Michigan State at No. 23 Michigan
Saturday, 3:30 PM Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -9
The Paul Bunyan Trophy is one of the largest trophies in college football, standing over nine feet tall from its base to the top. The current class of Michigan seniors has never seen the trophy, as Michigan State has won the last four matchups.
Michigan comes into the game ranked and with a bit of momentum on their side, having won their last two games by the combined score of 89-13. The Spartans have struggled a bit this season and would fall to .500 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten and 0-2 in the division if they lose. A lot is on the line this Saturday in the Big House.
For Michigan State to win: Contain the running game. Which on some level is code for, "Keep Denard Robinson in the pocket." Maintain discipline on defense and don't allow Robinson to break off any long runs. But it's not just Robinson, as Fitzgerald Toussaint is due for a big day soon and Thomas Rawls is an option as well. Force Michigan to beat you with Robinson's arm, which is inconsistent at best.
For Michigan to win: Keep them off balance.The Wolverines have become a run heavy team the last two weeks, rushing the ball 105 times versus 31 pass attempts. It's worked, as the scores have indicated. But the Spartans have to be expecting the run, so the Wolverines are going to have to throw it a little bit. Play action passing might be the key to victory for the Wolverines. Robinson doesn't have to throw it 30 times to win, but a few well timed surgical strikes downfield could turn this from a close game into a laugher.
Key Player, Michigan State: Max Bullough, LB. The junior linebacker is a Michigan native, and he leads the team in total tackles with 57. The defense is going to have to step up big time and contain the run if they want to stay in the game, and the linebacking corps in particular is going to have to work hard to contain Robinson and the running backs, as well as make sure tackles to keep the short runs from turning into long runs.
Key Player, Michigan: Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB. Toussaint rushed for over 120 yards in four of the last five regular season games to end the 2011 season. He has not come close to that level of production yet this season. If he can run like he ran in November last season this Saturday, it could go a long way to opening up the offense even more for the Wolverines in this bitter rivalry game.
Key Stat: Five in a row. Michigan State has never won five in a row in this all time series. This is only the second time that the Spartans have even won four in a row. The last time that happened was 1959-1962. A strong defensive effort and a big day from running back Le'Veon bell could bring Paul Bunyan back to East Lansing for a fifth year in a row. But the Wolverines are hungry to get the trophy back for the first time since Mike Hart ran the ball for Lloyd Carr. The Wolverines have momentum and the home field advantage. Tune in Saturday afternoon to see who comes out on top.