RUSH OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE RUSH DEFENSE
Michigan is #51 in rushing offense (184.5 yards/game) and #65 in yards per carry (4.28). It’s been an up-and-down season so far, with Ty Isaac leading the way in the first three games and then Chris Evans leading the team in rushing for the Purdue game. Meanwhile, Karan Higdon started the Purdue game but has the lowest yards per carry of the three at 4.12. Isaac appeared to suffer a rib injury two games ago, and he looked extra tentative last game. Hopefully the bye week allowed him to heal, because he’s averaging 6.25 yards/carry this year. The offensive line is iffy, even though Michigan has stayed intact since the spring. Redshirt sophomore right tackle Nolan Ulizio is the weak spot, and sophomore right guard Michael Onwenu is that rare offensive lineman who gets rotated out of the game at times (replaced by redshirt sophomore Jon Runyan, Jr.) because he gets gassed. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State is #16 in rushing defense (96 yards allowed/game) and #19 in yards per carry allowed (3.07). They have done that while only being #63 in tackles for loss, which means they’re making a ton of tackles for short gains. Sophomore middle linebacker Joe Bachie (6’2″, 233 lbs.) leads the team with 34 tackles and 4 tackles for loss, while senior strongside linebacker Chris Frey (6’1″, 238) is second in TFLs with 3.0. Junior strong safety Khari Willis (6’0″, 215) is entrenched as the starter there and is second on the team with 24 tackles. The Spartans aren’t very big at the end positions, but defensive tackles Raequan Williams (6’4″, 300) and Mike Panasiuk (6’4″, 294) are powerful and will give Michigan trouble.
Advantage: Michigan State
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PASS OFFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE PASS DEFENSE
Michigan is down a starting quarterback in Wilton Speight, but it’s rare that a team has a fifth year senior backup with almost two years of starting experience under his belt. Statistically, John O’Korn had the best game a Michigan quarterback has had in almost a year when he played Purdue (69% completions, 270 yards), and he used the tight ends heavily. Michigan is #72 in passing offense (223 yards/game) and #69 in passing efficiency rating. O’Korn would be the #10 most efficient passer in the nation if he had enough attempts to qualify (Speight is ranked #87), but he will probably take a step back against a better defense that is prepared to defend him. The leading receiver is Grant Perry (13 catches, 163 yards, 1 TD), but Kekoa Crawford is the most targeted (7/99/1) for some reason. Sophomore tight end Sean McKeon is the only other active player with double-digit catches (10/120/0) besides Perry. As for the pass protection . . . yikes. Michigan is #110 for giving up 3 sacks per game, and Ulizio is a weakness there, too. Michigan State will probably run a lot of Cover 4, but the personnel is in flux. I expect to see 6’3″, 180 lb. sophomore Justin Layne start at one corner and Willis to start at strong safety; otherwise, the jury is out on starters in the defensive backfield. The Spartans are #9 in passing defense (152.3 yards allowed/game), #5 in passer rating allowed, and tied for #95 in interceptions (2). They’re tied for #67 in sacks with 9, and Frey leads the way with 2.5. It’s not an imposing or talented group when taken separately, but they’re getting the job done fairly well as a whole. I expect MSU to put a ton of pressure on O’Korn, who is not quite as poised as Speight in the pocket and can get spooked. However, O’Korn is more athletic and made some plays on the move against Purdue, so if he keeps his wits, he should continue to be dangerous outside the pocket.
Advantage: Michigan State
RUSH DEFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE RUSH OFFENSE
Michigan is the #1 rush defense in both yards (69.25 yards allowed/game) and yards per carry (2.20). They’re also one of four teams that has allowed only 1 rushing touchdown this season. Middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. leads the team with 33 tackles, followed by WILL Mike McCray II (26) and defensive end Chase Winovich (24). Surprisingly, they’re tied at #25 with 34 tackles for loss, which is a decent number, but it means Michigan is making a lot of stops after short gains. Michigan State is #51 at allowing tackles for loss behind a green offensive line. That unit has decent size, except for 6’8″, 284 lb. left tackle Cole Chewins, a redshirt sophomore. Center Brian Allen (6’2″, 302) is the best of the bunch. The Spartans are #50 in rushing offense (187.5 yards/game) and #54 in rushing average (4.49). Quarterback Brian Lewerke leads the team in rushing (248 yards, 6.53 yards/carry, 2 TDs), but the normally solid running backs in East Lansing are averaging 3.69 (L.J. Scott), 3.89 (Gerald Holmes), and 3.43 yards (Madre London). The team numbers are propped up by Lewerke’s stats, so if Michigan can keep him in the pocket, they should be good in shape.
PASS DEFENSE vs. MICHIGAN STATE PASS OFFENSE
The Wolverines are #4 in passing defense (134 yards allowed/game), #2 in completion percentage allowed (41%), and #2 in passer rating defense. Their worst game was when Florida completed 53.8% of their passes for 181 yards, 0 TDs, and 0 INTs. Middle linebacker Bush actually leads the team with 5 pass breakups, while backup corner Brandon Watson (3 PBUs) and Khaleke Hudson (3 PBUs) are tied for second. They’re tied at #80 in interceptions with just 3 so far. Teams don’t get many chances to throw the ball, because Michigan is #5 in sacks with 18. Winovich (5.5) and Bush (4.5) lead the unit in that category, and both Maurice Hurst, Jr. and Rashan Gary can get after the quarterback, too. Michigan has been running a lot of a 3-3-5 defense this season that limits the effectiveness of Hurst and Gary in the pass rush, but if they go to a four-front – which I expect a little more – then that will free those guys up more. Michigan State is #33 in sacks allowed with just 6, and it’s largely because Lewerke can move. He’s completing 63.2% of his passes for 963 yards, 8 TDs, and 2 INTs. Junior wide receiver Felton Davis III (6’4″, 195) had a big game last week against Iowa (9 catches, 114 yards, 2 TDs) but hadn’t made more than 4 catches in the three previous games. He presents a challenge to Michigan’s young cornerbacks because of his size and strength, but the secret to Michigan’s pass defense right now is the pressure they put on quarterbacks. Darrell Stewart, Jr. (6’2″, 210) is second on the team with 17 catches for 170 yards and 1 score, so Lewerke spreads the ball pretty evenly between his top two receivers. Tight end Matt Sokol (6’6″, 250) is a big target but nothing special athletically. Michigan should have the advantage here unless MSU finds a way to stave off Michigan’s pass rush, which is unlikely.
- Michigan State players who were recruited by Michigan include: WR Cam Chambers, TE Matt Dotson, OT Dennis Finley, OG Kevin Jarvis, DT Naquan Jones, LB Shane Jones, CB Justin Layne, QB Brian Lewerke, DE Brandon Randle, OT Jordan Reid, LB Antjuan Simmons, LB Tyriq Thompson, QB Messiah DeWeaver
- Michigan State QB Messiah DeWeaver was committed to Michigan at one time
- Michigan State WR Hunter Rison is the son of former MSU/NFL WR Andre Rison
- Michigan State LB Antjuan Simmons played at Ann Arbor (MI) Pioneer, right across the street from Michigan Stadium
- Michigan State LB Tyriq Thompson is the son of former Michigan safety Clarence Thompson
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED . . .
- MSU’s Lewerke broke his leg when tackled by Jabrill Peppers
- MSU’s L.J. Scott ran 22 times for 139 yards and 1 TD
- Wilton Speight completed 16/25 passes for 0 TDs and 1 INT
- Eddie McDoom led Michigan in rushing with 2 carries for 53 yards
- Amara Darboh made 8 catches for 165 yards
- Michigan went up 30-10 before winning by a score of 32-23. The scoring was topped off by a Jabrill Peppers 2-point conversion return.
- Chris Evans runs for 75 yards and 1 touchdown
- John O’Korn throws for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception
- Felton Davis III scores a TD on a jump ball over David Long
- Michigan 27, Michigan State 18
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