Once again, the battle for Michigan doesn’t have a ton of relevance with the Spartans coming off a home loss to Illinois and the Wolverines already out of the Big Ten title race. In a matchup that isn’t much different than a year ago, Michigan opened as -13.5 point home favorites with an over/under of 44.
It was a defensive battle when these teams met last year, but Michigan at least could move the ball in a 21-7 road win. It ran for 183 yards while Shea Patterson threw for 212 more on 8.5 yards per attempt. It was a bit ugly for Michigan State, which ran for 15 yards and Brian Lewerke completed 5-of-25 passes. Given the state of each team, things could go a similar way.
Michigan State has had a massive issue against elite defenses, scoring 17 combined points against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. Michigan is on that same level, allowing 266.2 yards and 17.1 points per game. Since getting a scare against Army, the Wolverines have dominated competition in Ann Arbor, giving up 17 combined points to Rutgers, Iowa and Notre Dame.
MSU’s best chance will be to get its ground game going as UM is allowing 112.7 rushing yards per contest. The problem is that it’s also allowing just 2.9 yards per carry and that’s not going to work for the Spartans.
Elijah Collins is having a solid freshman campaign, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, though managed 132 yards on 37 carries against the three elite defenses faced.
If those struggles continue, it’ll be up to Brian Lewerke, who has thrown six interceptions in the last four games and is averaging 6.8 yards per attempt. That’s not an easy thing to bet on if you prefer the underdog because it’s possible the Spartans won’t be able to reach 10 points again.
There’s a chance Michigan wins this game in a blowout if its offense can continue what it’s done the last couple weeks. While MSU’s defense stood its ground last year, it’s slipped up this season, giving up at least 28 points in each of the last five games. Simply put, if this wasn’t a rivalry, the spread would probably be closer to three touchdowns.
That said, it’s not like Michigan’s offense has carved up opponents the entire season. Shea Patterson is completing 57.2% of his passes on 7.5 yards per attempt for just 12 touchdowns.
The Wolverines have had more success running the ball in recent games between Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins and that’s likely where they’ll lean again. The one reason to believe in MSU is that its run defense has been stout despite giving up points, allowing just 3.1 yards per carry and 108.1 yards per game.
If Michigan can’t run the ball, there’s no guarantee it can score more than 20 points unless Patterson plays better than he has most of the season.
At this point, this game means everything for Michigan State’s season given how bad it has gone, now with a losing record. As for Michigan, it still has the Ohio State game to look forward to if it wants to have a good note or two from the season.
Michigan State has failed to cover its last five games, while Michigan is 1-7 ATS in its last eight following a bye week, but 5-1 ATS in its last six overall. The Spartans have covered in the last five meetings played in Ann Arbor and are 10-1 ATS in the last 11 overall meetings with that non-spread coming last year.
Predicted Score – Michigan 29 Michigan State 10