Michigan State football vs. Michigan key matchups

Michigan State and Michigan had two completely different games during their season openers. The Wolverines are feeling great after defeating a previously ranked Minnesota team 49-24 on the road. The Spartans, however, are still brushing off the cob webs after a 38-27 loss to Rutgers at home. ESPN is giving Michigan a 93% chance to win this game, which after watching Michigan State football last week, seems low. Here is what I expect out of both teams during this Halloween rivalry matchup Saturday on FOX.

Michigan State offense vs. Michigan offense

The Michigan State offense was the ugliest part of the loss to Rutgers. Although Rocky Lombardi had three touchdowns and 319 yards, he also had two interceptions and a fumble. The offensive line might as well just lied down each play.

Jayden Reed caught the bulk of Lombardi’s passes with 11 receptions, 128 yards and two touchdowns, but he also struggled with holding onto the ball and fumbled twice. It seemed like all the Spartans could constantly do was run the ball, but they ran a bit too much, and it became predictable. If Michigan State can clean up the turnovers and false start penalties, it could make the Spartans a much bigger threat against the Wolverines. If the offense plays like it did against Rutgers, however, Michigan will have an absolute cake walk.

Michigan’s offense played great in its first game. In QB Joe Milton’s first career game he looked cool, calm and composed. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds the guy is an absolute unit. He led a balanced attack with accurate passes and effective runs against Minnesota’s defense. He spread the ball to nine different players, and four different backs got to see time on the field. The Spartans’ defense is going to have to really clamp down on containing Milton if it wants to make any sort of impact defensively.

Michigan State defense vs. Michigan defense

Michigan State football held Rutgers to 276 total yards and forced three turnovers. This comes as a surprise considering how bad the Spartans looked. The Spartan defense was surprisingly decent considering it lost seven starters, which included All-American defensive end Kenny Willekes. My biggest takeaway last game was the pushing and shoving type of tackling Michigan State was doing. If the Spartans were not taking down Rutgers with that type of play, they surely are not going to be taking down any of these athletic Michigan players.

Besides the 75 yard march down the field on its opening drive, the majority of Rutgers’ touchdowns came from good field position due to an offensive turnover. The rest of the game the Spartan defense did a good job at stopping the Scarlet Knights when they starting from normal field position.

Michigan sacked Minnesota’s quarterback a total of five times, and when he was not getting sacked, he was still getting pressured. The Spartans’ offensive line is going to need to figure things out this game because this Michigan defensive line is much better than Rutgers. Michigan safety Daxton Hill came out last game due to an injury, and Jim Harbaugh was optimistic about playing in this game. The Spartans are going to need to take advantage of this and make some big plays down field, without the three interceptions obviously.

Special teams

Special teams is one area where the Spartans might actually have a slight edge over the Wolverines. Michigan had a punt blocked on its opening possession. The starting kicker Jake Moody missed all three of his field goal attempts from the 33, 38 and 44. Harbaugh stated kicker Quinn Nordin may start this game if he is healthy. The Spartans’ kicker Matt Coughlin was 2-for-2 from 48 and 45 yards out. The Spartans fumbled a punt return, however, but made up for it later with a forced fumble on a Rutgers return.

In conclusion, Michigan football has a huge uphill battle coming during this game, while Michigan just has to play up to its already good standards to overcome. I am not a fortune teller, but I can say with confidence I do not see the Spartans coming out on top this game. They have too much to fix, and a week of practice was definitely not enough time to clean up their act and beat this top-15 Michigan team. I hope it is a close game, and I am excited to see where Paul Bunyan will be residing for the next year.