By Caio Orofino
Michigan and Michigan State. Enough said. This Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., the two rivals will battle it out for another year of bragging rights. Last year the Wolverines snuck by with a last second field goal.
Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) has struggled to this point in the season, especially on pass defense. They are currently second to last in the Big Ten in that category. The Wolverines defense has let up 87 points in the last two games to Indiana and Penn State.
Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) has let up 94 points throughout the whole season. The Spartans have the number one ranked defense in the Big Ten and have the third best in the nation.
The problem for the Spartans is when they have the ball; they struggle to put up points. Right now they are ninth in the Big Ten in scoring offense.
That being said, this might not be an issue against Michigan’s defense because even against weaker offensive opponents manage to rack up points against the Wolverines.
On a positive note for the Wolverines, they put points on the board. They are currently tied as the second best team in the Big Ten for scoring average, notching 42.4 points per game.
Michigan definitely has enough offensive firepower to frustrate the Spartans’ defense. They put up 106 points in the last two weeks, and last week was highlighted by Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon’s big day.
Gardner had a total of 584 total yards, a Michigan record. Out of his 503 yards through the air, Jeremy Gallon caught 369 of them, a Big Ten record.
The main question is how Devin Gardner handles the defensive pressure from the Spartans. He currently leads the Big Ten in interceptions, throwing 10 this season. If he’s shaky with the football, the Wolverines could be in big trouble because the Spartans thrive off of turnovers.
Michigan State dominated Illinois last week, only allowing 128 yards of offense and 8 first downs. They have held three teams to single digits this season and haven’t allowed a touchdown in two straight games.
Their defense has only let up 12 touchdowns this entire year, leading the Big Ten.
So can this impressive Spartans defense stop Devin Gardner and Michigan’s offense? This will be the main battle throughout the game and will probably be a deciding factor on which team wins.
If Gardner keeps the ball safe and eats up the clock, I can see the Wolverines pulling off the victory in East Lansing. But if he continues to turn the ball over and the Spartans contain Michigan’s offense, I see them edging out this victory.
Saturday’s game will see emotions running high. Earlier this week, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint referenced that Michigan State is Michigan’s little brother school. The Spartans didn’t take too well to those comments.
Brady Hoke, Michigan’s head coach, has struggled on the road in his tenure in Ann Arbor. In the Hoke era, Michigan has gone 5-6 and 0-4 to ranked opponents on the road.
This will be another hostile road battle for the Wolverines as they prepare to face Michigan State.
Gardner versus the Spartans defense, who wins the battle?
Photo via WikiMedia Commons