No.22 Michigan-Michigan State | Battle For The Paul Bunyan Trophy

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No.22 Michigan-Michigan State | Battle For The Paul Bunyan Trophy
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Matt and Zac Snyder of Bleacher Report and mittensportsreport.com break down this week's University of Michigan football matchup.

When Michigan Has the Ball...

Michigan's Passing Attack vs. Michigan State's Secondary

Zac says: The extent of freshman phenom Tate Forcier's throwing shoulder injury won't be shown until his first few pass attempts on Saturday afternoon. As long as his passes look like the game winner against Indiana, Michigan fans can breathe easy. Michigan State's secondary was supposed to be a strength this season. That hasn't been the case so far, even with the secondary being Coach Dantonio's forte. Advantage: Michigan

Matt says: With the great success of the running game, Michigan hasn't really had to lean on the passing game this season, but every time they have needed to go to the air Tate the Great has stepped up. No one really knows how Tate's injured shoulder will react this weekend, but it didn't seem to affect his late TD pass to Martavious Odoms last week. Michigan State ranks last in the Big Ten in pass defense, giving up almost 1,000 yards through the air in four games. Advantage: Michigan

Michigan's Running game vs. Michigan State's Front Seven

Zac says: Although the ground game may look a little different than the three yards and a cloud of dust days, it has been effective nonetheless. The Wolverines boast the nation's number seven rushing total while the Spartan run defense comes in at number five in the Big Ten. Notre Dame's Armando Allen and Wisconsin's John Clay each had big days against Michigan State. Expect Michigan's depth at running back to carry them to a big day on the ground. Advantage: Michigan

Matt says: Michigan has the talent and depth at the running back position to be effective against even the top defenses in the country. Senior Carlos Brown has lead the charge with a whopping 8.4 yards per carry average this season. Brandon Minor has been limited in his action due to injury, but he also boasts a strong average at 5.7 yards per carry. The Wolverines will need to count on the ground game to protect the battered freshman quarterback. Advantage: Michigan
When Michigan State Has the Ball...

Michigan State's Passing Attack vs. Michigan's Secondary

Zac says: Perhaps the most effective stopper of the Michigan State passing game has been Coach Dantonio. His insistence on splitting playing time between quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol has sacrificed offensive cohesion in favor giving each player game experience. Cousins is the man getting the job done now, Nichol is the man with the greater upside. I give the edge to Michigan State either way, but the Spartans can exploit that advantage even further if Dantionio commits to Cousins. Advantage: Michigan State


Matt says: The Spartans should look to exploit the weak Michigan secondary, if they hope to have success on Saturday. If Michigan continues to give the quarterback time to throw, the explosive Spartan trio of Blair White, Mark Dell, and B.J. Cunningham will wreak havoc on the defense. Look for the Wolverines to dial up the blitz in an attempt to disrupt the timing between quarterback and receivers. Advantage: Michigan State 


Michigan State's Running Game vs. Michigan's Front Seven

Zac says: Like Michigan, Michigan State boasts a stable full of capable backs. Glenn Winston, Caulton Ray, Larry Caper and Edwin Baker have each seen a significant amount of carries in at least one game this year. Winston was the strongest Spartan runner in their last game against Wisconsin. The Spartans may lean on him again as he has the most experience out of the four. Keith Nichol is also a threat to run when put into the game. Advantage: Even

Matt says: The young Spartan runners have shown lots of potential, but none average more than 40 yards per game. Only Illinois has had fewer rushing attempts in the Big Ten, but they've only played three games. That, coupled with the fact that MSU hasn't had a run go for more than 25 yards tells me that they may be willing to abandon the running game when things get tight. Advantage: Michigan

Bottom Line...

Zac (4-0) says: Michigan historically struggles in their first road game. That being said, the quick trip up to East Lansing hardly qualifies. Vegas currently has MSU as a three point favorite and I can't say that I can argue with that, even with Michigan State's struggles so far in 2009. I've really had a hard time getting a good read on how things will play out on Saturday. Michigan State is fighting to save their 2009, Michigan is still fighting to forget 2008. The one thing I know is that the offenses should light up the scoreboard. Final Score: Michigan 41, Michigan State 37


Matt (3-1) says: Michigan's defense isn't going to shut anyone in conference play, we got confirmation of that last week, but the offense should be able to score with the best of them. Look for Michigan to keep the ball on the ground as long as Minor and Brown are having success. Hopefully Tate won't have to test that shoulder too often. As long as the Wolverines can be mildly successful in stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, they should be able to slow the Spartans enough to outscore them. Final Score: Michigan 38, Michigan State 31

This article is also featured on The Mitten Sports Report. Follow on Twitter or Facebook!

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