Michigan vs. Michigan State: Prospects, Storylines, Odds for BR Game of the Week
Pack your long-sleeve shirts and shorts, B/R Game of the Week readers, because we're headed to the Mitten State.
The marquee game of Week 9 features the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines and the ninth-ranked Michigan State Spartans. Not only is this a rivalry game, it's a battle of unbeaten teams. Both programs enter the contest holding a 7-0 record.
Michigan's trip to MSU received 67.6 percent of the B/R community's 7,964 votes, earning a runaway win over No. 1 Georgia vs. Florida (14.6 percent), No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State (10.2) and No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn (7.6).
This preview of the Big Ten showdown includes top NFL draft prospects, two key storylines and the latest betting odds.
Top NFL Draft Prospects
Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
Oregon star Kayvon Thibodeaux is the consensus top edge-rusher in the class, but Aidan Hutchinson won't be far behind on the overall rankings. After an ankle injury derailed his 2020 campaign, the senior has solidified his draft profile in 2021. He enters the rivalry game with 27 tackles and five sacks.
Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
On his first carry of the season, Kenneth Walker III introduced himself to Spartan Nation with a 75-yard touchdown. Since then, the Wake Forest transfer has sprinted his way into the Heisman Trophy race. He's racked up 997 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, along with five catches and another score. Walker has tallied 23-plus carries in five of MSU's seven games, so expect a hefty workload in Week 9.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
The brother of Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill, Daxton Hill is typically the best athlete on the field. Elite speed and rapid processing ability are two of his greatest traits, and they certainly show in his production. Daxton has 35 tackles with 3.5 for loss, two interceptions and four pass breakups this season.
History Doesn't Like Jim Harbaugh; Can He Shake the Trend?
If you're a Michigan fan, you know the trend. If you follow college football regularly, you've probably heard it mentioned.
Jim Harbaugh has struggled with Top 25 opponents.
Since his arrival in 2015, Michigan has posted a 56-22 record—which, in a vacuum, is more than respectable. But against ranked competition, the Wolverines are just 11-17. Worse yet, they own a 2-9 mark in true road games. The only victories came opposite 2018 MSU and 2020 Minnesota, which finished 7-6 and 3-4, respectively.
We could highlight Michigan's impressive rushing attack. We could explore the emerging QB conversation with Cade McNamara and star freshman J.J. McCarthy. Michigan's defense has surrendered just 14.3 points per game this season, too.
When the final whistle sounds, though, the national focus will be whether Harbaugh picked up a long-awaited, critical road win.
But if he falls to 3-4 against MSU—along with 0-5 opposite Ohio State—the support a 7-0 start has generated will vanish.
1st Major Test for MSU's Offense
Inevitably, the hook probably reads as a subtle dig at Michigan State. That's not the point, though.
Through seven games, the Spartans rank eighth nationally with 7.0 yards per snap. It's an incredible rise for an offense that finished 108th in the category with 4.8 yards per play during the 2020 campaign and 104th at 5.2 per snap two years ago.
Payton Thorne's 9.3 yards per pass attempt is the 10th-best clip in the country, and Kenneth Walker III leads the FBS with 142.4 rushing yards per game. Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor both have 27 catches for at least 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Still, the Wolverines present the greatest challenge to MSU so far.
Michigan has ceded a meager 4.8 yards per snap, which ranks 17th in the nation. All of Michigan State's previous opponents are currently no higher than 42nd, and the Spartans recently endured their worst showing of the season at Indiana. They totaled 241 yards on 3.9 per play in a 20-15 victory.
While the Maize and Blue have an effective run-first attack, U-M isn't built for a shootout on the scoreboard. Michigan State can take full control if the offense is consistently dangerous.
Game Information and Odds
When: Saturday, Oct. 30 at Noon ET
Where: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan
Stream: Fox Sports
Spread (via DraftKings): Michigan -4
Moneyline: Michigan -190 (bet $190 to win $100); Michigan State +160 (bet $100 to win $160)
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