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Big Game Breakdown: #6 Michigan at #8 Michigan State

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One of the nation’s oldest college football rivalries takes place on Saturday at Noon Eastern Time when the Michigan Wolverines take on the Michigan State Spartans. The Wolverines are currently a 4.5 point favorite and the total is set at 50.5 points. 

Both teams are a perfect 7-0 and have aspirations of a Big 10 title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Let’s check out each team on both sides of the ball to find out who has the best chance to win the Paul Bunyan Trophy.

Michigan Offense vs. Michigan State Defense

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has gotten back to more of a smash-mouth rushing offense and it has paid huge dividends (teamrankings.com). The Wolverines rank 4th in the nation in rushing yards per game (253.3) and 14th in yards per rush (5.5). The dynamic duo of Hasaan Haskins (602 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and Black Corum (729 rushing yards, 10 TDs) has proven to be a deadly combination.

Junior QB Cade McNamara has done a serviceable job for Michigan by throwing for 1,115 passing yards and 5 TDs. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers but keep in mind that the Wolverines only throw the ball 23.7 times per game (117th in the nation). The Wolverines’ best receiver so far has been Cornelius Johnson, who has 17 catches for 312 yards and 3 TDs.

Michigan State’s defense has done a solid job all year long of holding down offenses. This unit ranks 16th in yards per rush allowed (3.2) and 18th in yards per pass allowed (6.3). The Spartans’ best defender is edge rusher Jacub Panasiuk, who leads the team in both sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (8.5).

Michigan State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

The Spartans’ offense has been a pleasant surprise this season, mainly thanks to the development of Payton Thorne, who has thrown for 1701 yards and 15 TDs. Thorne does an excellent job of managing the game and is the main reason why this offense averages 8.8 yards per pass.

Michigan State’s running game isn’t quite as dynamic as Michigan’s but it’s still pretty impressive. RB Kenneth Walker III has run for 997 yards and 9 TDs so far this season. The 5-10 junior may even have an outside chance at the Heisman.

Michigan’s defense is one of the stingiest in the country, as they only allow 14.3 points per game (2nd only to Georgia). Daxton Hill leads the secondary with 2 INTs while Josh Ross leads the team with 44 tackles.

Our Pick: Michigan State +4.5

We think Michigan wins this game and gets their revenge off of last year’s surprising loss. However, we expect this to be a tight game the entire way and for Michigan to only win by a field goal or less. We’ll gladly take the points with the Spartans, especially since they are at home and off of a bye week.

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