Michigan Football: Key Wolverine Storylines to Watch for Against Michigan State

Mike Shiekman@TheRealShiekFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 26:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines throws a first quarter touchdown while playing the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines haven’t beaten the Michigan State Spartans in five years. They may have their best chance to end that streak in the Big House this Saturday.

Michigan State has been underwhelming based on its past few seasons, losing its last three of five. In Week 7, the Spartans suffered a 19-16 upset at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes, a loss unusual for Mark D'Antonio’s teams.

Michigan has gained momentum with two blowout wins against Purdue and Illinois. To continue this impetus, it will have to down a nearby rival. Here’s what to watch.


Will Denard Robinson Be Able to Make Plays With His Legs?

Even with Fitzgerald Toussaint back in the fold for several games, Robinson has been the Wolverines' leading rusher.

He had two touchdowns on the ground against Illinois, including a 69-yard scamper in which he had a devastating cutback move that will be featured on highlights everywhere.

As well as Robinson has been able to run, Michigan State poses a bigger and more alert defensive line that Michigan hasn’t encountered since the Notre Dame loss. That didn’t turn out so well for Denard.


Is This Wolverine Defense For Real?

Brady Hoke’s defense has tightened up, allowing less than 14 points in its last three games. Linebacker Jake Ryan has been a key contributor for the Wolverines, recently tying his career high for tackles and forcing a fumble in a shutout of Illinois.

Whether or not this resurgence is a fad will be solved against the Spartans, who have an oft-potent rushing attack led by running back Le’Veon Bell.

If the Wolverines can force their rivals from East Lansing to third-and-longs, their pass rush should have ample opportunities to influence the game.


Can This Michigan Offense Keep It Up?

If the Wolverines' offensive attack can keep pace with its recent production, Michigan State won’t be able to keep up.

Denard Robinson and Co. have outscored opponents 89-13 in their last two contests, with no indication of slowing down.

Their quarterback will need some kind of help to overcome the Spartans' defense that ranks as the 14th best in the nation.

Whether it be from Toussaint or in the screen game, the Wolverine skill players will have to channel their successes from the past couple weeks in this rivalry clash.