Michigan Football: Why Wolverines Will Snap 4-Year Losing Streak to MSU Spartans
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Nov. 3, 2007.
That's the date of the Michigan Wolverines' most recent football victory over their in-state foes, the Michigan State Spartans.
While Michigan has a sturdy historical edge over the Spartans (67-32-5), it needed fourth-quarter heroics from quarterback Chad Henne and receiver Mario Manningham to hand the Spartans a 28-24 loss in East Lansing.
That victory was Michigan's sixth consecutive win over Michigan State.
And then it happened: The Spartans fought back, getting the upper hand for four straight years and showing they were no longer the "Little Brother," as former Wolverines running back Mike Hart suggested in 2007.
This year, the streak will likely come to an end. It was a valiant run for Michigan State (4-3), but the Wolverines (4-2) have seemingly hit their stride after two impressive, lopsided Big Ten victories—and they aren't showing any signs of slowing down.
Michigan hosts the Spartans at 3:30 p.m. EST Saturday at The Big House in Ann Arbor, a place the Spartans have never notched three straight triumphs during the Paul Bunyan Trophy series.
While neither Spartans coach Mark Dantonio or Wolverines coach Brady Hoke has provided any juicy tidbits for the media to feast upon this week, there are past quotes that fuel the fire of players on both sides.
Dantonio has been known to stoke the flame with a harmless jab here and there. Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson remembers one such line, a phrase that's reportedly posted on the wall of the Wolverines locker room.
According to MLive.com's Diamond Leung, the Dantonio quote goes as follows: "I'm from Ohio. That's why beating Michigan is such a kick for me. We will continue to do it ... I promise you that!"
Robinson recently responded during a radio interview, saying, "(Dantonio) said that he's got some roots in Ohio, and he's going to continue to beat us because he hates the University of Michigan. We take that to heart, and we put that in our weight room."
"We accept that challenge. Every time we go in the weight room, we look at that. And it's in green and white, and we don't like those colors at all."
Robinson is 0-2 against the Spartans, suffering 34-17 and 28-14 beatings in 2010 and 2011, respectively. If that's not enough for Robinson to put his best foot forward Saturday, not much else could be.
The fleet-footed senior hasn't had much success against the Spartans in two attempts. He averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in 2011's loss and rushed for 86 in 2010. If Michigan is to fly by Michigan State, Robinson has to find a way to expose its defense, which allows a Big Ten best 91 yards on the ground per game.
There are weaknesses. Michigan State's defense was recognized as one of the best in the nation—and it still is—but it's given up 43 combined points in the past two games. That's cause to question its effectiveness, especially against an in-tune Wolverines offense.
Offensive and Defensive Stats
On the year, Michigan's opponents score 17.5 points per game, but don't forget that the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide hung 41 on the Wolverines in Week 1. That point total skews the average.
Michigan allowed just 13 points to Notre Dame during a 13-6 loss and has allowed 25 or more just once when excluding the 41-14 loss to the Tide.
The Spartans have surrendered 15.7 points per game, but allowed 27 to the struggling Indiana Hoosiers. That game could be compared to when Michigan barely escaped the Air Force Falcons with a 31-25 victory, but the Spartans also struggled mightily against the Eastern Michigan Eagles, squeaking out a 23-7 win—and they needed a big fourth quarter to do so.
Which team has the better defense?
Michigan looks to be flying high, daring teams to stop it from getting into the end zone. Michigan State, though, looks completely opposite while struggling to put multiple touchdowns on the board.
The Wolverines average a little more than 33 points per game, while Michigan State—which averaged close to 33 points per game in 2011—puts up about 21 each outing.
On paper, a slight edge leans in Michigan's favor. But the momentum factor will play a key role, too. Michigan has its eyes on a Big Ten title, while Michigan State will look to salvage what has become a disappointing season.
However, that point could be flipped to reflect the importance of Saturday's game to the Spartans, who suffered a gut-wrenching 19-16 overtime loss this past weekend to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
A promising season is in danger of spiraling out of control for Michigan State. Winning in Ann Arbor is a must, obviously, if it plans to compete in the Big Ten's Legends Division.
Michigan, though, is just too powerful. The four-year losing streak should be snapped. Denard Robinson will most likely tally his first win against Michigan State and balance—in Ann Arbor, at least—should be restored after the Wolverines emerge as the victors.
Who wins Saturday?
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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