Michigan-Michigan State Football: A Battle Worth More Than Bragging Rights
For the first time since Michigan State and Michigan met as undefeated foes in 1999 (Michigan State won), both programs will reenact the scenario again on Saturday.
For the fans of each school, it is a game which has brought upon unabashed name-calling and egomaniacal smack talk. For the programs, this game may very well define the rest of each team's season.
Even if you are not physically, economically, or emotionally invested in this in-state rivalry, there is still plenty for the casual fan to watch out for.
One aspect of the game—or should I say player—to tune in for is Michigan's Denard Robinson.
The current Heisman front runner and all-world talent leads the FBS in rushing yards and all-purpose yards, and is the reason why the Wolverines are still in the hunt in the Big Ten. He played sparingly in last year's contest at Spartan Stadium, but he is a completely different player this season.
While Robinson is nationally known for his skill set, the lesser known Michigan State running game will have all eyes on itself at the Big House.
Sophomore Edwin Baker leads a much improved running attack that is ranked 20th in the nation. The other two tailbacks featured are true freshman Le'Veon Bell and sophomore Larry Caper. The Spartans' running game is its bread and butter, but quarterback Kirk Cousins is no slouch, either.
Cousins has thrown for more touchdowns (nine) and more yards (1,132) than Robinson (seven and 1,0008, respectively). Obviously both players handle the quarterback position much differently, but Cousins has matured into the role as the Spartans' signal caller. His play last week against Wisconsin was stellar.
But against such a porous Michigan defense, it will be a "pick your poison" type of offensive game plan for Michigan State. The Wolverines' pass defense is ranked 120th out of — you guessed it — 120 teams. It will be interesting how both teams handle their offenses when it comes to time of possession and scoring. I'm sure scoring whenever possible would be just fine for each coach.
Speaking of coaches, there will be a triumvirate of them in Ann Arbor during game time.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is still searching for his first signature win after little over two seasons as the Wolverines coach. This could be that confidence-building victory which would tell his team — and fans of the blue and yellow — that the last two seasons of underachieving and embarrassment were part of the process of building a contender.
On the Michigan State side, offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will once again assume duties as the guy leading the team on the field. Head coach Mark Dantonio, who continues to recover from a mild heart attack, said he will be in the press box on Saturday and doesn't plan on missing Michigan Week by any means.
And now all we can do is wait. Wait for the pageantry, wait for the trash talk to reach unmeasurable levels of intolerance and wait for a team to win an in-state rivalry game nobody has seen in over a decade.
I don't know about you, but I can barely contain myself. I bet the players and coaches feel the same way.
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