout in Jeremy Gallon and potentially a big-time backfield with Fitz Toussaint and blue-chip recruit Derrick Green. And the importance of the return of All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan can’t be overstated.
Why they won’t
As a program, MSU is Michigan’s physical equal in the trenches — that has only occasionally been the case over the last 40 years — and the Wolverines and their fans know it. The collective sigh of relief at Michigan Stadium after last season’s 12-10 escape told of a program that gets that it’s in a fight. Year to year, skill-position stars can make the difference in particular games, but the story of lasting competitiveness is up front. And all things being fairly equal in that regard, home field matters.
MSU nearly won in Ann Arbor with an inept offense. It stands to reason that the Spartan attack will begin to somewhat adopt a philosophy of forward movement by the time Nov. 2 comes around. And there are potential weaknesses on U-M’s roster — its pass rush, its wideouts beyond Gallon, the interior offensive line and, if something happens to Gardner, there is zero experience behind him at QB.
This is no longer a game MSU sees an upset. Coach Mark Dantonio has successfully changed that within the culture of his own program as it pertains to this rivalry. He’s emphasized the game with Michigan and his teams have backed up the banter on the field, winning four straight before last season. If the game were played on Labor Day weekend, advantages either way would be nitpicking. By November, so much will have happened to both of these teams, it could be more clear. But there was no real advantage either way last year and nothing has happened since to suggest there will be this time.
New regime rows WMU into Spartan Stadium for Aug. 30 opener
Rebuilding South Florida visits on Sept. 7
Youngstown State, on Sept. 14, offers final tuneup before season gets real
Notre Dame, perhaps a mirror image, awaits on Sept. 21
Big Ten road begins Oct. 5 against iffy Iowa squad
Offensive-minded and improving Hoosier visit for homecoming, Oct. 12
Boilermakers’ unrelenting schedule stops in East Lansing Oct. 19
Illini have new-look offense, not much left on ‘D’ as Spartans visit Oct. 26